BALTIMORE, MD – “Getting that number one spot?”
That’s one of the first questions posed to Carl Robinson on January 14 when he steps onto the draft floor at the Baltimore Convention Center ahead of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
There have been some rumblings that Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who hold the 16th overall pick, are looking to trade up for the top spot.
And Robinson isn’t sure where they’re coming from.
“Nah, everyone keeps saying I am,” he responds. “Unless something miraculous happens, no.”
Chicago Fire are set to pick at first overall. But that’s still about an hour away.
Still plenty of time for trade talk.
Less than a minute after squashing the Chicago rumour, Robinson is approached with a more legitimate offer. Greg Anderson, Whitecaps FC’s vice president of soccer operations, informs him that D.C. United are willing to trade the 13th pick for Vancouver’s 16th pick and a second-rounder.
“That’s not bad,” Robinson says.
The ‘Caps are toying with the idea of moving up in order to draft Georgetown centre back Cole Seiler, who they have high on their list. “Our boy,” as they referred to him on several occasions throughout the day. They would revisit the D.C. trade closer to the actual pick.
A few minutes later, another offer comes in.
This time, it’s from a team in the top five who are dangling their pick.
“We need a yes or no, not a maybe,” they say.
It’s a no.
Robinson and the ‘Caps brass feel the price is too high.
“We can’t get clouded by the perceived value of these top picks,” Anderson says. “Everybody falls in love with these guys now.”
As Robinson makes his rounds, a colleague from another team congratulates him on the signing of Costa Rican midfielder Christian Bolaños.
“I’ve seen him a lot … he’s good.”
“Good guy, as well,” Robinson adds. “Really good character.”
Robinson then bumps into a member of the Seattle Sounders FC brass, who informs him that they’ve traded their 15th overall pick for a player “with some experience” (it was later revealed that Seattle acquired Joevin Jones from Chicago for the 15th pick and allocation money).
“You could do with some experience,” Robinson quips.
On his way back to the draft table, Robinson exchanges pleasantries with new New York City FC manager Patrick Vieira.
Eventually, commissioner Don Garber takes to the podium to announce that Chicago is on the clock to make the first pick. There’s a little bit of a delay.
“I feel for the young kids there,” Robinson tells his staff. “We’re sitting here making decisions and the young kids are sitting there with their parents hoping their names are called. And you need a little bit of a luck for a team to like you, a manager to like you.”
With Chicago still on the clock, Robinson makes a prediction.
“Chicago will trade with someone and that team will take Jack Harrison,” he says.
Turns out he was right – well, not exactly.
Chicago selects Harrison, who then proceeds to the podium.
“He’s got a bit about him the kid,” Robinson says.
Martyn Pert, an assistant coach with the ‘Caps, agrees.
OK, now back to that trade.
After Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry go second and third overall to Philadelphia Union, Garber announces that NYCFC have traded the fourth overall pick and allocation money to Chicago Fire for “a player to be named later.”
That player was eventually revealed to be Harrison.
Shortly later, Robinson chats with a member of the NYCFC brass about the trade.
“Good little player,” Robinson says of Harrison. “He’ll do well.”
Meanwhile, the first round rolls on.
Right back Jordan McCrary is picked at 10th overall. He and Rosenberry, also a right back, were rumoured targets of the ‘Caps before the draft.
D.C. United’s pick is now just three spots away.
The ‘Caps talk again about trading up.
“I think our boy will be there at 16, but to go up three places to get the guy I want...” Robinson says.
They all agree it’s worth it.
Around that time, they notice that Orlando and D.C. are talking.
When it comes to D.C.’s pick, they call a timeout. Anderson heads over to their table.
He then reports back and informs the others that Orlando are offering up Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) for the pick. D.C. wants to know if the ‘Caps will throw in any TAM to sweeten the pot.
Orlando and D.C. make the trade and Orlando selects striker Hadji Barry.
“The boy might fall to us,” Robinson says of Seiler.
Before they make a selection, the ‘Caps receive two offers for the 16th overall pick – one involving a player on another team and one involving just picks.
“Our boy is on the board,” Robinson says. “If our boy is still there, we’re taking him.”
And that’s what they did.
“It’s funny how it works out, ain’t it?” Robinson says.
Anderson and Robinson dig up Seiler’s number and give him a call – he wasn’t at the draft because he wanted to be with his mother and father, who was unable to clear his schedule after a business partner recently passed away.
“I’m delighted to have you on board kid,” Robinson says. “Really am. I’ll keep it quick. From the moment you walked into the room, everything about you was right in regards to your character and personality. We know you’re a good player. We’ve followed you for many years … congratulations to you and your family.”
A little later, Robinson bumps into D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen and gives him a hard time for not accepting Vancouver’s trade offer.
“I’m only messing,” Robinson says. “I got the guy I wanted.”
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