Sporting KC adds two in MLS Superdraft
Kansas City, Mo. - There's nothing better than planning from a position of strength.
Sporting Kansas City historically has had amazing success building through the MLS SuperDraft – 10 players on the 2011 Eastern Conference championship team were acquired through the draft – and so the club approached Thursday's 2012 event without any desperation.
"Basically, the 11 players who played in the conference title game are still on the roster, and yet we're still a very young team," said manager Peter Vermes.
"So we came here (to the draft at the Kansas City Convention Center) without any huge holes to fill. That makes a tremendous difference, because it gives you the opportunity to select players who might be short-term or long-term projects.
"We can give them time to develop."
Vermes already has added a couple of veterans this off-season – strictly to add depth – and admitted that Sporting KC currently is negotiating with a couple of potential "Designated Player" signings.
"I just can't say any names," Vermes said with a huge grin. "But we'll know something, maybe in a couple of weeks – and if things work out, I guarantee you we could have a very, very exciting addition."
With all those fun and games going on – not to mention sitting on a solid roster that fell one result short of playing for the MLS Cup – Vermes and his staff of crafty scouts went looking for potential in this year's SuperDraft.
They landed a pair of very interesting players, beginning with forward Dom Dwyer – an Englishman from London who scored buckets of goals in junior college and then at the University of South Florida.
Dwyer might not be the smoothest finished product in the sport, at least not yet, but Vermes is excited by the possibilities.
For one thing, unlike many college players making the jump to a pro league, Dwyer shouldn't have much trouble with the physical side of the game.
The 21-year-old Dwyer is 5-foot-9 and a solid 180 pounds – and he's happy to mix it up, thank you very much.
"He's a goalscorer, he's proven that, number one," Vermes said. "Number two, he's extremely courageous around the box. He'd stick his head on the end of a guy's foot to score a goal."
Dwyer agreed that enjoys the physical side of the sport.
"If you're going to take advantage of being in good positions, you can't be afraid to put your face in there. I want to win battles on the pitch."
Vermes explained that it was easier for Sporting KC to have a go with a player like Dwyer because he's part of the "Generation adidas" program – a joint venture with the league that pays selected young players' salaries and guarantees them multi-year contracts.
"Generation adidas helps tremendously, (because) it doesn't put a lot of pressure on (Dwyer) to have an impact right away," Vermes said. "And it keeps him off-budget for us.
"The final piece is with all of our forwards, where you have Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong in the mix with their national teams, we needed to add another forward into the mix along with Soony Saad -- so that in case those guys are away or someone gets injured, we have some backup. It's a big, big pick for us."
One key player that Sporting WILL be missing this coming season is veteran forward Omar Bravo, who has returned to play in Mexico.
Even though he won't face immediate pressure, Dwyer ultimately could fill the spot vacated by Bravo.
Sporting KC's other pick in this SuperDraft was defender Cyprian Hedrick, a Cameroon native who moved to Texas and ultimately attended Coastal Carolina University.
"We're excited about the pick," Vermes said of the 6-foot, 185-pound Hedrick. "He has qualities where physically he can step into the league right away, that won't be the issue.
"Just the repetition of situations, and the way that we like to build out of the back -- and the expectations we have for our center backs -- that remains to be seen.
"Outside of that, it's going to be exciting. Bringing him in, we're looking at him as a depth guy, and it's really going to be: 'How fast does he accelerate through the process?' "
Both of these draft picks were slightly out of left field – Dwyer is only the second Englishman ever chosen in an MLS draft – but Vermes insisted he felt comfortable.
There's the fact that Sporting KC isn't hurting for immediate help, of course, but another factor weighs heavily in the team's decisions.
"It's what we think is going to work for our team going forward, and that's how we make our decisions," Vermes said. "It's like C.J. Sapong…nobody expected him (to have such success) last year. Everybody thought he played at a small school without a lot of competition.
"We're looking at what they're going to be down the road. If there's one thing I have confidence in, I have confidence in our staff -- and the way that we like to spend time and try to develop players."
Certainly the draftees appreciate Sporting KC's approach.
Dwyer admitted he was totally surprised by the entire experience, and Hedrick was overjoyed.
"I can't even begin to explain the emotion," Hedrick said. "Coming from Africa as a little kid, I love this game and I've always wanted to play professionally.
"Now I'm here, I've made it to my dream, and it's time to really step up into it."
Both players also got a small taste of what it might be like to play at Livestrong Sporting Park.
A contingent of loud, chanting fans from "The Cauldron" at the north end of Livestrong attended the draft, and cheered Dwyer for so long that he finally had to put a silencing finger to his lips.
"I can't even imagine what it's like at the games," Dwyer said. "I want to score a goal and find out."
Vermes would happily sign on for that plan.
, forward, 5-9, 180.
Hometown: London, England.
College: University of South Florida
No. 30 overall -- CYPRIAN HENDRICK, defenseman, 6-1, 185.
Hometown: Friendswood, Tex.
College: Coastal Carolina