It was a whirlwind of action at the Philadelphia Convention Center on Thursday in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft as there were five draft day trades involving first round picks. Sounders FC got involved in the action on Wednesday, trading up from the 13th pick to the eighth pick, but couldn’t find its way into the top five picks, so instead opted to address defensive needs for a team that has spent much of its offseason on attacking players, selecting center backs Damion Lowe and Jimmy Ockford.
“We were trying to get in on that merry-go-round, as well, and tried to trade up. We thought there were four guys that were worth trading up for and once those four guys were gone, then there was no need to at that stage,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’ve got Lowe, who is Generation adidas and has huge upside at 20, and we picked up Jimmy Ockford, who if you compared him to anyone is a young Zach Scott. He just goes through anything and he’s only played one year at center back. We felt we came away and we got our defense younger.”
Lowe is a 6-foot-3 Jamaican from the University of Hartford who entered the draft after his junior season. In his final two seasons, he notched eight goals in 35 matches, making him a threat on set pieces in the attack as well as a sturdy defender in the back. As a Generation adidas signing, his salary won’t hit the budget for Seattle in 2014.
Ockford played three years in various roles in midfield for Mount St. Mary’s before that program disbanded in 2012 and he transferred to Louisville, where he converted to center back and proved to be a force for a top-caliber national program.
With the additions of Homegrown signings Aaron Kovar and Sean Okoli last week, Seattle now has added four players under the age of 22, along with a midweek trade that sent veterans Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to the Chicago Fire for 25-year-old defender Jalil Anibaba, also swapping draft positions with Chicago in the trade.
“We feel good. There were some tough choices. We’re really happy. I think it’s a good balance in our four young players we’ve added,” Sporting Director Chris Henderson said. “With losing the two defenders this week, we wanted to address bringing in some young defensive players. We feel like we have a pretty good group of guys who can compete for those spots. I think it’s a pretty good balance, the two Homegrowns being more attacking and these two coming in more defensive.”
With training camp just one week away, Seattle will now turn its attention to the final two rounds of the SuperDraft on Tuesday, where Sounders FC holds the 55th and 77th overall picks. Seattle has been able to find some success in later rounds, adding Mike Fucito, Alex Caskey and Andy Rose with late selections.
“There are more things that we’re working on. We need to take care of some things in midfield and make sure that we’ve got the right amount of depth there,” Schmid said. “You never know what you’ll find that late.”
That midfield need may not come through the draft, but it is a primary target for Seattle moving forward.
“I think we’ve checked a lot of boxes that we wanted to do, and the big box is midfield. That is something we’ve been working on pretty hard and steadily all the way through, and something we’re going to continue to work on and definitely address here in a short period,” Henderson said. “I think we’ve always been a good possession team that’s good keeping the ball through midfield. I think if we can add some significant pieces in there to play with Alonso, Evans, and Dempsey, then that will control games.”
The final two rounds of the SuperDraft will take place via conference call on Tuesday.