With the MLS Draft on Thursday, Columbus Crew SC come in with five chances to improve the roster. Currently, the Black & Gold pick 19th, 21st, 31st, 41st, and 60th. All of the top tier talent will be long gone by the time Columbus is on the clock.
That was the challenge for Massive Report (and Crew SC this Thursday) as SBNation held our mock draft over the weekend. All twenty teams stocked their rosters as we simulated the first two rounds.
Columbus comes into the draft without any glaring needs. Gregg Berhalter has built a deep team that doesn't need anything from the draft. That gives flexibility to take talent that may have flown under the radar and see how they fit within the team.
Mock drafting is far more an art than science. Without advance scouts or a travel budget, I'm left to do all my research online. With that in mind I kept to a philosophy that fits within the team while maximizing potential. I'll have a bias towards midfielders and defenders while forgoing much of the attacking crop which can be hit or miss.
Pick 19 - Dennis Castillo, Defender - VCU: Castillo is youthful depth at the wingback position. He's played for the Portland Timbers U23 team and the Costa Rican U20 youth team. He's collected accolades during his career with VCU, making 80 starts and being named to the first team All-Atlantic 10 soccer team. Wingback is not a position of need, but Harrison Afful and Corey Ashe are approaching 30 and Castillo would have some time to grow into the role.
Pick 21 - Timo Pitter, Midfielder - Creighton: An international may have a hard time sticking with the roster constraints, but Pitter has the field awareness to play in Berhalter's intricate offensive system. He's shown to be a good passer with an above average read on the game. It's hard to pass up a smart soccer player who might thrive in a system that leans heavily on players that can use their brain.
Pick 21 - Duncan Backus, Defender - UCSB: Crew SC hopes their defensive woes are behind them, but they could still use a capable backup. Backus has some mobility after playing defensive midfield and outside back in his college career. That mobility and size could be useful at center back in a defensive scheme that requires defenders to cover significant ground.
Pick 41 - Elias Gomez, Midfielder - Rosario Central: At this point in the draft, I looked for glimmers of talent. Gomez was talented enough to get scooped up by the Rosario Central youth team, but wasn't able to secure a senior deal. It's worth looking at left sided player with skill who is comfortable playing defense and a midfielder is worth a small gamble.
As promised, it is heavy in defense and midfield, leaving the forward depth to foreign or lower league signings. It's also a little heavier on international picks than I would have preferred in hindsight. Crew SC currently has two open international slots and losing an additional slot to retain a draftee may be too costly.
With a deep roster, many of these players would face an uphill fight to make the squad. Of the five picks in 2015, only Sergio Campbell remains with the team. The 2016 crop of rookies will have to stand out to make the roster.
The full mock draft is up at SBNation for your perusal.