2020 MLS SuperDraft Grades – Travis Clark

The true value of every SuperDraft won’t be known until a year or two — at least. And while it’s a long shot to suggest that a future USmen’s national team player emerged fromthe second round, who doesn’t love a quickfire reaction?

In the first two rounds of the draft, eight goalkeepers were picked, as teams look to stock up at that position. A word of caution —at this point in the life of the SuperDraft, a good portion of most picks are going to start out in the USL, whether in the Championship or League One. And of course, MLS Cup is unlikely to be decided by a draft pick, even if the likes of Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson were two rookies that made a big impression right away after joining the league via the draft last year.

Below are grades for each team from the first two rounds.

Atlanta United

GRADE: B+ Faced with an immediate need, Atlanta came away with Patrick Nielsen, a tall, polished, no-nonsense defender. Whether the team can accommodate his international status is the obstacle, but there’s a good enough player here to at least be a reserve defender if he proves his mettle in preseason.

Draft summary:

Patrick Nielsen (Round 1, #23)

Chicago Fire FC

GRADE: A- In addition to trading out of the No. 10 pick to net some allocation money, Jonathan Jimenez (picked at No. 26) is someone that can come in, show he is healthy and get on the field sooner rather than later at left back.

Draft summary:

Traded No. 10 overall pick to NY Red Bullsfor $100,000 in General Allocation MoneyJonathan Jimenez (Round 1, #26)

FC Cincinnati

GRADE: BOne year after being one of the stories of the draft, FC Cincyadopted a much different approach this time after trading away the No. 3 pick back in November. Rey Ortiz would require an international spot, but he wasone of the most talented attacking midfielders in college soccer during his four years in Portland.

Draft summary:

Rey Ortiz (Round 2, #29)

Colorado Rapids

GRADE: BIt was a quickfire set of trades for the Rapids, who acquired Jeremy Kelly from Montreal after he was selected No. 9 overall. Kelly offers the team central midfield depth and the ability to also play as a right back. They turned around and recouped the $75,000 in allocation money by dealing away the No. 11 pick to Nashville.

Draft summary:

Traded No. 11 overall pick to Nashville for $75,000 in General Allocation MoneyTraded $75,000 in General Allocation Money to Montrealfor Jeremy Kelly (Round 1, #9)Robin Afamefuna (Round 2, #37)

Columbus Crew SC

GRADE: B+ Grabbing a player that has potential like Miguel Berry could be significant to push the Crew’s backup forward crop. Even the late picks, Remi Prieur in goal and Danny Griffin have shown flashes to suggest they could push for roster spots.

Draft summary:

Miguel Berry (Round 1, #7)Remi Prieur (Round 2, #47)Danny Griffin (Round 2, #49)

FC Dallas

GRADE: A- For a second year in a row, FC Dallas did very well given the parameters they had. Nkosi Burgess is a big center back with good potential that they can park at North Texas SC, and Cal Jennings could end up as a big hit coming off the bench in MLS in 2020. Second-round addition Manuel Ferriol is a talented player that slipped due to his international status and lack of athleticism. He would fit FCD’s style extremely well if he makes the team.

Draft summary:

Nkosi Burgess (Round 1, #14)Cal Jennings (Round 1, #17)Manuel Ferriol (Round 2, #40)

D.C. United

GRADE: C+ Taking fliers on a couple of players that will head to Loudoun United, D.C. traded into the first round and picked a 6-feet-9 goalkeeper from Temple, Simon Lefebvre. There were arguably better options on that spot at the time, even if the pick is immaterial for the MLS team. In the second round, they went local and grabbed Josh Fawole, who can start up front in the USL Championship and see what happens in his first season.

Draft summary:

Traded No. 17 selection in 2020 Allocation Ranking and $50,000 in potential General Allocation Money based on performance metrics for D.C.s No. 21 SuperDraft selection for the No. 21 pick in 2020 SuperDraft and No. 21 selection in 2020 Allocation Ranking.Simon Lefebvre (Round 1, #21)Josh Fawole (Round 2, #42)

Houston Dynamo

GRADE: B+ Grabbing Oklahoma native Garrett McLaughlin was a smart pick for the Dynamo. He’s a good, domestic player that adds a front-line attacker with pace. Provided he can cope with what new Houston head coach Tab Ramos demands of him, he could be in line for plenty of minutes this season. Luka Prpa could be a sleeper if he ends up proving the cost, as he battled injuries in 2019 at Marquette.

