The last time the New England Revolution traded up in the first round of the SuperDraft, they did it to select Wake Forest midfielder Wells Thompson at the sixth spot back in 2007.
Yes, Wells Thompson. A skilled, all-around nice guy who seemed ready to take the torch from Steve Ralston. Well, at least that was the plan.
Six years separated from their previous first round advancement, the Revolution boldly acquired the first overall spot from Toronto for the fourth pick and allocation money. Here’s the wind, and there goes the caution.
So what does this heady move mean for the suddenly ambitious Revolution?
For starters, it means that they had no intention of going with the “best available” prospect. The club was intent on getting whomever they had their eye on, and weren’t comfortable waiting it out come Thursday.
Even though they tapped a skilled midfielder in Kelyn Rowe at the third spot last year, they had no intention of accepting whomever fell into their lap only three spots over this year.
If the above has any truth to it, then it’s also clear that one college prospect in particular left quite an impression on Jay Heaps and Mike Burns. Not a few, not two, but one. One prospect. A prospect so intriguing that they simply couldn’t risk waiting for at the fourth spot.
Since this player – the identity of whom the Revolution will likely keep under wraps until high noon on Thursday – is obviously regarded as worthy of climbing to the top for, you have to think that Heaps believes he can contribute immediately. Not next year, and not by the All-Star game. By March, at the latest. After all, you don’t trade up to select someone you intend to slowly mold and develop.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who might be holding the Revolution scarf at high noon on Thursday.
If the published prognostications are to be believed, then the front office has fallen head over heels for either Louisville’s Andrew Farrell or North Carolina’s Mikey Lopez.
Both players have been widely projected to go first overall, are Generation adidas signings. But like the rest of their fellow draft class, both have question marks tailing them going into Thursday’s main event.
Farrell is an intriguing defensive prospect who recently switched to the rear after spending the bulk of his college career in the midfield. Though he isn’t especially tall (5-11) for a defender, his ability to read the game left many draftniks salivating following the MLS Combine.
Plus, as we all know, versatility has long been a virtue in Foxboro. A player who can not only read the game, but play in a variety of roles, could be just the kind of player that would tempt a team to trade up.
While Farrell would give the Revolution a boost in the rear, Lopez would likely be counted upon help bring some much-needed flavor to a vanilla midfield. His two-year totals at Chapel Hill (5 goals, 5 assists) may not suggest a breakout rookie season, but if there’s one thing that the Revs lack in the middle of the park last year, it was creativity.
A strong Combine also indicated an ability to adjust among new teammates, something he’ll also have to make an immediate splash in his rookie season. On the whole, Lopez appears to be the kind of prospect who won’t need a full year to get acclimated to the rigors of MLS.
Others who could be on the Revolution’s radar include Walker Zimmerman (Furman), a tall (6-3) center back who scored a surprising 11 combined goals in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Defender/forward Eriq Zavaleta (Indiana) is another prospect that could fit into the Revolution’s plans, especially if they plan on using him in the back rather than up top. Last, but certainly not least, is Boston College’s Kyle Bekker, whose stock jumped considerably after an impressive Combine.
The SuperDraft has long been a quagmire of hype, hope, and heavy expectations. Just look at every draft since the league’s inception, and you’ll find that the most successful prospects are actually found the deeper you go.
But the Revolution are banking that the opposite is true on Thursday. By trading up, they made a statement that they plan on acquiring a player who can help them climb out of the depths of Eastern Conference. A player that, unlike six years ago, will truly be worth climbing the board for.