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January 12, 2012 at 1:12 AM

Schmid, Henderson preview the draft

The 2012 MLS SuperDraft starts at 9 a.m. Thursday morning and you can catch the first round on ESPN2. Online coverage will be available on MLSsoccer.com and ESPN3.com.

Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid and technical director Chris Henderson shared some with reporters on a conference call earlier this week to preview the draft and here’s the transcript:

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COACH SIGI SCHMID

(What was your impression of the SuperDraft Combine?) “I think overall it’s deeper than last year. But in terms of the top players, it’s probably about the same, which has been a pretty consistent theme over the years.”

(Is there a particular position that’s deeper than normal? Or just all across the board?) “It’s deeper all across the board. There are some outside backs that are deep and some center backs. There are probably a few more, what you would call, attacking midfielders because of the presence of like an Enzo Martinez and people like that then there have been in the past. But just in general really.”

(Can you address the Sounders needs and how this draft class lines up with what you want to get out of Thursday?) “We always come into the draft with the same purpose — trying to get the best player that we can with our pick. You look at needs a little bit and you try to address your needs a little bit, as well, within that. We’ve tried to address some of those needs in some of the signings that we’ve made — with Michael Gspurning as a goalkeeper and Adam Johansson as a right back, and with Marc Burch off the re-entry draft. We try and address needs that way, as well. There’s probably about 10 or 11 players that we really like. If they’re on the board at No. 15, we’ll probably take one of those guys, and that’s irrespective of need. Outside of that it’s going to sound like a smorgasbord. We’re probably looking a little bit in the middle of midfield because with the loss of (Erik) Friberg we need maybe a little more depth there. Central defense, as well, with the retirement of Taylor Graham and, ‘Is Zach Scott going to play inside or outside?’ Outside back is something that interests us because Zach can always play inside. How long is it going to take for [Steve] Zakuani and O’Brian White to come back? So wide midfielders are an interest, as well, and so are center forwards. That basically covers it all, with the exception of maybe goalkeeper, but it’s the reality for us.”

(Have some under-the-radar guys emerged at the combine?) “There are guys that sometimes that come out of nowhere. I’m not going to tell you who they are, so there are guys that we know something about. … We’ve scouted during the season. We’ve seen some of these guys in their college environment; some have trained with us. We’ve seen some when they’ve been in with the national teams, etc. Sometimes the big mistake people make is, if they have a bad combine, they drop off their list and if they have a good combine, all of a sudden they jump on the list irrespective of what they’ve done in the previous three to four years in college. From that standpoint, we want to take all that into account. But certainly there are guys who have jumped in and have stepped themselves up in our minds.”

(Do you still plan on bringing in a veteran MLS goalkeeper to training camp?) “We’re going to look at a couple of goalkeepers. We were happy with what Josh Ford and Bryan Meredith did last year, but we’re probably looking at bringing in a couple of goalkeepers into our camp in addition to them who have played, not necessarily in MLS, but who have played at the professional level.”

(How well do you think you’ve drafted?) “I think we’ve done well. You look at players — Zakuani is obviously with our team. So is Mike Fucito. Michael Seamon is still with our team. Bryan Meredith. Josh Ford. Servando Carrasco. Those are all players that we picked up in the draft, so from that standpoint I think it’s pretty comparable to what other teams do — especially since after the first year we weren’t picking the top 10. When you’re outside of the top five or top 10, it makes it a lot more difficult. … If you can get a couple players out of each draft that can stick with your team, that’s good, especially when you’re picking outside of the top 10. Certainly when you’re inside the top 10, you need to find a guy that hopefully is going to be an impact guy for you very quickly. We haven’t had that option since Year 1, and we did that very well in Year 1 with Steve Zakuani.”

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR CHRIS HENDERSON

(What is it like having all the teams down there at the combine at the same time when it comes to conversing, networking and preparing?) “I think an example is Portland, who had a player, (David) Horst, go into surgery. So it could be that they’re looking for a center back. Those are things that you try and speculate (on when we talk about) potentially moving up the draft with different teams. … Like Sigi said, there are a number of players, similar to last year’s draft, who are pretty clear-cut choices for the top three of four guys. Then part of it is you have to figure out how a player’s going to develop. But these conversations with other teams are things that we’ve had every day that we’ve been here and will continue up until and even during the draft.”

(How do you view the 15th pick? What type of player can you get there?) “I think as Sigi also said, it’s a pretty deep draft. I think we’ve been pretty pleased with this combine. There’s going to be someone there at No. 15 who we see can contribute. A lot of it is up in the air until we see the player at camp and how he fits with the team, and every player develops at different rates. I think we have the coaching staff and the daily environment for players to grow and develop. I think we see some possibilities there with someone that can help us, hopefully get minutes, and fight for a spot every day.”

(How important do you still see the draft with the league’s changes, especially regarding homegrown players? Will it still be important 10 years from now?) “I still think that the draft is important. When I came out of UCLA, there wasn’t even a league yet. But I think each year you see players coming to the draft and contributing to teams. It’s still a viable route for players to develop and grow, and there’s some good coaches and good programs out there that can develop players. With the academy systems now and new homegrown rules, each year I think some of these top players are going to be homegrown players for teams and hopefully MLS keeps developing players within their system. But I think college is still going to continue to feed the league with players each year. I think these players who are coming out are going to contribute right away. There’s a handful of them and there’s always a few surprises who get picked later in the draft and they develop in a good system and good environment and are late bloomers. We hope we can grab a guy who can do it for us.”

(Can you use the combine to judge your academy players vs. guys in draft and evaluate when you might want to sign them?) “Yeah, I think it’s a good benchmark to see. We were lucky enough to be down here at the same time as the U-18 national yeam, the under-20 National Team, so we got a chance to see Sean Okoli and DeAndre Yedlin train and play a scrimmage with the national team. We can see how they compare with those players, and then at the same day we were able to go over to the combine and watch the college players. Our goal is to keep developing players through our system. I think for some of our academy players, going to college and maturing and growing up a little bit and living on their own — I think all those things are important to being a pro. Sometimes it’s difficult to go right in and be in a locker room with a bunch of men, when you are teenager just coming out of the academy system. Some kids need time to mature and grow.”

* * *

Here’s Schmid giving one last update with SoundersFC.com

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