LOS ANGELES — Sometimes, success is as simple as taking advantage of the mistakes of others, and at Friday's MLS draft, D.C. United came away a big benefactor as other teams passed on a pair of very promising talents.
Chris Odoi-Atsem and Eric Klenofsky were both considered the best prospects at their positions heading into the draft, but neither was the first player chosen at their position. In fact, Klenofsky wound up being the fourth goalkeeper, slipping into the middle of the second round after initially being considered a first-round prospect.
For some teams, standing pat just wasn't going to do, and teams that were aggressive on draft day wound up being rewarded handsomely. New York City FC came away the big winner in last year's draft by trading for Jack Harrison, who went on to be one of the best rookies in MLS. A year later, NYCFC is hoping to have duplicated the trick, going from a team without a pick in the first round to a team that splashed allocation money to grab two players in the first round, including an exciting prospect in U.S. Under-20 winger Jonathan Lewis.
It will take a few years before we really know which teams came away winners, and which were the real losers, in the 2017 draft, but isn't too early to speculate and credit those teams that made the most of their picks, and which teams may have wasted perfect opportunities to improve.
Here is a look at the winners and losers from the 2017 MLS draft:
DRAFT DAY WINNERS
D.C. UNITED — Made zero trades and managed to walk away with the best right back (Chris Odoi-Atsem) and the best goalkeeper in the draft. Ben Olsen's team needed an upgrade at right back and landed a local product to fill the spot, and also needed some depth at goalkeeper with Bill Hamid sidelined, and took a 6-foot-6 shot stopper who will enter the league with a chip on his shoulder.
FC DALLAS — Another team that didn't need to make moves in the draft to land talent, the Supporters' Shield winner watched Wake Forest midfielder Jacori Hayes slide down to the No. 18 pick, where Oscar Pareja was happy to pounce and add some midfield depth. Grabbing big North Carolina center back Walker Hume in the second round was solid work, and snagging 17-year-old Canadian forward Adonijah Reid with the 40th overall pick could wind up being a steal.
NEW YORK CITY FC — When Patrick Vieira coyly told Goal earlier this week that he was impressed with the talent at the MLS combine, little did we know just how impressed he really was. NYCFC spent a total of $325,000 in allocation money to grab a pair of first-round picks, and grabbed one of the most exciting attacking prospects in the draft in Jonathan Lewis, who should fit right into NYCFC's deep attack. Kwame Awuah felt like a reach at 16th overall, but he's a local product and self-professed NYCFC fan, so he brings added value. Xavier's Jalen Brown is also talented enough to make the roster.
PORTLAND TIMBERS — When Jeremy Ebobisse slid to the fourth pick in the draft, the Timbers pounced, moving up from the No. 10 spot to take the U.S. Under-20 forward with the fourth overall pick. The price — $100,000 in allocation money and an international roster spot — wasn't cheap, but Ebobisse has difference-making talent. The Timbers also landed a talented defender in UCLA center back Michael Amick.
PHILADELPHIA UNION - Last year's big draft-day winner didn't figure to do much on Friday, but made a shrewd move to trade up to the top of the second round to grab South Florida winger-forward Marcus Epps. Epps fills a need in the Union attack, and only cost $50,000 in allocation money. Clemson fullback Aaron Jones could also step in and contribute.
DRAFT DAY LOSERS
CHICAGO FIRE — It's tough to batter a team too much when it's able to land $250,000 for a draft pick, which just might be a record haul, but for a team that has struggled so badly on the field and that came out on the short end of a big draft-day trade a year ago, it wasn't a good look to pass on the chance to draft a top-end talent. Buying a pair of early second-round picks for $75,000 in allocation was a good move, but taking goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland over Klenofsky was a mistake. Taking midfielder Daniel Johnson at 11 was a good move.
COLORADO RAPIDS — The Rapids did an excellent job of revamping their roster last season, but drafting local product Sam Hamilton with the 15th overall pick felt like the biggest reach of the first round. The Rapids will have seen plenty of Hamilton, as a key player on a very good Denver team, but by all accounts Hamilton was seen by most teams as a second-round value. Second-round pick Liam Callahan also felt like a reach, but could pan out if the Syracuse left back makes the roster.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION — The Revs made a serious effort to trade up to the top spot to select Syracuse defender Miles Robinson, but their offer fell short. Then they watched all the top right back prospects fly off the board. They wound up grabbing a value pick in forward Brian Wright, but forward depth wasn't exactly a major need, though Wright could help if the Revs wind up trading Teal Bunbury, who sources tell Goal is seeking a move away from New England.
NEW YORK RED BULLS — After losing Chris Duvall in the expansion draft, the Red Bulls entered the draft really wanting a right back. Unfortunately all of the best ones were off the board by the time they picked at 17th. They pivoted well to take talented winger Zeiko Lewis, who does address a need, but then Lewis dropped jaws with a scathing draft-day speech.
To be fair, his chip-on-the-shoulder diatribe was a refreshing departure from the normal boring speeches.
GENERATION ADIDAS CANADA — The new program was supposed to bring in Canadian talent into the draft, but MLS teams weren't biting, and neither of the GA Canada signings were taken until late in the second round. Of course, if Adonijah Reid and Shamit Shome wind up doing well in MLS, maybe teams will think twice in the future about letting GA Canada signings slip by them.