MLS Super Draft 2009 - For Sounders FC a double serving of Wingers and Wingbacks
Seattle Sounders FC had their first ever SuperDraft. For the European reader that might not mean much, as real football doesn't have a draft, while for the American reader they likely got their hopes up way to high as American football's draft has impact players jump out of every round.
This though is soccer in MLS, where the draft is not a huge deal, and really a look at development of players that have had inconsistent training through multiple coaches and multiple systems. In MLS even being a top four pick does not guarantee future success, but there have been some recent gems - Franklin, Edu, Wynne, Barrett.
Seattle Sounders FC lives with the hope that their #1 pick can be that kind of player, a star and possibly among the best at their position. With his first ever pick in a real "live" draft Adrian Hanauer, Chris Henderson and Sigi Schmid drafted one Steve Zakuani. What did Hanauer see in Steve-O?
In Steve, we see a player that has enormous potential to be a special player in MLS. You don't get very many opportunities to find young players with that type of potential. He has all of the tools necessary to be a star... speed, feet, creativity, instinct. He now needs to work even harder, to take that potential and make it count at the next level.
It was that kind of talent that had many mock drafts showing Zakuani going first, but listing him as a Forward. It should be noted that a North American pro soccer coach I talked to at the Combine was among several who did not see Zakuani as the goal scorer his statistics indicated, but instead saw a player "who plays well with the ball at his feet running at players from the wing, or from an attacking mid position." There were others that saw similar, and many sites list him as Mid/Forward type.
Think of a player like Sanna Nyassi, or maybe even Freddie Ljungberg (who was at Arsenal while Zakuani was in the youth system there). A winger who runs at the defense, rather than crosses it into the box. Zakuani will be on a Generation Adidas contract, reportedly the largest of the year and so will not take up a Senior roster slot, nor salary cap space. He will take up one of the 8 international slots that all MLS teams have.
The second round saw the Sounders draft a wingback. The coach I contacted at the Combine saw Brown as a first round talent going between 6 and 10. Evan Brown isn't listed at SoundersFC.com yet, as a Senior drafted outside of the first round he is not guaranteed a roster slot and so will be one of the 30+ who are trying to win a slot next week when training camp opens for the first time with a Seattle team in Major League Soccer.
Hanauer's description of Brown reads like a classic wingback and describes him as a Frankie Hejduk style of player.
He has a great engine... gets up and down the line... defends well 1 v 1... attacks down the flanks.
Adrian later commented on Evan's training at Wake Forest.
Coming from a program like Wake is another benefit, as Jay's [Vidovich] kids are tactically sound. Again, he now needs to put the work in, to be successful at the next level.
Hejduk by the way was Sigi Schmid's captain last year on the MLS Cup and Supporter Sheild winning Crew, spent several years in Europe including for Bayer Leverkusen and will be starting his 9th season in MLS. Hejduk also played for Schmid at UCLA where he led the team in scoring as a defender. If there was ever a man to coach a player on how to be a wingback, it is likely Sigi.
Hard work in camp, in training and in the rare playing time is what will determine if the two first round talents make the team and ideally an impact on the pitch, but even more so will be what the 3rd and 4th round pick have to demonstrate. The 3rd round picks last year saw less than 6 appearances, and 4th rounders averaged just over one.
Out of Azusa Pacific the Sounders drafted Senior defensive back, Jared Karkas. This left back reads like Hanauer described Brown.
Has a dangerous left foot to go with his size and terrific speed ... Provides a reliable target in the box and is great going forward ... Shares the program's single-game assists record with 3 in 2007's season-opening 6-0 win over Northwestern (Iowa)
It is notable that Karkas' coach played for three different USL teams, and has had success approaching the university program with a professional's mentality.
MLS does not have a history of 4th round success, but the Sounders may have a steal with pick #46 in Mike Fucito the Forward out of Harvard. Yes, the kid has Ivy in his veins, but more impressive than that is how Coach Jamie Clark spoke about Mike in an email response to my questions.
Mike Fucito is one of the 10 best players in college soccer. He wasn't healthy all season and was still a 2nd team All-American pick. At the 41st pick in the draft he's an absolute steal. He's fast, strong and tenacious. He loves to get at players and there is hardly an athletic match up in which he'll end up second best. Mike's focus right now is to recover from a hamstring strain and get back on the field. He's a competitor and can't wait to prove himself at the next level.
Now, maybe a college coach has a vested interest, but if Coach Clark (no known relationship) is even half-right Seattle Sounders FC will have another valuable player with ground game winger skills able to take the field, and with a fourth round pick.
With 14 players on the Senior Roster, and 1 Developmental player, as well as the Sounders Super Search winner, a dozen or so USL invitees Brown, Karkas and Fucito will have to fight their way on to the roster, but these four wingers/wingbacks play the attacking ball control positions that Sigi Schmid loves to employ, up-tempo and able to attack in every third of the pitch.
Adrian Hanauer's first MLS draft is over, but when asked about his first experience with a real "live" draft there are hints of big things ahead
It was great going through the draft knowing it was for keeps! Also, knowing that we had success with the expansion draft, and that we are having success on the foreign player front, takes the pressure off a bit. We didn't have to count on the college draft for starters, but can bring the players along as slowly or quickly as is appropriate.
Seattle Sounders FC may allow its draftees to develop slowly, but the goals are certainly higher than a slow paced development.
These article originally appeared at Prost Amerika.