One of the most exciting parts of the MLS off-season is just around the corner. The 2017 MLS SuperDraft begins on on Friday, January 13th at 3:00 pm, with Rounds 1 and 2 taking place at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Rounds 3 and 4 will occur during a conference call on Tuesday, January 17th. The time of this call is yet to be announced. The Red Bulls hold picks 17 (1st round), 39 (2nd round), 61 (3rd round). The team's original 4th round pick was traded away to Toronto FC, in 2014, for defender Richard Eckersley.
The Red Bulls will look to improve their depth through the draft. Assistant coach Denis Hamlett (perhaps soon to be appointed RBNY’s Technical Director) has said the team’s strategy will be to select the best player available when its turns come, rather than seek to fill a specific positional need via the draft. Past experience suggests any players the team selects are unlikely to play much for the first team during the 2017 MLS Season. They should be expected to participate in preseason camp, and - assuming they are not waived during that process - to primarily feature for reserve side NYRB II once the season gets underway.
The team will need depth in 2017 as it will be competing for three trophies: MLS Cup, The CONCACAF Champions League, and the U.S. Open Cup. Four if you count the Supporters’ Shield as a target for the season. Presently, the team’s greatest needs are for a backup forward and several defenders.
Here then are five players who might feature in RBNY’s draft-day thinking:
Walker Hume - Defender
The redshirt senior center-back stands 6’5’’ and is a dominant aerial presence. He is very agile and a good distributor out of the back. In 2016, Hume scored 4 goals and added 4 assists for The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels finished the season ranked #4 in the country despite playing one of the most difficult schedules.
Hume is rather old for a rookie (he’s 23 years old), but is one of the most pro-ready defenders in the draft. Walker could provide much-needed depth to a team that only has two center-backs currently on the roster (Aurelien Collin and Gideon Baah). In SB Nation’s mock draft Once a Metro chose Hume with the Red Bulls’ 1st round pick.
Colton Storm - Defender
Storm is one of the top right backs available and was teammates with Walker Hume at UNC. He has good positioning and height for a fullback (5’10’’) and while he does most things well, there doesn’t seem to be one area he excels in.
Storm doesn’t provide much going forward, with 2 career goals and eight career assists, but could be a solid backup to Sal Zizzo or Connor Lade (the presumptive challengers for the start at right back for RBNY). Storm is expected to be a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick.
SBI Soccer has run two mock drafts, and settled on Storm for RBNY in both. Draft Utopia also sends him the Red Bulls’ way. Mlssoccer.com’s Matt Doyle picked Storm as a player whose stock could be on the rise after Day 2 of the MLS Combine.
Adonijah Reid - Winger/Forward
Reid is a 17-year-old Canadian winger/forward and is part of the new Canadian Generation Adidas program. The diminutive attacker (5’5’’) is a Canadian U-20 International. He has excellent dribbling ability and scored 20 goals in 17 games for ANB Futbol in the semi-professional League1 Ontario.
Reid had a solid if unspectacular showing in 45 minutes of action on the first day of the Combine. He will need to spend a few years in USL but he has massive potential. He is projected to be a mid 1st round to early 2nd round pick. Reid doesn’t fill an immediate need, but it would hard to pass over him.
Matt Doyle was cautiously positive about Reid after watching him on the opening fay of games at the Combine.
Seattle University centerback Bjornethun was a four year starter and was on the 2016 MAC Hermann Watch List. Bjornethun isn’t the most physical defender, but is a good 1 v. 1 defender. He lead SU’s defense to seven shutouts in 2016, was named WAC Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, and earned All-WAC First Team honors for the third consecutive year.
Bjornethun started for Seattle’s U-23 Premier Development League (PDL) team this past summer. He is expected to be a mid-to-late 3rd round pick.
Kutler is a proven goalscorer who will likely be one of the better players available in the later rounds. He scored 10 goals in 16 appearances last season, but isn't receiving much attention because he plays for Colgate in the rather weak Patriot League.
Kutler excelled in the Combine performance tests finishing 10th in the 30 meter dash, 2nd in the 5-10-5 shuttle, and 10th in the vertical jump. Ideally, Kutler would spend some time in USL before developing as a serviceable backup to Bradley Wright-Phillips. He would be a quality 3rd round selection if still on the board.