As the first round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft progressed Thursday, one key name was left on the draft board.
It took until the 16th selection for the University of Washington's Cristian Roldan to be selected by the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders traded up to the 16th pick in a deal with Real Salt Lake. SB Nation's Jeremiah Oshan reported that the trade cost the defending Western Conference champions just under $100,000 in allocation money.
One of the reasons why Seattle made sure it worked out a trade with Real Salt Lake was the familiarity between Roldan and RSL assistant Craig Waibel. Waibel was an assistant at Washington before he joined RSL.
"We really thought RSL was going to take him because Craig Waibel has history with him as well," Sounders boss Sigi Schmid told reporters. "For them, it came down to the situation where what we were offering was more important to them than the players."
Roldan also has plenty of connections with the Sounders since he played collegiate soccer in the area at Washington.
"I know a lot of the guys, not just (recently signed homegrown player and college teammate) Darwin Jones," the midfielder said. "It’ll be a transition I think. I’ve been to the locker room. I’ve been to the Starfire (training facility). It’ll be a pretty easy transition."
When he eventually took the stage to say a few quick words to the fans in attendance at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Roldan said what many prospects were thinking Thursday.
"Wow. I'm nervous as hell," he said on the stage next to MLS commissioner Don Garber.
The 19-year-old tried to take positives out of the entire process instead of dwelling on the negatives.
“I try not to look at it in a bad way," Roldan said. "Going wherever I went, I’m still at a team and still signed with Generation Adidas. I look at it in a positive way."
The most telling quote on how Roldan's future will go in the Pacific Northwest came from Schmid on an experience he had in California after the season.
“I was down in Southern California looking at training-field options for our preseason and I go to look at this one field. They’re playing six versus six and Cristian’s out there playing," Schmid said. "I didn’t expect him to be out there playing. But he’s the kind of kid if there’s a soccer game, he’s going to play. Guys like that make it."
Portland Pulls in an Impressive Haul
Seattle's rival to the south also had a strong day across the country in Philadelphia. The Portland Timbers selected Notre Dame midfielder Nick Besler with the first of their four picks at No. 5 overall.
“I’m really excited to join Portland. I think they’re a great organization," Besler said after his name was called. "I think they’re headed in the right direction and they have the best fans in MLS. I’m really excited to get up there and start working with them."
As expected, Besler was asked a question about the comparisons to his older brother Matt, who is a star center-back with Sporting Kansas City and the United States men's national team.
"I get them so much that I’m used to responding to them," Besler said of the questions about his older brother.
The Timbers open their preseason slate against Sporting Kansas City, and the two sides meet at Sporting Park in the regular season on March 21.
"It’s going to be a little different now since I’m playing against him," the younger Besler said. "I’m really excited to go up against him and I won’t be easy on him.”
In the second round, the Timbers selected three valuable players in defender Andy Thoma and forwards Christian Volesky and Kharlton Belmar.
Thoma was projected as a first-round pick in many mock drafts, but he fell to Portland at the 24th selection. He will provide depth in the back four during Portland's attempt to get back among the Western Conference's elite clubs.
Volesky and Belmar may not be contributors right away with the Timbers, but they will get a chance to develop with the club's USL Pro team.
It is way too early to hand out draft grades. But based on early returns, the Timbers are close to an A.
Toronto Makes a Splash with Youth
Toronto FC has been criticized on numerous occasions in the past for not committing to young players.
It looks like the Reds, who are no stranger to big-money signings, are investing in the youth as well with the 2015 season on the horizon.
Before the draft began, Greg Vanney and Co. locked up a key asset in homegrown player Jay Chapman. The midfielder was joined by five other acquisitions on the day before the Jozy Altidore deal becomes official.
Toronto was also able to invest in its defense with the selection of Syracuse's Skylar Thomas, who is set to work as hard as he can to make the first team.
"I’m going to go in there and work hard," Thomas said. "Put out all I can put out and hopefully I do well. I’ll leave the decision up to the coaches.”
Thomas' college teammate Alex Bono was taken five picks before him. Bono is currently training with the USMNT in California.
“It’s good to know a ‘keeper that’s in the organization," Thomas said. "We automatically have a bond on and off the field and hopefully we can build on that."
Toronto also drafted defenders Clement Simonin of NC State and Wesley Charpie of South Florida as well as forward Edwin Rivas from Cal State Northridge.
Just like many of the players selected in Thursday's draft, Toronto's youngsters will get a chance to hone their skills with the club's USL Pro affiliate over the next year or two.
Emotional Moments on Stage
Some of the best moments of Thursday's draft came on the stage right after certain players were selected.
When Matt Polster heard his name called as the seventh-overall pick, he broke into tears while addressing the crowd.
The SIU-Edwardsville product caught the eye of the Chicago Fire while playing out of position at the MLS Combine.
"I played center-back in college," Polster said. "When I went to the combine, I got lucky enough to play at center mid to show my skills. A lot of my tendencies helped boost my stock."
“I have the engine to be a box-to-box midfielder," Polster said. "Really it just depends on what Chicago wants. I’m versatile, I can do whatever they need."
In the second round, Bosnian-born forward Dzenan Catic broke down in front of his new home support in Philadelphia.
"That was real emotion up on the stage," Philadelphia manager Jim Curtin said of his newest addition.
Catic was forced to play at NAIA school Davenport after he played professionally at Kaiserslautern in Germany.
"He had a career at Kaiserslautern in Germany. He’s been in a pro environment before so it’s not a shock to his system when he comes in Day 1," Curtin said.
The selection of Catic was just another chapter in the tale of the forward.
"My parents moved to the US when I was eight years old," Catic said. "I currently live in Michigan with my family. We've lived in Michigan since. I’m just grateful for my parents to have the courage to bring us over here for a better life."
Not all players on the stage displayed tears, especially Connor Hallisey. The 10th-overall pick decided to take a selfie with Garber before thanking Sporting Kansas City for selecting him.
Other Draft Notes
The New York Red Bulls didn't win over their fans when they selected Leo Stolz with the 18th pick. Stolz is currently in Germany working on a professional contract, as he prefers to play in Europe over MLS. One glimmer of hope for Red Bulls fans is Stolz was willing to play in New York or Los Angeles if he was selected.
It was a surprisingly quiet day for trades, but the Colorado Rapids did make the best of their moves during the draft. They traded up to the 14th pick to select 6'7" defender Axel Sjoberg out of Marquette. Colorado's day got better when it acquired midfielder Marcelo Sarvas from the LA Galaxy in what was probably the biggest trade of the day.
FC Dallas only had one pick Thursday, which was used on left-back Otis Earle. If manager Oscar Pareja's recent history with developing draft picks continues, Earle will be a star in no time in Texas.
Maryland midfielder Dan Metzger was the SuperDraft's version of Mr. Irrelevant, as he was selected with the 42nd pick by D.C. United.
“It gives me a little bit of motivation, if not a lot, going into preseason just to prove everybody wrong," Metzger told reporters. "I didn’t expect to go this late, but I’m kind of happy. It gives me the motivation and edge to show everyone what I can do."
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All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.