D.C. United had its poorest season ever, but even with the worst record in the league, it didn't earn the prized No. 1 spot in the 2011 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Instead, the first and second selections are owned by expansion clubs Vancouver and Portland, leaving United to settle for third, where it still has the chance to choose from a number of potential impact players in a draft class that is heavier in defenders but also has a few intriguing attackers.
"It wasn't so great back in October, but obviously now to have this pick is good," said United general manager Dave Kasper, who expects to retain the pick. Last year, United traded away its first-round selection as part of a deal to acquire goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
"It's going to take a boatload to move up, and we haven't had any compelling offers, nor do I think we'll get any," Kasper said.
|When » Thursday, noon|
|Where » Baltimore Convention Center|
|TV » ESPN2|
The two players least likely to be available when D.C. United gets on the clock both hail from NCAA champion Akron, 20-year-old forward Darlington Nagbe -- the 2010 Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer's most outstanding player -- and 18-year-old midfielder Perry Kitchen. Five Zips already have signed contracts with MLS, and all of them could be chosen before the 18-pick first round concludes. The draft will go three rounds Thursday before another three rounds in a supplemental draft Jan. 18.
Despite having already signed Maryland defender Ethan White and Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco, United, which also owns the 31st pick, could strengthen its back line further with Akron defenders Kofi Sarkodie or Zarek Valentin.
But after setting the MLS record for fewest goals in a season (21 in 30 matches), United's more pressing need is in front of the net. The club already has signed forwards Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff through the re-entry draft and has continued to sever ties with last year's group. Reserve attacker Adam Cristman was traded this week to Los Angeles for a first-round pick in the supplemental draft.
D.C.'s best option in Baltimore could be Indiana forward Will Bruin or U.S. under-20 national team member Omar Salgado. Also intriguing is Ecuadorian Victor Estupinan, one of a handful of unaffiliated international players who will be available in the draft for the first time, a group that includes 20-year-old John Rooney, the younger brother of Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney.
Maryland goalkeeper Zac MacMath and forward Jason Herrick also are likely first-round selections.