Draft summary:

Garrett McLaughlin (Round 1, #8)Luka Prpa (Round 2, #34)

Los Angeles Football Club

GRADE: BGoalkeeper Paulo Pita was one of the surprising picks of the first round, as he’s a 25-year-old goalkeeper that requires an international spot. However, it shows that the team put in a shift with its scouting, as Pita backstopped Marshall’s stellar 2019 campaign. Jack Hallahan came in the second round, and could be an intriguing upside pick if the team’s able to account for his overseas status as well.

Draft summary:

Paulo Pita (Round 1, #24)Jack Hallahan (Round 2, #50)

LA Galaxy

GRADE: C- Perhaps the most surprising pick of the day was not only thattheGalaxyselected someone, but also the player it was. Tom Smart is a left back that played sparingly at Akron, after transferring in from New Mexico. It’s a bit of an odd pick, even at that stage.

Draft summary:

Tom Smart (Round 2, #45)

Inter Miami CF

GRADE: B+ If it were up to this pundit, Daryl Dike made perhaps a bit more sense at No. 1, given his upside. But there’s a very solid argument to be made that Robbie Robinson is the better pure finisher and soccer player right now, and tracking the two players’ careers will be fascinating. Nabbing Dylan Nealis at No. 3 surely gives them a college player that could see minutes, provided he can defend MLS attackers.

Draft summary:

Robbie Robinson(Round 1, #1)Dylan Nealis (Round 1, #3)

Minnesota United FC

GRADE: B+ Working with just one pick, Minnesota snapped up Noah Billingsley, a right back that looks like he could be serviceable in his rookie season for the Loons.

Draft summary:

Noah Billingsley(Round 1, #18)

Montreal Impact

GRADE: N/AThe Impact ended up making a pick, but shipped Jeremy Kelly off to Colorado. That left them with some allocation money from the first two rounds on Thursday

Draft summary:

Traded Jeremy Kelly (Round 1, #9) to Colorado for$75,000 in General Allocation Money

Nashville SC

GRADE: B+ Success in their expansion season will come down to other roster moves. But it’s not bad to bring in a local talent in the second round (Tanner Dieterich) and arguably the best defensive prospect in the draft in Jack Maher. Coming off an excellent season at Wake Forest, Alistair Johnston might be able to see minutes this season. Some considered Elliot Panicco the top goalkeeping prospect in college soccer as well, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him come off the board first.

Draft summary:

Traded $75,000 in General Allocation Money to Colorado for No. 11 overall pickTraded $50,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in conditional General Allocation Moneyto New England for No. 13 overall pickJack Maher(Round 1, #2)Alistair Johnston (Round 1, #11)Elliot Panicco (Round 1, #13)Tanner Dieterich (Round 2, #28)

New England Revolution

GRADE: A- The New England Revolution II got a number of intriguing players on the day. Henry Kessler might be the closest to being able to contribute in MLS, and then the Revolution did well to nab some allocation money from Nashville. Simon Lekressner offers versatility, and Keegan Meyer was one of the better goalkeepers on the board in the second round.

Draft summary:

Traded No. 13 overall pick to Nashville for $50,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in conditional General Allocation MoneyHenry Kessler(Round 1, #6)Simon Lekressner (Round 2, #30)Keegan Meyer (Round 2, #43)

New York City FC

GRADE: B- Already featuring a glut of central midfielders, it will be interesting to see if Jesus Perez, an attacking center mid, can make the roster. He’s also been on the lookout for a gig overseas as well. But if that doesn’t work out, he’s an asset for NYCFC who will hold his rights or give him a long look. read more

What We Can Learn From the Near-Extinction of Bananas – Time

The banana has been the subject of Andy Warhol’s cover art for the Velvet Underground’s debut album, can arguably be the most devastating item in the Mario Kart video game franchise and is one of the world’s most consumed fruits. And humanity’s love of bananas may still be on the rise, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. On average, says Chris Barrett, a professor of agriculture at Cornell University, citing that U.N. data, every person on earth chows down on 130 bananas a year, at a rate of nearly three a week.

But the banana as we know it may also be on the verge of extinction. The situation led Colombia—where the economy relies heavily on the crop, as it does in several other countries including Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala—to declare a national state of emergency in August. Banana experts around the world have raised concerns that it may be too late to reverse the damage.

