The announcement of a player’s name during Major League Soccer’s annual SuperDraft typically prompts speeches drizzled in clichés, relieved grins and more handshakes than a Scottish Rite convention.
One thing it does not guarantee is a professional contract for the chosen player.
MLS pre-season camps begin this weekend with the latest batch of SuperDraft selections making their way to their respective franchises. They have negotiated previous auditions during their college careers and at the MLS Combine to reach this stage. Proving that they deserve a roster spot among the pros is their next challenge.
The Soccer Observer reviewed the Class of 2012 to determine which players have stayed the course in MLS and which ones have fallen by the wayside.
* * * * *
Top Five 2012 SuperDraft Picks By Minutes Played:
1. Austin Berry, Chicago Fire (5,580 minutes in 62 games)
Berry, a central defender selected ninth, conceded a penalty kick 21 minutes into his MLS debut at Chivas USA on May 4, 2012 that Juan Pablo Angel duly converted. Berry leveled the score four minutes later to set Chicago on the way to a 2-1 win.
The Louisville grad has since solidified his place in the Fire back line. Berry played every remaining minute of the 2012 season and earned the Rookie of the Year award. His performances led to an off-season invite to train with Atletico Madrid.
Berry played every minute of Chicago’s 2013 league season with no signs of a sophomore slump. He even became the second Fire player to be commemorated with a bobblehead after Mexican national team star Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
2. Matt Hedges, F.C. Dallas (4,815 minutes in 61 games)
Hedges is another center-back who earned his first pro start in May 2012 and has subsequently remained in the starting 11.
Former Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman selected Hedges with the 11th pick after the 6-foot-4-inch defender netted six goals during his senior year at the University of North Carolina.
Hedges has carried his goalscoring threat into MLS with three goals in each of his campaigns to date.
3. Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution (4,425 minutes in 63 games)
Rowe leads the Class of 2012 in overall appearances. He has pitched in with 10 goals and 13 assists during regular-season play for the Revs, as well as a play-off goal against Sporting Kansas City in last November’s Eastern Conference semi-final.
New England took the UCLA sophomore with the third pick behind Andrew Wenger (Montreal Impact) and Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps).
The diminutive midfielder represented the United States at U-18 and U-20 level.
4. Ray Gaddis, Philadelphia Union (4,178 minutes in 49 games)
Gaddis was not invited to the MLS Combine in 2012. He was overlooked after a disappointing display in West Virginia’s season-ending 4-0 defeat at Maryland in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Philadelphia’s scouts had already done their homework on the speedy full-back from Indianapolis. Gaddis had been hurried back for that Maryland game after an injury and he was unable to produce the form shown during his collegiate career and for the Union’s PDL affiliate Reading United.
Gaddis, the 35th pick of the 2012 SuperDraft, started 31 of the Union’s league games last season.
5. Nick DeLeon, D.C. United (4,087 minutes in 53 games)
DeLeon arrived in the capital as the seventh pick after spending his junior and senior years alongside Austin Berry at Louisville. His father, Leroy, represented the Washington Diplomats franchise in the North American Soccer League during the mid-1970s.
The Phoenix native made a scoring debut as a substitute in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on March 18, 2012. DeLeon finished the regular season with six goals to set a new franchise record for a rookie. He became a hero among the Red-and-Black fans with his late play-off winner at Red Bull Arena that saw United progressing at the expense of the New York Red Bulls.
DeLeon’s form dipped last year as United slumped to the foot of the Eastern Conference. Despite that, he started more games (23) than all but five of his fellow 2012 draftees.
* * * * *
The Forgotten Men
Thirteen of the 38 players chosen during the 2012 SuperDraft failed to register a single minute of action in MLS. The Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo respectively waived first-round selections Andrew Duran (15th pick) and Colin Rolfe (18th pick).
Enzo Martinez (17th pick by Real Salt Lake) joined the Carolina Railhawks last year after initially being loaned to the North American Soccer League club. Seattle and Salt Lake have also waived second-round selections from 2012.
Salt Lake enjoyed greater success with the 36th pick that brought Sebastian Velasquez to Rio Tinto Stadium after two years at Spartanburg Methodist junior college in South Carolina. Velasquez made 19 league appearances last season and featured in each of the Claret and Cobalt’s five play-off games.
Midfielder Warren Creavalle joined Houston as the 37th pick from the University of Central Florida. He ranks 10th in minutes played by members of the 2012 draft class.
Philadelphia again showed their scouting nous in the week following the 2012 SuperDraft. The Union selected Princeton forward Antoine Hoppenot with the 51st pick of the Supplemental Draft. Hoppenot has been used almost exclusively as a substitute by head coach John Hackworth with 50 of his 55 appearances coming from the bench. He has found the net seven times in 1,549 minutes of action.
* * * * *