Philadelphia Union’s technical staff is currently in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the MLS Combine, an annual opportunity for clubs to take one final look at SuperDraft hopefuls. The 2010 draft was fruitful both in quality and quantity for the Union, headlined by first round draft picks Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney. Kyle Nakazawa proved to be a late steal, challenging for a starting spot for much of the season after falling to the third round.
With over 70 MLS prospects set to showcase their talents ahead of Thursday’s draft, Philadelphia’s technical staff must shape a different strategy with only three selections this year. Barring any late trade activity, the Union will select at 5, 23 and 41 overall after MLS officials recently decided to trim the draft to three rounds rather than four.
“In my opinion, this is one of those unheralded and sneaky drafts,” Union coach John Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com on Friday. “A lot of people are saying it’s not the strongest class of college prospects and young players coming out, but experience tells you that there are going to be some really important players that come out of this whole process. I think that just means teams have to do a little more work and maybe have a few more evaluations and a few more meetings to really make good decisions.”
Understandably, Hackworth was coy when discussing specific draft targets and positions the club is valuing more than others.
“We have specific targets based on our needs,” he said. “If there is a player that we feel is so good at a position (we don’t value as highly), we’ll have to make some tough decisions on that, but we have specific needs in this draft and that is how we are approaching it at this point.”
While most of the draft chatter is concentrated on those expected to have their names called early, there are a handful of players in every draft who outperform their draft stock. In recent years, for instance, Omar Cummings, Geoff Cameron and Jonathan Bornstein have fallen past the first two rounds.
“I think a lot gets said about the top of the draft and the top guys and I think that tends to leave a lot of guys who don’t get a lot of attention,” Hackworth continued. “Then again, if you look back historically, and in my experience, there are always guys out there who you need to do your homework on because they are going to surprise everybody.”
There will likely be a few players in that boat in Florida, but Hackworth doesn’t expect the club to be blindsided too frequently, if at all. After all, the Union have been scouting the college scene extensively for months and following a number of players’ progress for years.
“It’s an opportunity to see some of these guys and an opportunity for our staff to sit down,” Hackworth explained. “We have done a ton of scouting, in particular [assistant coach] Rob [Vartughian] -- he has done a lot of scouting with the college players. Rob has done a lot, I have done a lot. [Manager] Peter [Nowak] gets to see some of these guys from time to time, in a lot of video, but now he gets to see them in person.
“We have the opportunity, even, to sit down with some of these guys and do some interviews and get to know them personally. From that perspective, we try to narrow in on the guys we really want and make some key decisions going into the draft next week.”
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