LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The first two rounds of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft are in the books and the Portland Timbers made a trade to move up in the first round to take standout attacking player Jeremy Ebobisse with the fourth overall pick and then grabbing UCLA defender Michael Amick with the 10th pick of the second round.
Shortly after New York City FC selected Jonathan Lewis with the third pick, the Timbers traded their 10th overall selection, along with $100,000 in general allocation money and a 2017 international roster spot to the Houston Dynamo to move up to the fourth spot.
“We felt that after the first five [picks] the quality wasn't the same, so for us it was important to get up as high as possible,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers. “We targeted the fourth pick; it was a realistic pick. And I think you can start to see that for the value that we got it for, it makes sense.”
Moving up six spaces gave Portland the ability to grab an impact player they were eager to acquire.
“In looking at getting in the four, we felt like we could not go wrong with any of the picks there because we liked the options in the top four,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “Because of the resources we had and the value that we were able to get in that trade, it was a no-brainer.”
The player that the Timbers ultimately selected with that pick, former Duke University forward Ebobisse, had been projected by many before the draft to go as high as first overall. In two years at Duke, Ebobisse scored nine goals and registered seven assists in 38 appearances before signing with Major League Soccer in August last year.
“He fits our profile of a number nine,” Porter said of the team's first-round selection. “He's athletic, [has] good feet, can score goals. And he's shown that at every level. He's shown that with his academy. He's shown that in college. And he's shown that with the U.S. U-20 National Team.
“We feel like he's a kid that's going to continue to improve and get better but he's also a kid that has things that you can't teach. He's a sharp kid – obviously smart. And that's a big part of it as well.”
According to Porter, the selection of the talented 19-year-old is all part of an organization-wide plan to integrate more and more young players into the Timbers' first team. Part of that process began last fall when the team announced the signing of 17-year-old Homegrown defender Marco Farfan, but it's continued with the recent signings of Victor Arboleda, Rennico Clarke, and Kendall McIntosh to the first team from T2.
“We believe strongly in that pathway [from T2],” explained Porter. “We've made a movement to sign young players into our T2 program. With Arboleda and Clarke and Kendall and Farfan, we feel like they've really earned the right to get a contract with the first team.”
Those signings, along with the Timbers' two draft day selections, made for what Porter described as two drafts – one for T2 and one for the college players.
And while Porter preaches caution when it comes to young players, he says that Ebobisse and the other young signings may get opportunities right away to get onto the field with the first team.
“We are committed to giving these players the chance, and so depending on how he looks and plays and the other guys, he could get some meaningful minutes this year,” he said.
The team's second-round selection, defender Michael Amick, is another player whom Porter hopes can add depth in defense and who could earn significant minutes with T2 during the 2017 campaign.
“We felt he was a sleeper,” Porter said of the Amick selection. “He's good on the ball...and again, he has a pedigree...our scouts felt that with that pick he was the best center back option.”
Wilkinson indicated that while the Timbers roster has begun to take shape, he and Porter are still not done putting the finishing touches on what is shaping up to be a hugely busy offseason.
“We're going to start to look at what are some MLS-experienced players that are out there that fit the criteria [we're looking for] and also there is a foreign signing that still could be made and hopefully that will reveal itself in the next couple of weeks,” he said.