I’ve said this a whole bunch of times and I’ll continue to say it, the Draft is still a brilliant mechanism for clubs to get talent and it should be invested in rather than abandoned for clubs creating monopolies with Academies.
Last year, RSL picked up Justin Schmidt in the second round, and for a young player thrust into the first team, he did well despite being cut at the end of the season. This year, Creighton University product Ricky Espin-Lopez was drafted in the second around and the 22-year-old forward is putting on a good show in pre-season. He’s quick and has shown understanding for the system Mike Petke is trying to run and while he is joining a talent crop of youngsters he stands a chance of developing into a top talent.
What to Know
The 6-foot-2 forward punched up 47 starts and 19 goals with a season high of 10 in 2016. He’s a wirey player who can use his speed to beat defenders and is very confident with the ball at his feet. In his Freshman debut he was named Big East Rookie of the week and earned a spot on the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week after impressing everybody at such a young age. A number of mock drafts had him going in the first round with Goal.com predicting he would go as high as 11th. He’s called a target forward, but I’m not sure he has the size just yet to play that role in MLS.
What to expect in 2018
With Alfredo Ortuño, Luis Silva and Corey Baird all challenging for the striker role and Movsisyan still on the books, Lopez-Espin isn’t likely to be playing in the striker role. We are also quite deep in the three line behind the striker with Rusnak and Hernandez in the middle, Plata and Lennon on the left and Savarino and Bofo on the right. I’d expect him to report to the Monarchs to get some game time and let the organisation see a little more from him.
What to hope for
He gets his head down and takes any chance he gets at the Monarchs to impress, earning a spot down in the USL for at least another season. If he can start to develop that potential, he might end up pushing for a first team contract in a year or so, providing us with more options just in case we can’t somebody doesn’t work out.