With the Columbus Crew's 14th overall selection in Thursday's 2014 MLS SuperDraft, sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter went with the tried-and-true method of taking the “best player on the board,” in defender Ben Sweat.
“Ben represented a skill level that we couldn't pass up with the 14th pick,” Berhalter said. “We had him rated very high, and we felt that this was a guy who was going to be a solid MLS player.”
Berhalter said that Sweat's showing at the adidas MLS Player Combine was impressive, and that the club's evaluation of the South Florida left back made it an easy selection.
“In every aspect, he shined [in Florida],” Berhalter said. “He was someone who stood out, and also is just a quality guy for years to come.”
While fans of the Crew may have been surprised by the pick, they weren't alone. Even Sweat himself had no idea that he would be drafted by the club.
“It was a huge surprise,” Sweat told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “I did not know if I was going to go in the top 10 or later in the first round. ... It was really thrilling seeing my name come up with the Columbus Crew.”
Though he didn't anticipate the selection, Sweat said that a good interview with the Columbus coaching staff made him feel more confident that the club would take him.
“I interviewed with quite a few teams [at the Combine], so when every team came up I kind of thought, 'Maybe I'm going to be this pick,'” Sweat said. “But when the Crew came up I was more confident. I had a good interview with them, I was impressed with the coaching staff, and I had a lot of good feedback.”
After mentions of roster improvements for areas such as central midfield and forward, many expected Berhalter to choose a player from one of those positions of need, especially with Waylon Francis and Agustin Viana already on the roster at left back. But Berhalter said he “didn't see a guy in the draft who could fill one of those spots.”
Berhalter also indicated that Sweat was likely a project for the future, but could give “good competition” to Francis and Viana in the meantime, and could even contribute minutes in the short-term.
Andrew King covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.