Heading into Tuesday’s MLS Supplemental Draft, the Philadelphia Union were looking to add reinforcements to what is still a relatively thin back line.
They didn’t have to look very far to find one.
With their first-round pick in the draft – and the No. 13 overall selection – the Union swiped defender Thomas Brandt from the University of Pennsylvania.
“We wanted to get a quality player in the back and we feel like we did that with Tom Brandt,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. “He was one of our targets.”
Not only is Brandt an imposing presence in the back, the Penn product is also proficient around net. He scored five goals in each of the past two seasons, including a hat trick in his final collegiate game, a thrilling double-overtime win over Harvard.
“He’s a good all around player,” Hackworth said. “He’s a central defender but he’s also played some in the midfield.”
Because of the Union’s proximity to Penn and their strong relationship with Penn head coach Rudy Fuller, Hackworth has seen a lot of Brandt over the past couple of years. The same can be said of Princeton forward Antoine Hoppenot, the former Ivy League Player of the Year who the Union took in the third round with the 39th overall pick.
The Union looked farther away for their other two supplemental picks – Marist midfielder Krystian Witkowski (26th overall) and Santa Clara midfielder Brandon Zimmerman (52nd overall) – but have relationships with both players.
According to Hackworth, Witkowski is someone Union youth technical director Alecko Eskandarian identified as a promising prospect from his days coaching at the college level. And the Union’s Polish-born manager Peter Nowak also knows about Witkowski, who previously played for the Polish U-18 national team.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman, who started every game for Santa Clara in the midfield, was Hackworth’s starting left back at the 2007 U-17 World Cup.
“He’s a very versatile player who can play across the back or in the midfield,” Hackworth said of Zimmerman.
While the Union are high on all four of these players, it might be an uphill climb for any them to make the team’s already-crowded roster. But there is reason for them to be hopeful.
Last year, La Salle’s Ryan Richter earned a professional contract after being taken in the Supplemental Draft.
“All of these guys will have an equal opportunity to make the team,” Hackworth said. “It’s up to them to come into the preseason and prove their worth and compete and fight for a spot in the roster.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org