So the 2023 MLS SuperDraft is in the books…and it is the 2023 SuperDraft, right? Even though it’s in December 2022? Is this like how EA Sports always confusingly titled their games a year in advance in the 90s?
Anyway, the New York Red Bulls and the rest of MLS opened their presents early on Wednesday night as they Zoom conferenced their way through the draft, and let’s be honest…you didn’t miss a whole lot, at least from a New York perspective.
While the rest of the league was doing so many GAM trades that Peter Gibbons and Michael Bolton were siphoning off the cent fractions, the Red Bulls simply took their three shots in the dark with little fuss. Based on the recent history of the club, it’s unlikely that any of the players the New York Red Bulls selected in the MLS SuperDraft on Wednesday will see any first team minutes this season. The process of vetting their quality and determining whether or not they belong at top flight level will play out on robot-filmed MLSNext Pro broadcasts over the coming months and years.
But it’s still a moment to meet some new friends, and this year’s draft class happens to have a few stories:
Does your business need advice from an expert on investment sourcing? Would someone capable of blogging about “Gen-Z startups” add versatility to your masthead? Is your reserve team goalkeeping situation up in the air?
If you answered yes to one or most likely all of those questions, the Red Bulls have found the renaissance man you’re looking for. Yale goalkeeper Elian Haddock was the club’s first pick at 21st overall. Having conquered the Ivy League to the extent that he’s already working as a financial analyst in Manhattan, Haddock’s club pairing means he might even be able to fulfill his lease in Turtle Bay if he chooses to train with RB2 over the coming months.
A native of the Milwaukee suburbs, Haddock would theoretically challenge third-year pro AJ Marcucci to be the club’s main reserve keeper. With Carlos Coronel firmly set in the starting role (unless rumored European interest is more substantial than it first appears) and Ryan Meara entering his second decade as the club’s senior backup, the third string has continued to be a revolving door of draft picks, trade flyers, and the occasional academy alum. Marcucci has struggled with injury over an undistinguished two-season run with Red Bulls II, and his chief backup Giannis Nikopolidis was released earlier this month. The time is ripe to toss another coin in the fountain that is the bottom end of the Red Bulls goalkeeping corps, and Elian Haddock should be able to tell you how to put that coin to better use in the metaverse.
The last time the Red Bulls drafted an outside back from the Chicago suburbs who played in a successful college team, it didn’t prove to be a lasting success. The last time the Red Bulls fielded a fullback named Ethan it proved to be tears in the rain. But maybe Ethan Conley will find the professional groove that Rece Buckmaster and Ethan Kutler didn’t in their brief runs in New York.
Conley, who was a regular right back for a UNC Greensboro side that led the nation in many offensive metrics last year, is the latest young wide man added to a New York depth chart now teeming with them. In the last few weeks the club has given first team contracts to academy left backs Curtis Ofori and Jayden Reid, and Conley will likely head to RB2 to compete on the right with 2022 draft pick O’Vonte Mullings, one of the rare bright spots in the last reserve season. Fullback (or wingback — for the sake of this particular exercise they’re the same thing, shut up) is often an awkward position to project and one that’s often filled by refugees from other positions at later ages. It’s a position where it’s worth playing the numbers game and seeing who might thrive in it, so let’s see what ya got, Eth.
England seems to do well with guys who have hyphenated names. Maybe this is the start of a trend here.
Amos Shapiro-Thompson, the Red Bulls’ third and final pick at 79, is a Boston College product and New England Revolution academy alum who has also spent time training with Croatian leaders Dinamo Zagreb and Polish titans Legia Warsaw, where he scored in a friendly against Juventus. Shapiro-Thompson recovered from an ACL injury in his junior year at BC to complete his college career and get scouted out by the Red Bulls to perhaps add some more varied experience to the traffic direction from midfield in Montclair.