SuperDraft: Best player vs. team need
and talking to coaches this week just confirmed that everyone sees it a little different. A player that one coach thinks is good another thinks is just average.
Now come the tough questions that the 12 MLS coaches are asking themselves as they approach the SuperDraft on Friday: What do you need for your team? Which player do you need? Are you looking for a certain position or should you take the best player available? Does a protected player have more value or do you take someone who needs to make your roster?
There are some players in every draft that all coaches agree upon. However, the question then becomes position, or best player available. I always felt you should take the best player available, unless it was in a position where you were set for many years, like goalkeeper.
Will Real Salt Lake take Danny O'Rourke from Indiana, who played well at the Combine, or Nikolas Besagno, who is young and well known by coach John Ellinger? Besagno is roster-protected and that makes players more valuable. He is a project because of his youth. If you have a guaranteed contract, a long-term pick is easier to make, since you have some job security. Players that are protected have a greater value because they do not use a roster space. The decision here is not position, but long term or short term.
Everyone expects CD Chivas USA will select a Hispanic player. But they chose a coach in Thomas Rongen who does not speak Spanish, so who knows. A backup goalkeeper would be nice -- that could be Brad Guzan out of South Carolina or Noah Palmer (Maryland). Maybe they will take Edwin Ruiz, a forward who played at Hartwick, lived in Miami and speaks Spanish. Need or ethnicity could be the discussion here.
When I was with the Galaxy I once made a pick because the player was Mexican-American. I felt he had potential and he was a good player in a position we could use. I left some players on the board who I felt were better, because I thought the other player would better fit our community. The player didn't pan out. (Before you guess, it was not Memo Gonzalez. It was someone else -- with Memo I just missed on my evaluation of him although it is not to late for him to turn it around.)
Chicago needs help in a number of areas. A defender would help, so would a wide midfielder, as would a playmaker. I think they will take the best available defender. They can use their allocations for the other positions, as evidenced by the recent signing of John Thorrington. Troy Roberts of Cal had a good combine, as did Jack Stewart from Notre Dame. Ryan Kelly had a good year at St. John's and James Riley from Wake Forest also had some moments. The local guy from the nearby university (Stewart) could be the pick. Defensive need carries the day here.
Dallas is all about what they acquire in trades before and during the draft. This will determine who they pick. I think they will pick for need first, and a left back could fill that need, but there was not much to choose from there. They will also go young at some point for some protected players. The question: Will it be a young one like Tim Ward (Saint Louis) or a more experienced one like Kevin Goldthwaite (Notre Dame) -- or will it be Hunter Freeman (Virginia).
San Jose is another team with a lot of holes. They need to take the best available player and possibly make some trades. Will they add a forward like the protected Chad Barrett from UCLA, or go for one of the good defensive type players in the draft -- O'Rourke, Roberts, Ugochukweu Ihemulu (SMU) or Hans Bevers (New Mexico) come to mind. If Stewart is still on the board he could go here -- picking someone who can play in the center of the field is a need.
Los Angeles will select based upon what they have traded away. Trust me -- they will make trades as Sampson tries to mold the team in his image. The UCLA players come to mind: Barrett, Aaron Lopez and Michael Enfield, a Sampson favorite since he comes from his club SoCal United. Do they want another big forward like Knox Cameron (Michigan) or a defender like Tony Lockhead (California-Santa Barbara)? The question of need can't be answered until the trades are made. Who will have the most influence -- Sampson, Hamilton or the new staff? Time will tell.
Kansas City will pick the best available. They don't lose much from last year. Protected players like Ryan Pore (Tulsa), Will John (Saint Louis) and Michael Parkhurst (Wake Forest) could be of interest here. Ruiz played very well at the Combine and was a surprise to many. Whoever coach Bob Gansler feels is the best he will take, although I think they would prefer a forward.
Colorado is another unknown quantity. They do not have many picks. New assistant coach John Murphy has always done a lot of scouting in his time for New England and Columbus. He knows the college scene. Due to their many needs they will pick best available, irrespective of position.
The MetroStars also need to trade up to get a few more significant picks. Head coach Bob Bradley likes the young players and if the right protected player is on the board they will snatch him up. Once again they will be a team that leans toward taking the best available player.
New England picks late in the first round and I think they will pick a defender. Veteran center back Carlos Llamosa is questionable to come back, Rusty Pierce is gone, Joey Franchino is returning from injury -- they all means they will make defense a priority. Whoever is left from the top group will go here. Parkhurst could land here and he is protected.
Columbus will watch the early action. They draft late but could jump up as part of a trade that could involve a top player with a top-level salary leaving to open up cap room and get a draft choice. They would like to improve themselves wide, with the present later picks they could go for Thabiso Khumalo or Mubarike Chisoni from Coastal Carolina. Marcus Storey (North Carolina) and his speed is also the type of player Columbus likes.
D.C. United should not be allowed to pick. They got Freddy Adu last year. Wasn't that worth at least two years worth of picks, based upon salary? Seriously, they had the steal of the draft last year in Josh Gros, if you do not consider Jeff Parke. Picking a defender is on their minds as well with the departure of Ryan Nelsen. They need to see who is left when they pick.
So those are my feelings of what will happen. The big discussion is always need vs. best available and everyone does it a little differently. Protected players have a bonus because they do not count against the 18-man roster. In big cities these players have a much easier time than developmental players due to the high cost of living. There are a couple of protected players who I will be curious to see where they end up and how late they go. Jamie Watson could be Dallas-bound, and where will Christian Jimenez land? Chivas USA? Quavas Kirk could also go to Salt Lake -- another connection to Bradenton and Ellinger.
Some players did well for themselves. Goalkeepers Guzan, Palmer and Dan Kennedy (UCSB) drew interest and one of the two Colorado guys -- Chris Sawyer (Notre Dame) or Jay Nolly (Indiana) -- could go back home. C.J. Klaas (Washington), John Minagawa-Webster (Michigan State), Mychal Turpin (Michigan), Guy Melamed (Boston College, though his age might scare some off), Scott Sealy (Wake Forest), Luke Kreamalmeyer (Bradley), Amir Lowery (Wake Forest), Gonzalo Segares (Virginia Commonwealth), Julian Nash (Creighton) and Ugochukweu Ihemelu all had some good moments.
But the one thing I learned in my years of going through the draft is that the unexpected happens. There is always one team who makes a pick in the early rounds that has everyone scratching their heads. Sometimes that happens a couple of times. That pick then changes everything because players are left on the board that some teams never expected to be there. A change in direction often follows.
I also think there will be more trades than usual. Los Angeles is revamping, San Jose needs to make moves, Dallas is looking, and Columbus and the MetroStars are looking to move some big-name players.
Let the fun begin. I know who I would pick. I just want to be prepared for when the league expands to Hawaii. Maybe I can be the coach and get the league to give me Brian Ching as an allocation. Until then, aloha!
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at email@example.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.