Union have options in draft with two late picks

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Union have options in draft with two late picks

In a change from their previous three trips to the youth talent pool, the Union are entering Thursdays 2013 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis as virtual spectators.

Trading away the No. 5 overall selection to the Vancouver Whitecaps to move up in the MLS Allocation Order to sign Bakary Soumare in 2012, the Union left themselves with the 26th and 29th selections of the second round -- a fact that will force coach John Hackworth into some creative maneuvering.

A first-round pick has value and from that regard, we don't want to necessarily not have one, Hackworth told Dave Zeitlin of MLSsoccer.com. But I think we have enough flexibility right now to either move up or down. There will be a lot of negotiating.

Should the Union decide to trade up into the first round, one strategy could be to bring in an MLS-ready left back. With Gabe Farfan interested in returning to his natural midfield position, Georgetowns Jimmy Nealis could be a proper replacement. Considered the top left back in the draft, the six-foot Nealis has a strong all-around game as a natural left back and is a playmaker to boot.
Another option at left back is Taylor Kemp out of Maryland. Touted to have a fantastic left foot an ability to eat minutes right away, the 5-foot-11 Kemp could be on the Unions radar as a two-way player. Injuries limited the Maryland senior in 2012, which could cause his stock to drop right into the Unions lap.

Other options at left back that may not require the Union to trade up would be John Gallagher out of Penn State and Dylan Remick from Brown.

Its a ton of options to have two picks in the second round, said Hackworth. Whether we target a player we think will be taken in the first round, it gives us the potential to trade up. Or, if thats not necessary for us and we think there are two players available that we really want, we can select those.

One advantage the Union have over most teams is their proximity to Premier Development League and USL club, Reading United. Headed by Brendan Burke, who is also an assistant coach for the Union, Hackworth has direct insight into the many college talents that pass through Reading on their way to the MLS.

United names that are expected to go in the draft and could also have the Union intrigued are forward Paul Wyatt, defender Eric Schoenle, goalkeeper Scott Goodwin, midfielder Jose Gomez, striker Ryan Finley, defender Greg Cochrane, midfielder Ian Christianson, forward Deshorn Brown and forward Will Bates.

We believe that Reading United is an essential part of our player development and scouting structure, Hackworth said in a team release. Obviously with Brendan (Burke), we work very closely with Reading.

However, while the option to move up in the draft will keep Hackworth on his toes, should the club decide to stand with the 26th and 29th picks, all wouldnt be lost. The Union tend to succeed when it comes time to finding diamonds in the draft rough.

Arguably the Unions most exciting young player is midfielder Michael Farfan, who was drafted in the second round -- 23rd overall -- in 2011. Drafted 35th overall in the second round of the 2012 draft, defender Ray Gaddis came out of nowhere to open eyes last season with his poise and speed at full back. Striker Antoine Hoppenot was a another uncovered success story, as he was picked up in the third round of the MLS Supplemental Draft.

Hopefully we can pull that off again, Hackworth said. I think there are some players out there that may not be on the top of everyones list and may be a player that could help us. But well have to see how that goes with the other teams. Certainly its a little bit unique in that well have to wait around and see how some of these things play themselves out.

Regardless of where the Union will pick, its what position they choose that counts. And as of now, the roster void Hackworth wants to fill is still a mystery. Even to him.

That depends on who is available, Hackworth said. We feel like we have addressed our positional needs already this offseason, but we still have a few spots where we would like to add depth. If a player is still available that we really like and he fits one of those specific spots, great. If there is a player who we really like no matter what, we could go that way as well.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com.

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.