Surprise at the top of MLS SuperDraft as newcomers Austin choose Virginia Tech midfielder Pereira

The expansion side opted for the Venezuelan-born midfielder, with the highly-touted Philip Makaya falling all the way to the Colorado Rapids at three

It wouldn’t be an MLS SuperDraft without surprises, and it didn’t take long for the surprises to begin on Thursday.

With the first overall pick in Thursday’s draft, Austin FC opted not to select Clemson’s Philip Makaya nor Wake Forest’s Calvin Harris, the near-unanimously projected top two picks in the draft. Instead, the expansion side turned towards Daniel Pereira, the midfielder from Virginia Tech that became the club’s first-ever draft pick as he was selected first overall on Thursday.

Pereira, a central midfielder that has typically played as a No. 8, was among those surprised to hear his name called first overall, but Austin FC boss Josh Wolff says they believe they have the draft’s best player in both the short and long term.

“Danny is a very good player and has good potential,” Wolff said. “He plays a number of positions in the midfield, he’s very comfortable between lines. We’ve picked up a player who is ready to come in and play in MLS but also has room to grow. He’s a hungry, humble player.”

Pereira added: “I wasn’t really expecting to be No. 1 because of all the mock drafts, it’s an honor, I’m really happy. My family is crying, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

The now-Austin FC midfielder had six goals and six assists in 26 matches during his college career as he earned a Generation Adidas deal ahead of the draft.

Pereira, who moved to the U.S. ahead of high school as his family fled Venezuela, will now join an Austin FC midfield featuring former New York City FC captain Alex Ring, ex-New England Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez and Costa Rican midfielder Ulises Segura.

“For the way we want to play, we felt he fit a lot of the needs we’ll expect in that part of the field,” Wolff said.

With the second overall pick, FC Cincinnati turned towards Harris, who should step in and provide help in the attack. Harris, an English-born forward, scored 10 goals and set up five more during his two seasons with Wake.

Harris was seen as the most talented forward in the draft, and is a player that could develop into either a winger or a central forward.

And with that, Makaya, widely projected as a straightforward No. 1 overall pick, fell to the Colorado Rapids, who snapped up the Kenyan-born midfielder from Clemson.

Makaya was hailed as the draft’s most complete midfielder all through the buildup to the draft, with the Rapids getting the chance to draft him after trading up with the Houston Dynamo earlier in the day.

“Philip is an explosive midfield talent who’s demonstrated great ability on both sides of the ball,” said Rapids general manager Padriag Smith “We’ve shown our commitment to developing young players and believe Philip has the qualities to thrive in this league.”

D.C. United rounded out the top five with back-to-back picks, selecting Clemson forward Kimarni Smith and Wake defender Michael DeShields.

Highly-rated defenders Ethan Barlow and Bret Halsey were up next, joining the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake, respectively, before a string of forwards completed the top 10.

Georgetown’s Derek Dodson ended up in Orlando, Akron’s David Egbo will head to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps and Inter Miami added Indiana forward Josh Penn.

2021 MLS SuperDraft Round 1

Pick Club Player Position School
1 Austin FC Daniel Pereira Midfielder Virginia Tech
2 FC Cincinnati Calvin Harris Forward Wake Forest
3 Houston Dynamo Philip Mayaka Midfielder Clemson
4 D.C. United Kimarni Smith Forward Clemson
5 D.C. United Michael DeShields Defender Wake Forest
6 Houston Dynamo Ethan Barlow Defender Washington
7 Real Salt Lake Bret Halsey Defender Virginia
8 Orlando City Derek Dodson Forward Goergetown
9 Vancouver Whitecaps David Egbo Forward Akron
10 Inter Miami Josh Penn Forward Indiana
11 Austin FC Freddy Kleeman Defender Washington
12 San Jose Earthquakes Thomas Williamson Forward California
13 New York Red Bulls Luther Archimede Forward Syracuse
14 Los Angeles FC Daniel Trejo Forward  Cal State Northridge
15 FC Dallas Nicky Hernandez Midfielder SMU
16 LA Galaxy Josh Drack Forward Denver
17 Minnesota United Justin McMaster Forward Wake Forest
18 Minnesota United Nabilai Kibunguchy Defender Cal Davis
19 Orlando City Rio Hope-Gund Defender Georgetown
20 Nashville SC Irakoze Donasiyano Forward Virginia
21 Austin FC Aedan Stanley Defender Duke
22 Orlando City Brandon Hackenberg Defender Penn State
23 Vancouver Whitecaps Javain Brown Defender South Florida
24 New England Revolution Edward Kizza Forward Pittsburgh
25 Toronto FC Matt Di Rosa Midfielder Maryland
26 Inter Miami Aime Mabika Defender Kentucky
27 Columbus Crew Justin Malou Defender Clemson

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