As predicted, Vancouver Whitecaps FC did indeed select a striker with the first overall pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
It just wasn’t the striker that most expected.
Omar Salgado became the latest in a string of expansion-bound attacking players to have his name called first by MLS commissioner Don Garber, following in the footsteps of 2009 top pick Steve Zakuani and 2010 first overall selection Danny Mwanga.
“With the first pick came a huge responsibility, and there was plenty of discussion about who we would take,” Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi said via teleconference. “We’re delighted that Omar was our pick, and we’re excited to have him on board and have him evolve with the club.”
The consensus among analysts was that if Vancouver chose to draft an attacking player, it would be University of Akron’s Darlington Nagbe.
“Nagbe would have been a great pick for us as well, but he’s more of a withdrawn striker, and we have other players who can fill that role,” Lenarduzzi said. “Omar is more of an out-and-out striker.”
Salgado’s move to Vancouver has, in fact, been a long time coming. The ‘Caps first had a look at him in August when he trained with the club, and Lenarduzzi says that they’ve been keen to get him onto the roster ever since.
“We saw enough during that spell that we had him pegged as the number one pick,” Lenarduzzi said.
“He’s a player that is very gifted, he’s got a great left foot and can play with his back to goal, shielding defenders,” he added. “If he gets chances, he’s a very clinical goalscorer.”
The snag in selecting the 17-year-old Salgado is a FIFA rule regarding international transfers that may prevent him from playing for Vancouver until he turns 18 in September.
“We know what the worst case scenario is and we accept that, anything other than that is a bonus,” Lenarduzzi said. “He’s shown enough upside that we can live with that.”
Lenarduzzi did not rule out sending Salgado out on loan, but added that he would be busy playing with the United States U-20 team this year anyway.
Salgado, for his part, was ecstatic to be heading to Vancouver, but was very surprised to hear his name announced so early.
“I was really amazed, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said the 6-foot-4 youngster. “Vancouver is a great city, and I like the people and the coaching staff. I’m just going to do my best everyday and I look forward to getting started.”
Vancouver also selected University of Akron’s Michael Nanchoff with the eighth pick of the first round.
“We’ve been encouraged that he’s a guy that can get by players and get crosses into the box, and he understands that there is a defensive side to the game,” Lenarduzzi said of Nanchoff. “We’re light on the left side, so he has an excellent opportunity of coming in and competing for a starting spot.”
The ‘Caps rounded out their day by taking the University of Notre Dame pair of midfielder/striker Jeb Brovsky with the 19th overall selection and defender Bilal Duckett with the 37th overall pick.