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The Union’s approach to today’s Super Draft

Philadelphia Union assistant coach John Hackworth spoke to reporters via conference call on Wednesday night ahead of today’s SuperDraft. He discussed the Union’s approach to the Players Combine, the possibility of trades, particularly for an international spot, and how the Union are in a different position going into the 2012 SuperDraft compared to 2010 and 2011. Below is what he had to say.

Icing on the cake?

Peter and I were talking about it with Diego and Rob earlier that we’re kinda glad we’re not sitting like we were the last two years where we were picking first and then picking early. Because really what this draft is for us now is to see if we can reinforce and add some depth to our roster but we have done such a good job in the offseason and built our team up in a way that we’re not in the same situation we were in the last two years.

How do you treat the combine?

First of all on the combine, it’s such a tough environment for those players to come into. They get there and the first thing they do as a group – even with their coaches – is play a game. And play a game, you know, in front of every MLS technical staff. And that alone leads to a very false sense of what players are truly all about. There are guys who manage that better, guys that have bigger personality who shine in those moments, but the perfect example is Michaek Farfan last year. The kid was the best player in all of college soccer 2 years in a row. He has an average three days, not really making a lot of noise, and he somehow he falls from being in the top 3 or 4 all the way to the second round. And I hope that continues to happen. And to answer the second part of your question, you have to do all your homework, and we certainly do that to a great degree. It helps that Rob Vartughian and I come from jobs where we had to know the player pool really well. Rob’s still involved with the national teams, I’m still involved in youth soccer. So you get exposed to a lot of these top level guys as they develop. Aside from that you have to go watch college games. You just have to go beat the bushes and make sure you see these guys live in their own environment to see their true potential.

Chance for sleepers in 2nd round?

Naka’s another good example. I can’t believe he slipped so far in that draft and we were able to nab him. I think this draft probably for our staff, there’s a lot of players who have a ton of potential, plus there’s a lot of equity between the players. So you really have to know what their personalities are, what they’re going to bring at the next level and try to make some very tough decisions. We’re hopeful that the picks we have late…

We have some needs and we hope there will be some guys there that fit those needs.

Expand on trade possibilities/positional needs

Trades are certainly possible. The real business that gets done in the combine, you get all the staffs together, there’s every agent that’s ever represented anybody anywhere there, so you have a lot of conversations. And there’s a lot of talks of trades and possibilities, and that continues right up until, and during the draft. You just have to be careful about what your needs are and about what the proposed trades will be. So we’re open to that, for sure, but I think we’re in a better position than we ever have been with our team right now so we can be a little patient in that regard.

As for positions, you have to go into it looking two ways. One is, what do you need out of the draft. And certainly, we probably need to add some depth in the back for us. And there are certainly some good players coming out this year that fit this need. But if there’s a guy out there, like a Michael Farfan, Michael Farfan wasn’t necessarily a need for us last year and a lot of people questioned why we took him, and every time I was asked why we took him I would say, ‘He’s just the best out there, he’s a guy who can play in this league, he’s going to be successful. So you have to balance that, in that case I was very confident about Michael. But if there’s that player out there and you know he can make it versus a guy you’re a little uncertain about but he might fit an positional need, that player has more value in our opinion.

Trade for an international spot?

Yeah, that’s a possibility. But it’s really early for that to take place. It would have to be something that was really attractive and an international spot. You don’t have to be roster compliant until March 1. There’s so much time, there’s the January transfer window still, so I don’t think there are too many clubs, and I don’t think we’re too worried about being roster compliant at this point.

Add height to the back line?

Our back line is not where our height disadvantage is at the moment. So while there is something to be said for that, I think when you’re talking about center backs in our league, certainly if you’re playing Houston, it’s important to have some size back there.

Do you work this year any differently than the last two?

I think the work is exactly the same. It might take away from the importance of us bringing in a player in this draft that we feel has to contribute right away. And in that regard we do get the ability to look at absolutely every avenue and make sure we’re filling some needs. If there’s a player out there who is the best and we feel has some value in the league, it does make it easier in that regard.

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