Following a busy week of drafts and player movement around Major League Soccer, Seattle Sounders FC headed south to Las Vegas for its annual player combine. SoundersFC.com talked with Kurt Schmid, Sounders FC Assistant Coach and Head Scout, about this year's event.
What is the goal of the Sounders FC player combine in Las Vegas?
“We’ve been doing it since 2009 — every year we’ve been in MLS. The purpose behind it is to put the players I’ve been scouting all year in front of the rest of the coaching staff, as well, so that everyone can form their own opinions on these guys, as we look forward to the SuperDraft. We are looking for guys who are a little more under the radar, a little more off the beaten path as well, so that’s what we’re searching for.”
Have there been notable players that have participated in past combines?
“Some guys that have been at our combine — Tim Ream was there, Eric Alexander, David Estrada, some guys we’ve drafted, and Daniel Steres and Jamel Wallace, as well. Servando Carrasco, Bryan Meredith, Josh Ford are guys [that have been at the combine], and some guys that have been drafted rather highly. A couple years ago we had Kekuta Manneh.”
How unique is the club's individual player combine relative to the rest of Major League Soccer?
“It’s very staff-dependent. I don’t think any other club has an institutional [policy] where they do this every year. I think a lot of clubs do it and it’s a very localized thing. Kids show up and are really responsible for expenses and logistics. It’s more of a thing where kids from the area come and maybe a few guys from the outside. We try to do it and make it as easy as possible for the top players in the country to come, regardless of where they are from, and guys from outside the country, who maybe didn’t go to college, and we get to look at them as well. We get guys from every school.”
This year the combine includes three partner clubs: Toronto FC, New York Cosmos and Indy 11. What advantage is there to this type of partnership?
“It’s been great to work with Toronto of MLS and the two NASL clubs, New York Cosmos and Indy 11. With Toronto it helps us pool resources in terms of ensuring that we are making it as easy as possible for the top kids to attend. It also helps in pooling scouting resources. The partnership with New York and Indy 11 is great because as we see these players that aren’t quite ready for our level yet, we have a place through these relationships we are developing, as well as S2, to send them for a year. We saw an example of that with Jimmy Ockford.”
S2 is hosting an open tryout this weekend, too. Has that changed the combine?
“To be honest it didn’t change much of the overall structure of the combine because I think the caliber of player we are looking for is still the same. We will find the players where we like them at the middle-tier because they aren’t quite ready [and now] we have a place to put them. It’s not going to change what we did going into the combine, but it will change what we do going out of the combine. Especially, after the draft where we liked guys coming out of the combine that didn’t get drafted, and now we will we be able to bring more guys into the S2 team, S2 camp, and hopefully keep more guys under the umbrella and try to develop them.”
This is all happening at a very busy time, with the MLS Re-Entry Process beginning earlier this week and the 2015 MLS SuperDraft only weeks away. How does that affect an event like this?
“It’s pretty jam-packed, and it’s been jam-packed. While the coaching staff needs to focus on the first team and the games week-to-week as the season comes to a close, Chris [Henderson] and I are trying to split our focus a bit and look at that and keep an eye on the future. We’ve been doing that and it’s been a busy fall for us, whether it is foreign guys or college guys, just looking at the future. Once the season ends we kick it into high gear and everyone else jumps into that process as well. It intensifies it and makes it much busier.”