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Sounders head into draft feeling one player ahead

Post by Don Ruiz / The News Tribune on Jan. 16, 2013 at 9:06 pm with No Comments »
January 16, 2013 9:14 pm

For Sounders FC, the good news is that the strength of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft aligns with the club’s top need: defenders.

The bad news is that there may not be a half-dozen players projected to make immediate impact — while Seattle holds picks 16 and 35.

Sporting director Chris Henderson said that has led the club to consider moving up in the draft, which begins at 9 a.m.

“We’ve had several discussions with teams,” he said in a Tuesday conference call. “We’ve weighed all the options.”

If the Sounders’ remain at No. 16, Henderson said the pick could yield “a guy who can battle to make the 18 roster every week” and perhaps eventually develop into more. Meanwhile, he said a top-five pick might produce a player who could contribute now – for example, moving into the center back spot that came open when Jeff Parke was traded to Philadelphia.

As of now, that means dealing with New England (which acquired the top pick from Toronto), Chivas USA (second), Toronto (the third pick acquired from Portland, plus the fourth from New England) or Vancouver (fifth). (Full draft order here.)

Mock drafts show the top handful of prospects include defenders Walker Zimmerman of Furman, Andrew Farrell of Louisville and Eriq Zavaleta of Indiana, along with midfielders Carlos Alvarez of Connecticut and Kyle Bekker of Boston College.

If the Sounders stay at 16, two analysts on an MLSsoccer.com mock draft predicted the selection of defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes of Washington, while a third went with defender Eric Schoenle of West Virginia.

“There’s a bit of a drop-off after probably four or five guys who kind of stood out more than the others,” Henderson said. “… At our numbers – at 16 and 35 – are you looking for the best player, or are you looking for positional fit?”

The Sounders short draft history reflects that a quick drop in production after the top handful of picks. In 2009, Seattle drafted Steve Zakuani with the first overall pick, and he became and immediate starter and star. The later selections of other years yielded less-immediate contributors: David Estrada, the No. 11 pick in 1010; Michael Tetteh, the No. 20 pick in 2011; and Andrew Duran, the No. 15 selection last year.

The player Henderson cites as what the club might hope to duplicate with the 16th pick is Andy Rose, who started 11 league games and appeared in 23 after being acquired from Real Salt Lake, which took him early in the 2012 Supplemental Draft.

“You’re kind of hoping to get a guy (like Rose) who you get and you take a chance and he does well in your system,” Henderson said.

Even before the first pick is made, Henderson says the Sounders have acquired one quality prospect: defender DeAndre Yedlin of O’Dea High School, the University of Akron, and Sounders U-23. Under the MLS’ Homegrown Player rule, the graduate of the Sounders’ academy system was allowed him to sign his first contract with Seattle without being subject to the SuperDraft.

“For me, DeAndre would have been probably a top-three pick in the draft,” Henderson said. “I really think he would have been one of the top players here. He has become a very good player at Akron. We see a bright future for him.”

The Sounders also hold five picks in the MLS Supplemental Draft, which will be held Tuesday.

Camp opens Monday.

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