Previewing the MLS Draft with Sounders Sporting Director Chris Henderson

OK, OK, so technically it’s called the MLS SuperDraft, but in the interest of keeping the headline short, we’ll leave out the silly full name. And yes, I’m calling the SuperDraft a silly name. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge soccer supporter, I love what has gone on in Seattle with the Sounders, and I hope the entire league continues to grow. All of that being said, however, I don’t know why MLS feels the need to call its draft Super, particularly when it produces less top-end talent than the drafts of any other major American sport.

Wow, sorry, got a little off topic there. On to the draft and the conference call Henderson had this afternoon with local reporters. Oh, one more aside, in case you were thinking, “Wait, I thought Chris Henderson was the technical director, not the sporting director, what gives?” Well his title did change, though his duties have not. OK, now, onto the interview.

Sounders FC has a pick in each of the two rounds of the SuperDraft, which begins at 9 a.m. PT on Thursday. Seattle picks 16th and 25th overall, then will have five more picks next Tuesday in the supplemental draft. Henderson said this draft is most talented on defense, particularly at center back. That’s not a bad thing for Sounders FC considering it traded its best defender, Jeff Parke, to Philadelphia this offseason. As is usually the case in an MLS draft, most of talent capable of making an immediate impact is at the very top of the draft, so Seattle is most likely looking at finding somebody they hope can develop, though Henderson didn’t rule out the possibility of trading up if the situation were right.

“Yeah, we’ve had several discussions with teams and we’ve weighed all the options,” Henderson said. “Part of it maybe is who’s there with the teams we’re talking to. The top-five picks is probably where you have to move to (to find an impact players). We’ll have some changes on our roster; we want to make sure that we keep some cohesion with the group. So there are a lot of things we’ve been weighing into that decision. I still think we can get a guy at the 16th pick, who could battle to make the 18 (game-day) roster every week.”

But even if Seattle doesn’t trade up or luck out and land an impact player at No. 16, that doesn’t mean the team won’t go the offseason without adding a top-end young player to the roster. The Sounders recently signed Seattle native DeAndre Yedlin as a homegrown player, and the 19-year-old right back who played at Akron, were he subject to the draft, would probably be one of the first players taken in Thursday’s SuperDraft. (For a bit of background, teams can sign a player without subjecting him to the draft if he trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program. Yedlin played for the Sounders Academy for two years before going to Akron).

“For me, DeAndre would’ve been probably a top-three pick in the draft,” Henderson said. “I really think he would’ve been one of the top players here (at the draft combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). He has become a very good player at Akron. We see a bright future for him, and he’s a well-spoken kid, we’ve known him for years through our academy coaches, so we have a feeling that we’re really nailing a top-three pick right now signing him.”

And finally, asked to give an overview of the offseason thus far, Henderson said, “”I think it’s about what we expected. We knew we had some cap constraints, and we’ve been working on a lot of different issues with that. I had an opportunity to go scout overseas for about six weeks total, and had an opportunity to scout with Sigi (Schmid). . Anytime you get to scout with the head coach, it’s a great opportunity. So we feel really good about those developments. I think we’re working on a few things that can really help our team, so we’ll see how things develop. We all know how things work in soccer, and things are changing every day, but I feel like it’s been a busy offseason for the whole staff. We’re all excited to get back at it, but I feel like it’s been very productive for us. I think by roster compliance date, we’re going to look pretty good.”

You can watch the draft on ESPN3.com or on the league’s Youtube.com channel. I’ve embedded the video channel, though there’s nothing there yet, but if you want to bookmark this post, you should be able to check out the draft there starting Thursday morning.

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