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Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD

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THE WORD is's regular long-form series focusing on the biggest topics and most intriguing personalities in North American soccer. This week, new media editor Andrew Wiebe goes behind the scenes with the Philadelphia Union technical staff during the recent MLS SuperDraft and finds the group balancing draft strategy, rapid-fire deals and the tranfer sagas of two high-profile players.

PHILADELPHIA – No one can argue John Hackworth hasn’t paid his dues. It just may not matter unless the Philadelphia Union boss gets results.

Entering his second full season at the helm of the Union after his predecessor Peter Nowak left the club’s salary cap situation in ruins, Hackworth is expected to make his group into something they haven’t been since 2011: a playoff team.

If he doesn’t, there’s a possibility his name will land among the heap of head coaches shown the door. To wit, nine MLS teams will have a different head coach on opening day than they did last March. Even if Hackworth does deliver playoff soccer, it will likely be the same story come 2015.

“There is a unique pressure around the league for coaches to win now,” says Taylor Twellman, ESPN analyst and a former color man on Union television broadcasts, says. “I think John realizes that, I think his staff realizes that and I think they realize that they’ve got a window of opportunity here.” 

And on Jan. 16, the day of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the window was wide open. The team’s four picks likely won’t decide the club’s fate this fall, but there was significant pressure from ownership and the club’s fan base – a large portion of which were attendance – to come out on top, especially with two picks in the first six.

There was also the potential arrival of US international Maurice Edu in Philadelphia – maybe the biggest story of the day and the reason MLS executives and media were buzzing – and hopes that the club can somehow bring back former MLS All-Star Carlos Valdés, if he would just answer his phone.

For six hours Hackworth juggled his franchise’s future with laser focus, unshaken by the reactions of the Union fans in attendance or moved to find his young family in the draft room.

“I know the pressure. You can feel it just sitting at that table,” Hackworth says. “I try not to think about that at all. It doesn’t help.”


Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

John Hackworth is entering his second full season as the head coach of the Union. They last made the postseason in 2011.

(Photo by Andrew Wiebe/Gabriel de los Rios)


9:45 am ET – Breakfast, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown

Breakfast has just been served when D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen sidles up to the table where the Union’s brain trust is gathered with a little more than two hours until the SuperDraft begins.

Olsen is in salesman mode, gauging the market for the No. 1 overall pick. D.C have it but don’t necessarily want it, and they’re trying to identify potential trade partners. With the second and sixth overall picks to offer, the Union could certainly be a match.

The Union are listening, but Hackworth – buttressed by technical director, assistant coach and right-hand man Rob Vartughian, assistants Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke and assistant technical director Chris Albright – also has other offers on the table.

Montreal and Colorado are dangling starting-caliber players for Philadelphia’s first-rounders, while Seattle, whose staff is seated 15 feet away, are floating allocation money in an effort to move up the pecking order.

The consensus in Philadelphia is that University of Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake is the best player in a relatively weak draft pool. But goalkeeper is not the Union’s most pressing need. That would be center back, a position desperate for reinforcement following Jeff Parke’s recent move to D.C. for personal reasons and Valdés’ seemingly unavoidable transfer to Argentine club San Lorenzo.

In an ideal world, Hackworth says, they’d flip the No. 2 pick and move down in the draft order, taking either Cal senior Steve Birnbaum or Hartford center back Damion Lowe. Then maybe they can snag one of Coastal Carlina’s Pedro Ribeiro, Georgetown’s Steve Neumann or Maryland’s two-time Hermann award winner Patrick Mullins.

Hackworth and his team consider their options over eggs and toast, the boss mostly listening while his staff bounces ideas back and forth. He also has far weightier matters than draft picks on his mind.

At a nearby booth, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott are huddled with Union president Nick Sakiewicz, one of the primary topics of conversation presumably the mechanics surrounding the much-discussed transfer of Edu.

Hackworth, meanwhile, is trying to connect with Valdés after missing an earlier call from the in-limbo defender, who’s spent the past year on loan with Colombian club Sante Fe. With Parke out and unproven 23-year old Ethan White in via a midweek trade with D.C., Philadelphia are down to Amobi Okugo as their most reliable player in central defense.

No matter who the Union select in a few hours – players the staff consider MLS depth, at best, in 2014 – their season may end up being defined by whether they can land two potential Best XI players in Edu and Valdés. For now, both are on the outside of MLS looking in.


