Busy day for Harrison, Philadelphia's 'win', Chicago makes a mark, LA quiet
BALTIMORE - It was 10 minutes before the start of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, and New York City FC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna was ready to give up on his pursuit of Wake Forest winger Jack Harrison. Days of haggling with the Chicago Fire failed to see a deal consummated.
But by the time MLS commissioner Don Garber took the stage, everything had changed. NYCFC upped its offer, and right as Garber began to speak, Chicago confirmed the deal. It would select Harrison first, and then trade him to NYCFC in exchange for allocation money and the No. 4 selection, which the Fire used to take Brandon Vincent.
"It was pretty crazy for us," Reyna said. "We were already thinking about Plan B, and other options of what we were trying to get out of the draft with other teams. It came basically full circle from when we started two days ago."
New York's chase of Harrison actually began weeks ago when it attempted to claim the Wake Forest freshman as a homegrown player. It seemed a stretch, and it was no surprise when the league office turned down the request. Then the wheeling and dealing began and was finally completed.
Making the scene even crazier was the 35-minute wait it took to officially announce that Harrison was indeed going to New York. When the trade was initially announced by Don Garber, the crowd was told that a player to be named later was involved in the deal. Harrison was then left hanging.
"I had no idea," Harrison said. "Me and my mom were just standing there going, 'What's going on?' It was a whirlwind, but I'm looking forward to making that next step."
But eventually, the deal was announced in full and New York could breathe easier.
"It was a bit odd how everything kind of unfolded, but at the end, we got our guy," Reyna said.
Now Harrison can begin playing alongside icons such as David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. Yet Reyna firmly believes Harrison can make an immediate impact.
"He has exactly what we need," Reyna said about Harrison. "He'll add some great attacking qualities to the team. He has great one-versus-one ability. He can create chances, he can score, and he's got a great attitude above everything. He's a great kid. He wants to get better, he's hungry. Around the guys we have on the team, there's no doubt he's going to improve."
Union wins the draft
For all the talk about Harrison, it was the Philadelphia Union who made the biggest impression and unofficially won the draft. An early deal with the Colorado Rapids saw the Union obtain the second overall pick, giving them three of the top six selections. Philadelphia went on to use every one of them, too.
It used the second pick on Georgetown defender Josh Yaro -- thought by some to be the top talent in the draft -- and then used the third selection on Yaro's Georgetown teammate Keegan Rosenberry. The Union then chose Creighton forward Fabian Herbers with the No. 6 selection.
"A lot of things were in the works going into it," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "A lot of discussions over the past week, and it played out well for us. We're really happy with the talent we brought in. In Yaro and Rosenberry, you get anchors for your defense for many years to come. They are good, young players who know each other well, who understand each other, and guys we've monitored very closely. Then Herbers, to fall to No. 6, we're happy with that as well. He was a guy we were very high on."
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There had been some question as to what Yaro's best position will be at the professional level. Yaro has long felt he would be a center-back, where he played in college, as opposed to a right-back. Curtin agreed, with Rosenberry's selection -- he's a natural right-back -- confirming that intention.
"Yaro is a center-back for me, and for him as well," Curtin said. "He answered the question quickly, and with conviction, so we're on the same page, which is good as well."
Rosenberry is a product of the Union's academy, but his decision to go to summer school in order to complete his degree had an unintended consequence. He failed to log enough training hours with the club over the summer and lost his homegrown status as a result. Many thought he wasn't worth the high pick, but Curtin indicated that Rosenberry's stock rose at the combine.
"He showed to a lot of other people what we already knew," Curtin said. "The secret was out. A lot of the teams were talking about him as a top-eight pick. We were concerned. We had a couple teams below us that we thought might take a shot at him, so we pulled the trigger there and we were fortunate to get him."
Philadelphia finished off the day by selecting George Mason defender Taylor Washington in the second round.
Chicago makes its mark
While the Chicago Fire didn't land as many players as the Union, the team didn't do badly in that regard. In addition to Vincent, the Fire also selected North Carolina defender Jonathan Campbell with the 12th pick overall, as well as North Florida attacker Alex Morrell in the second round, No. 22 overall.
But it was the Fire's ability to obtain general allocation money in the Harrison deal, as well as in a separate trade that saw Joevin Jones head to the Seattle Sounders, that had Chicago general manager Nelson Rodriguez more than pleased with his draft-day haul.
"We remained very disciplined as to how we wanted to leave today," Rodriguez said. "We wanted to leave today knowing we got better. We thought we got immediately better with the three players we selected."
Rodriguez added that there had been plenty of interest all offseason in Jones, and the Fire resisted. But once Vincent was on board, it made Jones expendable, and allowed the Fire to improve their financial position.
"Once we saw the opportunity to have Brandon, we knew that would be an even swap in our minds. We think Brandon fits us better. We think he is a very, very special person. His intelligence is something that we like on the field. It's going to be a critical ingredient for all the players we bring in given [manager Veljko Paunovic's] adaptive style.
"A significant amount of general allocation, combined with what we already have, puts us in a really good position in the international market. We have come to agreement with one center-back, not signed. We continue to pursue another center-back out of Europe. Allocation money helps in that regard again in case we have to improve our offer for that individual. But today's moves now also give us the flexibility to look at center-midfield positions in the international market."
Colorado secures a big asset
Amid all the players being selected, one move that could have deep repercussions later in the season is the Colorado Rapids' acquisition of the top spot in the allocation order. They obtained that spot from Chicago in a deal that saw the two sides exchange a pair of draft picks, with the Fire moving up in the first and second rounds while the Rapids moved down.
ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman indicated that U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya was the Rapids' primary target, but Bedoya tweeted the following later on Thursday:
Sources later confirmed to ESPNFC.com that French club Nantes rebuffed the Rapids' attempt to obtain Bedoya, at least in the near term. But at minimum, the Rapids have obtained a significant asset.
Magalhaes' dream day
Okay, more than a few draftees trotted out the statement "dream come true" on Thursday. But for Maryland defender Ivan Magalhaes, selected by the Houston Dynamo with the 26th overall pick, that phrase was accurate in more ways than one. It turns out that Magalhaes' parents, Edison and Sonia, flew in all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to take part in the day's festivities.
As Magalhaes worked his way through the mixed zone, he had a near-terminal case of perma-grin.
"I told them, 'Hey it's the draft, I might not get picked, but it's my opportunity. You might as well come,'" he said. "Thanks to God and thanks to the opportunity that the coaches have given me, I'm able to go down [to Houston] and start my professional career."
And his parents?
"They were so happy," he said. "They just said, 'Thank God. Your hard work paid off.' I was really working hard for this moment, and it's time to enjoy it."
Just prior to the draft, the managers of each MLS team assembled for the annual pre-draft photo. But someone was missing. The LA Galaxy's Bruce Arena wasn't present, replaced by longtime assistant Dave Sarachan.
A Galaxy spokesperson later indicated that Arena had left Baltimore to return to L.A. in order to work on other business. There certainly wasn't much for the Galaxy to do. They traded their first-round pick, the 12th overall, to Colorado. They didn't have any other selections on the day.
But the Galaxy weren't idle. The club announced signings of former hero Mike Magee as well as former Helsingborgs forward Emmanuel Boateng.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.