After spending the day before the SuperDraft discussing the need to add a right back and a center back to their team, the New York Red Bulls surprised everyone by selecting a forward and a midfielder with their first two picks.
With the No. 13 pick in Thursday’s MLS Super Draft, New York took Penn State forward Corey Hertzog, a player who led the Big Ten in scoring in 2009 and then topped that feat by leading the NCAA in goals last year with 20 tallies.
And after lamenting his club's lack of speed options up top, Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe added a player who ran track in college and boasts a good upside, turning 21-years-old this August.
“[He had] a solid three games at the Combine,” Backe said. “He played wide and he also played as a striker. Physically very strong, hard working, honest brave striker. Probably in the beginning we’ll try to play wide right.”
Hertzog was excited to join the Red Bulls and met Backe and sporting director Erik Soler for the first time on Thursday after his selection. While he pondered it before the draft, it finally dawned on the former college star that he will now be playing alongside of one of the best strikers to ever play the game.
“All my friends at home are like, 'What if you go to New York and had the chance to play with Thierry Henry?'” Hertzog said. “I don’t even know what I’d do. I’m excited to meet him let alone play with him.”
Then next selection was a bit of a surprise for the Red Bulls, who once again went with an attacking player. Backe and Soler selected John Rooney, the younger brother of English star Wayne Rooney and a player with experience in England's lower leagues. Backe rated him as one of the three best midfielders in the draft and was surprised to select him in the second round.
WATCH: Rooney highlights
“He’s a box to box player, he has a good understanding of the game and he's an excellent passer of the ball,” Backe said. “I rated him very high in the Combine.”
Rooney calls himself a “goal-scoring midfielder” and celebrated the selection with his family, who were in attendance in Baltimore at the draft. Like Hertzog, Rooney met Backe and Soler for the first time on Thursday. He admitted that he’s never been to New York but is looking forward to making an impact for the Red Bull Arena club.
“I’m quick, I’m crafty and I can put the ball in the back of the net,” Rooney said. “Hopefully I can do that for them.”
After Rooney, the Red Bulls used their other second round pick on defender Tyler Lassiter. The North Carolina State product drew comparisons from Backe to the club’s second round pick from last year, who turned out to be a Rookie of the Year candidate.
“He’s almost a copy of Tim Ream," Backe said. "Taylor’s the same, he’s very comfortable on the ball coming up from the back four, reads the game very well, exactly as Tim Ream."
The Red Bulls third round selection was Billy Cortes. Backe said the player would compete with Chris Albright at right back.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012