The Sounders used a first-round, 20th overall draft pick Friday on Air Force Academy standout Tucker Bone, a Tacoma native raised in California. Bone still has military service remaining and will have to partake in a special program allowing for elite athletes to jointly pursue their service and sports careers.
There will still be some work ahead for the Sounders to get Tacoma native and midfielder Tucker Bone, their first-round, 20th-overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft on Friday, into a Rave Green uniform.
For one, Bone, 22, a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy — college soccer’s version of the Heisman Trophy — still has military service remaining after scoring 13 goals and adding six assists in 22 appearances last season in being named Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. The Air Force academy does have a World Class Athletes Program (WCAP) that, according to its website, “allows top-ranked Soldier-athletes to perform at the international level while also serving their nation in the military” depending on how highly they are valued.
“It all depends on how he does,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said Friday after taking winger Bone and using a second-round pick, 44th overall, on Creighton University midfielder Joel Rydstrand, 23. “It’s a lot of things that we really have to try and tackle as we go. We were picking 20th. We really were focused on picking the best player available.”
Seattle University star Sergio Rivas was the second player selected in the second round, No. 26 overall by the San Jose Earthquakes at the Chicago-based draft. It marked the third consecutive year in which a Seattle University player was drafted. The Sounders took Alex Roldan in the first round last year. Utah-born University of Washington forward Kyle Coffee was selected 41st overall by Real Salt Lake.
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There’s a growing consensus the draft is less important to filling immediate goals for teams given the growing emphasis on spending Targeted Allocation Money and developing Homegrown Players. Lagerwey admitted this was a “very flat draft” with “not a lot of exceptional talent at the top of it” and that the picks were made with more of a long-term vision.
He views Bone as “a good midfielder” with a strong mental game and good passing and scoring ability.
“We’re very high on our (youth) academy (players), as you know,” he said. “So, we were evaluating all of the guys relative to them. We didn’t want to take players that we thought were mediocre, or had no chance of making the first team. So, if it takes Tucker a little time, that’s OK.”
Rydstrand is another player Lagerwey is prepared to show patience with, adding he was impressed with the interview he did with him at the recent MLS Combine in Orlando, Fla.
“He’s one of my favorite interviews,” Lagerwey said. “A fun kid, has a lot of personality and character. If he maybe winds up ultimately with the second team, he’s a guy that maybe a guy with that type of experience can help that group.”
The Sounders signed Indiana goalkeeper and onetime Sounders academy product Trey Muse to a Homegrown Player deal. The plan is to start Muse, a Kentucky native and Roosevelt High School graduate with their second division side and hope he can develop into a backup for incumbent Stefan Frei.
Bone will have to finish his academy enrollment in May and can’t compete for a job with the Sounders before that. He and other draft picks — except for those designated as Generation Addidas selections — aren’t on guaranteed contracts and would have to win a spot in the organization by showing something at team workouts in the spring.
“It’s an incredible feeling, just to be able to live out the dream,” Bone said in audio supplied by an MLS official, reflecting on his unorthodox route from club level U17 and u18 play with Sacramento United before joining the Air Force Academy.
“Just growing up, playing club soccer and getting recruited into the (Air Force) Academy, that whole experience I can’t stress it enough — don’t ever let anybody tell you you’re not good enough, or that you can’t do something,” said Bone, who scored 25 goals and added 22 assists for the Air Force in 81 appearances including 67 starts. “There’s a lot of hype around the developmental academies these days, but there’s just as much room out there for club players and young, talented guys that can go to the college level and develop into professional athletes.”
The WCAP program was initially created for the Olympics but can be modified for those in professional team sports. The Sounders using a first-round pick on Bone, who was raised in California, certainly plays in to their favor when it comes to getting the Air Force to accept him into that specialized sports track.
Bone told Pro Soccer USA just before the draft that he had no doubt he’ll be accepted into the program.
“It’s not too familiar, because we don’t get a lot of athletes that (turn professional), but they do have these programs in place so an athlete can pursue this sort of career,” Bone said. “I’ve tried to find out as much as I can about it, and I’ve tried to be transparent with teams about it. (The Air Force) wants to see you get drafted by a team and see that you’re a legitimate candidate.
“I don’t see a situation in which the WCAP program wouldn’t work out.”