10:15 am ET – Pre-draft meeting with MLS coaches and technical staffs

Representatives from each MLS team are summoned to a conference room less than two hours before the draft begins, where MLS vice president Todd Durbin will go over the ground rules one final time before D.C. United are officially on the clock.

Almost immediately after the Union group’s arrival, Durbin and vice president Lino DiCuollo approach Hackworth and Vartughian with more pressing concerns, specifically the transfer negotiations surrounding Edu and Valdés.

Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Colombian international defender Carlos Valdés spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Union and would be a valuable addition to the club this season, but it's unlikely he'll return with a shot at the World Cup on the line.

(USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia have been haggling with San Lorenzo for the past two weeks, but haven’t been able to nail down the right terms for the Colombian, whose national team coach, José Pekerman, has told him his place on the World Cup squad almost certainly depends on finding a South American landing spot.

Hackworth says the former All-Star would prefer a return to MLS, where he knows exactly what he’s getting into, but he knows Valdés will do whatever’s necessary to be in Brazil for the World Cup.

Now, Durbin and DiCuollo tell the Union’s head coach, the league has a concrete and tantalizing offer approaching seven figures from San Lorenzo.

Once the meeting is over, DiCuollo and Hackworth put their heads together again before the Union boss dials his former captain. He gets voicemail as their game of phone tag continues.

“I have a call in to Pekerman, too,” he says.

There’s no doubt the Union need players who can contribute immediately to compete in an increasingly stacked Eastern Conference, players they can’t get via the draft. For now, the futures of two such game-changers are hanging in the balance.

“The draft is inconsequential right now,” Hackworth says, an emotional overstatement but a clear indication of what’s at stake for everyone involved.


Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

The Union technical staff pores over their research in the moments before the SuperDraft. The team had four picks in the draft.

(USA TODAY Sports/Gabriel de los Rios)


11 am ET – One hour until the SuperDraft begins, Convention Center Ballroom

Two tables, six chairs and a telephone linking the Union to each of the league’s other 18 technical oligarchies. Along with their cell phones and draft boards, this will be the center of Philadelphia’s world for the next three-and-a-half hours.

During a marathon session at PPL Park on Wednesday, the staff finalized tentative plans for each of their first-round picks as well as the 25th and 27th overall selections in the second round.

First, Philadelphia will explore “any and all trades” for the second-overall pick, entertaining packages that include either an experienced MLS player or allocation money in the six figures. If there’s no such offer and Blake is still on the board, he’ll be the pick. If not, it’s Birnbaum.

What they’ll do with the No. 6 pick is more convoluted. Six players – Mullins, Neumann, Ribeiro, Lowe, J.J. Koval and Eric Miller – dot the target sheet, but the club is willing to listen to any trade offers that include allocation money in the high double figures.

Burke and Curtin do most of the talking, with Albright, whose primary knowledge of the players comes from the Combine, chiming in from time to time. Hackworth and Vartughian sprinkle in questions and observations but let the other assistants have the floor.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was high on the list of trade targets until Wednesday, when the Seattle Sounders sent him and Patrick Ianni to the Chicago Fire in exchange for Jalil Anibaba. The teams also swapped first-round picks. Still, the Union put out feelers to new Fire head coach Frank Yallop about Hurtado’s availability, only to be met with a firm, but predictable, reply: “That’s why we got him.”

A recent Western Conference Rookie of the Year candidate is also mooted, drawing lukewarm reactions, while it’s agreed offers from Colorado and Montreal aren't quite good enough. It appears increasingly likely that Philadelphia will stay at No. 2.

“Someone will jump to No. 1 [and take Blake],” Hackworth predicts. “The longer we wait, the better it is.”


11:20 am ET – Edu and Valdés Still in Limbo

Whatever faint hope the Union had of bringing Valdés back from Colombia, the realization has set in that a triumphant return isn’t in the cards. “There is a one percent chance he’s coming back,” Vartughian admits.

On a similar note, Durbin and DiCuollo chat with Hackworth and Sakiewicz behind a vertical banner with the club crest emblazoned on it, discussing the negotiations with Edu in private.

Meanwhile, the framework of a potential deal with D.C. for the No. 1 overall pick is beginning to take shape. Back at the Union’s table, the balancing act is in full swing.

“You’ve got Todd and Lino dragging me off to talk about Mo right before D.C. is saying, ‘Hey, we need an answer [on this trade],’” Hackworth says. “You’ve just got to be able to handle that. It all comes very fast.”

