PHILADELPHIA — The stage was set for plenty of trades at the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, but few could have imagined just how crazy the wheeling and dealing would get.
Multiple teams took advantage of the flood of allocation money that has recently poured into the league, while others benefited from the influx of talented international players available in the draft. It was clear some teams were going to stay away from foreign players due to limits in international player slots, and that paved the way for a few teams to snatch up impressive draft-day hauls.
Los Angeles FC set the tone for the day by not only keeping the top overall pick, but also pulling off the first deal of the day by grabbing the third overall pick. Those moves paved the way for a flurry of deals driven by allocation money.
Which teams did the best amid the flurry of moves? Here are the winners and losers from the 2018 MLS SuperDraft:
FC DALLAS: Oscar Pareja's men began the day hoping they could land one of two impressive wingers available, either Francis Atuahene or Ema Twumasi. After watching Atuahene slide to the fourth pick, FC Dallas sent $200,000 in targeted allocation money to Montreal and grabbed the University of Michigan product. When Twumasi fell all the way to the 11th — a slide precipitated by a poor MLS combine performance — FC Dallas pulled off an improbable double.
As if that wasn't good enough, FCD landed a second-round gem in Georgetown midfielder Chris Lema, who could provide depth in central midfield, and took a flyer on SMU's Mauro Cichero, who was a top 20-caliber prospect before suffering a torn ACL last fall.
CHICAGO FIRE: When Jon Bakero slid to the fifth overall pick Veljko Paunovic knew he had to go after the Spanish forward, who put on the best performance at the MLS combine. It wasn't a cheap price, but Bakero is arguably the most pro-ready player in the draft. The Fire then dealt $85,000 in general allocation money to Real Salt Lake and selected tough-tackling English midfielder Mo Adams, a Generation Adidas signing.
MINNESOTA UNITED: The Loons made a series of moves that amounted to trading down from the fifth overall pick to the seventh pick, and picked up the 15th overall pick, $25,000 in allocation and an unnamed player. They were still able to take a promising talent in 19-year-old Indiana forward Mason Toye at the seventh pick, then added a strong central defender option in Dartmouth's Wyatt Omsberg. Adrian Heath's men then capped the first round by trading up to the 23rd overall pick and taking a talented right back in Carter Manley, who offers depth at a position of need.
ATLANTA UNITED: As if finalizing the record-setting transfer of Ezequiel Barco wasn't enough, Atlanta dove into the deep pool of foreign talent to take three solid prospects. The team's haul was led by Notre Dame forward Jon Gallagher, who slipped on some draft boards due to a poor MLS combine, but who was a top prospect just a year ago. Clemson's Oliver Shannon is a first-round talent hurt by his international status, while Gordon Wild is a Generation Adidas signing who struggled in 2017, but is just a year removed from a dominant season in college.
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LAFC: The expansion team could have been tempted to trade away the top pick, but chose instead to select Joao Moutinho, an extremely skilled 20-year-old who Bob Bradley could mold into a special player. The trade up to the third pick was an aggressive move, but nobody in MLS has more allocation money to work with than LAFC, and the pending arrival of Steven Beitashour means LAFC can take its time with outside back Tristan Blackmon. Bradley's side may have landed a steal in Pittsburgh midfielder Pol Planellas, a product of Barcelona's La Masia who didn't have a great combine.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Taking FIU's Paul Marie at 12th overall might have felt like a reach, but plenty of teams came away impressed with Marie's skill and versatility at the combine. The real value for San Jose came in the second round, where the Quakes found first-round talent in Louisville forward Mohamed Thiaw and UNLV forward Danny Musovsky, who some scouts liken to a young Chris Wondolowski.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: The popular belief was that Revs coach Brad Friedel really wanted Mason Toye, who was taken just before New England's back-to-back picks. If Toye was the target, then the Revs missed out on a chance to trade up and get their player. Even if Toye wasn't their target, the selections of Brandon Bye and Mark Segbers were truly head-scratchers. They're similar players, both athletic right-back projects who played more attacking roles in college. Segbers looks more likely to develop into a good defender, while Bye was one of the most athletic players in the draft, but a raw prospect who was a reach at the eighth pick.
SPORTING KC: Peter Vermes's side began the goalkeeper run by taking Butler's Eric Dick at 13th overall. Dick showed well on the first day of the combine, and as much as 13 felt early for a goalkeeping project, SKC saw him as the best of a good crop of goalkeepers. Taking Denver central defender Graham Smith with the 18th overall pick was a clear reach, and was probably a missed opportunity by Sporting KC to trade down and scoop up some allocation money.
MONTREAL IMPACT: The Canadian side started the day with two high first-round picks and finished the day with $350,000 in allocation money and not a single pick in the draft. You can certainly make the argument that a foreign manager like Remi Garde can make good use of that allocation money, but it still felt like a missed opportunity to add some bargain-priced talent.
D.C. UNITED: Much like Montreal, DCU can argue that we should reserve judgment on its draft-day trade until the allocation money the club acquired is used, but as tidy a sum as $200,000 may be, Ben Olsen's side had its pick of some impressive draft options, and it isn't as if DCU is on the verge of spending all $4 million of the combined targeted allocation money currently at its disposal. The draft felt like a missed opportunity for a team that can use help in several areas including right back, where the team could have selected Tristan Blackmon at third overall instead of LAFC.
NEW YORK RED BULLS: The feel-good story of drafting Brian White after he showed so well for their U-23 team will make for nice headlines, but the Red Bulls needed some fullback depth and missed the boat by not trading up, or taking someone like Justin Fiddes. It also had to be a painful draft watching former Red Bulls academy player Mason Toye go to Minnesota with the seventh overall pick.