- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For a D.C. United side with myriad roster spots to fill, Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft in Kansas City, Mo., can’t plug all those holes. Far from it, actually. But there are impact college players to be found, and United could sure use one as they seek a long-awaited return to the postseason in 2012.

In MLS circles, it’s understood the draft isn’t nearly the building tool it is in major American sports, since signing established veterans from abroad presents the simplest solution to many teams’ roster quandaries. Furthermore, the pool of available talent is diluted because some top prospects opt to pursue careers in Europe or sign directly with their local teams as homegrown players. Outside the trio of Akron forward Darren Mattocks, Duke defender-midfielder Andrew Wenger and UCLA forward Chandler Hoffman, there appear to be few safe bets in this year’s crop.

How general manager Dave Kasper and the United brass go about the draft will be largely dependent on any international signings they may have waiting in the wings. Assuming D.C. hangs onto the No. 7 selection, its only pick in the two-round draft, the club could focus on its most glaring needs: left back and striker.

The top left backs available are Creighton’s Tyler Polak and Virginia’s Hunter Jumper. Either player would provide healthy competition for adequate but unspectacular incumbent Daniel Woolard, though the seventh pick might be a reach considering both prospects could use some polish.

United could therefore be tempted to strengthen their attacking corps in an attempt to replace Charlie Davies, the 11-goal scorer the team declined to buy at the end of his one-year loan from French club Sochaux.

UC Santa Barbara’s Sam Garza, Creighton’s Ethan Finlay and South Florida’s Dom Dwyer are possibilities, but the most obvious candidate is striker Casey Townsend, a Maryland product who scored 43 goals in four seasons in College Park. D.C. regularly has added players in recent years from Sasho Cirovski’s powerhouse program, and Townsend bolstered his stock this week with a slew of stellar performances at the MLS combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With winger Chris Pontius and playmaker Branko Boskovic coming off injury and United thin at their positions, D.C. also could decide to add midfield depth. In that case, UCSB’s Luis Silva, North Carolina’s Enzo Martinez, Louisville’s Nick DeLeon and UCLA’s Kelyn Rowe are among the creative talents who could be available at No. 7.

Players not selected Thursday will be available Monday in the four-round supplemental draft. With three picks then, United will have the opportunity to add some numbers to an 18-man roster that currently is 12 players fewer than the league maximum.

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