Well, the 2013 MLS SuperDraft is in the books and the Houston Dynamo appear to have come out with another quality performance. With the 13th and 37th pick, Dominic Kinnear managed to leave Indianapolis with a speedy forward and a left back - two positions that were needed in the depth department. Obviously, only time will tell if these two players will live up to the hype they're receiving today, but there is nothing that would indicate they won't.
Houston Adds Another Speedy Forward
With the 13th pick, many thought Houston would focus on defensive depth, but with a Generation Adidas forward still left on the board, Kinnear opted for Jason Johnson. Johnson, whose stock dipped after a lackluster MLS Combine, could wind up being a big steal for Kinnear. Many reports from Florida say Johnson struggled in the 4-3-3 and is a better fit to work off a true centre forward (think Will Bruin). Even though the Dynamo lined up in a 4-3-3 at times in 2012, the 4-4-2 is their bread and butter and Kinnear is likely to stick with it in the upcoming season.
Regardless of his Combine performance, most didn't expect him to slip as far as he did. Soccer By Ives had him as the fifth best prospect in their final draft board on Thursday morning, while MLSsoccer's final mock draft was a bit more unkind - with their three writers having him at 9th, 16th, and even 27th.
"He had the explosiveness to make you think, this guy's got something."
Kinnear on Johnson (via MLSsoccer.com)
Combine aside, his scouting reports show tremendous upside and his salary won't hit the Dynamo books due to his Generation Adidas tag.
MLS Roster Rules state this about Generation Adidas players:
Players occupying roster spots 1-20 count against the club's 2012 salary budget
Players occupying roster spots 21-30 do not count against the club's salary budget, and are referred to collectively as the club's Off-Budget Players (maximum of 10 per team).
All Generation adidas players are Off-Budget players
Johnson's addition surely closes the door on the return of Macoumba Kandji. Kandji, like Andre Hainault, expressed his desire to seek out other opportunities but has yet to land anywhere. Kandji was offered a contract by the Dynamo, so Houston will retain his MLS rights.
Dynamo Address Depth Needs at Left Back
There was no secret the Dynamo would need to address their depth issues at left back, having only Corey Ashe as a natural fit for that spot. With the amount of games they'll face in 2013, Ashe wouldn't be able to man the position through all of them. A trade to grab a veteran defender is always an option, but the draft class in 2013 was extremely deep in the left back position. With the 37th pick of the draft, Houston was able to grab left back Jimmy Nealis, who was considered the best left back available by MLSsoccer.com.
Nealis will need to put in a good preseason to grab a contract with the Dynamo, but he's a hard worker that demonstrates a number of skills the Dynamo could use. Nealis looks very comfortable on the ball and in the SuperDraft highlight video his passing and crossing looks precise.
MLSsoccer.com says this about Nealis:
College: Started seven of the 19 games he appeared in during his freshman season (2009), all in defense, notching two goals and two assists ... Started all 20 games for the Hoyas on defense in the 2010 season, adding four assists and contributing to nine clean sheets. Named Third Team All-Northeast region by the NSCAA ... Started all 18 games, again in defense, in the 2011 season. Tallied three assists and was named Third Team All-Big East ... Started all 26 games in the 2012 season and notched six assists in Georgetown's run to the College Cup final. Received Second Team All-Northeast recognition from the NSCAA.
What People Are Saying
As for the general opinion on Dominic Kinnear's picks in the SuperDraft - most are extremely positive. Who would've thought they could leave with a speedy forward that was considered a top five pick just a week ago, plus arguably the best left back available.
Ives Galarcep seem impressed with Houston's pick based on this two tweets from the draft.
Houston Dynamo take Jason Johnson at No. 13. An absolute STEAL. How does Dom Kinnear keep stealing quality at the draft? #CantStopHim— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 17, 2013
Houston Dynamo take Jimmy Nealis at 37th. A talented left back from Georgetown, and could be another steal for the Dynamo.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) January 17, 2013
Over at MLSsoccer.com, the Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle placed Houston's day under the "I Mean, I Guess That Makes Sense" category.
Doyle says, "I love that Nealis pick, but Johnson will struggle to find minutes behind Will Bruin and Cummings."
The Dynamo will turn their attention to the opening of preseason next Monday, January 21st and will hope to get their latest additions acclimated to the team. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the MLS Supplemental Draft will take place and the Dynamo will have an opportunity to bring in more fresh faces to compete for roster spots.
It's definitely a fun part of the year and a great time to follow along to see who the next Dynamo standout will be.