The MLS draft and Real Salt Lake.

Heck I really wonder if the draft matters at all, most of the top players have already signed contracts with the league, so have the Generation Adidas players.  Most if not all of the likely players in the first round will already be under contract with the league, so what is really happening is from worst to first the teams get to take the player of their choice.

For Real Salt Lake the draft has been a very mixed bag over the years from the selection of Nik Besagno with our first ever pick.  Nik played a total of 440 minutes, and only one of the 2005 picks played any real role for RSL and that was Jamie Watson.  Jamie saw over 1,000 minutes of action and scored two goals, while fellow draft mates Luke Kreamalmeyer had 249 minutes in his RSL career and Jay Nolly saw almost 600 minutes in goal and posted a 1-4-1 record.

The 2006 RSL draft picks have had a huge impact in MLS, first up was Medhi Ballouchy who had 3401 minutes of playing time for RSL with 2 goals for 2 assists, but perhaps his biggest contribution for RSL was the fact that we got Kyle Beckerman from Colorado in the "RSL best ever trade".  The other pick in that draft was Ryan Johnson, and while Ryan only saw 154 minutes of action for RSL, he was the best player on San Jose this year with 11 goals and 2 assists and has almost 4,000 minutes of playing time racked up in MLS since leaving RSL.

More after the break

The 2007 draft could have been a game changer for RSL as we picked up Chris Seitz in the draft and followed it with Steve Curfman in the 3rd round.  While Chris played a backup role at RSL, it is only the fact that Nick Rimando has had 3 huge years that kept Chris from becoming a RSL starter, and I expect that Chris will likely find a lot more playing time in Philly.  While Steve saw a total of 500 minutes with the RSL reserves but never cracked  the first team roster.

In 2008 we saw a change in direction with the draft as it was the first draft for Jason and Garth.  They chose Tony Beltran with the 3rd overall pick and Tony has gone from a role player in 2008 to a regular starter in 2009 and I believe was the most improved player on the RSL roster in 2009.  With the 14th overall pick we took David Horst, who has been developing but is behind both Borchers and Olave as one of our central defenders, but has shown that he has the size and talent to be a solid player, he just needs playing time.

RSL also had the 17th pick and chose Alex Nimo, and while Alex has had limited action with RSL, he spent 2009 with USL side Portland where he continued his development.  I expect Alex will see some first team action in 2010, and still he hasn't had his 20th birthday.  With the 37th pick RSL took Brennan Tennelle, and while he showed talent he was a victim of the 2009 demise of the reserve division and move to a 24 man roster.

The new direction continued in 2009 when RSL chose Jean Alexandre with the 12th pick and while he saw only 99 minutes of action with the first team, he did spend extensive amounts of time on loan with Austin and is well on his way to becoming an impact player for RSL.  

RSL may have found a real jewel in the rough with the 54th pick as Raphael Cox, who found the back of the net once for RSL in just over 200 minutes of playing time, and many of us expect big things from him in 2010.  The final RSL pick of last year was Futhi Bhembe, who failed to make the 24 man roster.

So history has been a mixed bag for RSL,  and while some of the player impressed during the combines of the past, RSL seems to have picked player in the last two years that were outside of the mainstream attention and they probably could have found them without the draft.  So is it all pointless?  No it isn't because MLS still doesn't have a real system of youth development, so this is one of the few ways players from the US Soccer youth ranks and NCAA soccer system get allocated to MLS teams.

I would like to see MLS move to a much more structured system of youth development and partnership with US Soccer, USL/NASL (whatever division 2 or 3 ends up looking like) and even find a way to work close with the NCAA to let teams file discovery claims on players and help with their overall development, but drafts are very American thing and I don't expect it to go away anytime soon.

Will RSL find another diamond with their 16th, 32nd, or 48th pick that everyone else has missed out on?  I wouldn't bet against it, Bill, Garth, Jason, and the rest of the staff have solid ideas and expectations about what potential players should be capable of and if you look at the last two drafts they have been solid and already paid dividends for the team.

I haven't spent a lot of time looking at mock drafts, or player evaluations, I will leave that for others:

Here is Ives mock draft for ESPN

Here is a mock draft from MLSDraft.net

Here is the goal.com mock draft from before the combine

So who will RSL pick?  Don't know but I like the attitude Bill Manning expressed last week, with lower picks you have to look at potential and the best available player.  It will be interesting to see if maybe a player had an off week in the combine due to the cold weather or just had a couple off days and will drop far enough to give RSL a surprise, but with a fairly full and solid roster it will be interesting to see what direction RSL goes.

OFF MY SOAPBOX.

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