|Whitecaps Draft Young Gambian Manneh, Santa Clara’s Hurtado|
|Thursday, 17 January 2013 19:45|
(GamSports) – The Vancouver Whitecaps are making a habit of surprising people on draft day.
Just like they did two years ago by taking a then 17-year-old Omar Salgado first overall, the Caps went young with their first pick in Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft, selecting 18-year-old Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh fourth overall.
It took some wheeling and dealing, too. Caps’ coach Martin Rennie flipped the club’s 10th pick and an undisclosed amount of allocation money to Toronto for the fourth selection.
The fourth pick was originally New England’s, but the Revolution traded up for the first-overall pick on Wednesday, sending cash to Toronto.
Manneh came to the U.S. in 2010 and played at Lake Travis High School in Texas. He scored 12 goals for the Austin Aztex of the USL Premier Development League last season and is part of Gambia’s U20 national team.
Rennie then used the Caps’ natural fifth pick on another attacking player, Santa Clara University’s Erik Hurtado.
The 22-year-old from Beaverton, Ore., scored 15 goals and added seven assists in 19 games last season and was named the West Coast Conference player of the year.
Scoring was Vancouver’s major issue in 2012. The Caps’ 35 goals was the third-worst total in MLS behind Chivas (24) and Portland (34), and Rennie was determined to add some attacking flair in this year’s draft to complement the likes of 2012 second-overall pick Darren Mattocks.
The Revolution used the top pick on University of Louisville defender Andrew Farrell, the Big East defensive player of the year. The 20-year-old can play centre back or right back.
Chivas USA’s new manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola stayed true to his word and picked Big East midfielder of the year Carlos Alvarez second overall.
The highly-touted senior playmaker from the University of Connecticut is the son of a former Chivas Guadalajara player, and the L.A.-based Chivas will hope Alvarez can help them at the gate as well as on the field.
Chivas finished last in the Western Conference last season and, equally concerning, was their sparse attendance.
Alvarez, who calls L.A. home, had seven goals and nine assists for UConn last season.
With the third pick, Toronto scooped up Oakville, Ont., native Kyle Bekker, a 22-year-old midfielder from Boston College.
Bekker scored eight goals and added seven assists as a senior and played for Canada’s U23 team.
The Montreal Impact picked eighth and selected University of New Mexico winger Blake Smith. A 21-year-old from Texas, he notched 13 assists last season, second in the NCAA.
Rennie had two picks in the top 10 to start the day because of a summer trade with the Philadelphia Union.
The Caps acquired what turned out to be the fifth pick in a June deal that sent their top allocation ranking to the Philadelphia Union.
The Union also received the Caps’ second-round pick, while the Caps gained cash in the deal. Philadelphia used the allocation ranking to sign defender Bakary Soumare, who was returning to MLS.
Rennie is certainly not done tweaking the roster. The Caps have been scouting in Honduras and Africa and could have their eye on players in Europe, too.
Many fans are still wondering if Scottish designated players Kenny Miller and Barry Robson will, indeed, return, while playmaker Davide Chiumiento was in town in December and had lunch with Rennie to discuss a possible return to the Whitecaps, who sold him to FC Zurich in the summer.
The Whitecaps open their preseason on Sunday in Vancouver. They head to Casa Grande, Ariz., a week later for a 10-day camp that will feature friendlies against New England and the Houston Dynamo.
The Caps will later head to South Carolina for the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup, where they’ll face USL-PRO side Charleston Battery, as well as Houston and the Chicago Fire.
Rennie’s side will also play friendlies against College of the Charleston and the Carolina RailHawks before opening their third MLS season at home to Toronto on March 2.
The Whitecaps finished their second MLS season 11-13-10 and lost to the eventual MLS Cup champion L.A. Galaxy 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs.