Carefree as a toddler, Tony Cascio at times danced and on occasion slid across the 200-square foot green canvas Wednesday at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, light blue paint marking each step he took with his bare feet.
Moments later, Sam Garza took a turn, traipsing through the museum’s atrium wearing soccer cleats saturated with white paint.
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But far from creating a disturbance, Cascio, Garza and four other highly touted soccer prospects in town for today’s MLS SuperDraft at the Kansas City Convention Center Grand Ballroom were creating art.
The six players — Cascio and Garza were joined by Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon, Maryland forward Casey Townsend, UCLA forward Chandler Hoffman and UC-Santa Barbara midfielder Luis Silva — collaborated on an abstract painting, Creating the Beautiful Game, which will be exhibited at the Nelson-Atkins for a week before moving to its permanent home in the Members Club at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Hopefully, Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes has an appreciation for such abstraction, because he’s about to endure an hours-long exercise in it.
“It’s so difficult to talk about, because as much as we have the guys that we like and fit what we’re looking to do, it’s hard to say what everyone else is trying to do,” Vermes said of the draft.
Any professional sports draft is more art than science, but that is especially true for Sporting KC, which picks 16th in the first round.
Vermes has no clue who still will be on the board for the Eastern Conference regular-season champions to select. Still, in his time with Sporting KC, Vermes has displayed a knack for making his often unexpected draft choices count.
Every first-round pick made since Vermes became technical director in 2006 (and eventually took over coaching duties as well) remains on the roster.
Defenders Michael Harrington (2007), Chance Myers (2008) and Matt Besler (2009) and forwards Teal Bunbury (2010) and reigning MLS Rookie of the Year C.J. Sapong (2011) are vital cogs for Sporting KC.
Now, Vermes hopes to unearth another gem as the franchise regroups for another run at the MLS title.
“There have been a lot of different calculations on who is going to be where, but in the end, hopefully we’ll find somebody who will serve our purposes going into next year,” Vermes said.
Conventional wisdom has Sporting KC shoring up its defense with the first pick, but Vermes has shown that he isn’t afraid to buck conventional wisdom.
“It’s just so hard to gauge which players will be available when it’s our turn,” he said. “In a couple different areas of the field, we have a couple key guys we’re interested in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be available when we get there. We’ll take the best player available at that point, but it’s going to be a little on the fly.”
Defenders Chris Estridge from Indiana and Tyler Polak from Creighton have trained with Sporting KC in the past and are on the club’s radar.
But if a gifted attacking player was unexpectedly available at No. 16, Vermes won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
“You can never have enough guys who score goals, so I would never overlook a goal-scorer, that’s for sure,” he said. “But we’ve made some good domestic moves in the offseason, so it’s not like we are desperate for someone to come in and make a big impact right away.”
Then again, Vermes wouldn’t complain if he struck gold again.