Meanwhile, with the Impact’s initial offer falling short, the Union staff checks on the possibility they'd part with midfielder Felipe and forward Andrew Wenger. The answer comes back quickly in the negative.


11:22 am ET – D.C. United make their first offer

His approach at breakfast the preamble, Ben Olsen strolls across the ballroom to float an offer the Union’s way: Philly can land the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for No. 2 and $75,000 in allocation money.

Curtin, Burke and Albright are immediately in favor of accepting Olsen’s offer, while Vartughian and Hackworth remain noncommittal, running through the scenarios on either side.

Everyone generally agrees that there aren't too many negatives. The price seems reasonable, perhaps even low; it’s less than what Philadelphia have internally valued their first-rounders. Plus, there’s clearly a market for Blake should they decide to put the pick back on the market or trade him down the line.

But there is still time, Hackworth decides, and for the time being, the Union will stand pat and wait.


Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Hackworth and D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen (left) discuss a trade for the No. 1-overall pick.

(Photo by Greg Carroccio /Gabriel de los Rios)


11:31 am ET – Trade discussions with D.C. continue

Olsen is back at the table, and the discussion is even sweeter for the Union.

D.C. float the idea of swapping the top pick for Philadelphia’s slot at No. 6 and allocation money. There’s nothing solid on the table, but the Union could potentially cherry-pick their top two targets – Blake and Birnbaum – right out of the gate. Albright, for one, is keen on the prospect of “controlling the draft.”

Hackworth isn’t so sure. He does the math: If United are now willing to drop down to No. 6, it means the market for No. 1 isn’t as bullish as expected. If that’s the case, Philadelphia may not need to do anything to land Blake at No. 2.

It’s an opinion not everyone at the table shares. Overwhelming consensus is rare among the coaching staff, and that’s the way Hackworth prefers it. He’s been a member of and led staffs on which honesty didn’t always flow freely. Here, nobody is afraid to make his voice heard, even if it differs from the boss’ opinion.

“At the end of the day, I would rather have people that believe very strongly in themselves and their own opinions,” Hackworth says. “I still have to make the final call, but I don’t have too much of an ego to say that their information isn’t extremely valuable.”

Sakiewicz, who drops in for updates every few minutes, sides with his head coach. The Union won’t move up. There’s no reason to rush into anything.


11:50 am ET – Other suitors step in

Just as Philadelphia begin to settle on sticking with the No. 2 pick, the goalposts change.

Word from Olsen is that Vancouver and Dallas are interested in trading up to get the No. 1 pick – and most likely using it on Blake. The Union map out what they’ll do in that scenario. Is Birnbaum the bulletproof choice? Should they explore moving down with other targets likely to be available later?

They have minutes to make decisions that could very well change the fate of the franchise. Across the room, three bedrocks of the Union’s youth movement who’ll partly dictate the success of the 2014 campaign and beyond – defender Raymon Gaddis, goalkeeper Zac MacMath and forward Jack McInerney – wait to see their new teammates take the stage.


11:56 am ET – One last shot at Blake

A consensus is reached. If Blake goes No. 1, Birnbaum will be the Union's man.

But Hackworth isn’t willing to let Blake get away without making a final play. He asks Vartughian to summon Olsen one more time. There are only four minutes remaining until D.C. United are on the clock.

The word from Olsen isn’t surprising. He's lined up a potential deal with Vancouver to swap the first and third picks, plus allocation money. Still, it’s clear Olsen’s preferred trade partner remains the Union, and he even half jokes that “he owes them one” following the trade that sent Parke to D.C. the week before.

But Olsen also has personal reasons. By all accounts, United want Birnbaum. And if Vancouver acquire the No. 1 pick and take Blake, he knows, Philly would most likely use the No. 2 pick on Birnbaum. So it makes sense to everyone at the table when Olsen offers Hackworth the right to match the Whitecaps' offer, which turns out to be the same deal the Union passed on 34 minutes ago.


No. 1 pick Andre Blake reacts to being selected by the Philadelphia Union | MLS SuperDraft

Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake reacts to being selected first overall in the MLS SuperDraft.


11:58 am ET – Hackworth pulls the trigger

With his assistants egging him on, Hackworth green-lights the deal. The chance to land the draft’s best player trumps any lingering misgivings he might have.

Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

The Union technical staff were well aware what drafting a goalkeeper would mean for incumbent starter Zac MacMath (above), and that it might create a public relations nightmare.

