SEATTLE — The idea of trading up in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft was simple enough.
The reality of Sounders FC’s salary-cap constraints, however, made the proposition much more difficult, particularly with a steep price tag attached to moving from the bottom of the order into the top five or six picks.
But, as Eriq Zavaleta unexpectedly slipped toward the middle of the first round, so did the price of moving up, which allowed Seattle to strike a deal with Toronto FC for the No. 10 slot to draft Zavaleta, a touted sophomore from Indiana. The Sounders gave up the 16th overall pick and allocation money in the move.
Costly? A little, especially since money is tight.
“We felt as though Eriq was a player that we coveted enough that it was worth maybe sacrificing a tiny bit somewhere else,” said general manager Adrian Hanauer, who added the team hopes to acquire allocation money in future trades.
Zavaleta was the fourth-highest player on the Sounders’ draft board, according to coach Sigi Schmid. More important, perhaps, is that the 20-year-old is a member of Generation Adidas, a player-development program that ensures his higher salary won’t count against the cap.
Draft value was also key in the Sounders’ second-round pick, Brown defender Dylan Remick. The speedy 21-year-old, selected 35th out of 38 overall, was Seattle’s highest-rated left back at the combine and adds youth to the position behind veterans Leo Gonzalez and Marc Burch.
“We don’t interview every single kid in the combine, but we interview a lot of kids, and Dylan was great in that one-on-one interview,” Hanauer said. “We think we’ve got a kid of fantastic mentality.”
Zavaleta also impressed with his knowledge of the game, not to mention gaudy production. The unanimous Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year scored 18 goals for the Hoosiers last season, third-most in Division I, and assisted on the team’s winning goal in the national-championship game.
It may seem odd, then, that the Sounders would convert the talented forward into a central defender. Both positions are areas of need for Seattle — which is set to lose forward Fredy Montero on loan to Colombia’s Millonarios and already traded its top defender, Jeff Parke, to Philadelphia — but Schmid feels the best longterm position for the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Zavaleta is in the back.
“We’ll talk as training goes on and figure it out and try and do what’s best for him and his future,” Schmid said.
In similar instances, Schmid successfully moved attacking players Chris Albright and Greg Vanney to more defensive positions.
“Right now,” Zavaleta said, “I’m just excited to get there and to work hard in whatever position they play me.”
Hometown products drafted Thursday were UCLA midfielder Fernando Monge, a Seattle native, and Washington defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes of Bainbridge Island. Monge, who played for the Sounders FC U-23s last year, was taken by Montreal with the 18th pick in the first round. Tucker-Gangnes was selected by Portland at No. 34 overall.