As Sporting Kansas City CEO Robb Heineman mentioned on twitter a couple of days ago, it will be interesting to see if Sporting head coach Peter Vermes will be able to keep his streak alive as he prepares for Thursday's 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
Of course, the streak Heineman is referring to is Vermes penchant for making impressive first round selections of Teal Bunbury (2010), and CJ Sapong (2011) in the previous two SuperDrafts. Two players that have to be considered great picks by all indications. Sapong was named the 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year, and Bunbury has shown flashes of brilliance during his two seasons in Kansas City that have some wondering when Teal will pack his bags for Europe.
Finding a player with the potential of a Bunbury or Sapong won't be easy though. Not this year. Kansas City currently holds the sixteenth pick in the first round, as well as the 30th overall selection. If they hold at that 16th spot (and I anticipate that they won't trade up), it may be hard to find a player of the same caliber as the two players previously mentioned.
It's not impossible. After all, Kansas City did manage to find a diamond in the rough a few years back when they selected midfielder Graham Zusi with the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, but those kinds of rare discoveries are few and far between.
It doesn't help that this draft class isn't an overly talented bunch. The loss of projected top three selection Billy Schuler, who signed with Swedish side Hammerby, further depleted a draft short on top-notch talent. There still are a few great prospects for sure. Forward Darren Mattocks of Akron looks like he has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with in MLS, and Duke defender/midfielder Andrew Wenger has future All-Star written all over him. The problem is that those types of game changing players are few and far between (especially in this 2012 draft class), and so the reality of the situation is that Kansas City will most likely be selecting a player that may have a hard time finding his niche on a team that is as young, and talented as Sporting Kansas City.
How did the club get to the point where they are in the position to be able to draft the best player available and not have to reach based off of need? One of the biggest reasons; the club (whether in it's Wizards incarnation, or the Sporting of today) has done an excellent job of drafting in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in recent years.
Dating back the last five SuperDrafts, take a look at Kansas City's selections in the first round:
2011- CJ Sapong, F James Madison, 10th pick
2010- Teal Bunbury, F Akron University, 4th pick
2009- Matt Besler, D, Notre Dame, 8th pick
2008- Chance Myers, D, UCLA 1st pick
Roger Espinoza, MF, Ohio State, 11th pick
2007- Michael Harrington, D, UNC 3rd pick
Out of those five drafts, Kansas City nabbed three starters in the first round (four if you count Espinoza), and a player (Sapong) who could easily start if Kansas City didn't already have Bunbury manning the center forward position. Harrington is the only player that one could say wasn't a "hit," but even then, he is only one year removed from a fabulous 2010 campaign, and gives Kansas City a very good option should Myers or left back Seth Sinovic miss time.
This type of success drafting in the first round has paved the way for the type of season the club experienced in 2011, finishing atop the Eastern Conference, and one match away from the MLS Cup. Sporting have the potential to be one of the most dominate teams in Major League Soccer for the foreseeable future, and much of this has to do with the success the club has found in the first round of the SuperDraft.
Of course, the second round has been a somewhat different animal for Kansas City. For as kind as the first round has been to KC in recent years, the second round has been almost as equally unkind. Kansas City did manage to find Zusi in 2009, and Korede Aiyegbusi was a decent selection 2010, but other than that, it's been slim pickings in the second round.
A look at Kansas City's second round selections in the last five SuperDrafts:
2011- JT Murray, D, Louisville, 32nd pick
2010- Korede Aiyegbusi, D, North Carolina State, 20th pick
2009- Doug Demartin, F, Michigan State, 22nd pick
Graham Zusi, MF, Maryland, 23rd pick
2008- Yomby William, D, Old Dominion, 23rd pick
Jonathan Leathers, D, Furman, 25th pick
2007- No second round selection
Murray was released by Kansas City only three weeks into training camp last year. After being drafted, DeMartin was never offered a contract by Kansas City. William signed a developmental contract with KC, but was eventually transferred to USL Professional Division side, the Puerto Rico Islanders. Leathers, who's currently a free agent, actually played for the Wizards from 2008-2010, but was selected by the Vancouver Whitecaps in the expansion draft.
As Kansas City's recent draft history indicates, the second round can be tough. It may not matter. Sporting Kansas City has built a wonderful foundation out of first round selections.
Come tomorrow morning, we'll have a better idea if Peter Vermes will make it three for three. My guess is that he will.