(USA TODAY Sports)

“What really tipped it for me was when I saw D.C. go up to Vancouver,” Hackworth says. “When Ben came over and said, ‘Hey, the deal is done. This is the last chance. If you want to do it, I’ll do it with you,’ then I’m thinking I’m going to lose the best guy when I have a chance to get him. Why wouldn’t I do that, especially for what we paid for it?”

Adds Hackworth: “[Blake] is so good that you just can’t pass him up.”

Still, everyone at the table knows the pick might not be well understood outside their inner circle. There are concerns that the move could be tricky from a public-relations perspective. Mainly, how will incumbent goalkeeper MacMath handle it? Almost a year younger than Blake, MacMath has already made 73 MLS starts, though he has come under fire for a handful of high-profile mistakes in his young career.

“We’re going to get butchered on this one, for sure,” Hackworth says, the gathered press contingent just feet away.

But Hackworth feels covered enough. MacMath was told two days ago that there was a possibility Blake would be the Union’s pick.


12:09 pm ET – Philly make history with the No. 1 pick

Finally, the moment arrives. Garber steps to the podium, announces the trade between Philadelphia and D.C. and calls Blake’s name, making him the first goalkeeper ever taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Nearly an hour of bartering has paid off.

The Sons of Ben supporters group in attendance erupts in applause, something they were going to do, no matter what. Nearby, Blake's future competitor barely reacts, a small shrug the only hint MacMath's affected by the addition of a high-profile challenger.

Blake glad-hands with family and friends, and appears comfortable and confident in the SuperDraft spotlight. On stage, he sports a flashy pair of earrings that need to be addressed when camp starts.

“The first thing we’ve got to tell him,” Hackworth says with a smile, “is that he can’t wear those at training.”


12:14 pm ET – Union strategize over the sixth pick

With the first pick done and dusted, D.C. take Birnbaum with the No. 2 pick, and the Union now turn their attention to No. 6.

Interest is still strong, and the Union riffle through their options. Colorado are interested in moving up from No. 11, but Hackworth decides they’ll only take allocation money in any swap.

Until that or any competing deal materializes, Hartford center back Lowe is the Union's primary target. Burke coached the 20-year-old Jamaican with the Union’s PDL side, Reading United, and raves about the Generation adidas selection’s high ceiling, while also acknowledging he remains too raw to contribute on opening day.

“He could be playing in the [English Premier League] in a couple years,” he says.


12:24 pm ET – Dean and Neumann off the board

Cal defender Christian Dean goes to Vancouver at No. 3 and one of the Union’s other targets, Georgetown midfielder Steve Neumann, is taken at No. 4 by the New England Revolution.

With just one pick until Philadelphia are back on the clock, word comes back from Colorado: They decline to swap first-round picks for $100,000 in allocation. The price isn’t right.

Lowe remains the best-case scenario at No. 6, but Ribeiro and Mullins are also in consideration. The staff likes Ribeiro, a midfielder from Coastal Carolina who has the technical ability and size to be a difference maker from day one.

They’re also not sold that Mullins’ can translate his collegiate goalscoring exploits to MLS. The fact that he signed a pre-draft deal that guarantees the first two years of his contract is a concern as well.


12:34 pm ET – A deal for the sixth pick

Montreal and Dallas swap the No. 5 and 10 picks, and the Impact use their improved position to take Creighton defender Eric Miller, who was never really an option for Philadelphia. Curtin compares him to Colorado veteran Drew Moor, but they’re set at right back.

The Union are now on the clock at No. 6, but they’re in no particular hurry to get their pick in. “Let’s see if someone comes to us,” Hackworth says.

His gambit pays off. Dallas offer $50,000 in order to swap picks with Philly, a proposal that would give the Union the 10th pick and mean that they’d be just $25,000 from breaking even on the day from an allocation-money standpoint.

The knock-on effect is that Philly will almost certainly miss out on Mullins, an unfortunate scenario, but not a deal-breaker. Even at No. 10, there’s still a shot at either Lowe or Ribeiro.

They make the deal, and Dallas take Colorado School of Mines forward Tesho Akindele.


Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Union assistant coach and technical director Rob Vartughian (left) and assistant technical director Chris Albright strategize during the SuperDraft.

(Photo by Andrew Wiebe/Gabriel de los Rios)


12:48 pm ET – Will Lowe last until the No. 10 pick?

Seattle are on the clock at No. 8. The tension at the Philadelphia table is palpable: Now there’s real concern Lowe is headed to Seattle. In fact, Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer approached the Philly table just minutes before to see if they were interested in moving up. Hackworth passed at the time.

