SmorgasBorg: Juiciest servings from the SuperDraft
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Emptying out the notebook with the best of the best from Thursday's three-hour SuperDraft marathon of picks, speeches, commentary, interviews and general chatter from Kansas City:
INVOKING THE THIRD … PERSON: Former US national team forward Eddie Johnson made the move famous but No. 2 overall pick Darren Mattocks may be taking it to a whole new level. Here’s what he said about possibly matching the feats of other former Akron Zips in MLS: “Hopefully Darren Mattocks can come into the league and make a wonderful impact as those guys previously.”
SURPRISE PICK: Louisville’s Colin Rolfe, who had a poor Combine, surprisingly made it into the first round.
WATCH YOUR STEP: Austin Berry, taken at No. 9 by the Chicago Fire, stumbled at the top step as he made it on stage to make his acceptance speech. He didn't take long to explain it: "Too overly excited."
BIGGEST SNUBS: Aside from the international players at the Combine, Evan James (UNC Charlotte) was arguably the biggest name not selected on Thursday. Expect him to be a high pick in the Supplemental Draft.
FARTHEST DROP: The Philadelphia Union were shocked to find Chandler Hoffman at No. 13, while Montreal nearly traded up to get Calum Mallace but found the highly rated central midfielder at No. 20. Virginia’s Hunter Jumper, who many judged to be the top left back in the draft, fell to No. 28.
THREE'S COMPANY: The LA Galaxy need to make way for the Portland Timbers in the three-DP club. Technical director Gavin Wilkinson says that Timbers ownership is ready to spend for a No. 9 striker “with the ambition that when we bring him in, it’s 12, 14 to 16 goals.”
LET’S MAKE A DEAL … NOT: Although there were teams that tried to move up in the SuperDraft, there were no trades executed for the first time in the first two rounds of a SuperDraft. One theory was that the draft class was so deep and diverse that every team found value. The more practical theory is that the introduction of more guaranteed contracts with the new CBA last year, teams were reticent to take risks and lock into player contracts.
BEST BUDS: The SuperDraft is where old friends come together. We’re talking about Pennsylvania native Andrew Wenger rejoining his neighborhood friend Zarek Valentin in Montreal. Also, Enzo Martinez will be reunited with childhood buddy Sebastien Velasquez at Real Salt Lake. The two grew up together in South Carolina. Indiana fullback and Whitecaps draftee Chris Estridge has given advance notice to former IU star and new teammate in Vancouver: “Hope @LeeNguyen24 has a big house because Im moving in!”
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: The Columbus Crew made Ethan Finlay their No. 10 pick purely based on what they saw from him on tape, at the Combine and through interviews with people who knew him. It turns out Finlay had an EKG scheduled at the same time as his interview with the Columbus Crew in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The interview was not rescheduled and never happened.
INTERNATIONAL MEN OF MYSTERY: Teams also played it safe when it came to international selections. Of the 38 picks made in Thursday’s SuperDraft, there were only six international picks-ups, three of which were Generation adidas players: Darren Mattocks (Vancouver), Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC) and Enzo Martinez (RSL). With two months left until the start of the 2012 MLS season, teams preferred to hold on to their limited international slots.
NICE TO KNOW YOU: Although there is still the Supplemental Draft on Tuesday, Jan. 17, the seven international players present at the MLS Combine were not shown any love during the SuperDraft. Although the likes of Aldo Paniagua (Paraguay), Kohei Yamada (Japan), Gienir García (Mexico) and Jason Banton (England) stood out in Fort Lauderdale, clubs were clearly not impressed. Coaches spoke of poor results in fitness tests, Paniagua being a step slow and García getting beat regularly as some of the reasons for getting passed up.
LONG ROAD BACK HOME: There’s probably nothing tougher than dressing up for the SuperDraft and making the trek to the event, only to see you’re not picked. That was the case with Banton, Yamada and Argentine Emiliano Bonfigli.
MR. IRRELEVANT: The last pick of the SuperDraft at No. 38 was Louisville's Kenney Walker. But don't call him "Mr. Irrelevant," says Bruce Arena: “He was one of the better players [at the Combine] and I was surprised he didn't go in the first round.”
ON HIS OWN DIME: West Virginia right back Raymond Gaddis, who was not invited to the Combine, made the trip to Kansas City on his own dime. His selection by Philadelphia should not come as a surprise: He played for Reading, which is affiliated with the Union.
THE LONG EMBRACE: One of the most touching scenes in Kansas City was the long hug shared by defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste and his mother before he took the stage following his selection at No. 8 by the Portland Timbers.
BLUE JAYS, CARDINALS FLYING HIGH: The Creighton Blue Jays and the Louisville Cardinals turned out the most draft picks with Ethan Finlay (No. 10), Andrew Duran (No. 15), Tyler Polak (No. 22) and Greg Jordan (No. 32) for Creighton and Nick DeLeon (No. 7), Austin Berry (No. 9), Colin Rolfe (No. 18) and Kenney Walker (No. 38) taken.
YOU’RE HIRED … NOW GET TO WORK: New England Revolution manager Jay Heaps welcomed Polak to the club. He reminded him that he had to report to work on Monday.
STAYING PUT: New York Red Bulls sporting director and GM Erik Solér made it clear that Rafal Márquez would be returning to the team in 2012 despite all the reports from Brazil that have Flamengo hot in pursuit.