PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth knew two things above all else coming into Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
The first was that there was no better player in the draft class than University of Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake. And the second was that Blake would not be available when Philly picked at No. 2.
So in a move that surprised the hometown fans that packed the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the Union opened the draft by swapping picks with D.C. United to secure the top overall pick.
Philly then made Blake the first-ever goalkeeper to go No. 1 in the MLS SuperDraft.
“We knew for a fact he wouldn’t be there,” Hackworth told reporters after the first round. “There were a couple of deals on the table. We just had to make that decision at the last minute.”
Hackworth and the Union continued to wheel and deal throughout the first round, trading their sixth pick to FC Dallas for the 10th pick and then dealing that pick to Toronto for the 15th slot, securing allocation money in both trades.
With the 15th selection, the Union drafted Coastal Carolina midfielder Pedro Ribeiro, a creative attacking player they knew well from his time with affiliate club Reading United AC.
“We walk away with literally our top two targets in Pedro and Andre,” Hackworth said. “And we’ve now increased our allocation [money].”
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The Union added a couple of defenders in Michigan State’s Kevin Cope and Akron’s Robert Derschang in the second round. But the biggest surprise was Blake, who comes to a team that already has a young, promising goalkeeper in Zac MacMath.
Hackworth, though, stated that MacMath would remain the team’s starter in net – at least for now.
“Blake is clearly a guy that has a very bright future,” Hackworth said. “He had an excellent career at UConn but is also a Jamaican international already. This is a guy through our homework and recruiting that we think has even more upside.
“He needs a little bit of time, but we have instantly given ourselves a guy who we feel, that if something happens to Zac, can step in and be incredibly valuable to our team and also our future.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.