Even with three picks in the first round of this year's MLS SuperDraft, Sporting Kansas City's strategy remained the same: Address the club's wants, but don't expect anyone to fill immediate needs.
“The pressure's not on any one of these guys to be a starter right away,” manager and technical director Peter Vermes told reporters during a conference call after Thursday's first and second rounds. “You've been around long enough with what we do. Unless we're forced to by some outside circumstances – whether it be injuries or other things – our objective is not to put a player in a situation where he's going to be unsuccessful.”
That said, Vermes added that this year's first-rounders – Cal midfielder Connor Hallisey, Akron right back Saad Abdul-Salaam and Clemson left back Amadou Dia – will get every chance to change his mind.
“You'd be a magician or a fortuneteller to be able to have all the answers of what the future holds for any player you bring into this team,” he said. “What I'm saying is that it's always nice to be in a position where you don't have to force the guy onto the field when he's not necessarily ready.
“Now, I can't tell you that these guys aren't ready, because now they're going to come in and start training with us, playing with us and I'll see everything about them at a much closer level than I would at any other time. So from that point of view, their preseason is going to be a way to evaluate all they bring to us and what we're actually trying to do with them going forward.”
Hallisey, taken with the 10th overall pick that was acquired via the trade that sent C.J. Sapong to Philadelphia, said he's prepared to be patient if he has to.
“For me, I wanted to come into a place where I was valued, whether that value is playing right away or being under a guy’s wing and learning as much as I can from veterans who are already there,” Hallisey said during a conference call. “I’m excited. Sporting KC is a great fit and they believe in me. Waiting a year (to play) and learning from those guys is an awesome opportunity, so I have no problem with that.”
Abdul-Salaam, taken 12th with Sporting's natural pick, said the Zips' up-and-down style of play suited his game and would help him make the transition to MLS.
“I’m definitely a more attacking-minded outside back. I like to get up and down the field, I like the 1-v-1 battles and getting back and shutting people down. I definitely think my style of play at Akron is going to translate to Sporting Kansas City. I’m fit and I’m ready to get there to play in front of that great fan base.”
Dia, whose selection in the 20th slot completed the trade that sent Teal Bunbury to New England before the 2014 season, also likes to get into the attack. And, he told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday, being one of only two natural left backs on the roster – behind Seth Sinovic – also boosts his hopes of seeing minutes this year.
“I know college is a lot different from MLS,” he said. “I know I've got a lot to learn, but then again, I'm still going to do everything I can to get a starting position and help the team any way I can.”
All three players have the potential to make solid contributions after their acclimation periods, Vermes said. He sees Hallisey as a wide player who can use his speed to get down the line and sends balls into the box, and thinks both Abdul-Salaam and Dia are suited for Sporting's penchant of using fullbacks that make overlapping runs into the offensive end.
Kansas City made another move Thursday, swapping their second-round pick, the 30th overall, to Houston in exchange for the rights to midfielder Servando Carrasco.
“It only made sense for us to try that opportunity and see if we can work out a contract,” Vermes said. “If we can, great. If not, we were sticking with the right players for us. We feel that we came out of the draft in a really good position.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.