INDIANAPOLIS – While 38 players were learning their first professional stop, MLS Commissioner Don Garber may have dropped a hint about their respective career paths.
Speaking to reporters during Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, Garber remained noncommittal about a rumored partnership between USL Pro and Major League Soccer. But he didn’t exactly temper the speculation, saying more information could be available in the near future.
“I can’t confirm anything today, but what I will say is that our league is very supportive of building a soccer pyramid and having a closer relationship with the lower divisions,” Garber said. “We continue to invest in reserve teams and our academy programs. We had a dozen Homegrown players sign that didn’t come through the draft, that actually signed through their academies.
“You’re going to see more and more investment and more and more commitment to building a pyramid. We’ll be able to talk about it further probably in the next couple weeks.”
He also addressed the breakup between Sporting Kansas City and the Livestrong Foundation, coming out in support of the club’s ownership group.
“I think the ownership of Sporting KC had to make a tough decision,” Garber said. “It’s a very philanthropic ownership group. They formed an unusual relationship with the Livestrong Foundation. I’m very supportive of the decision they made. I’m absolutely confident they’ll get a new partner for that stadium that will do even more than the association they had with the foundation. I think they made a good decision.”
PRIDE OF PERU: Had No. 1 overall pick Andrew Farrell not moved to Peru as a five year old, Garber may not have announced his name first on Thursday at the Indiana Convention Center. In fact, he may not have called the 20-year-old center back’s name at all.
Minutes after coming off the draft stage, the newest member of the New England Revolution admitted he probably wouldn’t have focused exclusively on soccer had he stayed in the United States throughout his childhood. Thankfully for Jay Heaps, that scenario didn’t play out.
“I think I might have tried basketball out,” said Farrell, who played soccer on the streets and picked up Spanish while in Peru. “I’m not a very good basketball player now, I’m actually really bad.”
THE SHIN GUARDIAN:Farrell returned to the USA at age 15, went all in on his soccer career and found a home at Louisville, where he developed into one of the nation’s brightest prospects – and picked up a preference for shin protection that D.C. United’s Chris Korb would be envious of.
They certainly aren’t stock models, barely covering a few inches of leg, and Farrell explained how he shapes the roughly half-sized shin guards that caught observer’s eyes at the MLS Combine and in college.
“You burn the middle of it, then you bend it and it comes off,” Farrell said. “It’s pretty sharp after you do that, so you’ve got to kind of blunt it off. If anyone around the league wants some shin guards, I can hook them up.”
“It feels a lot more free,” he continued. “Obviously, coming into Major League Soccer, I might have to get some bigger ones. Some of the guys kick a little bit harder. We’ll see how that goes.”
RED ALL OVER: Toronto FC draftee Emery Welshman is a Red through and through.
“I’ve been a fan of Toronto FC since their inaugural year,” he said. “I know the ups and downs of the club. I’m as disappointed as all the fans out there that the team finished where they did. Being a fan, I want to see this team rise up. I want to see this team play at its full potential and hopefully I can be a part of that.”
CANADIAN PRIDE: Welshman will join fellow Ontario native Kyle Bekker on the squad and Bekker was outspoken in his own right. He didn’t hesitate when asked about the league’s commitment to developing Canadian talent, identifying a policy change that he thinks could help more MLS players could emerge from north of the border.
“I think there’s a problem just with the whole instance that Canadians are still foreign in this league,” Bekker said. “I would understand if it was an American league only, but now we have three Canadian teams and they’re great clubs and they have great support.
“I think it’s something that definitely needs to be looked at again and give Canadian players a little bit more respect. We have the players. It’s just a matter of, going forward, having something set in place for a place for them to go.”
SCOTS ISSUE: The Whitecaps picked up Kekuta Manneh at No. 4, after getting a closer look at him in Vancouver following their postseason exit, but Martin Rennie did his best to pour cold water on the rumblings that the club was attempting to offload Kenny Miller and Barry Robson.
“That’s just a rumor, and we never comment on rumors," Rennie told MLSsoccer.com. "That one is a little bit out there, I think.”
WHAT ABOUT THOSE LEFT BACKS?: The left backs were the most highly touted class of players in the SuperDraft. But after Maryland's Taylor Kemp went No. 17 to D.C., the next three went with three of the four final picks of the SuperDraft (Dylan Remick at No. 35, Jimmy Nealis at No. 37 and Greg Cochrane at No. 38).
Seattle's Sigi Schmid, who looks at Remick as a potential left central defender, said he was surprised they all fell but that "you knew they'd all get gobbled up and they did by the end of the second round."
D.C. United manager Ben Olsen called his No. 17 pick Kemp "one of, if not the best, left back in college soccer." But for as good as he may be, Olsen made it clear that he wasn't looking at him breaking into the starting XI: "If you ask me if he's going to be starting for us on opening day, I would say, 'I doubt it.'"
SOUNDERS SEARCH: Schmid confirmed that the Sounders are still looking for a forward during the offseason. They picked Eriq Zavaleta (No. 10), who projects as a central defender, before grabbing Remick.
A STARTER AT NO. 31?: While Olsen isn't confident of Kemp being a starter, Union boss John Hackworth is pretty high on No. 31 pick Stephen Okai, who he sees as a No. 8 on the Union.
"He's probably one of the most ready players in this draft to come into an MLS team and really compete for time," Olsen said "He was hard to pass up. ... He makes us better already."