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January 15, 2013 at 1:53 PM

A stop and chat with Sounders FC sporting director Chris Henderson

henderson mug.jpgLocal reporters got a chance to catch up with Sounders FC sporting director Chris Henderson — notice the title has changed from “technical director” — regarding the upcoming MLS SuperDraft on Thursday and other offseason developments.

Here is a full transcript:

* * *

(Where do you see the strengths in this year’s draft class and how does that corresponding to the team’s needs?) “I think for this year’s class, I would say the strengths are probably in the back and the defensive positions. And then secondary, there’s a few attacking options, as well. But I would say the top of the class is probably in the center back position, but then there’s a bit of a drop off after probably four or five guys that kind of stood out a little more than the others. For us, those are positions we’re looking at. Adding something to our defensive line is a position we’re looking at. But the conversation at our number at No. 16 and 35 is, ‘Are you looking for best player? Are you looking at positional fit?’ It’s depending on what’s on the board.”

(Do you feel like giving away the player you want to pick like the Chivas USA coach?) “Yeah, that was an interesting one. No, I think we’d like to keep that until draft day.”

(It’s been no secret that you guys are cap constrained. Does that mean you might look to someone in the draft for help right away as opposed to a player who might need more development?) “That’s part of it, too. If you’re able to move up in the draft and draft one of those players who you think can come in and maybe make an impact and get substantial playing time this year, that’s a different scenario then being at No. 16 and getting a guy who you hope can break in — maybe for example what Andy Rose did for us last year. You hope he can develop in your system. So those are things we take into account. We look at the (Generation Adidas) players who are here, but we also look at maybe the 16 number being a player for the future and a player who can develop and maybe can really contribute two-, three years down the line.”

(So have you looked at potentially moving up?) “Yeah, we’ve (had) several discussions with teams. We’ve weighed all the options. Part of it maybe is kind of, ‘Who’s there?’ with the teams we’re talking to, and … one of the top-five picks is probably where you have to move to. We’ll have some changes in our roster, (so) we want to make sure that we keep some cohesion with the group. 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, a guy who can battle to make the (18-man gameday) roster every week.”

(Every year, there’s also a debate about how important the draft is. Where do you fall in that discussion, particularly on a team that’s always drafting near the end of the first round?) “First, we’re really happy that our pick is toward the bottom of the first round every year, because we’re performing the year before. So we want to keep it that way. We’d like to have the last pick in the first round every year. But I think unless you’re really highlighting a guy you want to go after in the draft and make trades from your current roster or give allocation money to move up and really get a guy you think will come in and start right away… you’re kind of hoping to get a guy — as I said, Rose is an example — who you get and you take a chance and he develops in your system and does well for you.”

“A little bit off topic, we feel like there are some future homegrown players for us that would go pretty high in this draft. We feel really happy about the development of our homegrown players in the next couple years.”

(How does having a U-23 team help with scouting?) “I think (Darren Sawatzky, U-23 coach, director of youth development) did a good job last year. We would like to get more of our homegrowns than we had last year playing for that team and coming back. I think having them here, having the opportunity to see them around our first team and get a comparison, and Kurt Schmid has done a fantastic job during the year bringing college players in for training during their breaks. So to get two-, three looks at these guys, with the combine, with all the scouting we do during the college season, and then seeing them in Seattle, it really helps us get a full evaluation of these players. So that U-23 team is going to be really important for us because there’s always that gap kind of between the reserve team and the U-18 academy team. Now there’s a spot to fill that and monitor those players.”

(Where do you think DeAndre Yedlin have gone in the draft this year?) “For me, DeAndre would’ve been probably a top-three pick in the draft. I really think he would’ve been one of the top players here. 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 this feeling that we’re really getting a top-three pick right now signing him.”

(What have been your thoughts on how the offseason has gone and has it gone as expected?) “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 (coach Sigi Schmid), which is very hard to do, as you know, with the schedule. But 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 feel like it’s been very productive for us, and I think by roster compliance date we’re going to look pretty good.”

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