For the second time in Chris Henderson's career in talent evaluation, he's building a team nearly from scratch. In 2008 and 2009 he and Adrian Hanauer built Seattle Sounders FC. They already had a pool of talent that would take the step up, but now with Sounders 2 they (Garth Lagerwey, Andrew Opatkiewicz, Ezra Hendrickson as well) are building a team that does not exist, but has useful players playing both above and below the new USL PRO side.
Sounder at Heart talked with the Sporting Director about the process of finding the talent and filling another 20 or so roster spots. Henderson names some names, while reinforcing the idea that this is a developmental club that is part of Lagerwey's three- to five-year plan.
SaH: How do you build S2 from scratch?
Combining Garth Lagerwey's and Sounders' networks
Henderson, Hanauer and Lagerwey all bring different networks and talents to the talent evaluation portion of the first team and Sounders 2.
Henderson: We want to look at that as a development team for sure. There's going to be a lot of younger players, but there could be games where we're having [Jimmy] Ockford and [Damion] Lowe and [Amadou] Sanyang and [Micheal] Azira. There's going to be some pieces in there, like [Aaron] Kovars and guys up the spine that need to get minutes and are young enough that we need to develop and to be in that environment.
The key is finding those pieces that are going to be the future of the club, somebody who can make a difference and they need to get a bunch of games. Ezra is putting in his input. Kurt is very involved in that because Kurt has done a ton of scouting at the Under 20s level, scouting in Africa. I think it is a good combination. We all have to be on the same page with these players, because they are ultimately going to help the first team. S2 is their avenue to get experience.
SaH: Do you foresee pulling in some of the talents from an Asia, Africa, Latin America that are under 20 and putting them on S2?
Henderson: I think that's a great ground for them to train in and look at in games, because if you bring a guy in and he's not going to break into our first team it's hard to see a guy in games. But now with S2 it gives us an opportunity to see him in real games in a league.
I think we will look all over, we have a foreign player limit, so we have to be aware of that. We also have the foreign player limit if a guy moves up to MLS, so you're dealing with two different contracts, two different leagues, two different sets of rules so I think there's a lot of things we have to be cognizant about when we sign a guy.
SaH: Are there some Academy or Homegrown player names that you are willing to tell fans to pay attention to?
Henderson: Obviously Duncan [McCormick] is out here. Seyi Adekoya, UCLA, he had a great year. [Troy] Peterson is around I think. If you look at guys who came through there's Jordan Morris obviously, but there's guys who've come through our system who we are watching and we're like 'this could be the next guy to fill in here.' Isidro [Prado-Huerta] had good Academy years for us. I think we're keeping a close eye on those.
We're watching the current Academy guys too. I have depth charts of all the teams at my desk. Those are going to change throughout the year. We're going to keep getting those from Marc Nichols and Dick [McCormick] and Sean [Henderson] and that group. They're going to keep filling us in with who is in good form. We have a couple 14s, Cameron Martin, and some other 14s play up with the 16s. We've had some 16s up with the 18s. We want to keep that going.
SaH: You just signed your first high school player in Victor Mansaray, does S2 give you more options to sign the high school and junior college/community college talents?
Henderson: We're happy with Victor. I think every day working on him being a good pro is important. I think if a player like that comes through it's a good sign. We're willing to do that, to look at young guys and put them with the men because it's going to help their development. We're open to it and we're always looking.