MLS SuperDraft: Quakes tick off all the boxes with picks
Preseason training hasn’t even begun, but newly drafted defender Tommy Muller is already behind the curve when it comes to one key aspect of being a San Jose Earthquake: knowledge of “The Goonies.”
“I’ve seen it a really long time ago,” Muller (above) said of the 1985 film that lent the 2012 Quakes their mantra, “but I feel like I definitely need to see it again.”
The Quakes hope that Muller, whom they selected Thursday with the No. 15 overall pick in the SuperDraft, can help them write the script for a sequel — one that finishes with San Jose hoisting the MLS Cup.
Muller, a three-year starter and two-year captain at Georgetown, will have an immediate chance to take over for the departed Ike Opara as the third man in coach Frank Yallop’s center-back rotation. Veterans Víctor Bernárdez and Jason Hernandez are the first-choice pairing, but both missed chunks of last season due to injury.
While Opara looked the part of a classic center back, with a 6-foot-2 frame, Muller was listed at 5-11 by the Hoyas and his size was arguably the biggest knock on him. Yallop, though, said that the lack of height was more than offset by Muller’s athleticism; he placed among the top five for agility at this week’s pre-draft combine.
“He scored very, very high on the charts for all the fitness tests — pace, speed, agility — all the things that come into it,” Yallop said in a conference call Thursday. “His agility, his speed ... will end up helping us. And the size doesn’t really matter.”
Muller sees the solution as a case of brains over brawn.
“I definitely would be considered undersized for a center back, but I think I have a lot of the athletic tools necessary to be successful as a center back, with jumping and recovery speed,” Muller said. “But I think, more than that, my thinking and vision of the field is good. I feel like I make good decisions with the ball, especially out of the back. And I think those two things have allowed me to be successful so far, and can translate to the MLS.”
If San Jose filled a need with their selection of Muller, taking San Diego midfielder Dan Delgado in the second round (No. 33 overall, a pick acquired from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for Opara) may have been about trying to satisfy a want.
Delgado had nine goals and 10 assists to lead USD to the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his playmaking ability could bring some diversity to the Quakes’ attack, which delivered a franchise record 72 goals in the 2012 regular season but drew brickbats from opponents for the perception of relying too often on crosses from the wings and brute force in the box.
“We wanted to make sure we came out with some different type of players and we felt in Dan — we had him in the [December team] combine and he did well,” Yallop said. “Our assistant coaches and John [Doyle, San Jose’s general manager] have seen a lot of him and they like him. I’d seen enough at the combine to know there’s definitely enough to have him out, and I think he’ll be good.”
San Jose picked up a third player from the draft, although indirectly. The Quakes sent their own second-round selection (No. 34 overall) to Portland for little-used forward Mike Fucito.
With only 1,516 lifetime minutes of MLS regular-season action, Fucito would seem like a spare part on the Quakes, but Yallop likes his track record of success — five goals in eight matches — in CONCACAF Champions League play when Fucito was with Seattle Sounders FC. The Quakes will enter CCL play for the first time this summer.
“I thought he was tremendous in Seattle,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “Maybe not as much in the league, but he’s done very well in the Open Cup and the CCL, too. Every time you play against Mike Fucito, you’re not comfortable. He went to Montreal and then to Portland, and he got kind of sidetracked with his career. Hopefully, we can put him back on the map.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.