Draft Clock

Analyzing First MLS SuperDraft

In FC Cincinnati's first major act of 2019 — the Major League Soccer SuperDraft — the club took the first pick and found talent that could potentially act as its future framework. 

FCC selected five players in Friday's draft in Chicago, including the No. 1 pick Frankie Amaya, the No. 13 pick Logan Gdula and three second rounders. In addition, the expansion side traded two picks for $100,000 in General Allocation Money.

Simply put, when asked what his reaction would be if he knew last Friday the picks FCC would inevitably select, Head Coach Alan Koch said, “I’d be very happy.”

Outside analysts agree.

In fact, MLSsoccer.com rated FC Cincinnati’s SuperDraft as an A+.

Here’s what happened…

Drafting Frankie Amaya first overall

Even Thursday night, Koch and the FC Cincinnati technical staff told the media the first pick wasn’t finalized. If the right offer came along, the team had no problem trading No. 1 away.

An offer came.

Once on the clock, Los Angeles FC General Manager John Thorrington walked toward the FC Cincinnati table and submitted a trade. FCC called a four-minute timeout, declined the offer and selected Amaya, a Generation Adidas signing and U.S. U-20 national player, from UCLA.

“We’re thrilled,” FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding said. “The opportunity to have Frankie Amaya, who’s a world-class player at a young age, is enormously exciting, someone to build around for our future. …We valued Frankie highly.

“At the end of the day, the offers weren’t significant enough for us to move off Frankie.”

At 18 years old, Amaya was the youngest player in the draft. Standing 5-foot-4, he’s a center midfielder who can play box-to-box, but offers an attacking threat through his passing, vision and creativity.

“I’m a very good technical player,” Amaya said. “I got stuff to work on, but I’m a good offensive and defensive player, but my work rate is what separates me from everyone else.”

Finishing up the first round

When FC Cincinnati selected Gdula No. 13, the former Wake Forest right back wept.

“It was just shocking to hear my name called,” Gdula said in an interview afterward. “I’m never really vulnerable, but this is a time that’s appropriate.”

FCC was arguably as shocked to select him.

“Logan was right at the top of our draft board,” Berding said. “For him to be there at 13 was an enormous pick for us.”

Gdula arrives at Cincinnati as an outside back who offers pace and quality in the final third. Originally playing higher up the field, he switched to defense in college, but still has attacking traits and tendencies that excite his new technical staff.

That was the team’s final pick in the first round.

When FC Cincinnati was back on the clock for the No. 16 pick, the club traded the No. 16 and No. 25 picks to New York Red Bulls for $100,000 in General Allocation Money. That left Cincinnati with three second-round picks and five in the first two rounds.

“Obviously, we have a lot of second round picks,” Berding said. “To get $100,000 from Red Bulls and still have three second-round picks to get some players we still value as good prospects, again, it gave us flexibility, which is why we did the trade.”

Second round

Trading away the first pick of the second round to Red Bulls, FC Cincinnati selected center midfielder Tommy McCabe from Notre Dame with the No. 29 pick.

“We like Tommy,” Koch said. “We think he’s a good player and he comes from a good program. I think he’s a very determined kid and he’s got great soccer IQ. He’s very comfortable on the ball.”

FCC also had the No. 30 pick and selected Michigan State goalkeeper Jimmy Hague with the next pick.

Seven picks later, the club took Akron goalkeeper Ben Lundt from Akron at No. 37, meaning two-consecutive goalkeeping selections.

“It was always going to be goalkeepers with potential that we found in this draft,” FC Cincinnati goalkeeping coach Jack Stern said. “We’re really excited about both of them. They tick lots of boxes in terms of physical profile, also being able to play with their feet, good shot stoppers — goalkeepers that are able to command their box.”

For Lundt, he said he’s happy to stay in Ohio and said he felt comfortable around FC Cincinnati during the pre-draft process.

“It’s super exciting, to be honest,” he said. “Cincinnati was the team I was hoping for.”

Final verdict

The draft isn’t over and FC Cincinnati’s 2019 MLS roster isn’t set. Rounds three and four follow Monday afternoon, while the club still has preseason to evaluate its first draft class and prepare for the inaugural season in the top league. Transfers can still come in or go out, too.

But what’s set — regardless of a fluctuating roster — is FCC got younger and saw talent that, with success, can transcend the team’s future.  

Before the draft, Technical Director Luke Sassano said FC Cincinnati’s draft approach — stockpiling picks while Philadelphia Union literally traded all their picks away — was unorthodox. But unorthodox or not, it left FCC in a better place at the end of Friday than how the club started it.

Koch called the selections projects. In this case, FCC has a lot of projects. But if the team hits big, the 2019 SuperDraft may have found the core of Cincinnati’s future in MLS. The draft was a historic day to celebrate the present. Perhaps this draft class leads to celebrating in the future.