Sporting KC

Sporting KC’s Vermes plays draft card close to vest

Updated: 2014-01-16T05:25:31Z

By SAM McDOWELL

The Kansas City Star

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes watched the MLS Combine this week with an altered perspective from years past. As the club’s technical director since late 2006, Vermes has annually scouted the combine for the top talent heading into the MLS SuperDraft, which starts at 11 a.m. Thursday.

He doesn’t have that luxury this year.

Sporting KC is without a first-round pick for the first time in Vermes’ tenure after it traded the selection to New England in December 2012 in exchange for midfielder Benny Feilhaber.

That leaves Sporting KC with only one selection over Thursday’s two rounds — No. 38 overall, the final pick of the second round. The third and fourth rounds will take place Tuesday.

Not that anyone is complaining about the lack of a first-round choice.

The trade worked out in Sporting KC’s benefit after the team won the 2013 MLS Cup last month, with Feilhaber playing a key role in the postseason run.

“Yeah, I think I’d say it wound up being a good situation for us,” Vermes said. “It wasn’t a bad move for us to get rid of our first-round draft pick to pick up Benny. We got an experienced player, which you’re not going to get from the draft.”

So what exactly does the club expect to get from the MLS SuperDraft this year?

Well, Vermes prefers to leave that a mystery. He said the club will look to fill certain positions rather than necessarily drafting the best available player — a strategy he has always employed — but he declined to specify what positions those might be.

Sporting KC also holds the 41st, 57th and 76th overall picks Tuesday.

“I don’t want to tip my hand,” Vermes said. “I do know that what we’re looking for is difficult to find. Have we seen it? I’d say yes. But I’m not sure if it will be available when it gets to our pick.”

The talent pool in this year’s draft class is considered less-than-spectacular, but Vermes says it offers a preferred variety.

“There have been certain years where it’s defender or attacking heavy, but this year, there are a few guys on each line, even goal keepers,” Vermes said. “There’s a little bit of everything out there. But the question is going to be who is left when when we’re picking last.”

With the final pick Thursday, that seemingly makes it less likely Sporting KC will find a player who is able to step in and provide an immediate impact on the field. But Sporting KC hasn’t shied away from drafting players who take time to develop. The one exception would be C.J. Sapong, the No. 10 overall draft pick in 2011 who went on to win the rookie of the year award.

“I feel pretty good about my positions on the team at the moment. We have very good quality,” Vermes said. “If you look at our draft picks over the years, the majority have taken a little time to become a regular player. I think C.J. was one of the outliers, where he started right away and had a very good year. A lot of it will depend on the players available and how they can mature within our group.”

• Sporting Kansas City finalized its preseason schedule Wednesday when it announced two additional exhibition matches. It will open its preseason slate with a match against FC Tucson from the Premier Development League on Jan. 28. The match will take place four days after the club arrives in Arizona for its fourth straight year of preseason training at the Kino Sports Complex. Sporting KC also added a Feb. 7 match against Indy Eleven of the North American Soccer League.

To reach Sam McDowell, call 816-234-4869 or send email to smcdowell@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/SamMcDowell11.

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