Evaluating Philadelphia's 2010 Draft Class
With the 2011 MLS SuperDraft
fast approaching (Jan. 13, 12 pm ET;
ESPN2), now’s a perfect time to look back at the 2010 draft and evaluate the rookie seasons of each
of Philadelphia's six selections. In addition to the club’s four natural draft picks, the Union acquired two additional top ten picks in pre-draft trades.
Mwanga – #1 overall, Oregon State University
Mwanga’s rookie season was undeniably successful, the Congolese striker
certainly didn’t spread out his production. In fact, all seven of his goals –
tops among MLS rookies – came within a 13-match stretch. The 19-year-old seldom
saw the pitch after starting the club’s first-ever match, but that changed in a
hurry when he scored three stoppage time goals in a row beginning with a
dramatic equalizer against FC Dallas on May 10. When his much-hyped first
year was all said and done, the Rookie of the Year finalist added four assists
to his goal total and clearly proved that he’s a superstar in the making.
the club’s 2010 draft picks, Mwanga is the only one who figures to have a
starting spot all but locked up heading into his sophomore campaign. With a season under
his belt, Mwanga has an opportunity to assert himself as one of the league’s
premier attacking threats. The youngster displayed silky smooth finishing ability and a knack for hooking up with Best XI member Sebastien Le Toux, not
to mention uncommonly strong distribution for a young striker. While Mwanga’s
dribbling skills are also a strength for a player with his size and speed, he
struggled at times taking defenders one on one. If Mwanga can regularly beat opponents with the ball at his feet, he'll be awfully tough to defend.
Okugo - #6 overall, UCLA
playing time was scarce for Okugo in 2010, he did nothing to temper long-term
expectations. The 19-year-old earned four starts and 437 total minutes on the
year, forced to develop primarily in training. When he did see the pitch, Okugo
exhibited excellent tackling ability and distribution, albeit with some
inconsistency as can be expected from a player his age. Overall, 2010 was a
learning experience for Okugo more than anything else, but he showed enough to
justify his selection in the top half of the first round.
has been busier than anyone on the roster this offseason, joining the U-20 US National Team
on three separate occasions and heading to Spain for a Generation adidas trip.
The agressive holding midfielder has impressed, a sign of his rapid development after
just one season of playing professionally. Okugo appears poised to seize a larger
role in 2011, but he’ll face stiff competition. Stefani Miglioranzi,
Brian Carroll, Eduardo Coudet and Andrew Jacobson all play similar roles,
meaning the UCLA product will have to shine in preseason and surpass far more experienced
options on the depth chart. With his talent, don’t rule it out.
McInerney - #7 overall, Cobb Futbol Club
like Okugo, McInerney didn’t see the field very often as a rookie. But when he did, the 18-year-old was lethal. Despite lacking college
seasoning, McInerney netted three goals in only 350 minutes, and that’s not
including the game-winner against Chivas Guadalajara. Some may have thought McInerney
was a slight reach where the Union selected him, but the Chattanooga, Tennessee native dispelled
that notion and showed signs that he’s capable of making a major impact sooner
rather than later.
There are two questions for
McInerney heading into 2011: Will he become more than an occasional attacking
option off the bench and, if he does, can he maintain a high level of productivity
with more consistent playing time? The young striker has a natural nose for the
net, clinical with his finishing and intelligent beyond his years when it comes
to finding space in the attacking third. McInerney isn’t blessed with target
striker size, but his instincts more than make up for any lack of physical
presence. Philadelphia’s offseason activity and the positioning of Le Toux will
both impact McInerney’s role in 2011, but look for the US U-20 international to
once again make the most out of the playing time he receives.
Toni Stahl - #17 overall, UConn
2010 in Review
Of the five remaining 2010 draft
picks still on Philadelphia’s roster, Stahl had the least productive rookie
season, beginning with a rough debut. Starting as a center back in the club’s
first-ever match – the 25-year-old is naturally a defensive midfielder – Stahl
received two first half yellows and was sent off in the 41st minute.
The Finnish midfielder didn’t see another minute in league play, although he
did feature in international friendlies and for the Harrisburg City Islanders,
the Union’s USL affiliate.
While the 2009 Big East
Midfielder of the Year didn’t meet expectations as a rookie, it’d be foolish to
write off a first round caliber talent so soon. Technically gifted for a player with his size, Stahl has the tools to succeed at this level. That said, Stahl’s
path to playing time is onerous, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll
receive an opportunity to make any sort of impact with the Union first team in
Kyle Nakazawa - #33 overall, UCLA
2010 in Review
Aside from Mwanga, Nakazawa
earned more playing time than any other Union rookie. The Hermann Trophy
finalist started eight matches and proved to be deadly as a set piece
specialist, affirming his status as a draft day steal in the process. Nakazawa was
viewed by some as a borderline first round pick after racking up 12 goals and
seven assists as a senior, and he showed glimpses of that potential in 2010.
As is the case with a number of
the club’s second year players, opportunity will dictate the pace of Nakazawa’s
development. The 22-year-old undoubtedly held his own as a rookie, but the former
US youth international needs to assert himself more regularly in the run of
play if he hopes to emerge from a crowded midfield. If Nakazawa can carve out a
regular role in 2011, the youngster’s pinpoint service will inevitably lead to
a number of scoring opportunities.
Brian Perk - #49 overall, UCLA
2010 in Review
As Philadelphia’s third
‘keeper, Perk never appeared in a league match for Manager Peter Nowak’s side. The
All-American did impress during international friendlies against Celtic and
Manchester United, particularly Celtic, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to save
his roster spot. Perk was released by the Union on July 30 and picked up off
waivers by the LA Galaxy on August 4.
One year isn't nearly enough time to properly evaluate the largest class from the 2010 SuperDraft, but early signs are promising. Mwanga is on the fast track to becoming one of the top strikers in MLS, McInerney and Okugo were impressive in limited action, and Nakazawa was a revelation as a third round selection.
Philadelphia's 2010 crop will likely begin to represent a significant portion of the club's starting XI with another year or two of seasoning, not to mention 19-year-old Roger Torres, 20-year-old Sheanon Williams, 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer, and the Union's 2011 draft class. Add it all up and the Union are well stocked for the future, perhaps more so than any other club in MLS. In 2011, we'll begin to see just how quickly the future and present meet.
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