CHESTER, Pa. – The 2010 MLS SuperDraft was both critical and lucrative for the Philadelphia Union, who used their inaugural shot at the top amateur talent to build a team with some excellent building blocks for the future.
By the looks of it, the 2011 draft will be more subdued for the second-year franchise.
“It’s so much different than last year,” Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Last year, we were stocking a team. This year, we’ll be adding, tweaking and rounding out some positions.”
Of course, the Union would love to use their No. 5 pick in Thursday’s draft to add another young star to a group that includes 2010 first-round picks Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney, as well as third-round steal Kyle Nakazawa.
But when looking at the draft board, both Sakiewicz and Manager Peter Nowak made it clear they don’t necessarily need a player who can make an immediate difference, but instead someone who has the capacity to develop for the future.
“We’re not looking for what happens only this year, but next year and the year after that and the year after that,” Nowak said. “It’s a difficult process, but with other situations going, with players we’re trying to sign, that’s going to be a factor as well.”
Looking solely at areas where the team lost players in the offseason, the Union need to plug holes at goalkeeper, defense and outside midfield. But echoing Nowak’s comments, Sakiewicz said reinforcements should be coming with player signings – and soon.
“I think defensively we’re going to look great this year,” Sakiewicz said. “We’ve got player announcements forthcoming that are really going to sure some things up in the back.”
So where does that leave the Union for Thursday’s draft?
If the team is not looking to fill a specific positional need and are not worried about overcrowding a certain position on the field, they may opt to trade down. Or they could select the local hero Corey Hertzog, the Penn State scoring phenom who made it clear he wants to stay close to home and play for the Union.
Or perhaps Akron defender Zarek Valentin – another local – would be a more suitable selection.
Nowak says they’re still trying to figure everything out and that the combine, while helpful, also clouded the overall picture.
“The first day, a couple of players we watched played well,” Nowak said. “Two days later, it was completely the opposite, where players who didn’t perform well were on the top of their games and guys who played really well didn’t perform well. It’s a very difficult process.”
In any case, Philly brass will make sure it leave the Baltimore Convention Center on Thursday with not only some talented players but also ones that know what it takes to wear Union colors.
“Not every player can play for Philadelphia Union because our style is more hard-charging and whistle-to-whistle,” Sakiewicz said. “You have to be very fit. We look for committed players. That narrows the field down a bit.”
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