The 2023 MLS SuperDraft is quickly upon us! In fact, it's this Wednesday! (and yes, even though the draft is taking place in late 2022, it will still be called the 2023 draft). Major League Soccer also just released their list of the near 400 players who are eligible for selection in the draft.
Columbus currently owns two picks in the draft: #14 overall (first round) and #43 overall (14th pick of the second round). The Crew traded their third round pick (#72 overall) to Austin last offseason in the Crew's move up the ladder in the MLS re-entry draft (which helped Columbus acquire Brady Scott).
Left-back seems to be the biggest position of need for Columbus, but they could also use depth help up top as well. It's also possible Columbus just goes with the best player available, or that they do some sort of trade in the draft to either move up, down, or out.
I decided to look at a couple of players to watch as potential Columbus Crew draftees in the event:
F/D Isaiah Reid (Clemson)
If you need help at both forward and left-back, why not pick a guy who has flexibility to play both. Reid played forward at Clemson, but has reportedly been working out at full-back recently. Reid took his name to the national spotlight last year when he scored a brace in Clemson's National Championship game victory in 2021 (while scoring nine goals on the year in 2021). While his stats weren't as good this year (three goals), he still has a history of finding the back of the net. He'll be an intriguing name to watch on Wednesday for sure.
LB Gabriel Alves (Marshall)
Alves is arguably the top left-back in the draft coming out of Marshall. With LB being arguably the biggest need for the Crew, you can see why there's definitely a chance Columbus decides to pick Alves in the first round. The question might be whether other teams that need LBs go with Alves or whether they try to select a CB and convert him to LB (same question could also go for Columbus). Alves scored one goal and had one assist on the year across 17 starts. He is from Brazil, which would mean that he would require an International Roster Spot if he is selected.
F Stephen Afrira (FIU)
Afrira is arguably one of the best pure number 9s in the draft. He scored ten goals this season, and also added four assists while leading FIU to the American Conference tournament title. The Panthers also made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament. Afrira was a second team United Soccer Coaches All-American selection on the year. He was also a Hermann Trophy (essentially the soccer Heisman) semifinalist. He also scored eight goals last year, which gives him two seasons of quality goal production. One thing working against Afrira is that he is from Canada, and would thus require an International Roster Spot if he is selected by a non-Canadian team (such as Columbus).
F Kameron Lacey (Charlotte)
Lacey is one of the most versatile players in the draft class. He can play in the midfield, plus just about anywhere along the frontline. Lacey was the leading scorer and assist-man for Charlotte this past season with nine goals and seven assists (while also starting every match). Lacey could be a guy you bring in because of his goal-contributing ability, and hope that he can provide a spark early on as a backup across several positions while you also develop him long-term.
D Milo Garvanian (North Carolina)
Garvanian is an offensive-minded defender who scored four goals this season at UNC, to go along with four assists. Both of those numbers tied for the team lead in Chapel Hill. That tells you just how involved Garvanian was in the TarHeels' attack. He also has nice size (6'1, 160lbs) and flexibility which adds to his intrigue. He played 1,672 minutes on the season, while starting every match. Garvanian was a second team All-ACC selection, and also earned third team All-Region honors. He played in a whopping 86 matches in his UNC career, which includes playing in every match the last three seasons.
D Thomas DeVizio (Rutgers)
DeVizio is one of the best pure LBs in the draft. If that's the direction that the Crew want to go, then DeVizio could be the selection in the second round. DeVizio helped lead the Scarlett Knights to the Big Ten tournament title. He scored one goal and added two assists across 1516 minutes (across 19 starts) while manning that left side for Rutgers this season. He has played in 73 matches across a five year career at Rutgers where he has 11 career assists.
A couple of other guys who could be players that move positions to left-back at the next level are Kentucky's Gabriel Screen, Campbell's Moses Mensah, and UNC-Greensboro's Ethan Conley. Any of those three could be options for the Crew if they do as previously mentioned and look to move a CB to LB instead of taking a natural LB.