Alan Koch Black and White
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Scouting the SuperDraft with Alan Koch

VANCOUVER, BC – So much for an “offseason.”

It’s been over two months since the inaugural WFC2 season came to an end, but head coach Alan Koch has been keeping himself busy. Like last year, Koch is helping the Vancouver Whitecaps FC brass prepare for the 2016 MLS SuperDraft – an annual event in which MLS teams select players who have graduated from college or otherwise been signed by the league.

Koch knows a thing or two about the college scene.

Before taking over the WFC2 head coaching gig, he spent over a decade coaching at Midwestern State University, Baker University, and Simon Fraser University.

It’s still early – the 2016 MLS SuperDraft is scheduled for January 14 in Baltimore, Maryland and MLS has yet to announce the list of collegiate prospects signed to MLS contracts – but we recently caught up with Koch to get an update on the club’s preparations.

The ‘Caps have the 16th overall pick in this year's draft. 

What’s your schedule been like the last few months?

A lot of travelling and a lot of scouting. Been down the East Coast, been down the West Coast and looked at players all over. Obviously, anybody who plays in the NCAA Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, or NAIA are all eligible for the draft provided they’re seniors.

We’ve really gone out and sourced a group of players. I think we have a pretty good handle of what that group of players looks like. Obviously, there are a couple games still to go in the final rounds of the national championships but I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen.

It’s one thing to go and find them but now we’ve got to see how the draft pans out and who we’re able to actually pick up.

How has your scouting role evolved now that you’re the WFC2 head coach?

I’m lucky that I have the network that I have within the college game. I’ve used that network to get a good source of players and then it’s a matter of watching them with your own eyes. 

Being the head coach of WFC2, I’m in and around the first team a lot so I have a good idea of the first team level of player that we require. And obviously we know what we need with WFC2. So going into the draft this year we feel well prepared. 

The first team obviously has to address a couple of their needs and then there will be a couple guys from the draft that come into the USL and see how they do in our environment.

Are there certain people or programs in the NCAA that you’ve come to trust?

Definitely. I have at least one person I trust in every single conference in the NCAA because I was in that league and environment for so many years. These are people that really understand what level we’re at and obviously have a good understanding of their players too. That network is a huge tool we’re utilizing to help us in preparation.

What’s your early assessment of the talent pool that might be available this year?

I’d say it’s pretty similar to what was available last year. Obviously, we’re a little bit further down now in terms of what pick we have. We’d love to get another Tim Parker. That’s our goal certainly. Is another Tim Parker going to be available at our pick? At this stage, who knows? But there are some decent players, definitely. As you work your way down, it becomes a little bit more of a lottery but then it’s our job to know exactly what we’re getting.

Considering the impact Parker made, not to mention MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin, I assume you still see value in the SuperDraft?

I do. Do we need to have four rounds? I don’t know. The fourth round does become a little bit of a lottery. But I do see the value in the first few rounds definitely because there are players like Tim Parker and Cyle Larin that are out there and I’m sure this year there will be Cyle Larins and Tim Parkers all over again.

Parker was a senior and Larin was a sophomore. How would you evaluate each pool of players this year? 

To be honest, I’ve actually liked a lot of the younger players I’ve seen this year in the college game. A little bit of that is out of our hands. It depends on who the league actually signs. I think we’ve done a good job of sourcing who those players are. It will be interesting to see now if the league signs them. And if they do, we’re definitely aware of them.

What do the next few months look like leading into the draft?

For starters, we’ll be watching the Sweet 16 games this weekend. [Goalkeeper coach] Marius Rovde is going on a trip to the East Coast for us. I’ve been on the road the last few weeks nonstop so we have a good idea of what that group looks like.

We’ll watch a few more games online and then over the break we’ll really put together a database of the players we like, rank them, and then in the beginning of January we’ll discuss how first-team recruitment is going. Because obviously you try to sign other players and then it’s important to compare them to the players in the draft.

So it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces together. And then the combine is a great opportunity to take a closer look at players before we make our final decisions.

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