Sporting Kansas City and their only 2014 SuperDraft pick were already familiar with each other before the MLS Cup champs took Saint Louis University winger Adnan Gabeljic in the second round.
“After my freshman season, they invited me to come out and train with them, but I couldn't because I was getting back from an injury,” Gabeljic told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday, after Sporting took him with the 38th overall pick. “I came out [to train] after my sophomore year, and ever since then I've been a big fan and the team has been very successful. I couldn't have asked for a better team to go to, for a lot of reasons.”
Gabeljic will be looking to work his way into an already-crowded field of attackers, but manager Peter Vermes likes the speed and strength the young winger brings along with his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.
“He's different from the other forwards we have,” Vermes said. “He's a very big, powerful guy – and we have some of those guys on the team now – but he's different in how he plays up top and out wide, and in his ability to go at players.”
That ability might be on display this year at one of Sporting's USL PRO affiliates – Orlando City SC or fledgling club Oklahoma Energy FC – but Vermes said he hasn't decided yet whether to send Gabeljic on loan or keep him in Kansas City.
“Our philosophy is to never put deadlines on them being an impact player immediately,” he said. “We want to give them the opportunity to build and understand our style of play, how we play, the expectations of their position.”
- Find more Sporting Kansas City news at SportingKC.com
In a way, though, Sporting got to enjoy the fruits of the 2014 SuperDraft a year early. They swapped their first-round pick last season to get midfielder Benny Feilhaber from New England, and Feilhaber came on strong down the stretch to help Kansas City to their first MLS Cup title since 2000.
“We waited a while to get a pick this year,” Vermes said, “but we've got somebody who'll be interesting for the team.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.