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RSL’s SuperDraft, 2015-2016: Where are they now?

The last two years of MLS drafts saw Real Salt Lake start to recruit with more than just the first team in mind.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The last two years of MLS SuperDrafts have been interesting across the league, and Real Salt Lake is no exception.

With Real Monarchs coming into existence as a USL team as part of a broader strategy toward player development, it’s no surprise that we saw draft picks start to go in that direction. All of RSL’s picks became important parts of the second team, but only one remains in the organization at this point.

2015 MLS Draft

First round

Pick #16 - Traded to Seattle Sounders

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

With Cristian Roldan miraculously — or, you know, something — dropping low in this draft, Seattle Sounders sought our draft pick. We gave it to them, and in exchange, we got their second round draft pick (27th overall) and some allocation money. How much? Who knows.

Did Real Salt Lake have a chance at signing Roldan, who went on to be a regular for Seattle? Maybe, maybe not. There may have been some tacit agreement — see Leo Stolz, 18th draft pick by New York Red Bulls, for a similar example — between Roldan and the rest of the league, but we don’t really know that with any certainty. The only strong piece of evidence we have is that none of the other clubs in MLS drafted Roldan, either. This was particularly strange because he was a Generation Adidas player, and he was a hotly rated college talent.

Roldan now? He’s a starting XI player at Seattle Sounders, and he just won MLS Cup. Let’s not dwell on this.

Whether or not you think RSL should have brought in Roldan, this was how RSL ended up with no first-round pick in 2015. But they had another target in mind.

Second round

Pick #27 - Boyd Okwuonu, UNC

MLS: LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Traded from Seattle Sounders; originally Chivas USA’s pick traded to Seattle

It’s not too often that you get a second-round player who really makes an instant impact, and things were no different with RSL’s pick: UNC defender Boyd Okwuonu. But what they got was a full back whose abilities were geared toward the passing game, and he seemed a pretty natural fit at the club.

In two years at RSL, Okwuonu made only five appearances and started two games (one each year.) He was a regular at Real Monarchs, and he played minutes with the United States U-23 team, most notably at the Toulon Tournament.

Okwuonu’s contract option was declined following the completion of the 2016 season, and it remains to be seen if he returns to the club. He’d be a good fit at the right salary, so I’d advocate for it.

Pick #37 - Traded to Toronto FC in exchange for Joao Plata

MLS: Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Hey, you know that left-wing wonder, Joao Plata? We gave up our natural second round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft in exchange for him. That’s a steal. You know Toronto picked? Edwin Rivas. He lasted one year the club.

Third round

Pick #57 - Jordan Murrell, Syracuse

Syracuse v Georgetown soccer Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty Images

A technical left back, Murrell didn’t sign a first-team contract with Real Salt Lake, joining Real Monarchs for their debut season instead. He made regular appearances for the team, but he wasn’t retained for the 2016 campaign. In 2016, Murrell played for Pittsburgh Riverhounds, and for 2017, he’s signed with USL newcomers Reno 1868.

Murrell, 23, actually didn’t join RSL’s training camp initially because he was on trial with Millwall. Interesting stuff.

Fourth round

Pick #77 - Lucas Baldin, USF

Lucas Baldin Courtesy of USF

Baldin, of Brazilian and Mexican descent, was one of the more interesting players in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, and it’s kind of a wonder he didn’t end up getting picked up higher in the draft. But clearly, he was somebody we had our eye on, and he ended up signing a contract with Real Monarchs for 2015.

As a talented midfielder who produced some of the best moments for Monarchs in 2015, there was certainly some hope that he’d continue with the club — perhaps for Real Salt Lake. Instead, he signed at Venezuelan side Deportivo Lara, where he seems likely to continue. Here’s hoping he ends up back here some day.

2016 MLS SuperDraft

First Round

Pick #5 - Omar Holness, UNC

MLS: SuperDraft Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

One of the few advantages of playing poorly in MLS and missing the playoffs? You’re guaranteed a pretty good draft pick, and Omar Holness certainly fit the bill. How many other midfielders in the draft had actual first-team international experience? Not many, that’s for sure.

Holness’s first professional season didn’t go exactly according to plan. He suffered a seizure in his first professional match, playing for Real Monarchs, and it was nothing short of terrifying. He recovered well and ended up appearing for Real Salt Lake later in the season, eventually making nine appearances with three starts, but we are left wondering what could have been in 2016.

2017 should see a real opportunity for Holness, and don’t be surprised if he embraces it. He’s a smart midfielder with good technical ability, and that could work out extremely well.

Second Round

Pick #25 - Max Lachowecki, Notre Dame

MLS: Preseason-Columbus Crew vs Real Salt Lake Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake’s penchant for full backs in the draft is really kind of a theme, isn’t it? Lachowecki continued that. He’s quick and crafty, and that could eventually lead to MLS success. It didn’t come during his first season, certainly, as he signed for Real Monarchs, where he played regularly.

For his second season, he’s already signed with Real Monarchs. It does remain to be seen if that’s where he’ll stay, or if he could be in line for a first-team call-up. We’ll see.

Third round

Pick #46 - Amass Amankona, Dayton

Courtesy of University of Dayton / Erik Schelkun Courtesy of University of Dayton / Erik Schelkun

Short midfielders sometimes find it hard to make the transition from the college game to American professional soccer, and Amankona didn’t seem like an exception to that rule. Shorter than even Joao Plata, he adapted well to playing with Real Monarchs — but not well enough to earn an MLS contract from Real Salt Lake. He was released following the end of the 2016 season.

Fourth round

Pick #65 - Connor Sparrow, Creighton

Courtesy of Creighton Athletics

Real Salt Lake received this pick from NYCFC in exchange for Kwame Watson-Siriboe in 2014.

Drafting a goalkeeper is almost always about playing the long game rather than the short one, and that may well prove the case with Sparrow. He signed with Real Monarchs in 2016, and he’s continuing there in 2017. We’ll see if he starts to make appearances, but with Lalo Fernandez in front of him, don’t expect him to play regularly. That’s the life of a young goalkeeper.

Pick #66 - Pass

We passed when we could have signed some of the following players:

  • An international player who played for both Isle of Man and Ellan Vannin (which is “Isle of Man” in Manx, a Gaelic language), Liam Doyle
  • A 6’4” forward
  • Some other players I don’t know much about, but who have played regularly in USL

We definitely weren’t the only team to have passed.