The Vancouver Whitecaps enter their second MLS SuperDraft with a new regime hoping to collect a couple of pieces that can make some impact on the sophomore season. The main difference from last year to this year’s draft is that instead of Tom Soehn, Martin Rennie will be making the final call on the draft picks made by Vancouver. Rennie has attended previous combines looking for diamonds in the rough, passed on by MLS, for his Carolina Railhawks side but will be armed this time with the second overall pick.
2011 Draft Review
The 2011 draft saw the Whitecaps select a future project with a higher ceiling in Omar Salgado instead of going for a possible immediate return, bypassing defender Perry Kitchen. The only other option was Darlington Nagbe but his apparent refusal to play north of the border removed him from the board. There were flashes of skill displayed by Salgado in his limited playing time coming off the bench as a late game substitute. However when he did get a start the teenager looked physically overmatched and frustrated by the often lack of service.
Their second first round pick, acquired from TFC, was midfielder Michael Nanchoff who was unable to remain injury free for the majority of the season. The Caps were expecting Nanchoff to compete for the starting spot on the left side of the midfield but an injury derailed those chances early in camp. By the time he was healthy, Nanchoff was unable to supplant Camilo from the starting eleven which relegated the Ohio native to the reserve squad.
Their next two picks in the draft, Notre Dame products Jeb Brovsky (2nd round) and Bilal Duckett (3rd round) had mixed results. Brovsky started out in the central midfield but was converted to right back because of injury and lack of options. Duckett had the athleticism to play as a full back but looked lost when he did see the pitch in limited duty.
The college player that made the most impression on his rookie season was the first pick of the supplemental pick, defender Micheal Boxall. Due to injury and unexpected releases, Boxall was forced into the starting eleven before he was ready for the primetime. This showed in his play as there many ups and downs for the Kiwi as he was thrown into the fire having much to learn of the professional game.
As the offseason has progressed, Rennie has stated on many occasions that he was looking to increase the size and toughness on the pitch while maintaining a high skill level. Too often the Caps were pushed around in their own end especially when defending set pieces while their ability to score on set pieces was non-existent. With the second pick the Whitecaps could select Andrew Wenger, from Duke, who would provide a little help with both of these issues. The 2011 NCAA player of the year played his junior season as a striker, scoring 17 goals, after spending his first two years as a central defender which is the position he is being looked at playing in MLS.
The potential change to a 4-3-3 formation could also see Rennie looking at a couple of attacking players, especially if Wenger is taken by the Impact. The Caps are not lacking depth at striker but selecting Darren Mattocks and moving him to right wing may be an option for Rennie. The Akron striker has is a speedy forward who has enough skills to play out wide and could add scoring from the wing something that was lacking last year.
If Mattocks doesn’t fit into Rennie’s mold of the ideal attacking wing/midfielder option, there is a quartet of players who could fit the bill. Kelyn Rowe (UCLA), Luis Silva (UCSB), Enzo Martinez (UNC) and Nick DeLeon (Louisville) all provide attacking options centrally or out wide and are considered playmakers that can provide service to the strikers upfront.
The two Canadians, Evan James and Babayele Sodade, impressed the pundits at the combines as each scored a goal on the final day but are still longshots to be selected in the first two rounds of the SuperDraft. However they may have put themselves in a position to be drafted early in the supplemental draft held a few days later.
1. Andrew Wenger-DF/MF (Duke): If everything goes as expected and the Impact pick Mattocks then Wenger as the Caps selection becomes a no brainer for Rennie. Two seasons ago, in his sophomore season, the Pennsylvania native was voted as the ACC defender of the year. Due to a lack of scoring options this last year he was tried out as a striker, scoring 17 times, and was named ACC offensive player of the year.
He has been described as technically gifted player who plays with a strong physical side to his game. While there are some teams in MLS that see him as a forward, his future will either be as a central defender, holding midfielder or as a right back.
2. Calum Mallace-MF (Marquette): A player who fits the Rennie mold is the holding midfielder voted Big East player of the year. Born in Scotland, Mallace is 6-2, has an apparent non-stop motor, is good on the ball and has the ability to distribute it forward. He is projected to be drafted anywhere in the 10-25 range but was one of the standouts at the combine and may not be available for the Whitecaps.