Seattle Sounders FC spiced up last season’s MLS SuperDraft by trading up to snatch local star Cristian Roldan of the University of Washington.
General manager Garth Lagerwey isn’t expecting that kind of intrigue Thursday, when Major League Soccer holds the first two rounds of its annual SuperDraft from Baltimore, starting at 10 a.m. PST.
Lagerwey has been at this long enough to know that drafts can turn in surprising ways. But in the days leading up to the draft, he didn’t seem infatuated enought with any single prospect to try to trade up from No. 15.
“I don’t think there’s a Roldan-type scenario, where we have a guy that we target and we kind of make inquiries as he drops,” Lagerwey said. “… I don’t think there’s somebody like that that we’ve targeted. I think there’s a group of players that we like maybe a little bit more than the larger group.”
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The Chicago Fire holds the first pick and is expected to choose from among top prospects, including center-back Joshua Yaro of Georgetown, midfielder Jack Harrison of Wake Forest or defender Brandon Vincent of Stanford.
Lagerwey sees this class as light on attackers and potential superstars, but fairly deep in midfielders and defenders.
That happens to align with the Sounders’ needs.
“We have a number of young players up front, as well as some big guns,” he said. “So I think probably for us it makes more sense to look farther back on the field. That said, we are steadfast in taking the best player available, and if that player is an attacking talent, then we’re going to do it.”
By the time the 15th pick rolls around, that “best player available” isn’t likely to be an instant contributor. But Lagerwey says he believes his club could come away with an asset worth nurturing.
“If you look at that player-development pipeline, are we going to acquire talent in the draft that could help us long-term? Yes,” he said. “As to whether they’re going to contribute on the first team right away, I think that’s going to depend on a whole bunch of things: health, position. It’s difficult to say, ‘We’re going to fill this need with this player.’ We’re going to take the best player available, and then we’re going to see how they go through our system.”
In addition to the 15th overall pick, Seattle also has the seventh and 15th picks in the second round. The club also has one pick each in the third and fourth rounds, which will come Tuesday by conference call.
After seeing what those picks yield, Lagerwey said the Sounders would assess whether additional moves should be made before the start of training camp on Jan. 22.
“No one is judging your team (now),” he said. “… We’re going to have a lot of young players in supporting roles. We’re going to need to be patient with those players, nurture those players, build them up, and hopefully they grow. Not all of them will, but some of them will. And that’s what you’re hoping. Hopefully, you’ll be judged on whether or not you win. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”