The Houston Dynamo had a very active MLS SuperDraft, entering the day with two picks, but leaving with three players. Employing a "best available" strategy, the technical staff picked up a player for each third of the field and bolstered the roster in very needed positions. Here's a look at the newest members in orange.
Zach "Wolfgang" Steinberger comes into Houston with several years of professional experience. As a teenager, Steinberger traveled and trained with the Middlesborough U-16 squad in England. However, without an EU passport, he was unable to sign and continued traveling, seeing minutes in Slovakia and Germany before returning to America.
Once back in the states, Steinberger was lured to Butler University in 2011 and highlighted the team as a freshman, leading the squad in assists and netting 4 goals. Continuing his role as a midfielder in 2012, Zach found additional playing time in the summer with USL PDL division's Michigan Bucks. While with the Bucks (also a former club of Eric Brunner and Kofi Sarkodie), Steinberger found minutes in the 2012 US Open Cup (a Round of 16 extra time loss to Dayton Dutch Lions FC) and remained with them through their 2014 PDL Championship victory, claiming scoring titles in the process.
Steinberger turned in an impressive MLS Combine, also ranking second in the 5-10-5 Agility Drill with a time of 4.03s (a general video of the drill is here). "He controlled every game he played in, lovely passing of the ball, and it was an area we can strengthen in," said head coach Owen Coyle, "Very motivated, wants to do his best - a real desire to do well in the game."
Barring significant injuries akin to the 2014 season, his role with the Dynamo is not likely to be felt this season, though continuing to develop at a higher level with USLPro's Charleston Battery should serve as an important step in earning a spot with the Dynamo's first team one day. Check out some additional highlights of Steinberger here.
Oumar Ballo hails from the University of Maryland - Baltimore County where he played in central defense and helped propel the Retrievers to an unlikely Final Four in the most recent College Cup. The 2014 season was also notable for the 6'2" defender as he claimed conference Defender of the Year awards and led the backline in a tournament that began with four consecutive shutouts.
Ballo contributed to stingy performances with USL PDL's Baltimore Bohemians and Reading United A.C., providing additional experience for the All-American defender. His height has helped to make him a scoring threat (something that will be of particular interest to the standard Brad Davis set piece) and he has a very athletic and intelligent skillset that makes him cut out for a quick trajectory to first team minutes.
Ballo put on a quiet but strong display at the MLS Combine and showed he could potentially keep pace with the MLS level but still needs development on his ability to play from the back. Still, his skillset was deemed too vital to wait for as the Dynamo traded away signing rights to Servando Carrasco (who was unlikely to stay in Houston) in order to secure Sporting Kansas City's 30th pick.
The defender will certainly get some minutes in Charleston but his College Cup experience could be very important if he gets the call for the US Open Cup next season.
Rob Lovejoy is a midfielder/forward out of North Carolina and a member of the 2011 National Championship team. During his time with the Tar Heels, Lovejoy saw plenty of playoff soccer with one of the strongest programs in the country. In the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Lovejoy helped propel UNC past Clemson (his goal in that game is here) to the Quarterfinals before losing to UCLA.
Lovejoy does have a history of injury throughout his college career, including missing the first 12 matches in his 2012 season from an offseason injury, and the entirety of 2013 with a torn groin muscle. That said, he is versatile in where he plays on the field and can be of great use on the wing or posting up as a forward. He has the agility to attack and doesn't shy away from shooting on goal but is intelligent enough to complete a solid pass for an assist. His MLS Combine highlights can attest to that.
The former Tar Heel will be far down the depth chart, especially with Cubo Torres' summer arrival, but might help bolster the Battery attack in 2015.