Sporting Kansas City drafts Butler goalkeeper Eric Dick and Denver center back Graham Smith
When Eric Dick awoke Friday morning, the projected first-round choice in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft mapped out the first day of his professional life in his mind.
In real life, it began with a hiccup. Dick’s flight to the draft in Philadelphia was delayed, so he drove from Baltimore, changing clothes in the back seat before walking into the city’s convention center five picks into the proceedings.
A rocky start. But an ideal conclusion.
Sporting KC selected Dick, a goalkeeper who was born in Roeland Park, with the 13th overall pick of the draft on Friday.
Dick, the first goalkeeper off the board, spent the initial five years of his life in Roeland Park before moving to Carmel, Ind. He played collegiately at Butler.
“I’m a giant Kansas City sports nut. I’m the only Jayhawks or Kansas City Chiefs fan in Carmel, Ind.,” he said. “I don’t know if they (Sporting KC) knew that. But it’s sort of a homecoming for me.”
Sporting KC enacted a best-player-available approach to the draft, adding Denver center back Graham Smith with the No. 18 overall selection. The club acquired the extra first-round pick in a trade that sent Lawrence Olum to Portland last offseason.
Given that Sporting KC is set at both positions, the two draft picks figure to provide depth in the immediate term. Both will likely see time with USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers.
“I know it’s a stacked back line, so I’m definitely prepared to fight for a spot on the club, but I understand that there’s a lot of development that needs to happen,” Smith said. “I’m ready for that, and I’m excited for the process.”
Whereas Smith was one of a few center backs on Sporting Kansas City’s board, Dick was a goalkeeper the club hoped to acquire entering the day. It even considered trading up in the draft to make it happen, and coach Peter Vermes said he had already received one trade offer for him after the selection.
Sporting KC has no plans to move him.
“We think he’s a kid with major upside,” Vermes said. “We’ve watched him for quite some time. We just think it will add to a really good core of people we already have.”
The club’s No. 1 option, Tim Melia, won the league’s goalkeeper of the year honor in 2017. Sporting KC is also high on the upside of Adrian Zendejas, who started for the Swope Park Rangers last summer.
Dick, 6 foot 5, was named the Big East Conference goalkeeper of the year in 2017, his senior season, after recording nine shutouts in 20 matches. He had a 0.97 goals-against average and stopped 82 percent of the shots he faced.
“Being taller, I’ve trained a lot to get low very quickly,” Dick said. “I’ve been blessed with height and decent athleticism. I love putting that to use in terms of coming out on crosses, commanding the 18 and being a big presence that goes along with having a big frame.”
Smith, 6 foot 3, is a four-year college starter who split his time between Oregon State and Denver, the latter of which is half an hour from his hometown.
He also joins a crowded depth chart at his position, with Matt Besler and Ike Opara entrenched as starters. Sporting KC acquired 22-year-old center back Emiliano Amor on loan earlier this week.
“We wanted to add some height to our team, and there’s no doubt that central defender is an important spot,” Vermes said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s good in the air, really competitive (and) does well on attacking set pieces.”
Expansion-club Los Angeles FC opted for Arkon’s Joao Moutinho with the No. 1 overall pick.
There were five trades in the opening 10 picks of the draft.