Philadelphia Union: Mining for Gold at the MLS SuperDraft


Yesterday, the Philadelphia Union got to welcome the newest members of the team with the MLS SuperDraft happening in Los Angeles.

It would be tough for the Philadelphia Union to follow up their historically good draft last season. A draft that included Keegan Rosenberry, Joshua Yaro, and Fabian Herbers all in the first round! That class could be one of the greatest in team history so of course it can’t be followed up especially since their first round pick was sent to the Chicago Fire in order to move up in the allocation order and sign Alejandro Bedoya.

Such is the plight of being a contending team. Draft picks are shipped out for a chance to compete now. The Philadelphia Union are also able to do this because of their faith in the academy. This meant that they didn’t go into the draft searching for first team players like last season because, in reality, there would be no space for them on the roster.

Just because the Philadelphia Union weren’t drafting for the first team doesn’t mean that they weren’t drafting for fit, however. Due to having Bethlehem Steel up and running, the Philadelphia Union have a perfect development squad to see what they have in their draft picks. The theme of development was shown by their first pick, Marcus Epps from the University of South Florida.

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Epps is a winger that can play all three attacking positions but he only played six games during his senior season due to a strained IT band. Epps had a stellar combine which led to the Philadelphia Union falling in love with him as a prospect. Not wanting to miss out on their guy, Earnie Stewert struck a deal with Minnesota United for the 25th pick in the draft. The Union acquired the pick from the Loons in exchange for the 42nd overall pick, in addition to $50,000 of 2018 General Allocation Money.

To put this in perspective, now that we know the amount of money that changed hands, the Philadelphia Union basically sent a discovery fee and a pick to the Loons in order to get their guy. Epps, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, totaled eight goals and nine assists for the University of South Florida Bulls. A 2015 Second Team All-American Athletic Conference, Epps, 21, made 75 appearances over his four-year college career.

The goalscoring numbers aren’t there, but he’s a fast winger that may eventually develop into an MLS role player. When asked what his best position was, Epps said that he grew up playing on the left wing but during his last two years at USF he played right midfielder so he’s comfortable in both slots.

For some brief highlights check this out:

I can’t claim to know how Epps will project at the next level but if Earnie Stewart and the Philadelphia Union scouting staff saw something that they liked in him, I’m on board. When asked about Epps, Stewart said, He has speed. He has agility. … We really believe we can develop this kid to be something special.”

With the 33rd overall pick, the Union selected Aaron Jones out of Clemson. Jones is a right back who also has experience playing as a controlling midfielder. He’s an interesting case because if the Union decide to carry him on the first team roster, they will likely need to acquire an international spot.

His selection also raises questions about Ray Gaddis’ future with the team because both are dynamic bombing fullbacks. The Philadelphia Union have no need to carry three right backs but Gaddis also makes too much money to ride the bench. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Gaddis is offloaded for allocation money before the start of the season.

Getting back to the selection of Jones, he played for two seasons at Georgia State University before transferring to Clemson University his final two years. At Georga State, Jones was named to the All-Sun Belt second team in 2014. At Clemson, he was able to play for a big team in a top conference which built up his confidence to succeed at the next level.

Jones had an iffy combine but impressed the Union brass with his mentality in interviews and after listening to him on the team’s conference call yesterday, I can see why. Jones was quite self-assured and confident answering tricky questions like the one that he got the most, “How does he feel about being drafted to a team that already has Keegan Rosenberry”

Jones is also very self-assured in his tackling because he “likes to tackle” and that can be seen in this short video here:

In the Philadelphia Union press release, they included a statement from Earnie Stewart on the two draftees,

"“During today’s SuperDraft, we made two picks that we are very pleased with, players that we had targeted,” said Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart. “Marcus is a tall, fast player with a great ability on the ball to play one-v-one, and we’re pleased that we were able to trade up to select him. Aaron, meanwhile, is a very smart, intelligent defender who has a great understanding of the game. We look forward to the opportunity to develop both of these players as we welcome them to the Union family.”"

From that, it’s clear to see that he got prospects that he would like to have in the Union system.

Next: Five Matches to Check Out in 2017 Regular Season

These guys will likely start the year with Bethlehem Steel since both were project or depth picks. It should be interesting to see how they adapt to the USL but they have the potential to make a mark with the first team in the future. Next up are rounds three and four of the SuperDraft which are largly for organizational depth.