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DC seeking impact player at Combine, SuperDraft

With 3rd pick, Olsen & Co. make preparations for annual showcase

WASHINGTON – The 2011 MLS SuperDraft is just over a week away, and as the offseason reorganization of D.C. United’s roster continues, head coach Ben Olsen and his technical staff are preparing for a trip to Florida.

They are heading down to Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday and plan on taking in a US U-20 match that will feature possible draft candidates like midfielder Perry Kitchen and defender Zarek Valentin, both of whom are in the Generation adidas class. On Friday, the DC coaching corps will join other coaches from around the league as they evaluate the college prospects partaking in the MLS Combine.

With the third overall pick in the draft, Olsen hopes to find someone who can contribute right away in 2011.

“At the number three pick, you hope that you can get a guy who can see some time, whether that’s in a reserve role, and certainly a guy who can challenge for a starting spot,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “And that’s what you should get from those top couple picks in college.”

Long days are put in ahead of these early stages of the preseason. DC’s coaches attended a number of college games last fall in an effort to become familiar with some of the top players. Being located close to a number of strong college programs gave them a head start, with close viewing of a good selection of talent not too far from RFK Stadium.

“Within an hour you can see some real quality games,” said Olsen. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been in that hotbed of college soccer that we can see plenty of games.”

The preparations for the draft are an ongoing process very similar to what happens around the rest of the league, including contacting the respective coaches of each potential player.

“[We’re] doing no different than anybody else — trying to keep tabs on as many games as possible and talking to as many college coaches and getting their points of views,” Olsen said. “Certain ones, I think, everybody trusts a little more and have coached players that have gone to the league and know what type of player translates.”

Having solid working relationships with college coaches around the league is another important step in the process. While it’s one thing to watch a player perform on the field and evaluate his ability and talent, it’s a bit more difficult to gauge the intangibles of a prospect and how they behave off the field.

“College coaches know what type of a guy they are, what character piece are they, teammate, all those little things that we can’t tell by watching a game, and it’s a very useful thing to have,” Olsen said.

D.C. United have already made several moves this offseason, and with a pick in the first and second rounds of the draft, they have just over a week to finish up evaluating players and deciding who to select.

Their approach to the third pick could be altered depending on who Portland and Vancouver pick up with the first two selections, and Olsen acknowledged that nothing was certain.

“We’ll evaluate that when we’re down [in Florida],” he said. “We’ve obviously got guys in mind. The Combine can change things – there are some young foreign guys that you need to take a look at too. Nothing’s concrete and a lot of that goes down closer to the draft.”