Ahead of tomorrow's Draft, D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper answered questions regarding the SuperDraft, scouting strategy, preseason and roster moves.
Is there a different scouting strategy when you have the number one pick as opposed to another pick?
Dave Kasper: The strategy remains the same: the starting point is that we are looking for someone who, in two-three years time, will be a starter for us, and a player who will fit into our culture. We want to find someone who will be with D.C. United for a long time, and who will contribute to our on and off the field success.
What goes into the selection of a SuperDraft pick, including scouting, the combine, etc.?
Kasper: The most important part of the process is scouting the college games in person during the college season, where players are in their most natural environment. Information about these players is gathered yearly. We have watched the majority of the players who are at the combine here and who will be draft-eligible over a number of years, and we have collected information on them.
After watching players live, we collect background info. We talk to their college coaches, we talk to former youth coaches and get a good feel for what the player is like off the field, what his motivation is, etc. We also spend a great deal of time reviewing players on video. When the players are here at the combine, we’re getting to see them live another time and in a different environment, but again seeing them with their college team in a real competitive environment is more important. We also rely on their physical testing results, which we compare to players from previous drafts and to our current players. Once they are here, we get to do interviews with them, which is a very important part of the process.
What exactly is Kurt Morsink’s role as Scouting Coordinator?
Kasper: We’re grateful that the ownership has provided the resources to add a scout. Kurt is very important. The soccer world is vast. International soccer, for example, is a vast enough world in itself that you need a scout to build relationships with agents , go to international tournaments and matches, and identify players who have what it takes and who are available to come to MLS. Then you have all the minor leagues in the US, like the USL and NASL, so it’s important to have an idea which players are good enough to play in MLS.
Then you have the college system, which is huge. Credit to Kurt, he was out all across the country this fall scouting college games, gathering information about the top prospects. He is a very busy person with his eyes focused on sourcing talent for us.
There is a solid history of top SuperDraft picks making huge impacts on playoff-caliber teams, how important do you think the Draft is to an MLS team?
Kasper: It is very important. If you look at D.C. United over the past few years, a big core of our team was selected in the SuperDraft, like Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon, Chris Korb, Joe Willis, and Taylor Kemp. These players are all a very big part of our group moving forward. The Superdraft is still an important element in building your team.
With a relatively young team, including 5 Homegrowns, is there additional responsibility on the shoulders of veteran players like Pontius, Eddie Johnson and Bobby Boswell?
Kasper: It was important for us in the off-season to bring in good veteran players, and we have accomplished that. It is important for these older players to establish the culture in the locker room and to help mentor younger players. Obviously, we have quite a few Homegrown players and quite a few younger players form the college system, and it’s very important for your team to have the right balance between younger players and veteran players. The veteran players are the ones who will be setting the tone in our locker room on a daily basis.
With preseason right around the corner, what are the goals for DCU right now?
Kasper: We’ve had quite a bit of roster turnover since last year’s last place finish, so it will be really important to build chemistry, to do a lot of team building, to get guys on the same page tactically. We know we have quite a bit of work ahead of us.
What other needs are you looking to address moving forward?
Kasper: We’ll obviously be making our draft selection on Thursday. From there, we do have some roster spots available, and we will be using our preseason to make final determinations, but left back is a position at which we would look to sign another player.