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MLS Mock Draft: Crew select defender Steve Birnbaum With No. 4 pick

It's hard to believe he would fall this far, but if he does the Crew would be only too happy to take arguably the best defender in college soccer.

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Draft prospects don't get much better. Center back Steve Birnbaum is perhaps the most MLS ready of any of the players in the draft. The Cal defender will be off the board quickly given his combination of size, strength, footwork and intelligence.

Birnbaum came back from an injury shortened 2012 season to dominate his senior year. He was a NSCAA First Team All-American. He tallied 10 goals and helped the defense to 7 shutouts and a 14-5-2 record.  As a captain he led the Bears into the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual champions Maryland in the semifinals. The bigger mark may be measured by his absence. The Bears lost two consecutive games at the end of the season while Birnbaum nursed an injury that forced him from the lineup.

Most college soccer observers think Birnbaum can start immediately for many teams in the league and grow into a dominant defender. At 6'2" and 180 pounds, he's a menace in the air on offense and defense. He is adept at playing with the ball at his feet and recorded 7 assists to go with his 12 goals during his college career.

Birnbaum is also a fifth year college senior, he's experienced and can make an immediate impact, but he lacks some of the upside of the younger players that are in the draft. There isn't much room to grow in his game, but a team looking for a no frills defender that can step in immediately, like the Crew, then Birnbaum is the perfect pick.

What the Crew will be looking for in the draft: A starting central defender. The Crew should be able to get one from the 4th pick with Christian Dean, Steve Birnbaum, and A.J. Cochran available. They also need a scorer and depth on the wing.

Who the experts say the Crew will pick: Birnbaum (if he lasts) or an offensive player like Cyle Larin or Schillo Tshuma. The team has needs in both spots.

Why I'm invariably wrong: Birnbaum won't last until the 4th pick as D.C. United or the Philadelphia Union looking at him. The Crew will still want to solidify a very thin central defense with one of the MLS ready players available.

Why I'm smarter than the pundits: As deep as this draft is at center back, Birnbaum may get overlooked a little. D.C. has some talent in the pipeline and Dean may get picked off first due to his high ceiling.

Full Mock Draft results (click on player names to see the profiles)

First Round

Team Blog Pick
1. D.C. United Black and Red United Patrick Mullins
2. Philadelphia Union Brotherly Game Steve Neumann
3. Vancouver Whitecaps 86 Forever Andre Blake
4. Columbus Crew Massive Report Steve Birnbaum
5. FC Dallas Big D Soccer Christian Dean
6. Union Brotherly Game Marlon Hairston
7. Whitecaps 86 Forever Damion Lowe
8. Chicago Fire Hot Time In Old Town Grant Van De Casteele
9. San Jose Earthquakes Quake, Rattle and Goal Eric Miller
10. Montreal Impact Mount Royal Soccer A.J Corrado
11. Colorado Rapids Burgundy Wave Schillo Tshuma
12. New England Revolution The Bent Musket JJ Koval
13. Seattle Sounders Sounder at Heart Aodhan Quinn
14. LA Galaxy LAG Confidential Fifi Baiden
15. Toronto FC Waking the Red AJ Cochran
16. Houston Dynamo Dynamo Theory Mamadou Diouf
17. Portland Timbers Stumptown Footy Reinaldo Brenes
18. Real Salt Lake RSL Soapbox Ben Sweat
19. Revolution The Bent Musket Marco Franco

Second Round

Team Blog Pick
20. Chivas USA The Goat Parade Enrique Cardenas
21. Sounders Sounder at Heart Taylor Peay
22. New York Red Bulls Once a Metro Pete Caringi
23. Crew Massive Report Pedro Ribeiro
24. Toronto FC Waking the Red Joey Dillon
25. Union Brotherly Game Jared Watts
26. Timbers Stumptown Footy Kevin Cope
27. Union Brotherly Game Kyle Venter
28. Earthquakes Quake, Rattle and Goal Mackenzie Pridham
29. Impact Mout Royal Soccer Jimmy Ockford
30. Whitecaps 86 Forever Nikita Kotlov
31. Revolution The Bent Musket Victor Chavez
32. Dynamo Dynamo Theory Kristopher Tyrpak
33. Rapids Burgundy Wave Rafael Diaz
34. Red bulls Once a Metro Alex Martinez
35. Rapids Burgundy Wave Zach Bolden
36. Timbers Stumptown Footy Mark Sherrod
37. Impact Mout Royal Soccer Michael Calderon
38. Sporting Kansas City The Daily Wiz

Romena Bowie