In their first three MLS drafts since being reborn in 2008, the San Jose Earthquakes were most concerned about getting players in bulk to fill in the numerous holes that pock any expansion roster.
In 2011, the Quakes will look to fill specific needs. With a full complement of returnees along the back line and a fistful of defensive-minded midfielders, San Jose’s two biggest offseason requirements are obvious: A young backup to develop behind goalkeeper Jon Busch, and someone to bolster a strike force that leaned so heavily last season on Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski.
That’s not to say that if Perry Kitchen, Akron’s defensive stalwart, somehow fell to the No. 15 slot – the first of San Jose’s two picks – the Quakes would pass on that kind of value. But all things equal, they’ll be hoping to find a diamond in the rough either in the first round or the second, where they pick No. 33 overall.
San Jose have no third-round pick, having dealt selection that midway through last season to Chicago for defender Tim Ward, who proved to be a valuable pickup.
The Quakes, who pick fourth from last by virtue of their run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, would most likely snap up Maryland’s Zac MacMath, the consensus top goalkeeping prospect who started on the United States U-17 national team and is the current No. 1 on the US U-20s.
The Quakes made clear their commitment to Busch during the Expansion Draft, when they exposed one-time No. 1 Joe Cannon and watched him get snapped up by the Vancouver Whitecaps. But San Jose general manager John Doyle is on the record as seeing the need to get a young prospect to serve as Busch’s No. 2.
Otherwise, San Jose are most likely to take a shot with the best offensive player who falls to them. Presumptive stars-in-the-making such as Darlington Nagbe of Akron and Will Bruin of Indiana will undoubtedly be off the board, but the Quakes could certainly use someone such as fast-rising C.J. Sapong of James Madison.
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Sapong has the size of a potential target forward, an area the Quakes thought they had addressed last year with the signing of Eduardo, who turned in one injury-wracked season before being released.
San Jose have a bevy of international slots open in the wake of their November front-line purge – in which designated player Geovanni and Cornell Glen were also let go – so someone such as Ecuadorian international Victor Estupiñán could also be a possibility at No. 15, as could English product John Rooney, younger brother of Manchester United icon Wayne Rooney.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.