His title may be different one year later, but Mike Petke says he approaches this year’s MLS SuperDraft with the same mindset as last year, when he led the club’s draft effort as interim head coach.
“There’s a different feel going into this draft [from] last year when I was interim coach going in with 18 other head coaches,” Petke said. “There’s no different mindset. It’s who I am and what we want to accomplish. It’s the same type of thing we’re going through this year. Hopefully we get something of substance.”
Last year, New York’s first pick came at No. 22, where the Red Bulls took Ian Christianson, who earned a roster spot but battled injuries throughout the 2013 season. The Red Bulls later selected Michael Bustamante among their Supplemental Draft picks. Picking at No. 22 once again this year (New York also has the 34th pick) after trading down several slots, Petke said the process of judging players outside of the top 10 picks can be challenging.
“It’s all about having an eye for talent and seeing if you can work with something,” Petke said. “It’s about finding intangibles that make you think they can make an impact, not necessarily immediately, but in years to come. Bustamante and Christianson are two players we have high hopes for.”
The buildup to the draft is underway at the 2014 adidas MLS Player Combine in Florida, but Petke says the preparation for making decisions on college players goes much farther back, and the combine simply provides more information to an established set of data.
“You go in with an idea of what you’ve seen throughout the year via the scouting department, and you hope the analyzing we’ve done is reassured down there,” said Petke, who was in attendance at the Combine over the weekend with members of the team's technical staff.
Asked if he was expecting to draft players to fill a positional need (this year’s draft class is thought to be deep on defenders) or simply take the best player available, Petke – true to form – kept his options open.
“I think you can draft for need, but it’s just a matter of what kind of talent is there,” Petke said. “If a player’s available in a position we’re not looking at that is head and shoulders above our positional need, I think it would be a situation where we would take a chance.”
The Red Bulls also have their natural second-round selection this year, so they will be picking two players next Thursday in Philadelphia. The second round has been good to New York in recent history, especially in even-numbered years – both Tim Ream (2010) and Ryan Meara (2012) were selected in the second round. Petke will be hoping to find a similar prospect with one or both of this year’s second-round picks.