Sounders likely to pass on keeper and seek a creative midfielder with 11th pick in MLS SuperDraft’s first round.
Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid is relatively happy with the talent he saw the past few days at the MLS Player Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. But that doesn’t mean he is going to telegraph his draft picks.
In a conference call Tuesday following the end of the combine, Schmid and technical director Chris Henderson were guarded. Too many coaches and scouts sleuthing around South Florida, scanning the websites and slinking around the hotel lobbies buying the drinks to loosen the tongues, so we were told. Information is at a premium as the attention now turns to the SuperDraft Thursday.
Schmid said some of the best picks could be in the later rounds. Getting him to talk would take some CIA interrogators.
“When I compare this draft to the 2009 draft, it’s not as top heavy as that was (when Seattle picked Steve Zakuani first). It went 10 or 11 deep,” Schmid said. “It is a little deeper in the next group of players.”
Though Schmid and Henderson remained politely vague about their draft intentions, one can interpret between the lines. I think Seattle will not select a goal keeper with its No. 1 pick despite Kasey Keller‘s planned retirement at the end of the season. A rookie keeper will not help the Sounders achieve their stated intention — winning a championship.
If a quality attacking player is still available by the 11th pick, the Sounders will snatch him. Good, creative midfielders are hard to find. This year’s field is yielding some very good ones, particularly among the top 12 picks.
If North Carolina’s Michael Farfan and Stephen McCarthy, or University of Akron’s Anthony Ampaipitakwong, are among the best available players when it comes time for Seattle to select, one of them will be a Sounder.
The Sounders are leaning toward Farfan and Ampaipitakwong, neither of whom had a particularly strong combine. McCarthy stood out and made a strong case for himself, even though he plays the holding midfielder role.
“For an attacking midfielder going into combine, they sometimes get bypassed,” Schmid said.
He explained that defenders may boot the ball up to the forwards, or the team is not being directed to play to the midfielder as his former college teammates were. Ampaipitakwong was hurt and didn’t do as well as expected, Schmid said. But he said coaches have seen those players many times during their college career, so they know their capabilities.
Seattle likely will take a goalie in the later rounds. If keeper Josh Ford, of University of Connecticut, is available, he’ll be on a plane to Seattle. He participated in Seattle’s player combine and performed well at the MLS combine. He fits the profile of someone who can mature under the coaching staff and Keller. He has the potential to blossom into starter. The expansion of MLS rosters to 30 requires a third goalie.
The Sounders could be tempted by a good outside back. But the best ones will be taken early. A.J. Soares, a central defender from California-Berkeley, showed very well. He’s also trained with the Sounders. Question is whether they convert him to an outside back.
Of the international players, Schmid said tiny Ecuadorian Joao Plata has been a pleasant surprise and was the leading scorer of the combine. Another who did well was John Rooney, brother of Manchester United superstar Wayne Rooney. John Rooney also trained with the Sounders and Portland Timbers.
“He certainly was in the top two or three foreign players for sure,” Schmid said. “He always gives you work rate, he always gives you endeavor.”
Seattle has five selections in the three-round draft at the Baltimore Convention Center. ESPN2 coverage of the first round begins at 9.a.m. PST. MLSsoccer.com will live stream the final two rounds.
In addition to its 11th overall selection, the Sounders acquired two second-round picks via trades last season. It obtained D.C. United’s pick (21st overall) in the Stephen King trade and Chicago’s choice (27th overall) in the Freddie Ljungberg deal. Seattle also has its own pick at 29, plus a third-round choice (47th overall).
Expansion teams Vancouver and Portland, respectively, hold the first two selections. Eighteen picks will be made in each round. A supplemental three-round draft will be held on Tuesday.
Sounders Draft History