In preparation for the Union's upcoming SuperDraft, new Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and Head Coach Jim Curtin have been scouting at the MLS Combine, which started last Thursday. The Union currently hold their own third pick and the sixth pick from Houston, which they received as part of the trade for Cristian Maidana. So far the Union brass have liked what they've seen and believe they will get talented players that can improve the roster over time.
"I am very pleasantly surprised with what I have seen here during the combine," said Stewart. "There is a lot of potential in the players that we have seen. Not saying that they are going to be the direct starters, but definitely enough potential that we can fill some slots in our roster with good potential players for the future."
Jim Curtin compared this draft class to last year's and agreed. "It's stronger than last years.There maybe isn't the sexy striker that everybody looks for, the goal scorer, but there is some real talent here. We are pretty confident that however this shakes out we're going to get two very strong players at three and six."
The Union are there to watch the players live but another benefit of the Combine is the interview sessions. The Union are clearly looking for more than just on the field talent. "We are actually doing interviews left and right, right now, to find out the person behind the player, and once again, we are pleasantly surprised in a lot of those things," said Stewart. The interviews actually [help us] find out about the person and the player himself, to see what their traits are...what their ambitions are in life, and in soccer in general."
While Union could use the roster depth that two top ten picks would bring, they are keeping an open mind to potential trades.
"You're always listening, you want to make your roster as strong as possible," said Curtin. "I think [the draft] has at least ten deep at minimum. Having the third and sixth pick is a spot that we like. It's a good position to be in, but...when it really comes down to making these final decisions in what's best for the Philadelphia Union moving forward."
The pair didn't reveal any of the cards they're holding for this Thursday and that's not a surprise. When asked about two highly rated Academy players, Keegan Rosenberry and Darius Madison, and whether or not they were in the team's plans, they stayed mum.
"Keegan and Darius are two guys we are aware of, we probably know a little better than the others and that will weigh into our decision making process, but at the same time neither of them will be homegrown players. It's one of those things that's disappointing but we have to move on from," Curtin said.
While the players the Union get may not be able to immediately replace a Cristian Maidana, this draft has the potential to give the Union quality players at a good price.
"[The draft is] a strong mechanism to bring in talent and to bring in talent at an inexpensive rate, which is very valuable in a salary cap league," said Curtin.
The Union are well positioned to add young depth this Thursday, and will have some cap flexibility going forward to add more quality over the next few months.