The rationale behind New England's move to number one, plus other tidbits from around the league after the draft.INDIANAPOLIS – New England's decision to make a play for Louisville defender Andrew Farrell occurred a few days before the SuperDraft.
It may have looked like a complex choice from the outside, but it carried fewer complications than one might expect. The technical staffers in New England felt this particular crop of players presented them with two stark choices. Neither of them involved entering draft day with the number four pick.
“The decision was either go up and get the guy you know, someone you've tracked and someone who will be a part of your team right away or move down and see what else you can get,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “That thought process was done early in the week. Everything else has to align. For us to go from four to one, I would argue that we didn't think that was possible earlier in the week.”
External events worked in the Revs' favor. Chivas USA unilaterally decided to unveil Connecticut midfielder Carlos Alvarez as the second overall pick on Monday night. In the aftermath of that revelation, Toronto FC figured it could reasonably deal away the first overall pick for additional allocation money without giving away the right to select Boston College midfielder and Oakville, Ont. native Kyle Bekker with the third overall pick.
All of a sudden, the implausible scenario unfolded according to plan on Wednesday. New England shipped the fourth overall pick and an undisclosed amount of allocation money to the Reds in exchange for the right to take Farrell with the first overall selection.
“A little bit, a little bit, but not completely shocked [that we were able to strike the deal],” Revolution general manager Michael Burns said. “It made sense for Toronto. It made sense for us. Then they continue to trade down a little bit, but it still gave them the third and the fourth picks [at the time]. My guess is Toronto – and I don't want to speak for Kevin [Payne, Toronto FC president and general manager] – but my guess is they had a pretty good feeling who was going to go one. I think everyone on the planet knew who was going to go two. That left them with three and four. So I think they felt good about it as well.”
Perhaps not as satisfied as the Revolution, though. New England ended up with the consensus number one pick in exchange for a likely modest amount of allocation money. An immediate return isn't required based on those metrics, but Farrell's arrival – complete with the resulting impact on the squad – provides enough of a spark to ensure the move yields prompt dividends as the season approaches.
“You can't expect the guy to be Omar Gonzalez,” Heaps said. “By no means do we think he's going to come in and be a starter on day one. There's going to be a learning curve here. There's going to be some competition. I think that's something, as a coach, you want. You want as many guys as you can fighting for as many positions as you can. I think this offseason has been a big move to that, to have guys who are going to bring it every day to fight for their spot.”
Opportunity knocks as Seattle climbs to pluck Zavaleta
Toronto FC continued to slide down the draft order to increase its allocation stockpile as the day progressed. The fourth pick acquired from New England went to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th pick and an undisclosed amount of additional funds. The 10th pick then ended up in Seattle in exchange for the 16th selection and more money.
TFC's earnest bid to increase its spending power paved the way for Sounders FC to climb up into the middle of the first round to land Indiana defender/forward Eriq Zavaleta.
“We were happy with it,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “We tried to trade up in the second round as well, but we were unsuccessful with it. We had somebody in mind there. But being able to get the opportunity to get Zavaleta, we thought was great. We had him in the top four in our minds, so to be able to get him at 10 was a big plus.”
Schmid refrained from slotting Zavaleta into a particular position on draft day (though he did note that he liked the former Hoosier's defensive qualities), but he did note that the Generation adidas star's modest influence on his side's salary budget situation provided an additional enticement to secure his services.
“That helps,” Schmid said. “He goes into those 21-24 slots, that helps. We think we have some minimum salary guys that we think we can push into our top 20. So that helps us out financially. That was the reason – we obviously had to give away a little bit of allocation money to make that trade happen – why we felt, with him being a non-counter, that we were able to do that.”
Montréal shows off its scouting acumen
While Seattle moved up to grab its man, Montréal stood pat to pick New Mexico winger Blake Smith at number eight. Smith's arrival after a relatively poor showing at the MLS Player Combine and the three subsequent picks – UCLA midfielder Fernando Monge (18th overall selection), Louisville midfielder Paolo DelPiccolo (27th overall selection) and Cleveland State goalkeeper Brad Stuver (32nd overall selection) – showed the Impact weren't content to settle for what they saw in south Florida.
Impact sporting director Nick De Santis said the incoming players resulted from the usual dash of collegiate scouting work, but he admitted the club's geographic location presents some hurdles during the evaluation process.
“It does become difficult,” De Santis said. “I do have to thank our staff with Matt Jordan and Mauro Biello. [Former assistants] Mike Sorber and Denis Hamlett were involved. They do a lot of scouting and they have a lot of connections with different coaches. You get different scouting reports. And then this week here confirms certain things. There are always surprises as well.”
Every team must cope with those sorts of peculiarities, though some teams face more hurdles than others. De Santis said the Impact prefers to search for particular types of players in order to increase its chances of success.
“If you're loyal to what profile you're looking for, then it always makes it easier,” De Santis said. “In the end, we want soccer players, technical players with good movement and a good understanding of the game. I think the picks we've chosen all have these qualities.”
Garber exhibits patience on Cosmos stadium plans
MLS commissioner Don Garber fielded the inevitable question about the New York Cosmos' stadium plan at Belmont Park with the perspective of a man who knows how difficult it is to build a stadium in the New York metropolitan area.
“I can't comment on that until it happens,” Garber said as he answered media inquiries between the first and second rounds. “I've been in this business for [13 or 14 years now]. It's a long way away for us and a long way away for them before these stadium projects get finalized and these teams get launched. When that happens, we'll address it. Right now, just an announcement doesn't mean that there's a team hitting the ground a week after Tuesday. And neither with MLS.”
Sporting Kansas City finds its jersey sponsor
Thursday offered a temporary respite in a LIVESTRONG-tinged week for Sporting Kansas City. The acrimonious separation from the cancer charity drew headlines in the buildup to the SuperDraft. Although the reverberations from those concerns may continue to linger, the focus shifted to the club's new shirt sponsorship deal with Ivy Funds.
Sporting Club chief executive officer Robb Heineman said the decision to link up with the local company offered the club a unique opportunity to implement its initiatives into a new realm.
“It really meant everything,” Heineman said. “We want somebody who is local. We wanted somebody who is innovative. And the fact that we found somebody who is local and national at the same time is really key. It's fantastic for us. We were talking about it on the ride over today: it's just going to be great to interweave our associate populations together and do something really different around a jersey sponsorship. That's what we're looking forward to is all of the opportunity this now provides for us.”