“This could be Damion,” Curtin says.

“You guys better hope it’s not Damion,” comes Hackworth’s terse reply.

Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

The Union technical staff were high on Hartford center back Damion Lowe, but he eventually landed with the Seattle Sounders.

(USA TODAY Sports)

In a possible stroke of good luck, Toronto FC reps are buzzing around the Sounders’ table. Perhaps they’ll move up from No. 15 and Lowe will remain in play at No. 10. Perhaps the Union’s gamble will pay off.

But no deal is made and Seattle turn in their pick, forcing Philadelphia to wait and watch, days of strategy hanging in the balance.

As the Commissioner walks to the podium pick in hand, Burke, by far Lowe’s biggest proponent among the Union staff, gives a brief but insightful play-by-play.

“Here it comes…,” he says as Garber begins announcing Seattle’s selection.

"With the eighth pick of the first round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, the Seattle Sounders pick a member of Generation adidas and a graduate of the University of Hartford, defender Damion Lowe."

“[Expletive],” Burke says. “I feel like my kid got kidnapped.”


12:54 pm ET – Market for the No. 10 pick heats up

Lowe is gone, but there is still maneuvering to be done.

New England GM Mike Burns approaches the Union table trying to find a way to move up. He has the No. 12 and No. 19 picks to offer, an attractive proposition for the Union, but one that remains hypothetical.

Toronto also make an offer. For $50,000 in allocation, Philadelphia would drop to TFC’s current No. 15 pick, with TFC moving up to No. 10. The deal would mean a net gain on the day for the Union.


12:58 pm ET – Deal or no deal?

The Earthquakes select hometown product Koval at No. 9, and the Union are on the clock. Ribeiro, the Union’s primary target, is still available, as is center back Grant Van De Casteele, an intriguing center back from Notre Dame.

Olsen shoots a text to Albright. D.C. United are interested in the No. 10 pick and the Union staff wonder if they’re after Mullins. No concrete offer emerges, however.

Philly can trade down and pocket Toronto’s cash, but will Ribeiro, like Lowe before him, be taken before they pick again? It’s another gamble, one that may not pay off.

Hackworth gives the go ahead to move forward with TFC, which gives the Union the No. 15 pick. Now they must wait and see if Ribeiro lasts as long as they expect.


1:20 pm ET – The wait for Ribeiro

So far, the day is a mixed bag. The Union landed the best player in the draft pool and are up in allocation, but they still don’t have the center-back cover that was deemed priority No. 1.

“It didn’t turn out the way I would have envisioned it,” Hackworth says.

Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Pedro Ribeiro (in red) impressed the Union with his size and skill during the Combine. He grew six inches in college alone, bringing him to 6-foot-4 by draft day.

(USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto take Nick Hagglund with the No. 10 pick. The Revs take Mullins at 11, and Colorado, Chicago and Columbus take Marlon Hairston, Marco Franco and Ben Sweat at No. 12, No. 13 and No. 14.

Now, for the fourth time today, Philadelphia are on the clock.

Sakiewicz, who spends most of the SuperDraft chatting a few feet away from the table while occasionally dropping by for updates, checks in to get a feel for his technical staff’s strategy.

“What are we doing with this one?” Sakiewicz asks. He grins and adds: “Trading it?”

This time, though, there is no impending deal. Ribeiro is their pick.

Philadelphia love the Brazilian’s unique combination of size and skill – he stands 6-foot-4 after growing six inches in college and boasts above-average skill on the ball despite being a bit of a “lumbering” runner – but there are some concerns about the hernia surgery and groin problem that slowed him over the past year.

Fortunately, Burke had Ribeiro at Reading when he was healthy, and the Union believe he could eventually force his way into a starting spot in 2014, either in the midfield or up top.


1:24 pm ET – Union look to move up

The focus immediately turns to Van De Casteele. Will he be available at No. 25, when the Union make their first second-round selection?

It’s unlikely, so Vartughian begins making the rounds to see if Philly can move up.

One table over, he chats with Portland’s Caleb Porter and Gavin Wilkinson, who aren’t interested in parting with the No. 17 pick. Real Salt Lake are willing to negotiate at No. 18, but their allocation demands are ultimately deemed unrealistic.

As much as they'd like to acquire Van De Casteele, the Union can't find a deal to make it worth it.


1:30 pm ET – Vancouver tease a trade

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson drops by the table for some banter with Albright, his onetime teammate with the New York Red Bulls.

