Reporters got a chance to speak with Sounders FC assistant coach and scout Kurt Schmid on a conference call Tuesday. Schmid was available to preview the upcoming MLS SuperDraft, assess the state of college soccer and speak a little bit about recent homegrown signings Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar.
Here is a full transcript:
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(What are your impressions of this year’s draft class?) “I think it’s similar to last year in terms of there are maybe fewer difference-makers than some years past, but I think you can still find guys, and once you get past the first handful of picks or so, I think there are a lot of solid players there and the quality is pretty consistent for a bit. Overall, positionally, I think the fullbacks are maybe a little thin. I think center backs, there’s quite a few of them. Those are sort of the big positional reads that I have.”
(How do you think the draft class aligns with the team’s needs?) “I think it matches our needs fine. We try to pick the guy who we feel is the best player, but all things being equal talent-wise, then yeah, we’ll pick a guy that we feel we need a little more. I think getting a young center-back in would be nice. I think at the fullback spots we’re OK with Leo (Gonzalez) and DeAndre (Yedlin) and Dylan (Remick) right now. I think if we could find another midfield depth (player) right now, that would be nice, as well. But you know obviously with some homegrown signings in (forward Sean Okoli and midfielder Aaron Kovar), those are two guys that would essentially be draft picks that are already on the team, so we don’t need to worry about those two spots. We’ve essentially already drafted a midfielder and a forward.”
(What can you tell us about Okoli and Kovar, and do you have a sense of where they might have been drafted?) “It’s tough to say where they might’ve gone because a lot of that goes sort of into the hype maybe some kids get in the media and whatnot. I guess based on that, Sean might’ve gone a little higher than Aaron because he was in the ACC and all that stuff. Aaron was only at Stanford for two years, so maybe he didn’t have enough chance to build up a big following. It’s hard to say where they might’ve been drafted, so I guess that’s my only thing, that Sean probably would’ve got drafted ahead of Aaron in that respect.
“Sean is a good forward. He’s done well as a target at Wake (Forest). He’s had three good seasons there playing for a good coach in a good conference. He’s developed his game very well. He’s showed us at times that he has a little bit of versatility in terms of maybe being able to play in midfield, as well. But he’s a good prospect. We’d be happy if we had gotten him in the draft, so we’re ecstatic to get him as a homegrown.
“Aaron has done a great job in his two years. When he’s come back and trained with us, he’s always been an impressive kid to have in camp. His coachability has always been the thing that kind of impresses itself on me when I work with him. He’s had two years at Stanford and he’s a very smart, logical kid. After discussing his options, we just kind of felt it’d be a good time for him to come out and try and take his game to the next level with us.”
(We see the quality of MLS improving every year. Do you see college soccer making similar improvements to be able to produce contributors in a growing league?) “It’s tough to say. The thing with college, I think, is there are so many schools and so many teams even just in Division I that all the focus ends up being on the tournament. But there are so many schools that the talents gets stirred out. You always end up with guys at small schools that have some talent and can maybe make something of themselves, but it’d be better if you can condense that. But that’s a whole other conversation … with the NCAA and how to best develop players, etc.
“I think the thing that is happening in terms of the draft is really the homegrown players and, to a certain extent, as well, some of the youth national team kids opting to go abroad rather than going to college or signing with MLS. Those are the two things that are serving to maybe weaken the draft classes to a certain extent, at least at the top end. I think the mid-range talent is still there and there are still a lot of guys there who become solid MLS players.”
(Do you have a sense on how much Okoli and Kovar might be able to contribute?) “That’s a very tough call because sitting here without them having really been in that preseason environment or going through a preseason with us, it’s really tough to say. If I had to project… I couldn’t. I don’t think I could. Sitting here at this point last year with DeAndre, I’d probably say we felt he’d be a solid back-up right back, and he knocked our socks off and obviously did very well. I hope the same for both of those guys, but we’re not expecting either one of them to come in and start 34 games for us next year.”
(How nice is it to have had an academy system that has produced three players for you, though?) “That’s fantastic, especially when you’re a team like we’ve been, as one of the very few teams to have made the playoffs the past five years, every year. So we don’t often find ourselves drafting 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. To be able to get guys who can make an impact, or at least become depth on our roster, without having to draft them, and then being able to use those draft picks to get other guys that can compete in that depth, that’s just a boost to our team and our ability to build depth on the overall roster.”
(Does getting rid of the MLS Supplemental Draft have any effect on you guys?) “I don’t why they had two different names, either. That’s a mystery that I haven’t been able to solve. They’re still going to split it up, so it’s (semantics), I think, at this point. Last year, I thought of the draft as essentially six rounds. This year, I think of it as four. Not a big change from that respect.”
(Why did you allow other teams at your own combine in Las Vegas this year?) “We always feel it’s good to work with other teams in our league, but when you look at Vegas, one of the things that I think maybe helps us get some of the top talent — or as much of the top talent as we can to come — is we thought it might help if we had one or two other teams there watching. From a competitive standpoint, we felt beauty is in the eye of the beholder enough that it wasn’t going to be a massive issue for us. Because, again, the (Generation adidas) guys don’t come and the top, top guys aren’t there, so we’re really looking at depth type of guys. Opinions can vary, so we took two teams that wanted to work with us. It made sense for us from that standpoint and it made sense for us financially. It helped take off a financial burden, which that combine is for us, and we didn’t think the downside was very big.”