Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Philadelphia Union select Don Anding and Stephen Okai in Major League Soccer SuperDraft, but Freddy Adu news steals the headlines

Union manager John Hackworth with SuperDraft picks Don Anding (left) and Stephen Okai (right). (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)
Union manager John Hackworth with SuperDraft picks Don Anding (left) and Stephen Okai (right). (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)

INDIANAPOLIS - At the start of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft, all discussion around the Union centered around who'd they'd take with their two second-round draft picks.

By the end of the event, two bigger stories had stolen the headlines. 

Most significantly, Union manager John Hackworth stated that star midfielder Freddy Adu will not be part of the team's preseason plans. 

The news came in the form of a curt answer to a question from a reporter asking whether Adu will be at the Union's first training camp of 2013, which begins Monday at YSC Sports in Wayne. 

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  • "No," Hackworth said. His only elaboration was that "we'll address that on Monday." 

    The other major announcement was a statement from Hackworth that the team did not want to fix its biggest deficiency, left back, via the draft. 

    "We feel like we might have a couple [left backs] in-house that might be better," Hackworth said, "and we'll [soon] announce the signing of a player who has the potential to be that player." 

    That player is widely expected to be Damani Richards, a Trinidadian who has experience with that country's under-20 national team. 

    Richards' potential arrival may be may be why the Union didn't select a defender in the draft. 

    Conventional wisdom - such as there is any in the relatively small world of college soccer - predicted that the Union would focus on that position Thursday. Among the candidates were two players with local ties: Louisville's Greg Cochrane (Holland, Pa./Council Rock South) and West Virginia's Eric Schoenle (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury). 

    Cochrane ended up being selected by the Los Angeles Galaxy with the very last pick in the SuperDraft. Schoenle's name was never called, which means he'll be available in next week's Supplemental Draft. 

    As for the Union's SuperDraft haul, it includes forward Don Anding and midfielder Stephen Okai. 

    Anding, out of Northeastern University, was the Colonial Athletic Association's player of the year this past season. He recorded 14 goals and seven assists in 21 games, including an overtime winner in the championship game of the CAA Tournament. 

    The native of Amity Harbor, N.Y., admitted that hearing his name called "was a little unexpected at first." 

    But Anding has clearly done his homework about the Union. In remarks to the press after a traditional draft-day spectacle, he mentioned that he played left back for Northeastern in his junior season. 

    "I think that's what helped me in the draft and got the Union's attention," Anding said. "I'm excited to not only try and play forward but also use my diversity a little bit at left back and possibly left midfield." 

    Okai is a player the Union have come to know well. Though he played college soccer at the NAIA-level University of Mobile, he spent the last two summers with Reading United, the Union's PDL affiliate. 

    Reading is coached by Union assistant Brendan Burke, which has helped the Union do even more scouting of top college talent.

    "I tried to prove a point that even though you are at a small school in the NAIA, it doesn't mean you can't compete with other guys," Okai said. "I'm happy to be drafted in MLS, because it shows the guys in NAIA [programs] that teams can still use them and find a place for them." 

    The native of Kumasi, Ghana, said his preferred position is holding midfielder. That is an area at which the Union won't mind having some extra depth, as it will allow Amobi Okugo to play there or in central defense as needed. 

    Hackworth described Okai as "one of the most ready players in this draft to come into MLS and compete for time." 

    Okai came to the Union as part of a draft-day pick trade with Real Salt Lake. After taking Anding with the 26th overall pick, Union had originally been set for the 29th overall selection. But they traded that pick to Salt Lake for the 31st pick and two first-round Supplemental Draft picks. 

    It was not lost on Hackworth that one of the team's most promising young players last season, Antoine Hoppenot, was a Supplemental Draft selection. 

    Union fans will hope that their newfound Supplemental Draft picks turn out to be as succesful as Hoppenot; and they will hope that Anding and Okai turn out to be as succesful as past SuperDraft second-round picks, such as Michael Farfan and Ray Gaddis.

    That process begins next week.

    Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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