With the sixth pick in the first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, the San Jose Earthquakes selected central midfielder Jackson Yueill. The UCLA sophomore is a Generation Adidas signing, so his contract will not count against the Quakes salary budget. Yueill, only 19 years old, also has experience playing with the U.S. U-20 men’s national team.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid,” Yueill said as he took to the stage at the Los Angeles Convention Center following his selection. “Thank you to San Jose for drafting me. It will be fun to play for you guys.”
The Quakes were in a good drafting position to get a solid depth player, and Yueill seems to fit that bill given the team already has Anibal Godoy and Simon Dawkins at his position. The most recent draft pick to make an immediate impact for San Jose was midfielder Fatai Alashe, who has started 54 games in the first two years of his MLS career since being chosen with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 SuperDraft. Whether Yueill sees first team action in 2017 or spends time with the Quakes USL affiliate Reno remains to be seen.
"Jackson is an intelligent soccer player that comes from a good background as a youth international," said Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear in a statement. "I think he has good awareness and field vision, and for me, one of his best assets is his passing."
Yueill, a mainstay for the Bruins in his two seasons at UCLA, scored 9 goals and notched 17 assists. In fact, he set an NCAA record with three assists in 32 seconds in a match against Akron last year. The Minnesota native was an All-Pac-12 First Team selection in both 2016 and 2015 and projects himself as a playing more in the attacking half of the field. The professional that he models his game after is definitely plays the same way.
“My favorite player to watch is Andres Iniesta of Barcelona,” Yueill said. “He’s been a top player these past years and is really good on and off the ball. His movement and decision making are skills I like to emulate. He’s a player I strive to be.”
According to Matt Doyle of MLSSoccer.com, Yueill has “shown well against international competition. He's very two-footed and has the ability to both close the game down defensively or break it open with his vision, and he's not afraid of getting into the box, either.”
Other observers of the recently concluded MLS Combine, where prospective draft picks play in three matches over one week to showcase their talents, were equally bullish on Yueill. Ives Galarcep of SBISoccer.com said Yueill “showed his qualities, which include very clean passing and good understanding of positioning in attack.” Over at Top Drawer Soccer, which follows college soccer closer than any other website, said that “some MLS General Managers have compared his game to Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, which should give some idea of how he fits into the MLS style of play.”
Following up on their selection of Yueill in Round 1, the Earthquakes picked South Florida midfielder Lindo Mfeka in Round 2. The 5’5” senior had a solid collegiate career, and in the Combine turned heads with his speed and maneuverability. In 2016, Mfeka, who can also play as a secondary forward, scored 2 goals and added 3 assists.
In the SB Nation MLS Mock Draft earlier this week, Yueill was selected at fourth by Houston Dynamo blog Dynamo Theory. Mfeka was undrafted in the two-round selection process.