Portland Timbers coach John Spencer said Wednesday there are two standout players in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, and he’s excited about the prospect of having one of them.
The expansion Timbers have the No. 2 pick overall, and will select at Nos. 20 and 22.
There is widespread consensus that former University of Akron stars Darlington Nagbe and Perry Kitchen are the top two players in the draft. If the Timbers see it the same way, one of them will become the team’s first MLS draft pick.
“There are two guys we really like,” Spencer said, speaking from Baltimore, the site of the draft. “I don’t hold either one of them in higher regard. So we’re very relaxed.”
General manager and technical director Gavin Wilkinson, however, said it may get a bit more interesting when it comes to who to take with the club’s picks at 20 and 22. The Timbers are stocking up as much talent as possible in advance of their first MLS training camp and first MLS season, and are looking for a player who can contribute right away with the two second-round picks.
The most pressing need appears to be at forward. Although the team believes strongly in the future of signings Bright Dike and Eddie Johnson, neither has MLS experience.
The club has been recently linked to former FC Dallas striker Kenny Cooper, who has struggled to find success with German side 1860 Munich since leaving MLS after the 2008 season. Cooper was a productive scoring threat in MLS, scoring 40 goals in 90 games with FC Dallas.
“We have irons in the fire,” Spencer said. “In the next couple of weeks, perceptions will be crushed in that department.”
Wilkinson said he has been in “extensive” contract talks the past couple of weeks, trying to pull off at least one deal, maybe more.
“We’re looking at a couple of big names and trying to bring those players aboard,” Wilkinson said.
As far as Thursday’s draft goes, Spencer said he was unconcerned with who the Vancouver Whitecaps might take first, emphasizing that his staff has been evaluating players “for six or seven months.”
“This was not a 10-day process,” Spencer said, referring to this week’s MLS Combine. “It was a chance to refresh our memories. We got to see (players) live in different environments.”
For Spencer and Wilkinson, draft day represents another chance to add key pieces to what they are building.
“We feel we’re ready to go,” Spencer said.