Loons trade up for pair of first-round picks in MLS draft

Minnesota United was active in trading up for consecutive picks in the middle of the MLS SuperDraft first round on Thursday.

The Loons, which had only the 25th pick, acquired New York City FC’s 17th pick and selected Wake Forest forward Justin McMaster. Minnesota gave NYCFC $50,000 in General Allocation Money and potentially $25,000 in GAM if McMaster plays 25 total games across 2021-22 seasons.

The Loons front office then moved quickly to secure the 18th pick and picked Cal-Davis defender/midfielder Nabi Kibunguchy. Minnesota gave Toronto FC its 25th pick and $50,000 in GAM in 2021.

McMaster, a Jamaican youth national team player, was a part of the Philadelphia Union academy but went unsigned. At 5-foot-9, he missed nearly all of the 2020 season with a serious knee injury. He had four goals, two game-winners in 19 games in 2019.

“Justin McMaster is in the mold of a Kevin Molino,” MLSsoccer.com commentator Charlie Davies said. “This is a winger that can come inside, combine. He has good technique, can beat people on the dribble. He’s creative and can also finish.”

Kibunguchy, of Elk Grove, Calif., was a member of the U.S. Under-19 team and played 52 collegiate games. At 6-foot-3, he could play center back or defensive midfielder.

“He gives them some cover and flexibility,” MLSsoccer.com commentator Matt Doyle said. “Yet he’s a little bit older. It’s kind of like Chase Gasper-esque in that Gasper was about a year older than most of the other guys in that draft and that maturity, physically and mentally allowed him to have a quicker transition to MLS. Maybe we can see something similar happen here.”

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