'Prospective': Final Thoughts on the 2012 Player Combine

Sigi Schmid watched the combine live. We only have MLSSoccer.com, but it does grant some perspective to us as to the relative quality of players available.

Dave's note: Abbott will be joining the Sounder at Heart crew with a nearly weekly column. His FanPosts opened our eyes to the idea of adding someone with a different voice who could provide regular columns about roster construction, lineup management and other stuff. He's our second off-season addition, as you may have noticed Timm joining the ranks to help us cover some news and other stuff. If you haven't guessed we're looking at having an even better site in 2012. Teams that win trophies deserve the best.

Prospecting

The term conjures up images from the birth of Seattle as a city. Seattle became the jump off point for many men seeking their fortunes in the Yukon and in the process the money this generated laid the foundations for a modern day city. When you strip away all the hype and hyperbole; the MLS Player Combine, SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft create the same type of foundation for the future of this league that we all love. At their core, the objective is for teams to sift through all of the potential players available and find the gems that will become the future of their team. This activity carries risk. It is after all, prospecting. But there is also the prospect of reward. Contained within these events are men who will be a key component of the MLS for years to come.

Prospect

These young men are skilled. But even the best of them are simply prospects. They are about to make the leap from soccer as an avocation to soccer as their job. This entails a transition period. None of them will save an MLS franchise this year. Each MLS franchise is in an unique position. For the newer franchises and teams that are rebuilding, the draft may yield a player who becomes a regular contributor to their team by the end of the 2012 season. For the established teams with deep rosters like the LA Galaxy or Seattle Sounders, the draft will yield a piece for the team's future. At best, a player drafted in the first round of the draft by either of these teams might hope to make the 18 for some MLS games this season and become a key contributor off of the bench.

'Prospective'

We are fans, short for 'fanatic'. It's easy to look at these events and lose perspective. Even the best players available in this year's draft are not likely to crack Seattle's Starting 11 unless the team suffers a major player loss due to injury or transfer. If Seattle were to trade up and get the Number 1 pick, the player that they would select is not going to start against Santos Laguna. These young men are prospects. In this lull between the end of the Player Combine and the Super Draft, I realized that it was important for me to grasp this concept and temper my viewpoint accordingly. With this in mind, here are my final thoughts on the 2012 Player Combine.

Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to continue to watch the Player Combine. I caught most of the first game and the first half of the second game. Traditionally the third game of the Combine allows players to finally settle into something resembling a routine. They've gotten over the initial disorientation of the environment of the Combine and begin to catch a glimmer of what they can expect from their team mates. The jitters are mostly gone and they get down to business. Few players falter on the 3rd day. Most of the players who have shown well up to this point continue to impress. But the real winners on the third day are the players who demonstrate that the skills the teams saw when they scouted the player before the Combine are still there. This year was no exception.

A great example of how this works is Dom Dwyer. Soccer By Ives did a nice piece on Dom's Combine experience. Reading this article I was reminded that context is everything and the Player Combine is a warped vantage point for viewing a player's potential as a prospect. Dwyer was sitting at home as an offseason college player one day and within a single 24 hour period found himself signing a GA contract and dropped into the mixer of the Player Combine. There was no time to prep himself for the opportunity. It simply happened and he made the most of it. Each successive Combine game he settled into his audition and yesterday he got a goal. He wasn't entirely satisfied with his performance, but he also dealt with the situation in a very professional manner. He put it into context and moved on. It was one of the most telling sets of comments from any player who participated at the Combine.

There were other players who had good days yesterday. Lucky Mkosona had another solid performance. The young player from Dartmouth used the Combine to great effect. Kohei Yamada followed up a solid second game with another good performance. I won't be surprised if someone takes a chance on him in the Second round. Matt Hedges from UNC did a good job of refocusing attention on his resume yesterday. Going into the Combine, he was the consensus top CB available this year. The first two games he looked a bit shaky. Yesterday, he stepped up and asserted himself again. The quintessential 3rd game performance is all about reminding the teams why you were invited to the Combine in the first place. Hedges did that.

Filing a Claim

Which brings us full circle to the $50 Question. What will Seattle do tomorrow morning? Everyone is being coy, but there have been a couple of interesting conversations that have cropped up over the past two days involving Seattle.

MLSSoccer.com interviewed NE coach Jay Heaps, Vancouver coach Martin Rennie and Montreal coach Jesse Marsch on Extratime Radio. It's a great interview where all three men talk about the possibility of trading their team's pick and whether their team's have received any legitimate offers. Based on Marsch's comments, I would say that there is a very real possibility that Montreal would consider trading the pick for the right offer.

The MLS reporters suggested that Seattle could be a possible trade partner. While I agree that Seattle could be a trade partner, I do not agree with the trade these reporters proposed. They suggested that Seattle should trade their first round pick, Mike Fucito, Sammy Ochoa and Roger Levesque for Montreal's first round pick and Sanna Nyassi and that Seattle would then draft Darren Mattocks. Seattle is already shallow at forward and they proposed that Seattle trade 3 of their forwards for two MLS wingers. Yes, Mattocks and Nyassi give Seattle speed. But the positional sacrifice is too much.

This is not to say that Seattle wouldn't benefit from possibly trading up and that they might not trade some of these pieces. Any of these men might be considered in a trade. But I don't see Seattle trading all of them unless they have an alternative at Forward waiting in the wings. Seattle is much more likely to make an offer containing multiple picks and up to two players rather than 3 current players. And I certainly don't see Seattle sacrificing 3 players from the same positional pool. One possibility that no one has mentioned is trading either Ford or Meredith. Montreal could use a young goalie.

I also don't see Seattle moving up to the Number 1 spot to grab Mattocks. If Seattle has the Number 1 pick, I think they select Andrew Wenger. He fits the team's needs (depth about everywhere) much better and is more versatile on their bench. He also fits better with the team's long term needs.

Another interesting side effect of this potential trade is the impact that it will have on the rest of the top picks. If Montreal or whoever they trade the first pick to selects Wenger, I think that Vancouver's pick might then become available. Vancouver doesn't need help up top as much as they need other things. With both Mattocks and Hoffman now available at Pick 2, the pick may have more value to them on the trade market. Particularly if a team wants their choice of either of these two players. New England needs attacking help. They are likely to grab one of these men with the #3 pick. I could easily see a scenario where both the first two picks are traded and suddenly the draft becomes a free for all. And since Toronto has two relatively high first round picks at 4 and 12, they might also consider a trade. Tomorrow morning could be very interesting.

Sigi Schmid and Chris Henderson had a conference call with local media yesterday. As expected, both men were coy. But I think that Seattle is very happy with how this draft is panning out. The draft class is deep in the positions that Seattle needs developmental depth, attacking CM and forward. The quirks of this draft class also mean that some of the top defensive prospects are liable to fall to around Seattle's first round pick as well. Both men also talked about the strength of their system for developing prospects. Seattle is in a position to allow whoever they draft to grow within the system. The team doesn't need their picks to contribute to the first team this year. If they do, so much the better, but the team has the luxury of not needing this level of performance.

The Sounders FO has positioned themselves well for this Draft. Seattle will land a solid prospect or two going into training camp. And I am thrilled with the prospect that provides for the coming season.

By the way, I am excited to join the writing staff here at Sounder at Heart as a weekly columnist. Each week I will take a moment or two to explore how the Sounders are managing and building their roster. Along the way, I'll share my opinions and perspective on what I see. Hopefully, I can add to the conversation and I'm looking forward to my new role in this community.

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