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Canadian players figure in first and second rounds of MLS SuperDraft

University of Connecticut fullback Jake Nerwinski poses after being taken seventh overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps at the MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

University of Connecticut fullback Jake Nerwinski poses after being taken seventh overall by the Vancouver Whitecaps at the MLS SuperDraft in Los Angeles on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Neil Davidson

LOS ANGELES — Canadians Kwame Awuah and Brian Wright went in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft on Friday, followed by teenagers Adonijah Reid and Shamit Shome in the second round.

The haul was in part due to new league initiatives making young talent from north of the border more accessible to American teams. But each of the four brings something attractive to the table.

New York City FC traded up to No. 16 to get Awuah, a versatile UConn product it plans to use as a left fullback. New England used the 20th pick to take Wright, a talented frontman who left the University of Vermont as its second-leading career scorer.

FC Dallas selected Reid, a 17-year-old forward from the Toronto-area ANB Futbol Academy, in the second round (40th overall). The youngest player available in the draft, Reid is seen as a project with a lot of attacking upside.

Shome, who played last season with FC Edmonton of the NASL, was taken 41st overall by the Montreal Impact. Shome's appeal is the ability to connect teammates and his experience — he logged 1,729 minutes in 29 appearances in all competitions for Edmonton and captained the Canadian under-20 team.

Friday marked the first two rounds of the draft. Rounds 3 and 4 will take place Tuesday by conference call.

The top of the draft went largely as expected with UCLA forward Abu Danladi taken first overall by Minnesota United FC. Fellow expansion team Atlanta United then selected Syracuse's Miles Robinson, seen as the best defender in the draft.

New York City FC traded for the third pick, sending US$250,000 of general allocation money — which MLS teams can use to pay down salary cap costs — to select Akron forward Jonathan Lewis.

The Portland Timbers then moved up six places to pick Duke forward Jeremy Ebobisse at No. 4, sending Portland US$100,000 in general allocation money, a 2017 international roster spot and the 10th overall pick.

Danladi, Robinson and Lewis were part of the Generation Adidas class — a select group of top underclassmen signed to MLS contracts that don't count against the salary cap.

Reid and Shome came with a similar deal, as the first Generation Adidas Canada class.

New league rules affecting young Canadian talent mean Wright and Awuah will not be considered internationals south of the border. 

Wright and Ebobisse, meanwhile, were among the 11 college seniors signed to contracts prior to the draft

On the Canadian team front, the Vancouver Whitecaps took UConn defender Jake Nerwinski with the seventh overall pick. The move gives Vancouver depth behind newly acquired Sheanon Williams at the troublesome right back position.

The 22-year-old from New Jersey played 81 games in four seasons for the Huskies.

"This is pretty awesome," Nerwinski said at the podium.

The Whitecaps took lanky New Zealand centre back Francis DeVries (Saint Francis University) in the second round (29th overall).

Montreal used its first-round pick to take UC Santa Barbara forward Nick DePuy, a target man hard to miss at six foot five and 205 pounds, at No. 19.

Toronto FC took Notre Dame centre back Brandon Aubrey at No. 21. The highly touted defender dropped down the board a little after a poor showing at the MLS Combine. Toronto said it did not expect him to be around when they picked.

Toronto traded its two second-round picks to Chicago for US$75,000 in targeted allocation money, funds it may use to bring in an attacking midfielder.

There was a Ghanaian feel to the top of the draft. After Danlada went first, Ghana under-20 defender Lalas Abubakar was taken fifth by Columbus.

Danladi delivered a series of heart-felt thank-you's at the Los Angeles Convention Center podium, ranging from his family back in Africa to "my host mom and my host dad (Helena and Cris Avery in California)."

"When I came from Ghana, they took me in, treated me as their own ... They didn't expect anything back," he said.

There was a festive feel prior to the draft at the Los Angeles Convention Centre with fans of expansion Los Angeles FC and Los Angeles Galaxy supporter groups — the Angel City Brigade and L.A. Riot Squad — singing and chanting. Music by Rihanna, Aloe Blacc, and Fitz and the Tantrums pumped in through the sound system, mixed with video highlight of the league.

 

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

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