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Wileman: Canadian squads prepare for MLS SuperDraft

Luke Wileman
1/14/2013 3:15:55 PM
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There could be a distinctly Canadian flavour in the early stages of this year's MLS SuperDraft when proceedings get going in Indianapolis later this week with Canada's three MLS Clubs currently holding half of the top 10 picks.

Toronto FC heads into the week with the first overall pick in the SuperDraft along with pick number three. Vancouver Whitecaps also hold two of picks in the top ten, they're currently slated to select at five and ten.

As Montreal Impact prepares for its second year in the league, they are sitting eighth. The Impact also pick 18th, giving all three Canadian clubs two picks in the First Round. Of course, all that could change as teams discuss trades in the build-up to the SuperDraft, but all three clubs are positioned strongly, and with wise decision making should end the week with some key pieces added to their squad.

Here are three key storylines looking ahead to Thursday's MLS SuperDraft:

Stick or Twist?

Toronto FC heads into the SuperDraft in a great position, but how they will use their top picks is still up for discussion. TFC President and General Manager Kevin Payne says he will look at all avenues open to him to make the squad better. So will TFC use one or both of their picks or make a trade to bring in proven MLS talent?

Over the next few days there will be plenty of conversations taking place as clubs approach Toronto with offers in exchange for either the first or third overall pick. The benefit to Toronto of holding onto those picks is the possibility of getting players on Generation adidas contracts who would not count against the salary cap. Payne has talked about creating a young, hungry team and SuperDraft picks would certainly fit that description. But with his team in such a fragile state after finishing last in the league last year, and not knowing when the club's new head coach Ryan Nelsen will be able to fully take up his position, he may look to bring in more stability by securing experience via a trade.

Toronto's defensive frailties have been evident throughout the short history of the franchise, but particularly the last two years when they set the league record for the number of goals conceded. There are some highly regarded defenders available in the SuperDraft, but ironically, moves already made by Payne have gone some way towards addressing the club's defensive issues. After signing MLS veteran Danny Califf and youngster Gale Agbossoumonde that area shouldn't now be as big a priority as other positions on the pitch.

Toronto look set to add another veteran presence ahead of the draft with the club working on Monday to put the finishing touches to a deal to sign Brazilian defensive midfielder Julio Cesar who played the last two years with Sporting Kansas City. The 34-year-old can also play in the centre of defence, and will bring a wealth of knowledge from time playing in a number of countries including Honduras, Spain, Mexico, England, Italy and Turkey.

Canadian Talent

Could there be a Canadian drafted by a Canadian team? Ontario duo Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman are prospects who both saw their stock rise after strong performances at the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida over the weekend.

Bekker is expected to be picked higher than Welshman. He's an Oakville, Ontario-born playmaking central midfielder from Boston College who was part of Canada's U23 Olympic Qualifying squad last year. He has already signed a contract with MLS.

Welshman is a quick, athletic forward who split his college time between Siena and Oregon State. Both Bekker and Welshman played together previously with Sigma Elite.

In one of the Combine games over the weekend, the two Canadians scored both goals in a 2-0 win for their side, with Welshman also getting an assist on Bekker's finish. Bekker is now being tipped as a potential top five pick, so if Toronto FC doesn't take him higher up the SuperDraft, he could fall into the hands of Vancouver Whitecaps at number five.

Important Minutes

In recent weeks there have been many questions about the depth of talent available in this year's SuperDraft compared to other years, but Montreal Impact's Sporting Director Nick De Santis believes they will be able to select a player using their eighth pick who will be able to play a key role in the squad this season.

"We hope that with the eighth pick we can get a player that can give us important minutes," said De Santis.

"We know how important the depth players are and that's where we need to be good. We need to be smart and pick players of a certain level who can help in different moments in the first team. But you never know what deals might come up or teams might put something interesting to the table that we need to look at."

Luke Wileman and Jason de Vos are in Indianapolis this week covering the MLS SuperDraft for SportsCentre and TSN.ca.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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