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Diamonds in the Desert

The Seattle Sounders FC hosted their annual college combine in Las Vegas, Nev. this past weekend in preparation for the upcoming MLS drafts.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Next month, the 19 teams from around MLS will select players in the SuperDraft and the Supplemental Draft, turning college players into professionals. Each of those clubs does various levels of scouting for that draft and over the last weekend, college players from around the country converged on Las Vegas for the annual Sounders FC combine.

In what is the most thorough opportunity for Seattle to scout those players exclusively and en masse, 67 players participated in a three-day trial that included six games, a goalkeeper session and fitness tests as the Sounders prepare for next month’s drafts.

“It was good to get that group together in front of the whole coaching staff,” said Kurt Schmid, assistant coach and scout.

Schmid, along with technical director Chris Henderson and assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson, have spent much of the last few months scouting college games in all corners of the country, leaving no stone unturned in their search for players that could fill needs for the Sounders FC in the short-term and long-term.

In the past two years, due to their success in the first three MLS seasons, Seattle's pick each year has fallen late in the first round, where much of the "can’t miss players have already been taken. This means doing a bit more digging than other teams in the league.

That, and the club’s desire to find success in later rounds, made the weekend in Las Vegas even more important.

“Where we have been drafting lately, we don’t end up with the top five picks, so we’re digging a little deeper to find the diamonds in the rough,” said Schmid, who leads the college scouting efforts.

Last year’s combine included 14 players who went on to be signed to MLS clubs, including Servando Carrasco, Bryan Meredith and Josh Ford with the Sounders FC. That number is up from eight the previous year. The club has high hopes that the 2011 combine contains players that will contribute at the MLS level as well.

“The group in 2010 was very successful and had a lot of players who signed with MLS teams. We’ll have to wait and see, but we hope this year’s group can do the same thing,” Schmid said. “We discovered a couple of guys that we’d heard good things about, but you never really know when you get a recommendation. They surprised us based on where they were coming from. We also work with the players and see how they respond to coaching. It was good from that perspective too.”

The SuperDraft takes place January 12 in Kansas City, Mo. Seattle holds the 15th overall pick. The Supplemental Draft will follow on January 17.