Key Word from Seattle Expansion Draft: Upside

Following the 2008 MLS Expansion Draft, Chris Henderson of the Seattle Sounders seemed pleased with Wednesday’s bounty. The club added 10 new names to the four it had already signed as the team begins to take shape.
With the MLS expansion draft done and gone, Seattle Sounders technical director Chris Henderson broke down some of the players the team acquired in a teleconference on Wednesday.

Henderson and general manager Adrian Hanauer both stressed that they were looking for balance in the draft. To some extent they found it. They collected players with versatility, fair wages, and a battling usefulness. The haul was a young one with an average age just under 25, but Henderson made it clear that he saw a lot of upside in the squad.

One of the players commonly asked about was New York Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke. Parke was part of the Red Bulls drug scandal in 2008 as well as a leaky defensive line, but Henderson was more interested in discussing the player for his positive individual qualities.

“He’s a great player,” Henderson said of Parke. “He’s got experience. He’s very athletic. He’s got tremendous upside.”

Parke is a very solid defender, who could still turn into a dominant force in MLS, but he will still be suspended when the 2009 season begins. The 26-year-old is also out of contract and is not obligated to sign with Seattle. Even if he does, he will demand a decent wage with the threat of leaving for Europe as a free agent as his bargaining chip.

Another player who Henderson seemed to think highly of was Columbus Crew midfielder Brad Evans who the Sounders selected with their last pick in the expansion draft.

“He an exciting central player, I think he was a very big part of Columbus’ championship run,” Henderson said. “He has a great desire to improve as a player.”

Evans, whose end-to-end work earned him a regular spot on the field for the MLS champions, should be a vital part of the 2009 Sounders. His defensive cover could be a key component to getting the best out of designated player Freddy Ljundberg.

But the decision to pass over fellow Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven for Evans seemed to be the choice of a known commodity versus a lesser know player with major talent.

One other curious player decision was passed off as a move toward upside for the team. Rather than selecting 21-year-old midfielder Johann Smith from Toronto, Seattle went with 24-year-old forward Jarrod Smith. The move left many scratching their heads wondering if Seattle had accidentally selected the wrong Smith.

“I think (Jarrod Smith) is hungry to prove himself,” said Henderson explained of the decision to select the New Zealand international. “He is a versatile player. He’s a strong target-type forward, but he can also play other positions. We see a tremendous upside with Jarred.”

Overall Henderson thinks the Sounders are rounding out nicely.

“I think we’re in a very good situation,” he said. “I think the balance of the team at the moment is very good.”

Oh, and they've got tremendous upside.

--Allen Ramsey, Goal.com