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Jack McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Tony Tchani … and perfect hindsight on the 2010 MLS Draft

Apr 25, 2013, 11:50 AM EDT

McInerney Draft day

It’s Draft Day in America – NFL draft day, that is. But let’s not allow pro football to have all the fun.

We all know that drafting is a highly imperfect exercise, a multi-layered brew with lots of ingredients, attached to the all vagaries of scouting subjectivity and burdened with the fickle fates of luck.

That said, it’s always fair to go back and look at MLS drafts (all college-centered drafts, really). And when I say “look at,” what I really mean is “pick those bad boys apart like a Thanksgiving turkey.”

Here’s one bit of MLS draft day hindsight that is landing with a quite a thud at the moment:

So much of the 2010 pre-draft chatter was about Danny Mwanga and Tony Tchani. They were “impact” players, and not far behind in the “impact” zone was Teal Bunbury, highly athletic and skillful, as we know. Ike Opara was a “special” player, too, with several clubs desperate to grab the rangy center back.

Fair to say that Mwanga and Tchani have had as many “downs” as “ups” in their early MLS days. By Mwanga’s third pro season (2013) he was barely a part-time starter; the mercurial striker is already at his third MLS address

Tchani isn’t a bad player, but he’s hardly an “impact” man, now at his third MLS address as well. His fourth MLS season finds Tchani as a Columbus Crew backup. Eric Alexander and Ben Zemanski, selected 44th and 47th that day, have more MLS starts than either of those first two, far-more-ballyhooed selections.

Bunbury is coming off a big injury, but had seemed to arrive at a career sticking point in Kansas City. Opara, dragged down by injury, in fairness, just hasn’t risen the way most thought.

All of this is getting here …

Jack McInerney. The Philadelphia Union striker’s selection that day by the Philadelphia Union at No. 7 overall caused a lot of smart draft watchers to turn their heads and gaze curiously the way my dog does when he can’t understand what I want.

(MORE: McInerney is PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week)

It looks today like “Jack Mac” will be the best of the 2010 MLS Draft lot.

Major League Soccer’s current leading scorer was just 17, clearly a project when picked that day. Did New York, Kansas City, San Jose and Dallas, all of whom passed on “Jack Mac” err that cold January day in Pennsylvania? Not necessarily. As he was a “project,” perhaps they had more immediate needs.

source: Getty Images

This was a very Philly-centric draft, not only held in the city of Brotherly Love; the Union owned three of the first seven picks. So they had more latitude to take a “project,” along with Mwanga and Amobi Okugo (pictured, on the left), who is certainly proving to be an outstanding young talent.

Still, McInerney’s selection registered high on the shock meter that day, even among members of the chattering class that follow these things quite closely.

So what’s the point? That MLS drafts in particular are far more art than science. That more goes into the soup than most of us realize.

Draft analysis, before, during and after, should always be consumed at a distance.  The next “Jack Mac” surprise is out there. So is the next Mwanga.

  1. perrinbar - Apr 25, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Would you rate him higher than Tim Ream? His stock hasn’t been as high since his move abroad, but it strikes me that he might still be considered a better value than young Jack Mac. Other than that, spot on. The draft has a weird history of being all over the place.

    • Steve Davis - Apr 25, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      I thought about adding Tim Ream (taken No. 18 overall, in the second round), but you can’t include everything in a shorter, quicker-hitting post. Ream had one very good season at New York, but has arrived at his own career sticking point, apparently. I think if you asked most teams today, “Would you take McInerney or Ream right now?” … the answer would probably lean heavily toward Jack Mac.

  2. charliej11 - Apr 25, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Not trying to take anything away from the Jack Mac Attack….let me know when he catches up to Zack Lloyd in National team appearances and MLS appearances.

    JM is quite a bit younger…so maybe you argue he will be better at the same age.

    • schmutzdeck - Apr 25, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      Not to take anything away from Lloyd but if JMac proves to be a consistent, regular goal scorer, teams generally find such a player more valuable than a good fullback.

      Reliable goalscorers are much harder to find.

  3. talgrath - Apr 25, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    Soccer drafting is a lot harder than most sports. Basketball and baseball are extremely individualistic sports, a great player is usually pretty easy to pick out, it’s just a question of whether or not they stay healthy (example of failure: Greg Oden) and stay out of trouble (example: Michael Vick). Football is a harder nut to crack as it is more of a team sport, quarterbacks look better with a good receiving core and receivers look better with a good quarterback for example, but usually the same rules apply.

    Soccer and hockey have a very different issue to tangle with, soccer more so than hockey but many of the same concepts. In soccer, players can do extremely well with one team and completely fail at another; a player might make great goals, assists or saves when the paring works, but be terrible with a different team. For example, a striker who does well in the air paired with midfielders and a fellow striker who are good at putting accurate balls in to the air might do very well with one team, but do poorly with a team that prefers ground passes. Even worse, a player might be in a “run of good form” when the draft comes up and then have a dry spell. Of course, the bottom line with any draft in any sport is this “don’t believe anything you hear”.

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