All during the NCAA soccer season, Rob Vartughian and John Hackworth drove throughout the Northeast to scout the best college players.
The Philadelphia Union coaches believe all those miles will pay dividends with the addition of three potential steals in the MLS Supplemental draft: Ryan Richter (La Salle), Josh Walburn (Princeton) and Matt Marcin (Providence College).
In a conference call with reporters following the selections Tuesday, Hackworth said he and Vartughian were very familiar with each player – especially first-round pick Richter, who they worried might be selected ahead of the team’s No. 5 slot.
Richter, a Southampton, Pa., native, finished his La Salle career with 28 goals and 69 points. Both totals rank fifth all-time in program history.
“He’s somewhat local and he just started scoring goals like crazy,” Hackworth said. “We think he has great size, great athleticism. He definitely has more soccer in him than people give him credit for. He was a guy that I liked and I’m happy he didn’t get invited to the Combine. I think if he got down there, he would have turned a few heads.”
One player that did participate in the MLS Combine was Matt Marcin, so when he wasn’t taken in the MLS SuperDraft and then slipped to the third round of the Supplemental Draft, the Union gladly scooped him up with the 41st overall pick.
Marcin, who hails from Wilmington, Del., and played for the local club FC Delco, was a first-team All-Big East player after scoring 10 goals for Providence this season.
“We had never heard of Matt going into the Big East tournament,” Hackworth said. “No one ever said anything to us. But he was excellent, a traditional No. 10, a total playmaker. Everything Providence did went through him.”
In between the selections of Richter and Marcin, the Union swiped Walburn, a versatile All-Ivy League player who played just about everywhere for Tigers head coach Jim Barlow over the past four years.
“We see him as being a defender at the next level,” Hackworth said. “Coach Barlow is very high on Josh. He feels like he has an excellent chance of making an MLS team and contributing as a defender. Our evaluation of him and our trust of coach Barlow was really important in this process.”
While all three draftees have local ties to Philadelphia, Hackworth said getting players from the area was not an explicit goal. It just worked out that way.
“It’s important if you can bring local guys in, but that wasn’t a real factor in our decision-making process,” Hackworth said. “We feel like these three guys deserve a chance and they 100 percent have the opportunity to come into the preseason and make our roster. It’s largely up to them. We do feel like we know them. We weren’t just picking off a piece of paper. It’s up to them and we hope they prove us correct.”