“We’ve only got 10 picks right now and we’d like to have 11,” head coach Alan Koch deadpanned to a group of journalists at a downtown Chicago hotel on Thursday evening. “No, I’m just kidding.”
In addition to holding the No. 1 overall pick, the 2019 expansion newcomers have stockpiled selections in Friday’s event, happily cutting against the grain of the draft’s evolution into a less crucial player acquisition mechanism for many of their counterparts. Most notably, they completed an unprecedented transaction with the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night to acquire all five of Philly’s 2019 SuperDraft picks in exchange for up to $ 200,000 in General Allocation Money.
“As you’re going through the draft, much of this is chance and I think there’s always the opportunity that a player maybe didn’t have a good showing at the Combine and slips for some reason, maybe he’s an international player, maybe he’s a player we pick up and own his MLS rights for two years and maybe he develops in a different way and comes back,” FCC technical director Luke Sassano told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday.
“So I think it just gives a unique and kind of unorthodox way of approaching the draft, probably something that for us, as an expansion team without Homegrown Players … is kind of a unique circumstance.”
The Orange and Blue have their inaugural MLS roster to fill out in the coming months, and lack the academy or USL side that others can lean on for that task.
“We are very determined to use this historic draft opportunity to get a jumpstart on building for the future.”
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) January 10, 2019
But Koch, who played a key role in the development of Vancouver Whitecaps Homegrown phenom Alphonso Davies in his previous gig as coach of that club’s since-shuttered USL team, has a track record of spotting and grooming talent, and feels confident of doing the same with many of those in this year’s draft class. Cincinnati built a substantial domestic scouting department last year and Koch believes as many as 16 SuperDraft contenders have the potential to become MLS regulars.
“I would classify the majority of the players in this draft as projects, and I think that’s a huge positive. We’re trying to find the players that we think have a high ceiling,” said Koch.
“A lot of the players that get picked up in the draft really are coming on trial when they come in, but we’re excited to embrace them and bring them into the family and work with these guys as much as possible to set our club up for success.”
Cincy have not yet selected a USL affiliate club and may not do so at all this season. With ample knowledge and contacts around the league that they just departed, the coaching staff believe they can arrange individual loan deals with prospects they draft who might not yet be ready for the daily grind of MLS.
“We’re having a lot of conversations here. We may have an affiliation or we may just use lots of different teams,” Koch told MLSsoccer.com. “In this business, from a development perspective everything is case by case. Every individual develops differently in different ways in different environments.
“I go back to my own experiences in Vancouver – we picked Tim Parker in the draft, we picked him with the 13th pick and he ended up being capped by the US national team. So you can find diamonds in the rough in this draft. it’s our goal to try to find one or two of those and set them up for success.”
FCC are also prepared for draft-day wheeling and dealing. Koch said there’s “definite interest” from other clubs in acquiring the No. 1 pick and Sassano predicted that “our phones are going to be ringing all night,” with both pronouncing themselves ready to listen to offers, even though they’re “very, very comfortable,” in Koch’s words, with their current situation.