For every Major League Soccer team not in New England, the annual SuperDraft has typically proven to be a losing crap shoot.
Real Salt Lake has been among those snake bitten often. Outside of Mehdi Ballouchy, who's now with Colorado, none of the eight players RSL selected the past three years have contributed much to the club. To be fair, that list does include 2007 No. 4 overall pick Chris Seitz, a budding superstar who should evolve into a U.S. National Team keeper for years to come.
After that, RSL's draft history includes Nik Besagno, Jamie Watson, Jay Nolly, Luke Kreamalmeyer, Ryan Johnson and Steven Curfman.
Salt Lake isn't the only MLS squad that's failed to identify the draft day sleepers, but the new regime of GM Garth Lagerwey and head coach Jason Kreis hopes to change all that.
RSL has three of the first 17 picks (No. 3, No. 14, No. 17) in today's four-round, 56-player SuperDraft, in addition to the No. 37 overall pick. The draft begins at noon, and the first hour will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
"We have an idea who's going to be there, and if we like the player we'll take him," said Lagerwey.
According to a mock draft on mlsnet.com, it has RSL selecting UConn defender Julius James with the No. 3 overall pick. For obvious reasons Lagerwey didn't want tip his peers off by revealing Real's draft strategy, but the new GM did reiterate that they are "looking to sign a foreign player to replace Eddie Pope."
According to Real Salt Lake fan Web site rslfm.com, a media outlet in Colombia is reporting that defender James Jamison Olave has reached an agreement to join RSL in 2008.
If the deal becomes official, it would be the third significant signing this offseason. Even though none of the contracts are finalized, American defender Ian Joy and Argentina midfielder Matias Cordoba are both expected to be with RSL for the 2008 season.
Which rookies join them remains to be seen.
"It's a wild environment right now," said Lagerwey about the scene in Baltimore, site of today's draft. "It's our first draft, and it would be arrogant to suggest we know everything."
One of the keys to New England's success through the years and something Real is hoping to mimic is trustworthy college contacts. With the limited number of college soccer games that are televised, it's impossible for MLS teams to do a thorough job scouting the college game. That's why they must rely on college contacts, and Lagerwey believes RSL is in a great position to take advantage of that information.
"We have very broad contacts within college soccer," he said. "All five coaches on our technical staff have played college soccer."
Assuming RSL doesn't trade any of its picks, something Lagerwey admits is a possibility, this is how he envisions the picks panning out.
At No. 3, Lagerwey expects to get a player that should be able to start at some point in the 2008 season but not initially. At No. 14 and No. 17, "you're talking a little bit further down the horizon," he said. As for the No. 37th pick, it's a wild card.
The foggy outlook is why Real has spent the offseason trying to identify veteran players from around the globe to sign.Real Salt Lake opens training camp on Jan. 26, with opening day slated for March 29 at home against the Chicago Fire.