Picking at No. 14 today in the MLS SuperDraft, Sporting Kansas City will be at the mercy of most of the league as it seeks to add depth.
Sporting KC, which aims to defend its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship and also will participate in CONCACAF Champions League this season, has only one pick in the draft, which begins at 11 a.m. at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
There will be 13 players off the board by the time coach Peter Vermes and Sporting KC finds itself on the clock, so it’s anybody’s guess who will be available.
“It’s one thing if you’ve got a high pick and you’re going for a very specific position,” Vermes said. “Then, you’re really hoping the guy you want falls to you. But our situation is different. We have multiple positions that we’re looking at, and we just have a depth chart of what we think are the best players in those positions and who fits us the best.”
As the picks start flying, Sporting KC, which traded its second-round pick to San Jose in December for centerback Ike Opara, will tick off players on its wish list and hope a player who fills a need will land in its lap.
“Once the picks start going and a couple surprises come out, we’re probably still going to pick the best available player by position,” Vermes said. “There’s a couple areas of the field that we’re looking at.”
Vermes doesn’t want to tip his hand, but most projected drafts have Sporting KC adding depth in the midfield after Roger Espinoza bolted for Wigan Athletic and the club declined its option on Julio Cesar.
Fortunately for Sporting, the draft seems to be rich with midfield talent.
“Definitely midfield is an area of depth in this draft — especially outside midfield, those flank players,” Vermes said. “There’s quite a few central defenders here as well.”
Two years ago, Sporting KC landed the eventual MLS rookie of the year, forward C.J. Sapong.
Last season’s first-round pick, Dom Dwyer, didn’t make as big of an impact. He played only 4 minutes during the regular season.
With so many matches this season, any rookie seems likely to find a bit more playing time.
Many early projections had Sporting KC zeroing in on Boston College attacking midfielder Kyle Bekker, a Canadian international, but he rocketed up draft boards with his combine performance.
More likely draft candidates in the midfield include Maryland’s John Stertzer or New Mexico’s Blake Smith.
Stertzer, who comes from the same program as Graham Zusi, plays in a system similar to Sporting KC’s, which might help him adapt quickly and gain a toehold in Vermes’ rotation.
Meanwhile, Smith, who performed well in workouts and is a true left wing, has already spent some time with Sporting KC.
“We know him well,” Vermes said of Smith. “He’s actually trained with us a couple times. He’s an interesting kid, but he’s also a good soccer player. If you’re looking for a flank player, he’s got some good qualities.”
San Diego’s Danchrisandre Delgado, who is ranked as the No. 2 attacking midfielder by MLSsoccer.com, is a potential wild card. He was injured and missed the combine, but Vermes won’t let that scare him off if he’s judged the best fit for Sporting KC.