The reason for the problem comes down to a single disease, but it also has far-reaching implications—and the world is watching. Even if the world’s relationship to bananas may never be the same, the lessons of the fruit can still save us from damage that could hit far beyond the produce aisle.

The story of the banana is really the story of modern agriculture exemplified in a single fruit, says Daniel Bebber, who leads the BananEx research group at the University of Exeter. It has all of the ingredients of equitability and sustainability issues, disease pressure, and climate change impact all in one. It’s a very good lesson for us.

Ninety-nine percent of exported bananas are a variety called the Cavendish—the attractive, golden-yellow fruit seen in the supermarket today.

But that wasn’t always the case. There are many varieties of banana in the world, and until the later half of the 19th century, the dominant one was called the Gros Michel. It was widely considered tastier than the Cavendish, and more difficult to bruise. But in the 1950s, the crop was swept by a strain of Panama disease, also known as banana wilt, brought on by the spread of a noxious, soil-inhabiting fungus. Desperate for a solution, the world’s banana farmers turned to the Cavendish. The Cavendish was resistant to the disease and fit other market needs: it could stay green for several weeks after being harvested (ideal for shipments to Europe), it had a high yield rate and it looked good in stores. Plus, multinational fruit companies had no other disease-resistant variety available that could be ready quickly for mass exportation.

The switched worked. As the Gros Michel was ravaged by disease, the Cavendish banana took over the world’s markets and kitchens. In fact, the entire banana supply chain is now set up to suit the very specific needs of that variety.

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To the people who pay attention to such things, it wasn’t long before a case of banana déjà vu set in: the Cavendish had supplanted the Gros Michel, but—even though it had initially been selected for being disease-resistant—it was still at risk. Almost a decade ago, Dan Koeppel, author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, warned in an NPR interview that Panama Disease would return to the world’s largest banana exporters, and this time with a strain that would hit the Cavendish hard. “[Every] single banana scientist I spoke to—and that was quite a few—says it’s not an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when,’ and 10 to 30 years, he said. It only takes a single clump of contaminated dirt, literally, to get this thing rampaging across entire continents.

Sure enough, the confirmation of the presence of Tropical Race 4 (TR4), another strain of Panama disease, on banana farms in Colombia, prompted this summer’s declaration of emergency there.

The situation is very urgent, says Bebber.

There are any number of ways the problem can spread. When it comes to bananas, everything from truck tires to workers’ boots can be disease carriers. But the bigger problem is how hard it is to stop. Because banana farmers are overwhelmingly growing the same exact crop—the Cavendish—they were all vulnerable to the same diseases.

A lot of people would agree that we need to move to a more diverse, more sustainable system for bananas and agriculture in general, says Bebber, where we don’t put all our hope into a single, genetically identical crop.

There’s a name for this situation: monoculture, the practice of fostering just one variety of something. Monoculture has its benefits. The entire system is standard, so there’s rarely new production and maintenance processes, and everything is compatible and familiar to users. On the other hand, as banana farmers learned, in a monoculture, all instances are prone to the same set of attacks. If someone or something figures out how to affect just one, the entire system is put at risk.

And as the banana industry has begun to battle the effects of monoculture, someone else has taken notice: the tech world.

The parallel was noticed as early as the late 1990s. Stephanie Forrest, one of the early researchers in this area, commonly cites the banana problem in lectures explaining the importance of diversity in computer systems. Forrest argues that some of the most notorious software attacks in history are comparable to Panama disease’s threat to the Cavendish; uniform software systems lead to uniform vulnerabilities. For example, the 1988 Morris Worm infected an estimated 10% of all computers connected to the Internet within just 24 hours, and, more recently, the 2016 Mirai Botnet, which allowed an outside party to remotely control a network of internet-connected devices, brought down Twitter, Netflix, CNN and more.

Monocultures are dangerous in almost every facet of life, echoes Fred B. Schneider, a cybersecurity expert at Cornell University. With people, of course, populations are stronger and more disease-resistant if there’s more genetic diversity. And with transportation, it’s more effective to have several different options—when a train line is shut down, if you have other choices at your disposal, like a car or another form of transit, you won’t be stuck.

