On Friday, I wrote about Tesho Akindele's path to the 2014 Superdraft and how he is arguably the best Division 2 player of all-time with a path that very few have taken, but as we are now just a few days away from the 2017 Superdraft, I wanted to share my own experience from that draft.
Because, who doesn't love to talk about themselves.
As I look back to that draft, the word that comes to mind is "excitement" both on a personal level and from the team perspective. I was a wide-eyed new member of the MLS digital world and ready to cover my first big event as a member of the team staff, I had my content plans ready, my phone was fully charged and when I arrived in Philly, everything seemed so huge.
You see, the draft is held around the NSCAA Convention so pretty much every soccer coach in the country is there. The draft is really about 2% of everything going on. It's massive, crazy and if you've never been you really should experience it at least once to cross off your soccer bucket list.
The draft wasn't until noon so I took an early-morning detour to the Liberty Bell along with a quick stop for the best crepes of my life at Reading Terminal Market before it all got started.
With regards to the draft, there were two reasons why this one was bigger than most for FCD. First off, just six days earlier the club had announced the return of Oscar Pareja as head coach. There were a few Zapruder-style pictures of Oscar from the combine, but no one had really seen him since he had made his return to the club.
Secondly, as usually happens in a year where you add a new head coach, the club held a high draft pick. After a disappointing 2013 season, FCD sat at #5 in what was supposed to be a pretty strong overall draft. It was all a combination for a pretty big day.
Now at the draft, it's basically in a massive room with tables for every team's technical staff, an area for national press and then behind a big curtain there are big tables for the team staffs to do their work. I got there early, so I killed some time and then saw the FCD technical staff arrive. Oscar gave me a big hug and a wink. He was back where he belongs and knew it. OK, down to business.
With the new coach coming in, it was tough to get a feel on what Dallas was going to do. Unlike now where there is a squad that takes something special to break into, back in 2014 there were needs at every position. The first four picks went by in a blur and I made my way to a nice spot to film the #5 pick.
In 2014, I didn't quite have the relationship and knowledge of Technical Director Fernando Clavijo that I do now. He is a guy you want to have in your corner on draft day. No one reads the temperature of the room better than he does and he'll do anything to get that extra allocation money or draft picks while snagging the player they want in the right spot. If only I had known....
"FC Dallas has traded the #5 pick to Montreal for their #10 pick plus allocation money and an international roster spot."
Hmm, ok. Still in the top 10, but we're going to have to wait a little longer.
I made my way back to the backstage area to do a little more research and try to narrow down the players we could be after. Then all hell broke loose. I'm sitting at my table...hundreds of feet away from the draft floor...when Commissioner Don Garber announces "The Philadelphia Union have traded the #6 overall pick to FC Dallas for their #10 pick and allocation money and with that pick FC Dallas selects forward Tesho Akindele from the Colorado School of Mines."
Remember what I said about that content plan? Well when your team is the only one in the top 10 who selects a player that isn't at the draft you feel a little bit like the kid who came to prom without a date. Dreams of Facebook chats and live video was scrapped for a phone interview. Clearly, the second we talked to Akindele it was obvious that FC Dallas had found someone pretty special, but it certainly wasn't how I was expecting the day to go.
FC Dallas ended up with more allocation money than they came to the draft with, an international roster spot and the player they wanted all along who, entering the 2017 season, has more goals than any draft pick in the last three seasons not named Cyle Larin. It was a big day as the club had begun the process that sees them enter 2017 as the first in MLS history to have 60 points in two straight seasons.
The lesson in all this? People can criticize the draft as inconsequential and there's no doubt that with the rise of the Homegrown player movement that there isn't as much first team talent as there used to be on the board, but it's electric, full of optimism and you never really know what's going to happen. Follow along this week on FCDallas.com as we do it all again with the draft set for 2:00PM central time on Friday afternoon and visit FCDallas.com/SuperDraft all week for updates on one of the most fun days of the MLS calendar.