Looking at success rate of Nos. 2 and 8 picks in MLS drafts

Steve Birnbaum. (U.S. Soccer)

Steve Birnbaum. (U.S. Soccer)

Atlanta United will hold the Nos. 2 and 8 picks in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles. The event will take place Jan. 13.

The team has signed 19 players. While club president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra have repeatedly said there are no starters locked in, it would be surprising if a few of the 19 won't be in the 11 for the season-opening game against New York Red Bulls on March 5 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Still, all of the positions aren’t set and the team needs depth. Hence, success is needed in the SuperDraft.

So, let’s take a look back at who teams have selected 2 and 8 in the past five years and see if they became dependable players.


No. 2 Philadelphia: Joshua Yaro, defender, Georgetown: Appeared in 17 games, starting 15 while logging more than 1,300 minutes. Defenders typically have an easier time transitioning into MLS, but Yaro did well as a rookie.

No. 8 San Jose: Andrew Tarbell, goalkeeper, Clemson: Appeared in just one game, partially because he plays behind David Bingham.



No. 2 New York: Khiry Shelton, forward, Oregon State: Injuries limited him to 17 appearances as a rookie, but he bounced back to make 22 appearances with 13 starts in 2016. Has five goals and 10 assists in his career.

No. 8 Houston: Zach Steinberger, midfielder, Butler: Played in three games as a rookie and didn’t make an appearance in 2016. His option was declined.



No. 2 D.C. United: Steve Birnbaum, defender, Cal: If all of Atlanta United’s picks are as successful as this one, the team is going to be good for a long time. Birnbaum has already established himself as one of the best centerbacks in the league with 69 appearances (68 starts) in three seasons. He has also been called up to the U.S. men’s national team by Jurgen Klinsmann and will likely receive more attention from new manager Bruce Arena.

No. 8 Seattle: Damion Lowe, defender, Hartford: Despite a lot of confidence, he has yet to appear in an MLS game. His option was declined following the 2016 season.



No. 2 Chivas USA: Carlos Alvarez, midfielder, Connecticut: Started brightly with 29 appearances as a rookie with two goals and three assists. Those appearances steadily decreased over the next three seasons. He now plays for San Antonio in USL.

No. 8 Montreal: Blake Smith, midfielder, New Mexico: Just 19 appearances in 2013 and ’14. Hasn’t played in MLS since 2014, when he made three appearances. He recently played for Miami in NASL.



No. 2 Vancouver: Darren Mattocks, forward, Akron: Has made 112 appearances with 64 starts, 20 goals and nine assists

No. 8 Portland: Andrew Jean-Baptiste, defender, Connecticut: Has made 41 appearances with 34 starts.


What to take from this?

From a small sample size, Atlanta United should be able to find a player who can fight for a spot in the 18 with the No. 2 pick. Doing so with the No. 8 pick seems unlikely, based upon the history of the players picked at that spot in the past five years.

Atlanta United is in a different situation with few players who should be considered automatic starters, thereby making it easier for rookies to compete for playing time.

After acquiring the eighth pick in a trade, Eales said he thought this year’s draft was deeper than normal. We will see if he’s correct.