Schneider points out that software monocultures are common because, without them, using your computer would be a lot harder. Default configuration settings, for example, are the norm to help users who may not be experts in the technology they’re using. Defaults like that can protect people from some problems, but also lead to others, as all the systems using the same default are vulnerable to the same problems. Knowledge of the problem, thanks to understanding of the issues facing crops like bananas, have led technologists to take steps to introduce artificial diversity into their systems. To make a system artificially diverse, you just rearrange its guts in ways where the differences do not affect functionality in a material way, Schneider says. Microsoft implemented one of the first large-scale commercial developments of artificial diversity in their Windows OS system, by randomizing the internal locations where important pieces of system data were stored.

For bananas, addressing the problems caused by monoculture may be harder, as market standards and supply chains make it very expensive for fruit companies to cultivate multiple varieties.

A Colombian worker carries crude bananas to a transport car at a banana plantation. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images)

Jan Sochor—LatinContent via Getty Images

Existing disease-resistant varieties haven’t made inroads on the international market, but The Honduras Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA) has spent more than three years working on developing a disease-resistant variety that is as close as possible to the Cavendish, so that the world’s banana infrastructure doesn’t have to be reshaped from scratch. Still, that’s a process that can take 15 to 20 years, Bebber estimates. read more

Armchair Analyst- Blue Sky daydreaming about Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

It seems written somewhere, by someone with cosmic power, that it must always be done the hard way for the Canadian mens national team. Whether its been Concacaf Gold Cups or World Cup qualifying or just getting some damn friendlies scheduled, nothings ever been easy.

And so it goes in this year, 2020, a year in which nothings ever going to be easy for anybody. Canada, in 2019, looked good and promising. They got a breakout performance from Jonathan David at the Gold Cup, a breakout performance from Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich, and a breakout performance from Richie Laryeafor Toronto FCin the playoffs. They have more striker depth than the US mens national team, more than adequate central midfield depthand a rising goalkeeping star in Maxime Crepeau.

They also had a massive win over the Yanks in September of last year at BMO Field, destroying their southern neighbors 2-0 – a scoreline that flattered the visitors. That win put Canada on the verge of qualifying for the Hexagonal.

But, alas, this is Canada, and things arent easy. The US returned the favor in the second leg of that Nations League home-and-home, crushing the Canucks by a 4-1 scoreline in Orlando. Just like that, the Hexagonal was just out of reach.

Except maybe not for long! There were three friendlies scheduled in January, and Canada won two of them. And then there were two more friendlies scheduled in late March, both against Trinidad & Tobago.If Canada could win those withsome help elsewhere, then by the time World Cup qualifying started, they really could be in the top six. They really could make the Hexagonal!

We all know, of course, what happened to games scheduled in late March:Canadas friendlies were cancelled along with just about everything else around the world. It seems as though they wont be going to the Hex, but will instead embark upon a long voyage (heh) through multiple layers of qualifiers fora possible home-and-home with the fourth-place Hexagonal finisher. And then the winner of that series will be drawn into the inter-confederation playoffs.

With Canadas luck, even if they make it that far, theyll probably be drawn against the fifth-place Conmebol team. In 2018 that wouldve been Peru, just ahead of two-time defending Copa America champions Chile. In 2014 that wouldve been Uruguay. In 2010 that wouldve been… Uruguay again.

What Im saying is that absolutely nothing is going to be easy for Canada. Nothing has been easy for Canada. But in this version of the future that Im writing, Canadas surmounted every obstacle and have made it to the 2022 World Cup. For the first time in 36 years, and for just the second time ever, the Canadian mens soccer team will find themselves on the biggest stage.

Along the way – and I know this is going to tick some folks off, but here goes – theyll have decided to play in a 3-5-2. Its simply the best way to get Davies into open space and use his endline-to-endline dynamism without suffering because of his periodic lack of defensive awareness.

As with my US version of this column, Im predicting some new clubs for some folks. Heres what their rosters going to look like:


Maxime Crepeau, Vancouver Whitecaps; Milan Borjan, Red Star Belgrade; Dayne St. Clair, Montreal Impact

Theres a very clear No. 1 at the moment in Borjan, but “very clear” is still less clean than it was a year ago, because the 25-year-old Crepeau was outstanding (and outstandingly busy) for the Whitecaps. With Borjan entering his mid-30s and Crepeau entering his prime, I dont think its far-fetched to imagine that the current No. 2 becomes the full-time No. 1 within the next 24 months. I actually think its more likely than not.

