Thick binders, laptops, tablets and roundtable discussion right up until time.
That’s what determined the selection of Aaron Simmons and Raymond Lee in Tuesday’s third and fourth round of the MLS SuperDraft.
Invited to sit in on the war room discussion, philadelphiaunion.com got an insider’s look on the decision making process when going through a draft…in this case on via a 21-team teleconference with League officials on the other line.
We can tell you honestly that yes; the process is somewhat of a crap shoot.
But it’s also one in the Union’s case that is well calculated.
Right before the Union selected Simmons, the six-foot center back from UCLA, there were multiple names on the tongue of all five of the Union technical staff members, but it kept coming back to Simmons, an athletic talent that was an All-Pac 12 selection for the Bruins and a guy that literally came down to a question among the coaches on selecting a player with “versatility.”
Names were called out by Union head coach Jim Curtin and technical director Chris Albright and at the ready assistant coaches B.J. Callaghan and Mike Sorber had the breakdown on said player, his upside and potentially where his assets would work best with the club.
The homework was done. It was clearly evident.
On Simmons, Curtin told philadelphiaunion.com:
“In rounds three and four we were looking to add depth defensively. In [Aaron] Simmons, we got a kid that can play center back, is comfortable at defensive midfield and can compete athletically and give us some great depth at those two spots.”
In Lee, the coaches seemed pleased to get a player that is naturally left footed – quite frankly a commodity in itself – has really good speed and someone that is ready to challenge for the left fullback position.
It was also pleasing to know that conceivably if Lee could prove himself in preseason and impress enough to earn a spot in the club’s starting XI; the Union could feature the first ever Ray and Ray pairing on the edges of its defensive front in MLS history.
Okay, perhaps maybe just I found it interesting that the club already has an outside back named Ray in defender Raymon Gaddis; although the notion did receive a quick chuckle from everyone in the room.
“To add a left footed, left [full] back [in Raymond Lee] was important for cover,” said Curtin. “We see a kid with a high upside, really good speed down the left hand side and a left good foot. So again, a guy that will come in and compete for playing time at that left back spot. We are happy with the two guys we got, they were guys we targeted even before the [first two rounds] of the SuperDraft began.”
This time next week preseason for the Union will be in full swing. Players from all parts of the collective soccersphere will undoubtedly be invited into camp (raising the perennial question of "who's that guy" from media and fans alike), the draft picks will look to set the stage early and the core unit of players return hungry to help bring some hardware to the club. But on this day, in a cramped coach’s office, it was just as interesting to watch technical members kick off the process by acquiring players all hope will one day make that aspiration a reality.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org