Adrian Hanauer really sounded like someone who just won the lottery. You know that one birthday where it seemed like every present you opened was exactly what you wanted? Where you started actually getting embarrassed that people actually listened to you this time? That's the best way I could describe my one-on-one conversation with the Sounders' general manager and part owner.
Assuming we take him at his word, and I'm really inclined to since he sounded downright giddy, all five of the players the Sounders drafted were among their 23 highest rated. That's including the Darlington Nagbes and the Perry Kitchens of the world, who were their top 2. And this is despite trading out of the first round, and acquiring some extra allocation money to boot.
"It's a challenge, it's a puzzle," Hanauer said while addressing the general concept of roster building in MLS. "It's somewhat constraining, but it's also why we have great parity in this league and our teams are somewhat rational financially. There are lots of positive. There's something cool about having to find unique and out-of-the-box ways to compete and win that aren't all about spending money. I love the math part of it.
"Even the trading down thing was really risky, but we felt like the potential rewards were higher than the risk. We guaranteed some allocation money and still had our four picks in top 29. I'm really not kidding you when i say it was just a shockingly fortunate draft."
The Sounders started out by trying to move up in order to get one of the first five or six spots. Once that became impossible, the Sounders decided that their best choice would be to move down and acquire some extra allocation money as well as the Timbers' second round pick. Hanauer said the team was almost literally out of cap space prior to the draft, something the allocation money will help relieve.
Michael Tetteh, the UC Santa Barbara left back, was their first pick at No. 20. Both Hanauer and coach Sigi Schmid said they had expected him to go as high as No. 8 and were sure he'd be gone by the end of the first round.
"He's definitely someone that could play well," Schmid said of the soon-to-be 22-year-old. "He's somebody that can play left back and left midfield. As a left back, he's very attack-minded. He's someone who can turn the corner (as a midfielder). He can hit the ball, has good quickness, has good athleticism. He's going to battle on that side of the field. He is going to give us options and also helps us in terms of a flank player witht the loss of Sanna (Nyassi)."
Juan Cruz, who the Sounders took with the 21st overall pick that they had acquired from DC United last year, is another player likely to compete for time at one of the fullback positions. Servando Corrasco, who was the pick the Sounders received in the Freddie Ljungberg trade, is someone listed as a midfielder/forward but who the Sounders envision as more of a holding midfielder. But the pick that may end up being the steal in the draft was goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, who the Sounders got at No. 29.
"Meredith was our No. 1 guy," Hanauer said when asked if they had targeted No. 5 pick Zac MacMath. "We thought he had the best upside. He's farther along than any of the other keepers. He had enormous upside.
"Not everyone is always going to agree on that stuff. But we have a goalkeeper coach (Tom Dutra) we have a lot of confidence in and he had seen a ton of those goalkeepers."
The final piece to the Sounders' draft-day puzzle was Alex Caskey, a player who the Sounders did not know quite as much about, but whose rating by the Sounders was still significantly better than the spot where he was picked (No. 49 overall). Caskey will likely compete for a spot in the midfield and was lauded for his vision and passing.
Hanauer admitted that the MLS draft is far from a science. That just because his coaches and scouts rated the players they got highly does not guarantee success. But they followed their own blueprint and drafted players they had seen in person during games or at their private combine in Las Vegas.
"We're not going to get it all right," Hanauer said. "I'm sure that somebody will have found someone we didn't see or the guys don't work out, but all we can do is do our homework and cross our fingers. Now the real work starts."