The brain trust for Seattle Sounders FC's on field product went to Bradenton, Florida for the MLS Combine. Yesterday, the club provided a conference call with Coach Sigi Schmid and Technical Director Chris Henderson. Like many outside observers they see a deeper draft class than usual, but with top level talent stable in quantity and quality. One thing that Schmid notes is that they can not fall into the trap of over-using the combine as they already scouted these players through their college seasons and some attended the Sounders Vegas Combine;
We’ve scouted during the season, we’ve seen some of these guys in their college environment, some have trained with us, we’ve seen some when they’ve been in with the national team, etc. Sometimes the big mistake people make is, if they have a bad combine they drop off their list and if they have a good combine all of a sudden they jump on the list irrespective of what they’ve done in the previous three-four years in college. From that standpoint, we want to take all that into account.
It's also quite clear that Seattle will go with the best player available. Their unique short list is about 10 or 11 players long and at pick 15 (maybe even 34) they'll take the top remaining man. If all of those players are gone they'll start looking based on position. Schmid then listed the needed positions. It's a long list;
...we’re probably looking a little bit in the middle of midfield because with the loss of [Erik] Friberg we need a little more depth there. Central defense, as well, with the retirement of Taylor Graham. ‘Is Zach Scott going to play inside or outside?’ is something that interests us because Zach can always play inside. ‘How long is it going to take [Steve] Zakuani and O’Brian White to come back?’ So wide midfielders are an interest, as well, and so are center forwards. I think that covers it all, with the exception of maybe goalkeeper, but it’s the reality for us
Chris Henderson & Co. also gained the opportunity to network live and direct with other teams rather than via text or email. While they gave a specific example of the David Horst surgery it is clear that one of the advantages of a league wide combine is that every team has a representative present.
And since they were in Bradenton the United States U-20 and under teams are right nearby. That grants the Sounders the ability to directly calibrate their opinions on Academy players and alumni. Henderson mentioned that the staff watched Deandre Yedlin and Sean Okoli at U-20 camp immediately watching a combine game after;
We were lucky enough to be down here at the same time as the U18 National Team, the U20 National Team, we got a chance to see Sean Okoli and DeAndre Yedlin train and play a scrimmage with the National Team. We can see how they compare with those players, and then at the same we were able to go over to the combine and watch the college players. Our goal is to keep developing players through our system. I think for some of our academy players—going to college and maturing and growing up a little bit and living on their own—I think all those things are important to being a pro. Sometimes it’s difficult to go into a locker room with a bunch of men, when your teammates are just coming out of the academy system. Some kids need time to mature and grow.
Seattle and MLS now settle on Kansas City for the college soccer coaches association meeting, more league meetings and of course the SuperDraft. Fox Soccer will be showing a series of interviews and speeches on Wednesday night at 5 PM Pacific while ESPN2 and MLSSoccer.com will show the draft at 9 AM Thursday morning.
At the end of the day Seattle could have anywhere from zero to three more players after they explore trades (they are, though they always are). Who they acquire will be based on years of scouting by Adrian Hanauer, Henderson, Sigi and Kurt Schmid.