They congratulate each other on their first-round hauls before Robinson – half kidding, half serious – makes a sly inquiry about Philadelphia’s selection of Blake, the man Vancouver wanted.

“You’ve got two young goalkeepers,” he says. “You can flip one, yeah?”


1:40 pm ET – Could Van De Casteele really still be available?

Neither Portland nor RSL take Van De Casteele. If luck is with the Union, the Notre Dame product will fall to No. 25.

But once again, fortune is not in Philadelphia’s favor. Colorado pick Van De Casteele with the final selection of the first round.

“There goes that,” Curtin mutters.

Hackworth, his latest target off the board, makes his way across the room for an on-air interview with Twellman.


2:10 pm ET – The search for a center back

With the No. 25 pick of the SuperDraft, Philly finally get their center back in Michigan State’s Kevin Cope, a pre-draft favorite among the staff who could very well step in and contribute immediately in 2014.

Hackworth receives some good news via text message from University of Indiana associate head coach Brian Maisonneuve, who was the his assistant with the US U-17s.

Cope may not be a sexy pick, but Maisonneuve assures his friend that the Big 10 product isn’t getting the plaudits he deserves: “I can’t believe he went that late,” the text reads. “That’s a great pickup for you.”


Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Hackworth looks on as assisant coach Jim Curtin (left) considers the Union's options in the SuperDraft.

(Photo by Andrew Wiebe/Gabriel de los Rios)


2:22 pm ET – Philly add another defender at No. 27

Back on the clock, the Union consider French forward Pierre Omanga and UConn hitman Mamadou Diouf. They could also address left back with Akron defender Robbie Derschang, their second-rated prospect at the position.

Burke puts a call into Omanga’s PDL coach to get a last-minute scouting report. The feedback is positive – he projects more as an wide attacker than target man – but Diouf is removed from consideration after Hackworth checks his Combine test scores and reports that Cope’s speed numbers were better.

Hackworth, meanwhile, knows Derschang from his days with the youth national team setup, and the coaches feel he has a chance to challenge incumbent Fabinho. In any case, he's a player from a school with a good track record and one who has a realistic chance of being on the roster come opening day.

In the end, the Union opt for Derschang, deciding that left back is more of a priority than another option up top.

And with that, the Union's draft day is done.

“That’s it, huh?” Albright says.

“That’s it,” Curtin replies.


4:15 pm ET – Upon reflection

Hackworth has just completed nearly two hours of media availability, but it’s all been well received. Just about everyone wanted a piece of the Union boss, especially since most agree Philadelphia are the day’s clear winners. Even Portland Timbers head coach and former Akron boss Caleb Porter dropped by to congratulate the whole coaching staff on the Blake move.

Philadelphia filled their primary needs – perhaps not in the order they envisioned – and captured the best player in the draft pool. It also helps they were practically paid to do so.

Behind the scenes at MLS SuperDraft with the Philadelphia Union | THE WORD -

Hackworth walks off the floor near the conclusion of the SuperDraft. Said the Union head coach: "It was one of the craziest days I’ve ever had, especially in that type of environment."

(Photo courtesy of Greg Carroccio)

“In the end, the only thing that matters is if we get this right so we have a better team,” Hackworth says. “If we do that, it doesn’t matter what happens today. It only matters what happens when you get them into your team and they actually play for you on the field.”

Similarly, it won’t matter what hoops the Union jump through if they can’t land Edu.

For now, the status of those negotiations are still up in the air. Hackworth is a bit “disheartened” to hear from Vartughian that there are no updates, but both sides have until the close of the European transfer window on Jan. 31 to come to terms.

The Valdés deal, too, remains in flux. Hackworth still hasn’t spoke with either the player or Pekerman, but says the current offer makes sense. It also means the Union need to continue their search – internationally and within MLS – for a proven central defender.

It seems like a lot to process in the wake of the draft, but Hackworth is typically calm and collected after a day in which he really only let emotion get the best of him once. Philadelphia will tackle those issues in due time, perhaps even later that night.

For now, though, Hackworth reflects on a day heaped in pressure but, eventually, full of reward. Months of preparation boiled down to one day of deliberations, a day the staff is proud of even if every domino didn’t fall in place.

“It was one of the craziest days I’ve ever had, especially in that type of environment,” Hackworth says. “At the same time, I felt like we accomplished our goals. It was cool that we did it in Philly. We did a lot of work under some hectic conditions. You look back on it and think, ‘We did alright.’”