Sounders say their draft picks fill the voids in midfield and outside back.
It wasn’t shock and awe, but the MLS SuperDraft did produce some surprises and some of the biggest came from the Cascadia clubs.
The Portland Timbers got the best player, the Vancouver Whitecaps grabbed two highly regarded first-rounders, and the Seattle Sounders traded their 11th pick when it realized its top six choices were already taken.
How does it all pan out in the end? It’s too early and too hard to tell. All of these rookies now have to fight for their spot against the veterans in pre-season. As Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said: the “draft is an imperfect science.”
So now let’s dissect the key picks and see how they help or hurt the Cascadia Cup teams.
The Seattle Sounders surprised everyone but themselves, saying the players they selected resided on their top 25 list. The question is where did they live on that list?
Their top pick Michael Tetteh, a midfielder and defender from University California –Santa Barbara — is highly rated and a generation adidas player. He can play left back and left midfield. He comes with pace and solid attacking and defensive skills.
Sounders traded their 11th overall pick to the Timbers for allocation money and selected Tetteh 20th overall. “We feel like we’ve done exceptionally well,” said Adrian Hanauer, owner and general manager of the Sounders. “Tetteh was supposed to go as high as 13.”
Schmid says Tetteh can provide cover on the left side as a defender and has the speed “to turn the corner” as a wide midfielder. He helps to fill the speed void left by Sanna Nyassi, who was snatched in the MLS Expansion Draft.
As for the other players, the Sounders picked defender Juan Leone Cruz (21st overall), midfielder Servando Carrasco (27th overall), goalkeeper Bryan Merideth (29th overall) and midfielder Alex Caskey (47th overall).
“We wanted to give ourselves cover wide and we did that with Tetteh,” Schmid said. “We picked up a goal keeper and we wanted to get more depth in the midfield and we did that with Carrasco and Caskey.
“Cruz is a defender who is also good with the ball and is a good passer of the ball,” Schmid said. “We were able to solidify the flanks and we were able to solidify the middle of the field.”
Mission accomplished? Well, as Schimd says the draft is an imperfect science. True, the Sounders drafted players who can cover the spots in the midfield and at outside back, but the team passed up several enticing players that arguably could have helped the team.
With its 11th overall pick, the Sounders could have selected Will Bruin, a 6-2 forward from Indiana University and Hermann Trophy finalist. It also could have opted for North Carolina midfielder Michael Farfan and University of Akron midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong, both skilled creative midfielders with good vision.
But Seattle was already full in the forward department and neither Farfan nor Ampaipitakwong showed well at the player combine. However, Stephen McCarthy, University of North Carolina, was still available early in second round and had an excellent combine. Why Sounders opted for Carrasco over McCarthy as cover in the defensive holding position is a bit of a mystery.
Seattle wasn’t the only Cascadia club to surprise conventional wisdom.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, with the first pick of the SuperDraft, stunned everyone by selecting Omar Salgado, a 6-4 forward who has been playing for the U.S. National U-20 men’s team. Salgado, who is highly rated, also is the youngest person taken in the draft, at 17.
Many consider Salgado to be a work in progress — but he is projected to be a U.S. national team star of the future. But the Whitecaps did better with their second first-round pick. The coaches selected Michael Nanchoff, a smart and savvy midfielder from the University of Akron, who can probably step on the field immediately for the Whitecaps. Overall, the ‘Caps had a very solid first round.
But the Portland Timbers got to select what everyone believes is the best player to emerge from the draft: Darlington Nagbe, a forward/midfielder from the University of Akron. Expect to see a lot of Nagbe, as his skills continue to receive praise from everyone.
According to Schmid, Nagbe was the best player in the draft. He has qualities that can’t be coached, vision beyond his years, athleticism, good feet and an exquisite first touch, among the many attributes of his well-polished game. Said Schmid: “For me, he was a step ahead of everybody else.”