Inter Miami’s new management team made its first roster move on Thursday, selecting 20-year-old forward/winger Josh Penn with the No. 10 pick in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
Penn, a product of the USL Indy Eleven youth academy, played his freshman season at Indiana University in 2019, finishing with six goals and two assists in 22 games. When COVID-19 put the Hoosiers’ 2020 season in jeopardy, Penn left college soccer and signed a pro contract with Indy Eleven.
Indy Eleven coach Martin Rennie said of Penn when they signed him: “We obviously know what he brings to the squad — pace on and off the ball, a willingness to take on defenders, and the ability to finish around the penalty area in various ways. He’s an exciting young player that will certainly provide a boost of energy to the squad.”
Inter Miami also picked 6-foot-6 defender Aimé Mabika from the University of Kentucky with its 26th overall pick and defender Joe Hafferty from Oregon State University with its 37th overall pick, but wound up trading Hafferty to the Seattle Sounders for a 2022 second-round pick. Hafferty came up through the Sounders’ academy system.
Mabika was the C-USA Player of the Year in 2019 as a redshirt junior and started all six matches in 2020 before COVID-19 cut the season short.
Mabika released a statement earlier this week thanking his Kentucky coaches and teammates.
“I pushed each and every day, practice, game and season, to ensure I left the program in a better place than I found it: Mission accomplished,” he wrote. “I’m ecstatic to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a professional athlete.”
Inter Miami was expected to go with a defender after parting ways with Andres Reyes, Ben Sweat, AJ De La Garza and Mikey Ambrose after its inaugural season. But the scouting staff, led by new sporting director Chris Henderson, decided to go with another offensive weapon.
Penn will join a Miami attack that includes Lewis Morgan, Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, Blaise Matuidi, Matias Pellegrini, Julian Carranza, and last year’s No. 1 pick, Robbie Robinson. The team, which finished in 10th place in the 14-team Eastern Conference last season, will be under the direction of new coach Phil Neville, who was hired last week.
Mabika, 22, is an imposing figure standing at 6-6 that impressed in defense for Kentucky in his four years with the team. The center back made 62 total appearances for the Wildcats, recording 10 goals and contributing to 28 shutouts, while also being named team captain in 2019.
Hafferty, 22, was a mainstay in Oregon State’s starting 11 in his three years with the team. Overall, the defender made 53 appearances, 50 starts, for the Beavers, scoring two goals and dishing out five assists. Additionally, Hafferty earned All-Pac-12 first team honors in 2019
Austin FC, the 2021 expansion club, had the No. 1 overall pick. It chose Venezuelan midfielder Daniel Pereira, who played at Virginia Tech. Forward Calvin Harris of Wake Forest went No. 2 to FC Cincinnati, midfielder Philip Mayaka of Clemson was picked third by Colorado, and D.C. United chose forward Kimarni Smith and defender Michael DeShields of Wake Forest with the No. 4 and No. 4 picks.
Harris was born in England and raised in New Zealand. Makaya is a native of Kenya who moved to the U.S. as a teenager and was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2019.
After the draft, players selected in the draft will be able to join up with their new teams for the 2021 preseason. Some may continue to compete for their colleges before reporting to their MLS club in late May as several schools postponed their season to Spring 2021 due to the pandemic.
MLS had said it will kick off the 2021 season in early to mid-March, but no schedule has been announced and the start may be delayed.