FRISCO, Texas – The 2021 MLS SuperDraft is almost upon us and – for the second year in a row – the event will be held virtually on MLSsoccer.com this Thursday, Jan. 21 at 1PM CT. The first round will be streamed on MLS's YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. For FC Dallas, it’s a chance to bolster its roster with five picks over the shortened three-round draft.
Here are five things to know before FC Dallas makes its picks this Thursday.
1. Where FCD is Drafting
This year, Dallas owns one pick in the First Round (15th overall), one pick in the Second Round (48th overall) and three picks in the Third Round (75th, 76th and 79th overall).
FC Dallas acquired the 15th overall pick from Colorado in a trade that sent Michael Barrios and Dallas’ natural 21st overall pick to the Rapids in exchange for its higher First Round pick and an International roster spot. Dallas also received its final two Third Round picks via previous trades with Orlando City and Minnesota United.
2. FCD's Pre-Draft Move
In some ways, Dallas has already made its first move for this year’s SuperDraft in the signing of former Philadelphia Union academy winger Kalil ElMedkhar last week. ElMedkhar recorded 20 goals and 21 assists over 66 games at the University of Kentucky and was projected to go early in the First Round of this year’s SuperDraft. However, Dallas was impressed by ElMedkhar in a recent combine and initiated a trade with Philadelphia for the 21-year-old’s Homegrown rights, enabling the club to sign him before he entered the draft. In exchange, Dallas sent the $50,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), a fee which could rise if ElMedkhar reaches certain performance metrics with FCD.
3. Two General Draft Strategies
In most drafts – regardless of the sport or league – there’s a common question: Should you draft for your roster’s specific needs or draft based on the highest value pick left on the board? For FC Dallas’ Director of Soccer Operations Marco Ferruzzi, it’s the latter:
“We’ve done it both ways, I would say. I think when we’ve done it the best, we go for best quality. When you draft for a position, it’ll sometimes lead you astray from your better instincts. If you get fixed on a position, you might be passing up someone who actually has more projection and your instincts tell you is going to make it. So, we try to inform ourselves about who is the top player that has the best projection to make it. The bonus is that they fit into our system, our culture and into our playing style. If they happen to match a position of need, even better.”
Marco Ferruzzi (left) and Luchi Gonzalez (right) at the 2019 MLS SuperDraft
4. North Texas SC's Impact
The additional of North Texas SC in 2019 has also affected how Dallas' draft strategy and how their picks develop. After being selected in the first round of the 2019 SuperDraft by FCD, defender Johnny Nelson spent his rookie season alternating between MLS and USL League One while becoming acclimated with the pro game. After playing 451 MLS minutes and 630 USL minutes in 2019, Nelson became a common starter at left back and racked up nearly twice as much MLS playing time in his sophomore season (844 minutes).
But NTSC isn't just a place for Dallas' first round draft picks to develop during their first year. It can also, as Ferruzzi explains, be a team that develops players on its own with a longer term projection for the first team.
"It's been and it has affected it (draft strategy), because every pick is important. All the guys not drafted in the first round are still relevant. When you have a second team, you have an opportunity there to groom players there and have them develop. If they're not immediate projections into the first team, if they don't make the team after the camp, there's an option there for maybe they're making the second team. And that'll becomes a choice for the athlete, do they want to do that or do they want to pursue something else.
"We've had a few good examples: Last year, we picked up a very good player in Derek Waldeck later in the draft. He was a strong performer all through last year with the second team. These are the types of stories we're looking for all the time. Guys that can still continue their development.
If you don't make it at 22 but you make it at 24, fantastic."
5. FCD's Former Draft Picks
FC Dallas has five former SuperDraft picks still on its roster for 2021: Matt Hedges (2012), Ryan Hollingshead (2013), Ema Twumasi (2018), John Nelson (2019) and Nkosi Burgess (2020). Considering all five are defenders (or at least mainly defenders) at this point, it’s clear that FCD has found more value when drafting on the defensive side of the field in recent years. Whether that affects the technical staff’s decision making this Thursday, we’ll have to wait and see.