Preseason for the Portland Timbers and the rest of the MLS is underway this week and that means the new season will be here before we’ve even finished reminiscing on the 2018 campaign.
New faces blended in with the veterans as the coaches started taking stock of the new possibilities. Each season in the MLS there’s an influx of players aged 19-22 who—statistically speaking—will fight through the preseason but who won’t make it to a final roster spot. Some will go on to surprise everyone and prove that they were worth the gamble. These are the Superdraft picks.
The MLS Superdraft goes for four rounds of 24 picks, 96 total. Ninety-six chances for college athletes to live a dream and fly off to training camp with an MLS club. Some are ready for the step up—most aren’t.
In 2019, the Timbers used all four of their picks and acquired Francesco Moore, Ryan Sierakowski, Lennart Hein, and David Zalzman. Each of them had enough quality to be selected but being drafted doesn’t mean that they have been offered a contract. Usually, being drafted just means that a player will be involved in training camp on a trial basis. Regardless of being signed or not, these players have all had stellar college careers and deserve acknowledgement for that.
With the 23rd overall pick, the Timbers selected, from Michigan State University, Ryan Sierakowski. A productive forward, Sierakowski recorded seven, nine, nine, and eight goals in each of his college seasons and was named All-Big Ten Conference every year. Michigan State made a run all the way to the final four of college soccer. He’s a calm finisher and plays with a maturity that just might see him earn a roster spot.
Pick number 47 belonged to Lennart Hein, a 6’2” defender out of St. Louis University and native of Hamburg, Germany. A four-year starter for the Billikens at center back, Hein impressively managed to score five goals in the 2017 season. A typically intelligent, rational and sound technical German defender, he could easily turn out to be a bargain as a left-footed center back. He’ll need to hit the gym in his first season as a Timber if he wants to keep up with the physicality of the league.
Boarding a plane from Indiana University is Francesco Moore, whom the Timbers snapped up with the 71st pick. A defensive midfielder and defender, he would do well to do nothing but watch Diego Chara during preseason. Defensively committed and physically gifted, Moore could make the jump up if he improves his passing but his work rate and physical attributes could be a needed attribute for Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese.
With the 95th overall and distinct honor of being the last player taken in the 2019 Superdraft (Orlando passed at pick 96), the Timbers chose David Zalzman from the University of Memphis. A Venezuelan-born attacking midfielder with a typically effective and skilled left foot, at first glance he appears clearly not athletic enough for the MLS but his technique and positioning could be what keeps him in contention for a contract—that and his Venezuelan connection with Coach Savarese.
Let’s not forget that even if any of these young talents don’t earn a contract with the MLS Timbers, they could still be offered USL contracts to play for Timbers 2, which would allow them to develop further and still remaining in contention for a place on the first-team roster.
Congratulations to all of these young players on being given a chance to extend their careers in the Rose City!