Over the past several years, D.C. United has seen major success in MLS drafts. Last year specifically, the Black-and-Red rebuilt its roster via the re-entry draft, finding proven winners in the League and finding success on the field. Choosing from college players in the SuperDraft is a bit more complicated, as there is no proof the prospects will pan out as professionals. United General Manager Dave Kasper, though, along with past head coaches and current boss Ben Olsen, have used the SuperDraft to their advantage each year, as proven by the current roster.
In United’s last match of 2014 against the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, six of the Black-and-Red’s 11 starters were acquired in the SuperDraft.
2009 MLS SuperDraft
D.C. selected both Rodney Wallace and Chris Pontius with the sixth and seventh pick overall, respectively in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. Wallace, still going strong in Portland, played 39 games for the Black-and-Red over two years, scoring three goals and assisting on five others.
Midfielder Chris Pontius, the longest tenured player on United’s roster, has featured in 129 games, scoring 28 goals and registering 16 assists. The California native was named the MLS All-Star MVP in 2012 on the way to earning MLS Best XI accolades. Last season, Pontius worked his way back from a hamstring surgery just in time to help his squad in its playoff run.
2011 MLS SuperDraft
With no first round pick in the 2010 SuperDraft, United had one in the first, second and third rounds in 2011—an undisputedly successful draft year. With the third pick overall, the Black-and-Red selected Perry Kitchen, who went on to become a finalist for 2010 Rookie of the Year. He has since played the most minutes in a single season in United’s history with 2,804 minutes played. With 125 games played, 124 started, the midfielder has scored seven goals, notching five of them last year, and recorded nine assists. Kitchen has proven himself repeatedly and earned himself his first call up to the full National Team camp in January 2015.
In the second round, Chris Korb joined United. The outside back has featured in 87 games, starting 79 and registered eight assists over four seasons. The speedy defender continues to impress, showing his ability to defend one-v-one as well as his willingness to join the attack.
The Black-and-Red selected goalkeeper Joe Willis, in the third round that same year, who proved a solid backup to Bill Hamid and a talented ‘keeper who led D.C. United to its third U.S. Open Cup title in 2013.
2012 MLS SuperDraft
Nick DeLeon joined the squad via the seventh pick of the 2012 SuperDraft. The Arizona native made an immediate impact, notching six goals his rookie year and ending the season a finalist for Rookie of the Year. The midfielder has since featured in 85 games for the Black-and-Red earning 10 goals and 10 assists.
2013 MLS SuperDraft
United selected Taylor Kemp with the 17th overall pick. The University of Maryland product worked his way to a starting spot at left back at the end of last season, showing his ability to defend speedy wingers as well as serve great balls in the attack. Kemp, stepping up in a big way last season, earned both his first goal and first two career assists.
2014 MLS SuperDraft
Most recently, Steven Birnbaum joined D.C. United as the second overall pick of the 2014 SuperDraft. The poised centerback stepped in for an injured Jeff Parke midway through the season, impressing all in the process. Playing in a mostly veteran backline, Birnbaum showed no signs of being a rookie and helped United secure the second league-best 12 shutouts. The 24-year-old will be joining teammate Perry Kitchen in his first full National Team camp this month.
This year, finishing third in the MLS regular season and having made the playoffs, United has the 17th overall pick. GM Kasper believes this year’s class is an impressive group and the pick will add quality to the Black-and-Red.
Said Kasper, “As for the SuperDraft, we feel this is a good crop of players, and we will end up with some quality additions. We have been successful in the past several years with the college draft and we expect the same outcome with January's SuperDraft.”