The Union seemingly had numerous off days during their inaugural season. That’s not entirely true.
Even in the offseason, there isn’t much down time. Not when you’re consistently scouting for talent.
Sure, the games on the field are what people remember. But it’s the evaluation of college players at hundreds of games up and down the East Coast and beyond that can go unnoticed.
Union coach John Hackworth, assistant coach Rob Vartughian – and now head of scouting and player development Diego Gutierrez – spent countless hours watching games in person and on the Internet, as well as talking to various players and coaches across the country.
All of this takes time, but extensive scouting is a vital component on building a roster with quality depth.
On Tuesday, the Union selected three players in the MLS Supplemental Draft, effectively a three-round extension of last week's SuperDraft. Philadelphia came away with midfielder Ryan Richter from La Salle University, defender Josh Walburn from Princeton University, and midfielder Matt Marcin from Providence College. The Union used all three of their selections, picking Richter No. 5, Walburn No. 23, and Marcin No. 41.
While the SuperDraft received most of the publicity, all of that work over the past year paid dividends when choosing players who weren't as highly-touted coming out of college.
“We got a chance to know them and that’s really important,” Hackworth said. “At the end of the day, there is so much to look at aside from their play, such as their character, how they fit in with their teammates. Getting to know them is huge because these are decisions that are huge for us.”
Of the three players, Hackworth said they were unanimous in picking Richter. In fact, he said the club valued Richter higher than any other player available in the Supplemental Draft. They liked everything about the 21-year-old Southampton, Pa., native who was recently named Offensive Player of the Year and Student-Athlete of the Year in the Atlantic-10. Richter scored a league-leading 14 goals in 2010, and in his final two seasons at La Salle, Richter racked up 51 points on a total of 21 goals and nine assists.
“Ryan was an easy pick for us,” Hackworth said. "Ryan is a guy who caught our attention, who is somewhat local and who started scoring goals like crazy. He continued to do so all year long. His high school coach is someone who Rob and I spoke to at length about Ryan. He also came to our tryout in Harrisburg and did well. He has great size and athleticism.
"He definitely has more soccer in him than people probably gave him credit for. In the end, I was pretty happy that he didn’t get to the combine.”
The technical staff did their homework and plucked the three players they believe have a legitimate shot at competing at this level. It started with Richter, continued with Walburn and ended with Marcin.
“We did a huge amount of scouting during the year,” Hackworth said. “Any game (Rob) couldn’t get to, I tried to get to in order to get the knowledge of the talent pool out there.”