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No. 1 draft picks struggle to leave mark
by Paul Kennedy, June 7th, 2012 1:26AM

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TAGS:  mls, portland timbers

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[MLS SPOTLIGHT] After two-plus seasons in Philadelphia, former No. 1 SuperDraft pick Danny Mwanga is headed back to Portland. The Timbers and Philadelphia Union, two teams struggling to mount any offense this season, made a trade that sent Mwanga to Portland in exchange for Colombian forward Jorge Perlaza.
Mwanga is still only 20, but his output has gone down each season from seven goals in 2010 to five in 2010. He was scoreless so far in nine games this season, continuing the trend of No. 1 draft picks struggling to leave their mark in MLS.

Mwanga, who attended Portland's  Jefferson High School after moving from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, joins the Timbers, who have scored only 12 goals in 12 MLS games and exited the U.S. Open Cup with a humiliating 1-0 loss to amateur Cal FC at home.

No No. 1 pick has played more than seven seasons in MLS, and no No. 1 pick has ever been selected to the MLS Best XI.

Maurice Edu is the only No. 1 pick to earn Rookie of the Year honors but left Toronto FC toward the end of his second season to with Rangers in Scotland, where he has won three league titles.

In his second season, Alecko Eskandarian led D.C. United to the MLS Cup 2004 title, but four concussions forced him to cut short his career at the age of 27.

Likewise, a broken leg has kept Seattle's Steve Zakuani, the No. 1 pick in 2009, out of action for more than a year.

Perhaps the biggest busts are Nik Besagno, taken by Real Salt Lake in 2005 out of the U-17 national team program, and Steve Shak, a former star at UCLA who played just 38 games in MLS.

MLS No. 1 Picks
DRAFT, TEAM, PLAYER
1996 Kansas City, Matt McKeon (172 games in seven seasons -- won MLS Cup 2000 with Wizards).
1997 Colorado, Tahj Jakins (60 games in four seasons -- waived early in fourth season with Rapids).
1998 Miami, Leo Cullen (166 games in seven seasons -- now an assistant at Army).
1999 D.C. United, Jason Moore (92 games in five seasons -- started 12 games during D.C.'s 1999 championship campaign).
2000 MetroStars, Steve Shak (38 games in three seasons -- considered worst No. 1 pick in MLS SuperDraft history)
2001 San Jose, Chris Carrieri (75 games in four seasons -- career peaked when he scored 11 goals with Colorado in 2002)
2002 Dallas, Chris Gbandi (111 games in five seasons -- spent two seasons in Norway after leaving Dallas)
2003 D.C. United, Alecko Eskandarian (125 games in seven seasons -- two-time MLS all-star)
2004 D.C. United, *Freddy Adu (116 games in six seasons -- best season was first with five goals)
2005 Real Salt Lake, Nik Besagno (8 games in three seasons -- signed at age of 16 but out of MLS by 19)
2006 MetroStars, *Marvell Wynne (160 games in seven seasons -- earned first of five caps in second season in MLS)
2007 Toronto FC, Maurice Edu (38 games in two seasons -- moved to Rangers toward end of second MLS season).
2008 Kansas City, *Chance Myers (71 games in five seasons -- nagging asthma problems hurt him early in career).
2009 Seattle, *Steve Zakuani (64 games in four seasons -- comeback began with appearances with Seattle reserves last week)
2010 Philadelphia, *Danny Mwanga (61 games in three seasons -- has taken just five shots in 2012).
2011 Vancouver, *Omar Salgado (20 games in two seasons -- score lone goal in April 2011)
2012 Montreal, *Andrew Wenger (10 games in one season -- spent first part of 2012 season commuting between Duke and Montreal)



3 comments
  1. Jamie Nicewander
    commented on: June 7, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
    i think it is fair to say then that most of these players didn't deserve the # 1 ranking. This would lead any rational person or coach to question the MLS draft selection process and ranking system. Could it be that America isn't identifying the correct talent? Could it be the 'scouting' system is ripe with nepotism? Could it be that coaches choose players for personal financial gain rather then talent potential? Our Soccer Development is broken and needs to be fixed. For a country our size and potential we should be producing some of the worlds greats!...and yet we do not... A shift needs to ocurr before we are ready to take on the world. Some changes are needed if the MLS will be respected worldwide. The good news, these changes don't cost much money and the base is there to build from.

  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: June 7, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.
    This is way too harsh. You don't know what someone will do at the next level until they get there and give it a go. And many of these players are hardly a bust -- Maurice Edu a regular starter on National team, regular at Rangers. Marvell Wynne a solid MLS regular, Alecko Eskandarian a very fine forward cut down by concussions. Steve Zakuani a great wing for Seattle until busted leg cut him down. And the last three are too young to give up on yet. Way too much negativity in these columns.

  1. Eric in DC
    commented on: June 8, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.
    Allan: totally agree. Most of Paul's columns are about stuff he thinks suck. Easy enough to point the finger. In any event, most #1 picks in every sport, are busts for a variety of reasons.. Football, baseball, hockey; why would soccer be different?


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