Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Draft Day

The 2015 MLS SuperDraft is upon us. Unlike last year when Sporting KC had a fairly uneventful day, not making a single selection until the very last pick of the day, Sporting will be quite busy tomorrow. Of the 42 picks scheduled to be made tomorrow, Kansas City has four of them. Three are in the first round. Kansas City will pick 10th (CJ Sapong trade), 12th (natural pick), and 20th (Teal Bunbury trade) in the first round and will add one more tomorrow with the 30th pick in round two. The rest of the draft will take place next week via conference call.

Plenty of decisions will be made by Peter Vermes and his staff tomorrow in Philadelphia. One will be whether they keep all of their picks. Robb Heineman hinted a few weeks ago that KC was likely to be involved in a trade involving at least one of their draft picks. Whether KC does that to move up and try to grab a Generation Adidas player or uses it to try to grab an established player is unknown.

The Generation Adidas class only have five players in it and with their roster exemption, one falling to 10 seems to be a bit of a stretch. Canadian Cyle Larin seems to be the consensus number one pick in the draft and from there the likes of Cristian Roldan and Romario Williams could go off the board. And just like that 3/5ths of the GA class is gone, leaving just goalkeeper (an area KC doesn't need) Alex Bono and U20 central defender Conor Donovan. There is some senior talent available as well, with the likes of Khiry Shelton and Nick Besler expected to go pretty high.

I know a lot of people will ask about Besler, Matt's younger brother and whether he'll fall to Kansas City. From reports out of the combine, Nick Besler had a very good combine and showed well for himself. It now seems that it would take Sporting trading up to be able to grab Besler. And while I think Besler would eventually come good, I think Sporting has bigger needs than at central midfield heading into the draft.

The depth of this draft though is something that has been questioned by a number of people that really follow college soccer. A lot of the more talented underclassmen who would have been Generation Adidas players stayed in school. While other top tier talent is starting to come through MLS academy teams giving those team home grown player rights.

With the talent that is there though Vermes seems to feel that the deepest areas are with forwards and in centerback. Both are areas that KC could look to add some depth to the team. When it comes to forwards, KC has Dom Dwyer, Claudio Bieler, and Krisztian Nemeth to play in the middle and Graham Zusi, Jacob Peterson, Bernardo Anor, and Nemeth to play on the wings. KC could stand to pick up a winger that could fight for time if Sporting won't be bringing in another starter to play on the wing opposite from Zusi. Especially with the departures of CJ Sapong and Soony Saad, it could once again be a winger by committee opposite Zusi.

As for center back, Kansas City learned the hard way last year the need for depth there due to injuries and fatigue. Currently the team has four center backs under contract with Matt Besler, Ike Opara, Jalil Anibaba, and Erik Palmer-Brown. They have a contract offer to Kevin Elllis who filled in as an emergency center back last year as well. Getting another center back early may not be a bad idea, but for me there are more pressing needs for Kansas City although questions can be asked of Opara's long term health.

For me, I agree with Matt Doyle on KC's more pressing needs. Specifically I feel that KC needs to get some left back depth for Seth Sinovic. No player has played as many games over the last two years as Sinovic has. And while he's a work horse he needs a break occasionally. Based on comments from people that follow the game closer there are a couple left backs that could be available for Sporting to choose from. Either Otis Earle or Andy Thoma seem to be considered high quality left backs that could make the jump. From the reading I've done on the two, Earle seems the more likely of the two to really fit into Vermes' scheme with the 4-3-3.

As for the second area, left wing, I feel that's an area that KC needs to address, but unless the right talent is there, it's an area that I think KC could fill elsewhere. I've seen the names like Miguel Aguilar, Conor Hallisey, and Andy Craven.

For me though, a bigger area of need than left wing would be right back. Kansas City still doesn't have Ellis under contract, and the questions on whether Igor Juliao will return remain. Without those two, KC is down to Chance Myers, who is coming off a major injury, and Anibaba, who could be called upon to play center back depending on Opara's health. Unfortunately from the stuff I've been reading there's not a lot of available right backs in the early rounds. The best may be converted center back, and former FC Dallas home grown player, Boyd Okwuonu. Dallas actually had their home grown claim on Okwuonu turned down because he's from Oklahoma, a state that is Sporting KC's territory according to MLS.

From there I think you could look at grabbing a center back like Tim Parker, but I think the other three areas above are much more of a need area at this moment for Kansas City to look to take care of.

For those curious, here are three links to mock drafts of people that pay more attention to college soccer than I. MLS Soccer, Soccer by Ives, and Top Drawer Soccer.

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