Former Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke holds the distinction of being final selection of the MLS Super Draft to make his team — as a MetroStar in 2004. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
By Michael Lewis
Major League Soccer will hold its 26th selection process – the SuperDraft — Thursday. As teams finalize their strategy, here are some of the more interesting aspects of the draft’s history, especially during its early days:
So, who were the very first players taken in MLS’ first three drafts in 1996, and how did they fare?
In the player allocation draft — when the 10 original teams stocked themselves in a 16-round draft — the Columbus Crew (as the team was called back then) chose forward Brian McBride. Although injuries sometimes have limited his playing time and effectiveness, McBride was a productive and is a regular member of the U.S. national team. A lethal header, McBride scored 62 goals and added 45 assists in 161 games for Columbus Crew SC. He became an integral member of the U.S. World Cup team that reached the quarterfinals in 2002 and finished with 30 goals in 95 international appearances.
In the supplemental draft, the MetroStars selected veteran Italian defender Nicola “Wrong Way” Caricola. He lasted all of one season in the league and forged a reputation for scoring own goals. In fact, his own goal with 12 seconds in the match remaining gave the New England Revolution a 1-0 win over the MetroStars in the latter franchise’s packed home opener. Caricola retired from soccer after one year in the league in what was considered a wasted pick for the future.
And in the college draft, the Kansas City Wiz — that’s what they were called at the time, not the Wizards or Sporting Kansas City– grabbed Matt McKeon, who became a solid defensive midfielder. The former St. Louis University All-American was traded to the Colorado Rapids before returning to the renamed Kansas City Wizards. McKeon, who played through the 2002 season, performed in 172 matches, starting in 153. He scored 13 goals and set up 19 others.
Not so famous seconds
So, who followed Freddy Adu as the second selection of the 2004 draft?
If you guessed defender Chad Marshall, you are correct. He was taken by the Columbus Crew. While Adu at times lamented that he wanted more playing time, especially when he was with D.C. United, Marshall became a vital member of the Crew’s MLS Cup championship team, capturing defender of the year honors in 2008.
Last man standing
Goalkeeper Garth Lagerwey was the latest surviving member of the 1996 allocation draft. He was made the 150th selection (out of a possible 160) by D.C. United, in the 15th round of that draft. Lagerwey lasted five seasons, performing for the Wizards, Dallas Burn and Miami Fusion and recording a 1.80 goals-against average and a 25-20-0 mark. He is now president and general manager of the 2016 and 2019 MLS champion Seattle Sounders FC.
Defender Geoff Aunger is the field player who has lasted the longest. He was taken in the 13th round, 125 overall, by the Revolution. Aunger also performed with the Colorado Rapids and D.C. United.
Some real gems
Not every important player is taken in the first round. Some gems are found in the latter rounds. Remember, before this year both the college and supplemental drafts had three rounds apiece.
* Forward Ante Razov was the 27th player selected in the 1996 college draft by the Los Angeles Galaxy in the third round. Razov scored 114 goals in 262 MLS games and tallied six goals in 25 international appearances for the USA.
* Midfielder Eddie Lewis, who became a national team regular, was the 23rd player selected in the 1996 college draft. He picked by the San Jose Clash (now Houston Dynamo) in the third round. He also played with the Galaxy and with Fulham, Preston North End, Leeds United and Derby County in England.
* Midfielder Steve Ralston, the 1996 rookie of the year, was chosen by the Tampa Bay Mutiny in the second round that year, as was defender Greg Vanney by the Galaxy. Ralston, who had a long, storied career that included the New England Revolution, is an assistant coach with the San Jose Earthquakes. Vanney, who also performed for F.C. Dallas, Colorado Rapids and D.C. United, guided Toronto FC to the MLS Cup title in 2017.
* Edson Buddle was the 27th player selected overall (third choice of the third round) by Columbus in the 2001 SuperDraft after such notables and household names as Kerwin Jemmott, Ali Ngon and Josue Maynard. What were these coaches thinking? In a 15-year career, Buddle collected 100 goals and 30 assists over 304 games. He played for five MLS teams, including the Red Bulls, LA Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.
* Jeff Parke could very well be the most famous of all final picks because not only did he make the MetrosStars’ roster as the 60th selection of the 2004 draft, he became an integral part of the defense. As a central defender, Parke, who played for Drexel University, started 27 games and played in 28 and 2,409 minutes that year. During his 10-year MLS career with the MetroStars (and Red Bulls), Seattle Sounders FC, Philadelphia Union, Parke established himself as a reliable backline player. He played 254 matches, starting in 247. Not too shabby for the last guy selected.
The supplemental draft had some rare finds as well. The Galaxy took defender David Vaudreuil in the second round (17th overall selection) in the 1996 supplemental draft, and he enjoyed a fruitful career with D.C. United, the Fusion and the Rapids. Brazilian Welton was taken by the Revs in the second round that year.
UCLA goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was tabbed by the Galaxy as the 29th and next-to-last pick, in the third round of the 1997 college draft. United keeper Tom Presthus was taken with the last pick of the second round that year.