Can Sounders FC find diamond in the rough with 15th pick at MLS SuperDraft?

Can Sounders FC find diamond in the rough with 15th pick at MLS SuperDraft? -

With less than 48 hours remaining until the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, Sounders FC’s draft-day decision makers will head to Baltimore with all eyes on making the most of the No. 15 overall pick in the draft on Thursday.

The Sounders have been in a similar position many times before, and this exact spot back in 2012. Seven straight appearances in the MLS playoffs means the club hasn’t had a top-five pick since its expansion season in 2009, and most of the draft’s elite players are traditionally long gone by the time the Sounders are on the clock.

Still, there’s some precedent for finding a diamond in the rough at No. 15. While the Sounders struck out here in 2012 – Creighton defender Andrew Duran never played a game for the team after he was taken 15th overall by the club four years ago – there have been more than a few success stories from this slot in the draft in the past.

Here are the top five players taken at No. 15 in the draft, dating all the way back to the league’s first-ever college draft in 1996.

5. Shea Salinas (San Jose Earthquakes) – 2008

A versatile winger who has played with three MLS clubs since he was drafted out of Furman, Salinas has appeared in more than 150 games for the Quakes and won a Supporters’ Shield with the team in 2012. Respected for his speed, work ethic and locker room presence, Salinas helped solidify two expansion teams in their first year – the Philadelphia Union in 2010 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC in 2011 – before returning to the Quakes nearly four years ago. Salinas has scored 11 goals and added 36 assists in more than 200 career appearances.

4. Bryan Namoff (D.C. United) – 2001

A regular for the Black and Red for nearly a decade, Namoff played on the back line and in the midfield during some of the club’s most successful stretches. He won an MLS Cup in 2004 and the Supporters’ Shield in 2006 and 2007, and he picked up a cap with the U.S. national team during the 2007 January camp. He retired in 2010 after appearing in nearly 200 regular season games and another 12 in the playoffs, all for D.C.

3. Justin Meram (Columbus Crew) - 2011

Meram was a star forward at Michigan and an almost immediate contributor in Columbus. He enjoyed a career year in 2014 – eight goals to go with four assists, and one goal in the Crew’s first postseason appearance since 2011 – and he appeared in 31 regular-season games for the revamped Eastern Conference-champion Crew SC last season. He’s scored 19 goals and added 13 assists in 121 appearances over five seasons, and worked his way onto the Iranian national team.

2. Diego Gutierrez (Kansas City Wiz) – 1996

A 13-year veteran who came out of tiny Kansas City-based NAIA school Rockhurst College, Gutierrez was an MLS regular right out of the gate. He appeared in 28 games for the then-Wiz during his rookie season and later platooned in the midfield and on the back line in Kansas City and for the Chicago Fire. He won his fair share of hardware along the way – the elusive MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup during the Fire’s expansion season in 1998, another USOC title with Chicago in 2000 and a third USOC crown with Kansas City in 2004 – and ultimately appeared in 276 regular season games and 40 more in the playoffs.

1. Brad Evans (Columbus Crew) – 2007

A versatile All-American midfielder during his senior year at at UC-Irvine, Evans actually fell into the lap of then-Crew head coach Sigi Schmid at No. 15. Evans suffered an injury during the MLS Combine and missed the final two games in Florida the week before the draft, potentially hurting his stock on the big board. Schmid went ahead and made the pick anyway, and it’s panned out perfectly. Evans won an MLS Cup with Schmid and the Crew in 2008 before they both left for Seattle’s debut MLS season a year later, and he’s since appeared in 170 regular season games and 16 in the postseason. He’s won four USOC titles and a Supporters’ Shield in Seattle, and he’s been the Sounders’ captain since 2014. He’ll pass the mark of 200 career regular-season appearances this spring, and he’s also appeared in 25 games for the USMNT since 2009.



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