Union technical staff use SuperDraft positions as pawns to acquire money, top talent


The homework was done, it was evident.

In the second go-around of Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft for Union manager John Hackworth, the moves were more methodical, came with a purpose and gave the boisterous crowd of Union supporters that packed the Grand Ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center a great deal to cheer about.

With the No.1 overall pick after a trade for allocation with D.C. United, the Union took Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake. Blake now gives the Union its second goalkeeper on the roster and is a player that can push and will contend for the No. 1 spot alongside Zac MacMath. A Jamaican international, Blake, 24 becomes the first goalkeeper to be taken with the No. 1 selection in MLS history.

“I didn’t see this coming it’s a big surprise, but what can I say,” Blake told philadelphiaunion.com. “Every player dreams of being the No. 1 overall pick and for me to do it as a goalkeeper it’s a great feeling and a great achievement.”

The club them complemented Blake with three other players in midfielder Pedro Ribeiro and defenders Kevin Cope and Robbie Derschang. This of course did not arrive before some serious wheeling and dealing to acquire cash from clubs as the Union gave its No. 6 natural selection to FC Dallas for Dallas’ 10th pick and allocation money. The Union then traded that pick to Toronto for cash in exchange for Toronto’s selection at No. 15. Ribeiro was the next player chosen at 15. Ribeiro, drafted out of Coastal Carolina, and described by experts as an “outlier” played for Union assistant Brendan Burke at developmental affiliate at Reading United and knows the club’s technical staff extremely well. Burke noted that Ribeiro was hampered by an injury that saw him struggle during last weekend’s MLS Combine, but it’s his potential that made him a strong choice.

“Pedro is a guy that I worked with for about three months last season and is a player that brings a lot to the table,” Burke said. “He brings size and creativity and he’s an honest kid. Look, he told me [at Combine] that he was not 100 percent fit and he was carrying something out of the college season, but I think if we can correct we are ultimately going to be very happy with him.”

Looking to solidify itself in the defensive department, the Union nabbed Cope and Dershang in the second round, the latter a natural left footed defender. In all, a solid day for the Union, who acquired cash in a continued quest to bring quality players into the club before the close of the international transfer window which closes Jan. 31.

“Leveraging those picks to get cash is important because this is a year where we need to add important starting pieces to our midfield and you need that cash to do that,” said Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz. “We have budgeted large amounts already, but every dollars helps. So that was good, plus we ended up getting Ribeiro which is a player that we targeted in the No. 6 spot and still ended up getting him. I thought cash, first round pick, good players…not a bad first round.”

The upside was felt amongst the Union fan base as well, many who expressed their thoughts on the Union’s day via Twitter.

Another fan added: 

And lastly perhaps this supporter had it best, succintly capsuling the day with this tweet:

The Union will have a chance to make some more moves in Rds. 3-4 of the MLS SuperDraft to be held Jan. 21 via conference call.

What did you think of the Union’s day? Leave you comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

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