VANCOUVER, BC – For MLS teams, drafting outside of the top five can be hit or miss.
As Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson said this week, “there are finds to be had,” but it’s not unusual for players selected in the latter stages of the first-round to be left off a club’s final roster by the beginning of the season.
“If you speak to managers, it’s funny, prior to the draft they will say they’ve got their target in mind,” Robinson said. “I can say, I can name you five players that I would like. Unfortunately, we pick 17th. So the first five players will probably go in the first five picks.”
Draft position hasn't stopped the coach and his staff from finding two defensive standouts in the last three years, however. In 2015, the ‘Caps used their first pick (13th overall) to select 6-foot-2, 195-pound centre back Tim Parker.
The ‘Caps were one of the premier defensive teams in 2015, with Parker making a solid contribution in the second half of the season. He made 15 appearances, 14 of which were starts for the impressive rookie. Parker’s standout rookie season led to his first senior national team call-up. He never looked back from there.
Over the last two seasons, Parker played more minutes (5,423) and appeared in more matches (61) than any other Whitecaps FC outfield player. And it’s been more than his play that has impressed. Last year, Parker was given the responsibility of wearing the captain’s armband whenever Kendall Waston wasn’t in the squad.
“We’re a club that prides ourselves on good character guys here,” Robinson said. “Tim Parker is certainly that, he’s got a good temperament, he’s got a good character about him, so does Jake.”
And that brings us to Vancouver’s latest SuperDraft selection: Jake Nerwinski.
Nerwinski made his professional debut just 11 days after signing his first MLS contract, starting against New York Red Bulls on February 22 in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. From there, the right back went on to make 19 starts in the regular season, recording five assists, and three more starts in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The youngster’s strong play earned him multiple accolades, including Whitecaps FC Player of the Month honours in July and the club’s Most Promising Player award.
In addition to the awards, Nerwinski finished sixth in voting for MLS Rookie of the Year.
“Jake came in last year and did great,” said Robinson. “You know he’ll be wanting to step up his minutes at right back, he played 19 games last year, which was great.”
We might not know which player the ‘Caps will be taking this Friday at the SuperDraft. What we do know is Robinson and his staff certainly have a type of player they’re looking for.
“What do I want? I want someone like Jake, like Parker. We’ve been pretty successful with defenders.”