Preseason Notebook: Supplemental Draft offers depth
CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Jay Heaps and the rest of the New England Revolution’s technical staff had to schedule a block of time this afternoon to step away from the ongoing preseason camp at Grande Sports World and focus on the MLS Supplemental Draft.
For their efforts the Revs made four more selections, following up on the four picks they made in last week’s SuperDraft. During the four-round Supplemental Draft, New England selected UConn defender Jossimar Sanchez (fourth overall), Elon forward Chris Thomas (23rd overall), Old Dominion defender Alex De John (42nd overall) and Elon midfielder Gabe Latigue (61st overall).
“Today was important,” said Heaps. “It was about making our mark a little bit with guys we know well. Two of the guys (De John and Latigue) actually came to our Combine and we saw in our environment, then the two other players we’ve seen throughout their careers with Chris Thomas and Jossimar Sanchez. So we’ve seen all these players play, but now it’s a matter of adding depth to our squad.”
While Sanchez is currently recovering from injury, the trio of Thomas, De John and Latigue are all expected to arrive in Casa Grande on Wednesday to join Revolution camp.
Despite injury, Sanchez came highly recommended by UConn coach Ray Reid
Limited to just 12 games his senior season after suffering a severe leg injury in early October, Sanchez is currently in the process of rehabbing and is likely still a month or so away from returning to action. Despite the setback, UConn head coach Ray Reid gave Sanchez – a two-time captain with the Huskies – a ringing endorsement, something which carried significant weight with Heaps.
“That’s a currency in our business when you really respect a guy’s opinion,” said Heaps. “Ray’s somebody we respect and someone who said even though [Sanchez] had the injury, he’s someone who’s going to be really strong in this league.”
Sanchez is a versatile defender – capable of playing anywhere along the backline and in defensive midfield – and Heaps noted he believes the Paterson, N.J., native would’ve been a SuperDraft selection if not for the injury.
Elon’s Thomas led the nation in scoring with 23 goals in 2012
One glance at Thomas’ stat-line makes it clear the Hermann Trophy semifinalist is a pure finisher. The six-foot forward had 10 goals in each of his first three seasons with Elon before exploding for an astonishing 23 goals his senior year. With a total of 22 appearances in 2012, Thomas amassed a strike rate of more than one goal per game.
Finishing is an obvious strength for Thomas, who’ll be expected to add different dimensions to his game upon his arrival in Revolution camp this week.
“He’s someone who’s strong,” said Heaps. “There are other things that we want to add to his game – physicality up top – but anytime a guy can score goals in college, you want that to translate to MLS.”
De John, Latigue impress at Revolution’s own Combine
Both De John and Latigue had the chance to play in front of the Revolution’s technical staff at the club’s Combine, held in early December at Gillette Stadium. The duo did enough on that occasion – and throughout their college careers – to prompt Heaps and Co. to pick them up on Tuesday afternoon and both will join camp this week.
De John is a six-foot center back praised for his athleticism after a successful four-year career at Old Dominion.
“He’s not the biggest of guys, but he’s really athletic,” Heaps said of the Marlboro, N.J., native. “He can jump, he can move and he’s a good communicator … He’s a gamer, a competitive guy.”
Latigue is a wide midfielder who spent the majority of his Elon career on the right side; a nice complement to the SuperDraft selection of UNC-Charlotte midfielder Donnie Smith, who plies his trade on the left. Both players will be expected to help the Revolution’s width and provide an alternative to the club’s preferred approach of utilizing outside midfielders who operate more centrally.
“With Donnie Smith and Gabe we wanted to add some true wide players who really want to have their toes on the touchline,” said Heaps. “In our diamond, our guys come inside and that’s always good. But late in the game when you want to change things up or if you want to have a tactical shift, (it helps) to have guys that can be wider and put another team a little bit on the defensive.”