A Whole New Ball Game

Over the last six years, Sounders FC Assistant Coach Brian Schmetzer has been a regular at the MLS Combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. But his focus has rarely been on the top talent in the draft, but rather diamonds in the rough.

As head coach of the Seattle Sounders of the United Soccer League First Division, Schmetzer and owner/GM Adrian Hanauer became quite keen when it came to identifying talent that had been missed by the MLS. In the past, he has had to make an effort not to watch the top players on the field.

When Alecko Eskandarian made waves in the 2003 SuperDraft, Schmetzer had his eye on defender/midfielder Marco Velez and, later, defender Taylor Graham, both of whom played key roles on Schmetzer’s USL Sounders. The list goes on from there and the Sounders were able to put together teams that won the USL crown in 2005 and 2007.

This year is different though. As an assistant coach with the Sounders FC, Schmetzer is focused squarely on scouting for the top overall pick in the draft as well as the picks Seattle has at the top of each of the other three rounds.

"Adrian and I get to pick from the top tier rather than trying to find guys that could slip through the cracks," Schmetzer said when noting how much different the 2009 Combine has been for him.

"It really is a completely different process," Hanauer said. "We are looking for the very, very, very best player available. Before we almost didn’t even pay attention to the top 10 or 15 players."

For that reason, the Sounders should be well-equipped to make the selections at picks 16, 31 and 46, where they will be able to find players that they have been able to develop in the past.

"We have had conversations with some players who could be on our list. It’s just a matter of finding the player that fits into our system and has the type of character that we are looking for," Hanauer said.

However, the player’s position might not be as important as skill and character. While the Sounders are thin on defense, positions of need won’t necessarily dictate how Seattle will draft.

"There’s not a position that we couldn’t draft as an expansion team," Hanauer said. "We are looking for strength and depth at each position, so we need a little help at each position."

Although it is a somewhat new approach for Hanauer and Schmetzer, Head Coach Sigi Schmid and Technical Director Chris Henderson have been through the MLS SuperDraft process before and have provided a steadying influence as they continue to evaluate draft and trade scenarios.

The SuperDraft is Thursday at 11:00am PT in St. Louis. For all the up-to-the-minute details look no further than this SoundersFC.com.

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