Major League Soccer held its annual draft Friday morning in Philadelphia, as the league’s 23 teams selected among a group of eligible college players over two rounds. The San Jose Earthquakes, with three picks among the 46 overall, made moves that address some key needs in their current roster.
At number 12 overall, the Quakes selected Florida International defender Paul Marie, who also gained experience early in his youth and college career at midfielder, as a contender for right fullback. In the second round, San Jose went with a pair of goal-scoring forwards: UNLV’s Danny Musovski at #30 and Louisville’s Mohamed Thiaw at #35.
“I can tell you that we are excited about every single draft pick that we took today,” said general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “Paul being the first one that we picked is exactly the position that we wanted to fill. Regarding the two forwards that we selected with Danny and Mohamed, these are two players that have shown their qualities and have scored for their universities, and so I think they will have a story to tell.”
Marie, raised in France, nearly signed a professional contract in that country when he was a youth player for Les Blues. He played four years of college soccer, the last three at FIU, where he scored 8 goals and notched 6 assists his senior year, often pushing up on offense as a midfielder. He was the fourth right back taken in Friday’s draft, as Tristan Blackmon (#3, Los Angeles FC), Brandon Bye (#8, N.E. Revolution), and Mark Segbers (#9, N.E. Revolution) were selected ahead of him.
“He was actually the fullback that we rated the highest from the very beginning that we wanted to sign,” said Fioranelli. “He was a player in the last three seasons that has actually grown as a fullback, even with the French national team, so we are really excited to have him because we unanimously wanted to have Paul join us. Based on the interview that we had with him, we saw confidence in him. He’s ready to come and join us.”
He was a player the Earthquakes had strong interest in even before his standout performance at the MLS Combine earlier this week. And when head of scouting Bruno Costa followed up on that on-the-field showcase with his own information, the 22-year-old rose to the top of the Earthquakes draft board.
“We believe that Paul was actually the most intelligent fullback this year at the Combine,” said Fioranelli. “He reads the game like a midfielder, but plays the game in several positions, and that includes fullback. Every player needs work, to be frank, but looking at the qualities that he has displayed over the Combine and also the information we added through Bruno, he’s going to help us on both ends of the field.”
In the second round of the draft, the Earthquakes felt themselves fortunate to see two consensus first round prospects still available for selection. At #30 overall, a pick the Quakes collected from the Montreal Impact last summer in exchange for defender Shaun Francis, a player that the team was very familiar with remained: University of Nevada, Las Vegas forward Danny Musovski, who also featured for San Jose’s USL PDL affiliate Burlingame Dragons in 2016.
“Danny was one of our higher picks, and it was one of the reasons that we wanted to have a personal interview with him,” said Fioranelli, discussing the conversations that led the team to bring in the senior forward. “The amount of enthusiasm that he showed, having been playing with UNLV and knowing the organization here in San Jose, that was one of the determining factors in why we wanted to pick him. When the draft came around the corner to numbers 28, 29, we were hoping we would be able to draft him.”
The 22-year-old Musovski was a four-year starter and two-time All-America selection at UNLV. During his senior season in 2017, he scored 15 goals and added six assists for the Runnin’ Rebels. He finished his career at UNLV with 47 goals and 23 assists in 88 total appearances, adding six goals with the Burlingame Dragons in 2016.
“It played a big role that he played in Burlingame and at a nearby university,” said Fioranelli, “and [Reno 1868 FC head coach] Ian Russell knows him well.”
Five picks after selecting Musovski, the Earthquakes chose another forward, Mohamed Thiaw, from the University of Louisville. The Senegal native, who is a now a U.S. citizen, played two seasons with Cincinnati State before transferring to Louisville. In four collegiate seasons, the 6’2” forward scored an impressive 61 goals and 20 assists.
“We are getting two players that, together, scored over 100 goals at the university level,” said Fioranelli. “This was another aspect that we wanted to lay emphasis on, in close collaboration with Reno, because we would like to make sure that each player that joins us is going to have a perspective, and at the same time, a challenge.”
Like Musovski, and potentially Marie as well, Thiaw is not projected to step right into a starting role with the Earthquakes first team. However, the three draft selections, all who will be able to negotiate exclusively with San Jose for an MLS contract, might see their initial time as professional players spent with Reno 1868 FC, the Quakes USL affiliate and a club whose technical roster is determined by San Jose. The partnership between MLS and USL is meant to foster this player development relationship.
“What we are not doing is saying that they will a part of one team or the other,” said Fioranelli. “We are selecting them as one organization, in which Reno is an integral part of the development pathway. We’ve seen the benefit this has already brought us, whether that is Jackson Yueill (last year’s first round draft pick) playing there for six months, as well as the players we recently signed -- Luis Felipe, Jimmy Ockford, and especially Chris Wehan, who last year wasn’t even considered that much at the draft and ended up being the USL Rookie of the Year. That’s the reason I am bringing up Reno, because it is a critical part of our entire organization.”
Whether or not any one or all three players are signed by San Jose or Reno, the Earthquakes 2018 MLS SuperDraft class stacks up as one of the best in the league. In Marie, the Quakes get a versatile defender that also has the tools to play forward. In Musovski and Thiaw, the team has a pair of proven goal scorers at the college level that could mature into effective MLS forwards. The quality of all three players is not in question — the Earthquakes earn an “A” in this draft on that criteria — and each one has the tools to be a regular around Avaya Stadium sooner than later.
“We are very excited about the numbers that all three represent for our first, second, and third picks,” said Fioranelli.
Weight: 142 lbs.
Born: March 24, 1995
Hometown: Saint-Aubin-des-Bois, France
Last Club: Florida International University (NCAA)
College: Florida International University/Newberry College
Roster Designation: Domestic
Born: Nov. 30, 1995
Hometown: Henderson, Nev.
Last Club: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (NCAA)
College: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Roster Designation: Domestic
Weight: 176 lbs.
Born: Jan. 24, 1995
Hometown: Lexington, Ky.
Last Club: University of Louisville (NCAA)
College: University of Louisville/Cincinnati State
Roster Designation: Domestic