Sporting KC

Sporting KC adds one midfielder, two defenders in MLS SuperDraft first round

Connor Hallisey walked on stage after being selected by the Sporting Kansas City in the first round of the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Thursday in Philadelphia and took a selfie.
Connor Hallisey walked on stage after being selected by the Sporting Kansas City in the first round of the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Thursday in Philadelphia and took a selfie. The Associated Press

As the first member of a historic Sporting Kansas City draft class — one that featured a franchise-record three first-round picks Thursday — Connor Hallisey stepped onto the stage at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and wrapped a Sporting KC scarf around his neck.

In his next maneuver, the No. 10 overall pick proved he will have no trouble fitting in with his new teammates.

He snapped a selfie.

Reminiscent of Sporting KC forward Dom Dwyer’s goal celebration, Hallisey captured the significant moment in his professional soccer career with a camera phone.

“OK, (Connor Hallisey), I like you already,” Dwyer said via Twitter.

Now, if only his play on the field matches Sporting KC’s expectations, too…

Technical director Peter Vermes believes it will. With his three first-round picks, Vermes said, “We got three of the four guys we wanted.”

In addition to Hallisey, a 22-year-old midfielder from California, Sporting KC chose Akron defender Saad Abdul-Salaam with the 12th pick and selected Clemson defender Amadou Dia with the 20th pick. The latter two players are outside backs. All three players are college seniors.

Sporting KC later traded its 30th selection to the Houston Dynamo for the rights to Servando Carrasco, who is out of contract.

Portland nabbed Nick Besler, the younger brother of Sporting KC’s captain, Matt, with the fifth overall choice. Vermes said Nick Besler was “definitely a player we were interested in,” but he also knew other teams had significant interest that would likely prevent Besler from falling to the 10th slot.

With its three choices, Sporting KC elected to improve its midfield depth and seek help on the outside of its back line.

Hallisey scored nine goals and had 12 assists in his senior season at California last year. He’s unlikely to make an immediate jump into the lineup, but Vermes said he was impressed with the left-footer’s creativity toward the box.

“I wanted to come to a place where I was valued,” Hallisey said. “Whether that value is playing right away or getting under a guy’s wing and learning as much as I can from the veterans that are already there, I’m excited. I think Sporting KC is a great fit. They believe in me. So waiting a year and learning from those guys is an awesome opportunity. I have no problem with that.”

Similarly, Abdul-Salaam and Dia seem more likely to add depth in the short-term and perhaps impact minutes over the long-term. That will clear up after the team breaks for camp in Tucson, Ariz., later this month.

Abdul-Salaam is a former walk-on at Akron who projects as a left outside back. His combination of size (6-3) and attacking mindset was appealing for Sporting KC. Dia’s primary position is right outside back.

Seth Sinovic was a mainstay at left outside back with Sporting KC last season, but a lack of depth offered him little rest. The right back was occupied mostly by Igor Juliao last season after Chance Myers suffered a torn Achilles tendon early in the season. Myers is projected to return for the start of the 2015 season.

“We had a really strong desire to try to get two outside backs, one on the left and one on the right,” Vermes said. “We got them both. They both have qualities we look for — the athleticism in the position, the engine for them to go box-to-box, and both players have a solution in the final third, which is an important aspect we look for from our outside backs.”

The third and fourth rounds of the SuperDraft will be held via conference call Tuesday.

To reach Sam McDowell, call 816-234-4869 or send email to smcdowell@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SamMcDowell11.

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