The one thing that seemed certain for the San Jose Earthquakes at the 2011 MLS SuperDraft was that the club would end up with a goalkeeping prospect for the future.
The continued availability of Anthony Ampaipitakwong changed all that.
Quakes general manager John Doyle expected Akron’s creative — if undersized — midfielder to be snapped up within the first 20 picks. So when the draft rolled around to San Jose’s second-round selection, which was the only pick the team would make on Thursday after trading their first-rounder to Columbus in a deal for forward Steven Lenhart, Doyle and coach Frank Yallop put their needs between the posts on hold and went for the 5-foot-8, 160-pound dynamo who helped power the Zips last month to their first NCAA championship.
“We felt that it was too good to pass up,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re very happy to have him. He has a little bit of a different style of play. He’s not a big basher but got a little bit of guile to him.”
Ampaipitakwong, the last of seven Zips to be taken in the SuperDraft, was slotted as a lower first-round selection in many mock drafts. But poor reviews at the draft combine, paired with concerns about his frame, appeared to send his stock tumbling.
“I was surprised (at falling so low), but I’m just thrilled and happy to be drafted,” Ampaipitakwong told MLSsoccer.com. “The whole thought of making a pro team, them believing in my talents to help them, it’s an honor to be a part of that.”
[inline_node:324630]To Doyle, Ampaipitakwong’s success at Akron — 17 goals and 30 assists in 93 career games, with NSCAA first-team All-American honors as a junior — outweighed any concerns brought up by three matches on teams that hadn’t played together before.
“They’re a little bit false,” Doyle said of the perceptions engendered by the draft combine. “You go, ‘Yeah, this guy’s great in the combine, but let’s go back to check the body of his work over four years, not just three days in Florida in January.’ I think he’s got a great chance to be a good MLS player.”
Ampaipitakwong’s strengths play into the Quakes’ weaknesses. The Zips watch Barcelona games and try to emulate the La Liga champions’ style, and Ampaipitakwong was a big component of the free-flowing ball movement that marked Akron’s run to the title.
San Jose, on the other hand, has a tendency to rely on long-ball tactics.
“What we are lacking is in possession, and Akron, the way they play and Anthony play, it’s a possession game,” Yallop said. “And it’s not just (a matter of) keeping it; he has attacking ideas.”
As for finding a young goalie, Doyle said San Jose will try to address that need in the MLS Supplemental Draft on Tuesday. The Quakes plan to have Andrew Weber and Brian Edwards, both of whom were on the roster at various points in 2010 but never played, vie in training camp for the backup job behind incumbent starter Jon Busch. A rookie selection would serve as third-string insurance.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes