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A solid SuperDraft with real depth
by Ridge Mahoney, January 15th, 2009 8:15PM

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Lacking perhaps a true standout yet well-stocked with promising talents, the pool of 60 players available in the 2009 SuperDraft were distributed amongst the 15 MLS teams Thursday.

New England led all teams with seven picks, Colorado came up with six selections, and three teams - Toronto, Kansas City, and D.C. United - each had five. San Jose was the least active team with only two slots.

As always, the primary question is: How did the teams do? And the answer, also as always is: It's too soon to tell. Yet the general post-draft consensus was that if a team didn't find potential upgrades in critical areas, the team -- not the pool of available players -- is to blame.

"Obviously, a few years down the road you'll be able to analyze it," said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who fortified his back line and midfield with his four picks. "But there were a bunch of good, solid kids available. I think every team can be happy that they walked away with something that addressed their needs.

"In our case, I think that's happened, but you know how it goes, you have to wait until it plays out."

Most of the projected first-round picks went in that round, though a few coaches said they didn't expect the selection of Akron forward Steve Zakuani, one of nine Generation adidas players available in the draft, by Seattle as the No. 1 pick. Seven of the nine GA players went in the first round, including four of the first six.

"Usually it's fairly self-evident who the first five or six guys are going to be," said D.C. United president Kevin Payne, whose team took Costa Rican-born midfielder Rodney Wallace (Maryland) and midfielder/forward Chris Pontius (UC Santa Barbara) with the sixth and seventh overall picks. "Any combination of the first nine or 10 picks wouldn't have surprised anybody.

"A lot of us didn't think Zakuani was going to be the first pick and that really changed the complexion of the draft when he went first, rather than somebody like [Omar] Gonzalez, for instance."

Zakuani struggled at the adidas Combine yet had been scouted at college by coach Sigi Schmid while Schmid coached the Crew; now he has to justify the decision by MLS to pay him a starting salary in the range of $150,000. He turned down an offer from English club Preston North End; two years ago the British citizen left England to play American college soccer.

"With a GA contract they guarantee me my education, so that's probably the biggest swaying factor," said Zakuani, 20. "I want to be part of something new and going to Seattle, you can't be any more new than that."

One of the highest rated seniors, Wake Forest midfielder Sam Cronin, went to Toronto with the second pick. After the Galaxy took Maryland defender Omar Gonzalez -- another GA player -- TFC used another pick on a bit of a gamble, Connecticut forward O'Brian White, who suffered a knee injury in October and will miss the start of the season.

"I think it's a good draft," said Arena, who, to his surprise, used the third pick on Gonzalez. "We didn't think he'd be available. I thought he'd go one or two, so obviously we were quite happy when he was available at three."

The forward crop had been weakened by the decisions of Marcus Tracy (Wake Forest) and Mike Grella (Duke) to try their luck overseas, yet teams selected forwards with three of the first six picks, and both Grella (third round) and Tracy (fourth) were chosen by teams to claim their rights should they change their minds within two years.

"If Grella and Tracy had been in it, it might have been the best draft ever, or certainly one of them," said Payne. "But as it is, it's a very strong draft that has some real depth."



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