Sounders’ search for defenders in jeopardy

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJanuary 17, 2013 

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

The bad news is that there might not be a half-dozen players projected to make immediate impacts – and Seattle holds picks Nos. 16 and 35.

Sporting director Chris Henderson said that scenario 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-man) roster every week” and perhaps develop into something 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 Wednesday afternoon, moving up meant dealing with New England (which acquired the top pick from Toronto), Chivas USA (second), Toronto (third pick from Portland, plus the fourth pick from New England) or Vancouver (fifth).

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 a quick drop in production after the top handful of picks. In 2009, Seattle drafted Steve Zakuani with the first overall selection, and he became an immediate starter and star. The later selections of other years yielded less-immediate contributors: David Estrada, the No. 11 pick in 2010; Michael Tetteh, the 20th pick in 2011; and Andrew Duran, the No. 15 selection last year.

The player whom 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. RSL took him early in the 2012 Supplemental Draft.

Even before the first pick is made today, Henderson says the Sounders have acquired one high-quality prospect: defender DeAndre Yedlin, whose résumé includes 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 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.

ADDED TIME

The Sounders open training camp Monday. … Sounders FC will hold open tryouts in Sumner on March 23-24. Information and registration is available at www.SoundersU23.com. … University of Washington women’s soccer coach Lesle Gallimore has joined the W-League Sounders Women as technical director. She will continue her duties with UW. … Seattle Reign FC has the seventh pick in the eight-team National Women’s Soccer League college draft Friday. The Reign also has announced that season-ticket packages will go on sale Jan. 24.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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