When the 2017 MLS SuperDraft kicks off on Friday it will mark the ninth such event in the Seattle Sounders’ history. As usual, the Sounders don’t start out in a particularly advantageous position. Since making the No. 1 pick in 2009, courtesy of their status as the sole expansion team, the Sounders have never held a pick inside the top third of the first round and have only had one pick inside the top half (when they picked Damion Lowe No. 8 in 2014).
As one might expect in a draft that rarely yields starters outside the Top 5 selections, the Sounders’ record is hardly exemplary.
That’s started to change over the course of the past two drafts, though. Since nabbing Cristian Roldan with the No. 16 pick of the 2015 draft, the Sounders have picked up four more players who are likely to at least turn into regular MLS contributors.
With that said, now seems like a good time to do a quick review on the Sounders’ draft history.
Highlight: Zakuani was the consensus No. 1 pick after a standout career with Akron. The Sounders surprised no one by taking him, and he pretty much lived up to expectations before a broken leg effectively sidetracked his career and he was never able to fully recover. They also picked up Mike Fucito with the 46th pick of that draft. He never developed into anything like a star, but he had a solid MLS career before recently retiring and taking a job with the MLS Players’ Union.
Lowlights: The Sounders’ second- and third-round picks (Evan Brown and Jared Karakas) never made an MLS appearance.
Interesting note: Lamar Neagle went undrafted and signed with the Sounders as a free agent. He didn’t make an MLS appearance in his rookie year and spent 2010 in the USL and Finland. But, since returning stateside, he has 60 more regular-season appearances (170) and 20 more regular-season goals (37) than any other player the Sounders have signed out of college.
Highlight: David Estrada was considered a bit of a reach at No. 11, and he never turned into anything like a star. He did, however, prove to be a better pick than any of the other guys selected after him in the first round.
Lowlight: This was a very underwhelming draft class on the whole, as neither Mike Seamon (No. 27) or Jamel Wallace (59) made anything like a lasting impact.
Interesting note: In 2009, the Sounders traded their 2010 third-round pick for Patrick Ianni, who ended up having a pretty solid run with them.
Highlight: The Sounders traded out of the first round and still ended up with three solid MLS contributors, including one who they just reacquired (Bryan Meredith). Servando Carrasco was the undeniable highlight of this draft and his 111 MLS appearances are the most of any player drafted by the Sounders.
Lowlight: Funnily enough, neither of the Sounders’ top two picks made a single MLS appearance. Michael Tetteh was their top pick at No. 20 and Leone Cruz was selected on spot later.
Interesting note: Cruz’s rights were eventually traded to Real Salt Lake a year later for the rights to Andy Rose.
Highlight: None. Seriously.
Lowlight: Of the two players they picked in the SuperDraft and the four others they picked in the Supplemental draft, not a single one made a MLS appearance.
Interesting note: The Sounders did, however, swing a trade with RSL for the rights to Rose, who went on to make 82 regular-season appearances and is now playing for Coventry City in England.
Highlight: No stars, but the Sounders get credit for rightly (it turns out) projecting Eriq Zavaleta as a center back and finding a serviceable MLS left back in Dylan Remick with the 35th overall pick.
Lowlight: It’s easy to second-guess now, but it would have been interesting to see if they could have done a better job developing Zavaleta if they’d stuck with him as a CB instead of moving him back and forth to forward.
Interesting note: This was the first time the Sounders had traded up in a draft, dropping allocation money to swap picks and move into the No. 10 spot.
Highlight: Jimmy Ockford was the only player they drafted in this class to make an MLS appearance. He played in one game.
Lowlight: Picking Damion Lowe at No. 8 turned out to be a pretty big bust, especially when you consider the career Thomas McNamara had after being selected at No. 20. In the Sounders defense, though, this was not a particularly good draft.
Interesting note: The most useful bit from this draft turned out to be the acquisition of Jalil Anibaba from the Fire. He might not have been a star, but he was a useful piece during the Supporters’ Shield run and all the Sounders had to give up were a pair of contracts they wanted away from anyway, Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Somehow, the Sounders also moved up from 13 to 8 by making that trade.
Highlights: This was, perhaps not coincidentally, the first year of Garth Lagerwey’s reign and his influence showed right away. Lagerwey was able to engineer a trade that allowed the Sounders to move up to No. 16 and draft Roldan, who many thought would go at No. 2. He followed that up with another trade that allowed them to select Tyler Miller — who many projected as the top goalkeeper in the draft — at No. 33. The cherry on top was picking Oniel Fisher at No. 40. Only nine of the 39 players selected before Fisher have more than his 18 first-team appearances.
Lowlights: Hard to really second-guess any pick here.
Interesting note: To get the pick they used on Miller, the Sounders traded away Sean Okoli, the Homegrown Player who just signed with New York City FC after winning the USL Golden Boot in 2016.
Highlights: Without a first-round pick, the Sounders still managed to grab Tony Alfaro at No. 27. He’s already made six appearances for the first-team, and looks like he’ll develop into a perfectly capable starter. Plus, he’s left-footed and his passing touch has been likened to Tim Ream. They also got Zach Mathers, who spent all of last year with S2, but has a chance of making the first-team roster this year.
Lowlights: Again, hard to second-guess anything the Sounders did in this draft.
Interesting note: Despite only having the No. 16 overall pick, they managed to convince the Fire that was worth Joevin Jones. Seriously, I’m not sure there’s two left backs in the league I’d take over Jones and he’s still just 25. That trade was some Jedi stuff.
During their first six drafts, the Sounders were only able to find two players who they were able to develop into regular starters and only one who could be called anything like a star.
In the last two drafts, the Sounders appear to have picked two players who have already had extended runs as starters, and one of whom appears to have a USMNT career ahead of him. They were also able to turn a draft pick into a third MLS starter through trade.
While the SuperDraft’s influence appears to be waning league wide, it looks like the Sounders have figured out how to use it as a useful asset. They may be picking in the bottom third of the draft again, but don’t give up hope on them finding some quality.