Inside a large room at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Adnan Gabeljic waited more than three hours to hear his name called during the MLS SuperDraft. He occasionally stood up to pace around the room, he later recalled, while watching MLS teams cycle through six trades and 37 draft selections — none including his name.
On the final pick of the day, the wait was finally over.
Sporting Kansas City drafted Gabeljic with the last pick of the MLS SuperDraft second round Thursday. The 38th overall selection was the club’s only pick of the first day of the draft, which will conclude with the third and fourth rounds Tuesday.
“It was easily one of the greatest moments of my life,” Gabeljic said of the moment he was drafted. “I’m very excited right now.”
The MLS SuperDraft was full of league activity, but Sporting KC remained an idle spectator.
The club did not own a first-round pick. It traded the selection to New England in December 2012 in exchange for midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
That left Sporting KC with only one pick Thursday, which it used on a college player who manager and technical director Peter Vermes said he has been scouting for quite some time.
Gabeljic, 21, played four seasons at Saint Louis, where he scored nine goals and added seven assists in 70 career games. That production came in primarily a bench role. He made only nine career starts. He scored three goals and had one assist last season.
“I think looking at my college career is not a good indicator for who I am as a player,” Gabeljic said.
Indeed, the numbers didn’t necessarily stand out to Vermes either, but Gabeljic’s combination of size and speed did. Gabeljic, who stands 6 feet 3, said he had conversations with Sporting KC during the MLS Combine this week.
Gabeljic briefly trained with Sporting KC during the summer following his sophomore season at Saint Louis.
“He’s a strong, powerful kid,” Vermes said. “He’s probably a little different than what we have with his size. He just gives us a different look.”
Gabeljic described his style of play in a similar fashion.
“I’m known for being a big, fast, strong forward who can play from the outside,” Gabeljic said. “I’m comfortable on the ball, going at people and attacking people.”
Like many of Sporting KC’s draft picks during Vermes’ seven-year tenure as technical director, Gabeljic figures to be a developmental project rather than an immediate contributor.
“I would say that’s probably the situation,” Vermes said. “Obviously he’s going to get his chance to prove himself, but we’re in a position where we don’t have to rush ourselves.”
Gabeljic moved to St. Louis when he was seven years old. He was born in Croatia, though his family relocated to Germany shortly thereafter.
He attended Mehlville High School in St. Louis, where he was named the Missouri Gatorade player of the year in 2009.
Sporting KC will add to its draft class Tuesday in the third and fourth rounds. It owns the 41st, 57th and 76th overall picks. The 41st overall selection is the third choice of the day.
“We’ll try to look at some positions we need some depth in — maybe the middle of the midfield,” Vermes said. “We’ll play it by ear. We have a pretty early pick, so there’s not going to be as much sitting around and waiting.”