Sounders Insider

Schmid and Henderson discuss SuperDraft selections and off-season evolution of Sounders

Here's a transcript of comments by Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and sporting director Chris Henderson after the club picked a pair of defenders in today's MLS SuperDraft:

SCHMID (On the draft…) “I thought it went OK. We were trying to get in on the merry-go-round, as well, and try and trade up. We felt there were four guys that were worth trading up for. Once those four guys were gone, there was no need to [move up] at that stage. Obviously, a lot of it hinged around [Andre] Blake, who was the first big time goalkeeper to come out in a while. Obviously D.C. convinced everybody that they were going to possibly pick Blake, which between you and me, I didn’t think was going to happen. They got a lot of action, and Philly paid money to jump one spot. It became an interesting draft from that standpoint because that dynamic put everything else into motion and things started flipping around.” (On getting younger on defense…) “I think it’s got to be looked at in conjunction with the other stuff we’ve done in the offseason. When you look at the Homegrown Players that we signed, Sean Okoli is an attacking player, [Aaron] Kovar is an attacking player. We brought in [Kenny] Cooper, who’s a forward. [Lamar] Neagle, obviously, we re-signed, is a forward. We’ve got Oba [Martins] still. We also brought in Tristan Bowen, who’s a forward/wide player. We felt we really took care of some of those options and we also got ourselves younger and more athletic in that area. One of the other areas we wanted to address was the defending area to get younger. We hate to see [Jhon] Kennedy [Hurtado] leave and we hate to see [Pat] Ianni leave because they’ve been good guys for the club and done well, but now we have [Jalil] Anibaba, who’s 25, and Lowe, who’s a Generation adidas with huge upside and is 22. We picked up Jimmy Ockford who could be, if you compared him to anybody, is a young Zach Scott. He just goes for anything. And he’s only played one year at center back, he’s played as a midfielder prior to that. We felt that we came away and we got our defense younger and now it’s just a matter of we’re still looking at a couple things for midfield, then we’ll be set to go.” (On if NCAA soccer is better at producing defensive players…) “No. To be honest, we’ve been looking for a young center back for a while, and it hasn’t worked out for us. A couple years ago, Leone Cruz ended up not working out for us. It turned out at the end it paid off for us because it allowed us to get Andy Rose on a trade. Then you had [Andrew] Duran didn’t work out for us. This year we thought the draft was pretty good at center back. We felt even down to the guy that the Galaxy picked—[Kyle] Venter—all those guys. We had [Nick] Hagglund pretty high, too—that Toronto took—but we liked Lowe because he was a Generation adidas player. We felt there were possibly seven, eight center backs. There are still a couple there that we still felt all had good physical characteristics to succeed in our league. I think it was a little bit of a deeper year in regards to center backs than the other years have been.” (On last year’s first round pick Eriq Zavaleta…) “We made a commitment with Eriq. After a preseason of playing him at center back last year, we decided that forward was the best place for him. We made that commitment and we loaned him out, as well, to San Antonio to play up front. We see him in our forward mix. From that standpoint that’s where he’s going to do battle. He’s different than the other forwards we have. He’s not a similar forward to, say, a Sean Okoli or a Tristan Bowen. We brought in some more dynamic wide guys. Zavaleta is a target guy, plays up top, and Oba likes to be higher, as well. He played underneath Eddie [Johnson] last year more, but he likes to be high. Then Zavaleta is really the next guy that likes to be high—even Cooper, who likes to move around a little bit. He still has a very important role to play for us this year.” (On what about Lowe stuck out to him…) “He’s got a great frame. He’s very athletic. I think he had five goals for Hartford last year, so he’s dangerous coming forward on set pieces. I think he’s going to learn a lot from a guy like Chad Marshall. I think he’s still going to get stronger. His father was a very talented player. He played for the Jamaican National Team on multiple occasions, played in a World Cup, all of that stuff, and played professionally overseas and in MLS. We interviewed guys here, and he was very solid. We thought he was a good character. He had a very clear thought process of how to become better and what he needed to do to become better. When he was there and he was available, we felt all things considered he was the best pick for us.” (On moving up from 13 to eight in selection order…) “By moving up to eight in the trade with Chicago, one of the main things we were trying to accomplish is it’s a lot easier to move from eight into the top five than it is from 13 into the top five. We were hoping to parlay that eighth and maybe move up a little higher. That’s what didn’t work out, so we also went through our draft list and there were three guys here who we would still be happy with if it came down to it and we didn’t get anybody [in the top five], those guys would be available. And someone was available who we didn’t think would make it to eight.” (On them projecting Lowe to be picked before eight…) “We really thought he’d go somewhere in between six and seven, which is what we thought. I know some teams and some coaches that I know well that I was talking to, who didn’t have early picks and had Lowe pretty high, they were pretty surprised he dropped to eight, as well.” (On Lowe being a late addition to Generation adidas…) “Just a happy circumstance. We don’t get involved in that. A lot of times when players are Generation adidas, there’s got to be a couple of teams that step to the front and say, ‘Yeah, this is a guy we’ll pick.’ We made a commitment on a guy who they didn’t sign to Generation adidas…and obviously there were some guys in there that us and a number of other teams said we would pick. For Lowe, it was more of a happy coincidence. All of us, Brian Schmetzer, especially Kurt [Schmid], do a really good job of doing that research, talking to people, found a bunch of highlights on him. I probably watched, in the past week, two hours of Lowe playing in games and highlights and things like that. The other coaches did the same sort of thing. We all felt comfortable at the combine and what we saw on tape.” (On the status of Obafemi Martins…) “Our expectation is Oba is going to be there when we start preseason. I think he has a bad travel agent so he gets a lot of connections when he’s trying to get back to the states. There’s a lot of connecting stops along the way. We expect him to be here to start the season. There’s nothing that he said to us that indicates anything different.” HENDERSON (On the draft…) “I thought it was a good draft. We feel really good about it and it addressed some of the needs that we had. It was an interesting draft with all the movement.” (On their strategy going into the draft and the two players they picked…) “I think with the moves this week that we made, with the two center backs, we wanted to address in the offseason getting a little bit younger, a little bit more athletic. With the players we brought in, we feel good that they’re going to be able to compete. Obviously, Lowe is a Generation adidas, which is a plus. He comes from a soccer background. I played against his father for Jamaica and when he was with Kansas City. I think he has big promise. He reads the game well, understands it, decent speed, his marking is good. Jimmy is a player, in a lot of ways a similar mold to Zach Scott in that he plays with a lot of heart and energy. He’s very aggressive, tremendous in the air, vertical leap. We feel good about that. If we combine the two picks with our Homegrowns, who are both attacking-type players, we feel we have a good balance of young players.” (On areas they are still looking to address…) “I think we are looking for some more help in the midfield. I think we’ve always tried to be a team that plays an attacking, possession-based style of play, and we’ve been good with the ball and good through the midfield in the history of our MLS years. I think we want to make sure we can get back to that and make sure we continue to keep the ball well and connect with [Osvaldo] Alonso and [Brad] Evans and [Clint] Dempsey, some of the guys through the middle of midfield—have some guys who can play with them.” (On selecting two defenders…) “With losing the two defenders this week, we wanted to address bringing in some young defensive players. Ockford might be able to compete at midfield with his aggression and being able to get to balls. We feel like we have a pretty good group of guys who can compete for those spots. It’s a pretty good balance. In the offseason, Sigi had mentioned about getting younger. We added the two today, and we added the two Homegrowns. I think it’s a pretty good balance, the two Homegrowns being more attacking and these two coming in more defensive.” (On the roster currently being thin at midfield…) “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. 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.”