The 2016 MLS draft was full of wheeling and dealing, leaving some clear-cut winners from Thursday's action. Goal's Ives Galarcep breaks down draft day's best and worst.
BALTIMORE -- There were 41 players taken, eight trades and an unknown amount of allocation money exchanged, leaving the 2016 MLS draft as one of the more surprising in recent memory.
The Chicago Fire led the way, making the first overall pick and setting the stage for a day that has to be considered a promising one for a new regime led by general manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovlc. Another new boss, Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart also posted a promising debut draft, helping his new club deal its way into holding three of the top six picks in the draft, and then making some very solid selections to help a Union squad in transition.
The draft had its share of surprises, including some head-scratching picks. There also were some surprising slides by players who entered the draft highly rated only to go unchosen in what is technically the first half of a draft that will resume Tuesday, when rounds three and four take place.
So which teams made the most of their draft picks Thursday?
CHICAGO FIRE - The Fire entered the draft needing talent for a freshly overhauled roster. Not only did the Fire land three talented players in Brandon Vincent, Jonathan Campbell and Alex Morell, they also secured allocation money in the trade that sent top overall selection Jack Harrison to NYCFC.
PHILADELPHIA UNION - The Union were aggressive on draft day, not content to sit back and simply use the two high draft picks they entered the day with. A deal sending general allocation money to Colorado helped them land Joshua Yaro, one of the best overall prospects in the draft. The selection of Keegan Rosenberry at No. 3 overall might be seen as a slight reach, but it was worth reaching for a player they know very well and who could have wound up being taken before the Union selected sixth. Fabian Herbers could be the player who determines if this draft is a huge success. If his goal production can translate to the pro level, the Union will wind up the biggest winners of the day.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS - The Sounders traded away the No. 15 overall pick and general allocation money to Chicago and landed highly regarded Trinidadian winger/fullback Joevin Jones, who should step in and start at left back. The second round then yielded one of the best gems of the day when Seattle drafted Tony Alfaro (CSU-Dominguez Hills) with the 27th overall pick.
NEW YORK RED BULLS - The Red Bulls came in looking for some defensive depth and scored great value with both picks. Justin Bilyeu was one of the most impressive defenders at the MLS combine, showing well at left back and left center back. Zach Carroll played through an injury at the combine, which probably hurt his stock. That allowed the Red Bulls to land a first-round talent with the 38th overall pick. For a team in dire need of central defense options, the day couldn't have gone much better.
ORLANDO CITY - A year after enjoying extreme success by drafting a Canadian in the first round, Orlando City went back to the well by snagging Richie Laryeaa, which slipped a bit in the draft after a sub-par MLS combine. The Lions then shipped some targeted allocation money to D.C. United and landed the fastest player in the draft, Hadji Barry, who should provide some much-needed depth on the wings.
JORDAN MCCRARY - New England didn't figure to be able to draft one of the top right backs in this draft sitting at No. 10 overall, but McCrary's surprising slip in the draft sent him to a team where he can start from day one.
JONATHAN CAMPBELL - Considered one of the top central defenders before a disappointing combine, Campbell could challenge for a starting role on a Chicago Fire defense in transition.
BEN POLK- The Portland Timbers had to be overjoyed at landing a forward who was a top-10 value and could help offer some depth in the forward line.
MICHAEL SALAZAR- The Montreal Impact are expected to lose Didier Drogba, and may have found a gem in Salazar, who was a first-round value before a lackluster combine showing.
TONY ALFARO- One of the most technical defenders in the draft, Alfaro impressed at the combine, only not enough to avoid sliding into the second round, where the Seattle Sounders were happy to have him.
ERIC VERSO- The Stanford midfielder had one of the best combine performances, but that didn't translate into a first-round place. Still, Montreal benefited with yet another great value pick.
ZACH CARROLL - The Red Bulls probably gave thought to grabbing Carroll in the first round, but found him still available late in the second round.
TSUBASA ENDOH - The MLS combine MVP was not a top 10 value, and TFC was left with the most perplexing first-round draft pick for the second straight year after picking Clemont Simonin in 2015.
RYAN HERMAN - Several teams considered Herman the second-best goalkeeper in the draft, but you will be hard-pressed to find a team that considered him worth a first-round pick like FC Dallas did at No. 17.
EMMANUEL APPIAH - For all of their wheeling and dealing, the Rapids wound up with one pick on Thursday, and they used it to take a third-round value in the first round. Appiah was steady at the combine, but there was better talent on the board.
RODRIGO SARAVIA - The Columbus Crew will feel confident about selecting a player they really liked, but there is a good chance he would have been available at 31, so taking him at 19 was a stretch.
IVAN MAGALHAES - No offense to Magalhaes, who is a steady, no-nonsense defender, but the Dynamo had better center back options left on the board when they made this pick at No. 26