The first and second impressions have already been made.
With the MLS Combine officially over and Thursday’s SuperDraft fast approaching, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes and his staff are busy trying to make the final, crucial judgments about the 2011 draft class.
Vermes said he doesn’t consider the Combine the final word when it comes to the draft prospects of specific players, but describes it as merely the last check in the overall process.
“It’s there to confirm a lot that we’ve already seen and that we already think, or to say … ‘This is an indication that this isn’t the right guy,’” Vermes said. “You get a chance to see these players with a bunch of different guys, how fast they acclimate to it and how they play with some other pretty good players.”
No matter who stood out and who faltered this week in Florida in front of MLS decision makers, Vermes said plenty of promising prospects and potential impact players will be available in the first round of Thursday’s draft.
Who is up for grabs after those 18 picks and what kind of drafting strategy teams will settle on remains the mystery. Sporting hold the 10th overall pick, as well as picks No. 32 and 46.
“Every year, it’s the same thing,” Vermes said. “People say, ‘Oh, there aren’t going to be a lot of good kids available.’ Then they hem and haw around that. There are a lot of good players available in this draft. The question now with 18 teams is what is going to happen in the second round and how that is going to go.”
[inline_node:325420]Though much of the focus during the combine was understandably on the games, Vermes said the technical staff met with some of the players they are considering picking away from the field to get a read on their personalities.
Still, all the knowledge and preparation gathered leading up to this point can only set the ground work for an overall draft strategy, which essentially boils down to need versus upside. That strategy is made all the more complex by Kansas City’s position in the first round.
When Vermes makes his first pick, it’s sure that some of Kansas City’s top-rated players will be off the board, forcing the coaching staff down their depth chart and into more complex decisions.
Last January, Kansas City’s clear need was in the attacking third. When Akron standout and Hermann Award-winner Teal Bunbury dropped to the fourth spot, Sporting snatched him up, which proved to be an inspired choice.
It would seem the obvious place for reinforcements this offseason would be in defense, where the team has parted ways with Jimmy Conrad, Jonathan Leathers, Aaron Hohlbein and Nick Kounenakis in one way or another.
But Vermes cautioned that even Bunbury had his growing pains and took months to adapt to the professional game before showing flashes of his potential and many draft choices take even longer.
That knowledge, combined with the advent of the reserve league, means that although Kansas City’s needs seem clear, Sporting could go just about anywhere with their picks when Thursday rolls around.
“I know this is going to sound really vanilla,” Vermes said, “but we need a guy at every position outside of goalkeeper.”