First, here’s who a few experts have the Sounders taking in the first round…
Simon Borg, MLSSoccer.com: Tesho Akindele, Colorado School of Mines, midfielder/forward
Matthew Doyle, MLSSoccer.com: Kyle Venter, New Mexico, defender
Nate Sulat, MLSSoccer.com: Schillo Tshuma, Maryland, forward (Generation Adidas)
Ives Galarcep, Goal.com: A.J. Cochran, Wisconsin, defender (Generation Adidas)
TopDrawerSoccer.com: Ben Sweat, South Florida, defender (with 13th pick)
Obviously, the last two mocks are not up-to-date with the Sounders’ trade on Wednesday with the Fire, but Kotlov and Sweat could both be options for the club with the 8th pick.
With the Sounders’ recent moves in the center of their defense, it appears they could be set there. With Djimi Traore, Chad Marshall, and now Jalil Anibaba, Seattle has three defenders to patrol the middle. They wouldn’t take another right back with their first pick with DeAndre Yedlin settled there, but a left back is possible to challenge Leo Gonzalez’s position.
The club will likely go for a midfielder or forward with their first pick. A few of the starting positions in midfield appear to already be settled, but another option for Sigi Schmid to pick from would make sense. The Sounders have plenty of attacking options on their roster at the moment, but only Obafemi Martins stands out as a player that has to be started when healthy.
Position-by-position, here is who the Sounders could potentially end up with after their first pick in Thursday’s draft:
Andre Blake, Connecticut (GA): The Jamaican-born goalkeeper is an unlikely choice for the Sounders, but he’s the only goalkeeper that will likely be selected in the first round. Whoever gets Blake will quite possibly have the most athletic keeper in the league. If the Sounders were feeling ambitious, they would have to trade up into the top-five to get the 6-foot-4 Blake. The consensus first-team All-American is projected to go to Vancouver with the third pick by many.
A.J. Cochran, Wisconsin (GA): Even though the Sounders do have three center backs, Cochran wouldn’t be a bad choice. At 6-foot 3 and 195 pounds, the former Wisconsin Badger is an impressive physical presence. Cochran is left-footed and has played with the U.S. U-18 national team in the past. If the Sounders thought highly enough of Cochran, they could take him with the 8th pick and hope he uses his impressive athleticism to become one of the best defenders in MLS.
Kyle Venter, New Mexico: Venter was very impressive at the MLS Combine. Like Cochran, he’s 6-foot-3, which makes for a physical defender that is very good in the air. Venter has four years of starting at New Mexico under his belt, also, and was an All-American three of those seasons.
Damion Lowe, Hartford (GA): Also 6-foot-3, Lowe would be a bit more of a project than Cochran or Venter. The Jamaican is a Generation Adidas player which helps his cause. He represented Jamaica at the CONCACAF 2013 U-20 Championship, also. Lowe could end up being a project the Sounders decide to take a chance on.
Marlon Hairston, Louisville (GA): Hairston is a rare type of center midfielder. He has a unique combination of skill and pace that would be welcome in Seattle’s midfield. If the Sounders are looking for a burst from midfield, Hairston will be the answer. His pace and ability would likely mesh well with Alonso. If he’s still there when the Sounders pick, don’t be surprised if his name is called.
Pedro Ribeiro, Coastal Carolina: At 6-foot-4, Ribeiro has potential to be a great player in MLS. He could contribute right away to whatever teams drafts him at a few different positions in midfield or attack. He scored 11 goals and made seven assists this past season at Coastal Carolina and was a nominee for the MAC Hermann Trophy for the nation’s best collegiate player. The Sounders could use a technically savvy player in midfield, and Ribeiro could be their pick if he’s still there.
Romena Bowie, VCU: Bowie is more like Alonso than the previous two midfielders. He is a physical midfielder and would be ready to play in the center of the field right away. Bowie pressures opposition very well and is very careful in possession. If the Sounders added Bowie they would have a very physical midfield between him, Alonso, and Shalrie Joseph.
Patrick Mullins, Maryland: Like Blake, Mullins won’t like be there for the Sounders to pick. He is a pure goalscorer and has been one of the best in the collegiate game for the past few seasons. If available, Seattle would likely pick him very quickly to play with Martins up front.
Steve Neumann, Georgetown: Neumann could be available with the 8th pick, and if he is would b an intriguing player for the Sounders. He is technically sound and is a great passer in the final third of the field. Paired with Dempsey in an attack midfield spot, Obafemi Martins would have plenty of chances to score.
Schillo Tshuma, Maryland (GA): After an impressive freshman season, Tshuma had a disappointing sophomore season. Still, MLS clubs would love to have him. He could play as a striker or winger professionally and has noteworthy speed. Tshuma is a bit like Martins, but the Zimbabwean might just be worth a risk for the Sounders with their first round pick.
Mamadou Diouf, Connecticut: He could be a bit of a reach with the 8th pick, but Diouf could turn out to be well worth it. Having seen him play a few times, when Diouf gets on the ball and gets momentum going forward he is tough to stop. He could end up being a winger in the MLS that comes infield and scores goals. Physically, Diouf could be a dynamic attacker and has the tools to do so. Like Tshuma, though, he does fade out of games at times and needs to be kept involved. He’s a tempting attacker, though, and could make an MLS club very happy.
If I had to pick, I would say the Sounders end up with Hairston if he’s there. Mock drafts have him being picked anywhere from fifth overall to 10th. Ribeiro would also be a good choice, and not being a Generation Adidas player like Hairston could see him go after the Louisville product. If the Sounders are ambitious and take a defender, I see it being Cochran because he has the biggest upside. In attack, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tshuma or Diouf was the player.
The MLS SuperDraft is probably the most difficult to predict in sports (not just trying to give myself an out). The top-pick in the draft isn’t even a sure-thing, which is a rarity in professional sports. It is a good class of players, though, and there’s a good chance the Sounders get a player with the 8th pick that contributes right away.