College scouting a full-time job for Union technical staff

The Union selected three players in the recent 2012 MLS SuperDraft and then another four players in the MLS Supplemental Draft.

It seems simple enough, but it’s far from an easy process.

The Union’s scouting department and technical staff work countless hours throughout the year to determine the best players in college soccer as well as internationally. It’s a detail-oriented journey that includes scouting hundreds of college games, interviewing players and coaches, taking the information and then paring it down.

Every draft is subjective, so you have to do your homework.

And the Union technical staff takes immense pride in that aspect of the organization.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” Union assistant coach/goalkeeper coach Rob Vartughian told recently. “Next year’s process starts now. It’s an identification process that includes going to games, studying players, having conversations. It’s not an exact science. We feel like we do a good job of taking advantage of a market that we’re in where we can see so many good college games because of where we’re located.

“From August to November, we’re going to a lot of games and you get to see a pretty good game with good players every day. It’s a chance to go to local universities up and down I-95 to ACC teams in Maryland and on to Rutgers, Seton Hall, Monmouth … very good college soccer programs all within reach of where we are. It’s an unbelievably busy time for us.

“We try to do our homework by seeing as many games as possible in advance of the MLS Combine. We take it very seriously.”

The Union selected three players in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft – Generation adidas forward Chandler Hoffman (above right) with the 13th overall pick, defensive midfielder Greg Jordan with the 32nd overall pick and defender Raymon Gaddis with the 35th overall pick.

The Union then selected four players in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft – defender Thomas Brandt (13th overall), midfielder Krystian Witkowski (26th overall, above middle), forward Antoine Hoppenot (39th overall, above left) and midfielder Brandon Zimmerman (52nd overall).

When the Union are playing on the road, the staff also heads out to scout key college games. For instance, when the Union played at Seattle last season, they also went to see UCLA play Washington.

Who was Philadelphia’s top pick in the MLS SuperDraft?

That’s right, Hoffman from UCLA.

“When we go on the road, we’re always looking for a good game to scout,” Vartughian said. “We always see what games are going on. We don’t have these opportunities to see those games on the East Coast, so we try to take advantage of it when we’re traveling during the season. It gives us a better balance of players throughout the country when the draft comes around.”

When the draft comes around, it can still be an unpredictable animal.

In last year’s SuperDraft, the Union were stunned to see Michael Farfan – who had a terrific rookie season – still on the board at No. 23. The same goes for Hoffman at No. 13 in this year’s SuperDraft.

“We feel by the time the drafts come, we have a pretty good idea what the board will look like,” Vartughian said. “You have backup plans, too. You may be thinking one thing and then Michael Farfan is available. You start thinking, ‘How the heck could he be on the board?’ But you make the best decision based on your homework.

"We felt the same way with Chandler this year. We looked at his body of work and felt he should have gone a lot higher. We liked him and we took him. We were very happy, but it was that homework which we used to base that pick on.”