St. Clair, when picked by Minnesota in the 2019 SuperDraft, was seen as a future No. 1 for that club, but its much more difficult to see a path to that spot now that Tyler Millers on the roster. St. Clair now feels like trade bait, and the Impact are in an obvious bit of flux at the goalkeeper spot. So there he lands.

Other considerations: None, really. Crepeau and Borjan are the only first-division starters in the pool, and St. Clairs the youngster with the highest, most obvious upside.

Center Back

Liam Fraser, Toronto FC;Derek Cornelius, Vancouver Whitecaps; Kamal Miller, Orlando City SC; Doneil Henry, Suwon Bluewings; Callum Montgomery, FC Dallas

Usually when Im drawing out tournament rosters,I try to keep it to four center backs and one other guy who *can* play center back. But because John Herdmans gone to a back three in this alt-reality (which is sometimes going to operate as a low-block back five, because we want the opponents to push numbers forward and leave space in behind for the counter), were carrying an extra center back.

Yes, one of those center backs is Fraser, who to this point in his young career has primarily been Michael Bradleys back-up at defensive midfield in Toronto. And for Canada, he actually outplayed Bradley during that massive 2-0 win last September.

But, man, when hes played as a CB for the Reds…

Frasersin the middle of that backline in 2022. Hes the distributing hub.

Like Fraser, Cornelius and Miller are each just 22 years old. Both had up-and-down debut MLS seasons last year, but both are integrated into the full picture for Canada and have obvious spots on the depth chart.

The same can be said of Henry, the veteran of this bunch at age 27. If healthy, hes a natural for the first defensive name on the team sheet, but hes had a brutal run of injuries over the past five years. For the sake of this column, hes healthy.

Since its my column, its my call on the roster. And my call is that Montgomery earns the final spot after locking down the job for FC Dallas midway through the 2021 season.

Other considerations: Julian Dunn (TFC), Manjrekar James (FC Midtjylland), Frank Sturing (NEC), Adam Straith (Hansa Rostock), Joel Waterman (Montreal Impact), Amer Didic (FC Edmonton)

Left Wingback

Alphonso Davies, Bayern Munich; Raheem Edwards, Toronto FC

For Bayern Munich, Davies has been one of the best left backs in the entire world. Bayern hold a ton of the ball – theyre up around 65 percent possession on the year – and tend to hold it high upfield, overloading in the attacking third against overwhelmed opposition. In that situation, Davies is free to push as high as he wants, and has been a devastating weapon when theyve switched play and found him in isolation with space to exploit. No defender in the world wants to face Davies there.

For Canada, when hes played as a left back, hes been a liability. This was Canadas biggest game in years:

On the first US goal he just ball-watches, leaving Jordan Morris open. On the second US goal hes playing catch-up because Paul Arriolas gotten behind him. On the fourth US goal he doesnt lay out to catch DeAndre Yedlin or make any attempt to block Yedlins cross.

All of this is to say that there are a lot of Canada fans who never again want to see Davies play at left back. Given how good he was the previous game against the Americans, in which he was a hybrid forward/winger, I cant blame them.

Wingback will be our happy medium. You get all the good stuff from Davies on the break, both with and without the ball, but you get that extra layer of defensive solidity behind him in the form of a left center back.

Edwards is another Canadian whos toggled between left back, left winger and left wingback. Like Davies, I think hes at his best as a left wingback. And so here he is, havingmade a triumphant homecoming to Toronto.

Other considerations: Sam Adekugbe (Valerenga), Zorhan Bassong (Cercle Brugge), Ashtone Morgan (RSL)

Right Wingback

Zachary Brault-Guillard, Montreal Impact; Richie Laryea, Toronto FC

Brault-Guillard was a terror to foes both foreign and domestic in the early part of 2020:

Im not quite ready to list him as a “revelation,” but he came damn close. Brault-Guillards going to be very high on this years 22 Under 22, and is a natural as a two-way wingback in Thierry Henrys low-block 5-4-1. It easy to see that translatingto the international level.

The same goes for Laryea, whos a few years older and already has a major international feather in his cap after outplaying Christian Pulisic head-to-head last September. Laryea was also a match-winner for Toronto down the stretch last year when playing as a right back, a winger and sometimes as a wingback. read more