With the No. 22 and final pick of the first round, Seattle selected Brian Nana-Sinkam, a defender out of Stanford.
Brian Nana-Sinkam was happy to have somebody in his corner who at least understood the nuances of Major League Soccer’s rookie scouting process.
Jordan Morris, Nana-Sinkam’s former Stanford teammate and one of his closest friends, couldn’t understand, not exactly. Whereas Nana-Sinkam and his fellow SuperDraft hopefuls were put through their paces at the league combine, at this time last year Morris was being actively sought after by both the Sounders and German club Werder Bremen.
But Morris could certainly empathize with the painful transition from college to pro. He reached out to his friend periodically throughout the process via text message, “telling me when to take deep breaths,” Nana-Sinkam said.
Late Friday afternoon, Morris followed up with happier tidings. Congratulations and, even more jubilantly, Welcome to Seattle.
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Nana-Sinkam was drafted by the Sounders with the 22nd and final pick of the first round of Friday’s SuperDraft, joining former Stanford teammates Morris and Aaron Kovar in Seattle and immediately filling in on the depth chart behind another former Cardinal center back: Chad Marshall.
Nana-Sinkam is the continuation of a Palo Alto-to-Seattle pipeline that dates all the way back to Roger Levesque and Taylor Graham. Nana-Sinkam, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection in 2016, helped Morris lead the Cardinal to the program’s first national title in 2015 then defended it this past fall.
“Back-to-back national championships speak for themselves,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of Nana-Sinkam and the Stanford connection.
Added general manager Garth Lagerwey: “We think it prepares kids to be grown ups, both on the field and off the field. We value the Stanford experience very highly. … We want winners. Those as good of teams as Stanford has ever had.”
Rookie drafts, by design, are typically forgettable affairs for reigning champions.
Sounders fans had to twiddle their thumbs for 15 picks only to see the club trade away the No. 16 selection to New York City FC. Seattle dealt the pick for $75,000 in general allocation money — a lump sum that could hardly even cover a down payment for a house in some of Seattle’s ritzier neighborhoods.
As laudatory as Schmetzer and Lagerwey were about Nana-Sinkam’s potential after the draft, the trade was a calculated risk. They had the Lititz, Pa., native as the second-ranked center back on their draft board behind only Miles Robinson of Syracuse, who went No. 2 overall to Atlanta. The interest level was keen enough that Schmetzer reached out to Morris for his thoughts on Nana-Sinkam in the days leading up to the draft.
By moving down, any of the five teams in between could have swooped on their man. For Nana-Sinkam, the wait grew ever more excruciating.
“You try not to get too invested in one place,” Nana-Sinkam said. “With the SuperDraft, you can’t predict it. Things change in an instant. But Seattle was one of those places that I thought, wow, that would be a great place to end up.”
His name was finally called at No. 22, and he was joined in the Sounders draft class by midfielder Dominic Oduro, who went No. 44 overall as the final pick of the second round. Oduro, not to be confused with the Montreal Impact winger with the same name, comes to Seattle by way of FC Nordsaelland in Denmark. Schmetzer drew a comparison between Oduro and former Sounder Micheal Azira, a defensive midfielder who thrived last season in Colorado.
For the Sounders, this was a draft more about depth than seeking out immediate difference-makers. With as low as their picks were, that was probably unavoidable. Nana-Sinkam will back up Marshall and Roman Torres, both of whom are established starters by older than 30. Oduro will slot in behind 31-year-old Osvaldo Alonso, who had one of his finest-ever seasons in 2016 but who will not be around forever.
“It’s about building our pipeline,” Lagerwey said. “It’s about giving ourselves options – not just now but down the road.”
The 2017 MLS SuperDraft concludes with rounds three and four via conference call on Tuesday.