Sporting Kansas City has the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 31-year-old Tim Melia. But that did not stop them from picking up the top-rated goalkeeper, Eric Dick, with their first pick (13th overall) in the MLS Superdraft today in Philadelphia. Sporting, who had no picks in round two, also chose defender Graham Smith five picks later.
The move may have surprised many who perhaps expected the team to focus on an attacker or backline player to add needed depth. Yet Sporting got their man.
“We definitely had our eye on him,” said Manager Peter Vermes. “We were a little nervous that we might lose him before; we were even thinking about trying to move up [in the draft order].”
The most surprised person in the room, though, was Dick himself. After playing at the MLS Combine in Orlando through Wednesday, all gathered in Philadelphia for the draft.
“[I’m] honestly [surprised]. Our flight got messed up, and we drove all the way here from Baltimore. I was changing in the back of the car,” said the 6’5”, 205 lbs. senior.
“We walked in at the 5th pick, looking to sort out seats. And my agent ran up and said, ‘Hey, you might be up.’ I’m still in a little bit of shock. It’s incredible. I’m very, very, very excited.”
The 23-year-old Dick had a decorated career at Butler University where he started 71 games in four years, winning 41 and shutting out his opponents 28 times. The Bulldogs were the Big East Regular Season Champions this past season before falling in the NCAA Postseason Tournament Third Round to top-ranked Wake Forest.
And he’s a hometown boy. And a “huge” Kansas City sports fan.
Born in Roeland Park, Kansas, Dick’s family moved to Carmel, Indiana, when his Dad was transferred to Indianapolis with the NCAA offices. Five years-old when he moved, Dick was the only Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas City Chiefs fan in Carmel.
Yet, Dick has never attended a Sporting Kansas City game at Children’s Mercy Park. Meeting Sporting’s “crazy, amazing fan base” is top on his priority list, as is learning as much as possible from Melia.
“He just won goalkeeper of the year. I’m willing to sit down and pick his brain about every aspect,” stated Dick.
“I want to become that goalie. I want to be him. I want to lead the team to MLS Cup. I want to become one of the best goalkeepers in this league. The only way to do that is to learn from the best. I want to push him. And I want to learn from him. I know that I’m nowhere near where I want to be and where I can be. Now I’ve found myself in an unbelievable situation.”
Dick described himself as a strong, agile shot stopper who likes to dominate his box and lead with an encouraging but firm temperament and one who knows the importance of the little things and the significance of a goalkeeper’s ability to distribute, a skill he has worked to hone the last four years.
Vermes revealed that a team wanted to trade for Sporting’s 13th pick to obtain the promising goalkeeper.
“We think he has an incredible ceiling,” said Vermes. “We were toying with the idea that maybe we would try to pick him up a little later, but we felt there were just too many teams that were interested in him.”
With that “later” 18th pick, Vermes and his staff chose 6’3”, 186 lbs. defender Graham Smith from the University of Denver.
“There were still some players left [we had interest in],” said Vermes before detailing the 22-year-old center back. “We wanted to add some height to our team. And no doubt that he fits in at an important spot. He’s tough kid. He’s good in the air, really competitive, does well on attacking set pieces.”
It is very likely that both Dick and Smith (who was not in Philadelphia for the draft) will spend much, if not all, of the 2018 season with the Swope Park Rangers – SKC’s second team that plays in the United Soccer League.
“Heading into this, I know it’s a process for goalkeepers. I’m never going to back down from a challenge. I’d love to push for a slot [with the first-team]. But if the path says I go to Swope Park and compete for that job … whatever opportunity I’m given, I’m going to give it 100% of my mental and physical ability,” said Dick. “I know USL is a great opportunity for players to get used to the change in speed [of play] and take that adaptation from college to the next level. I’m all in wherever they want to put me.“
Said Vermes in review, “We already have a strong backline. We have a strong goalkeeping crew. But when you find the opportunity to add some guys of that kind of quality to work with, it makes sense to take a chance. I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Sporting has the 6th (75th overall) and 13th (82nd overall) picks in the 4th Round of the MLS Superdraft that will be conducted via conference call Sunday, January 21st.