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Sporting Kansas City drafts two midfielders in MLS SuperDraft

Jan 11, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Camden Riley with MLS SVP of player acquisition and retention Lino DiCuollo after being selected as the number forty-five overall pick to Sporting KC in the second round of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft at McCormick Place. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — It was a relatively low-pressure kind of day at the MLS SuperDraft for Sporting Kansas City. Head coach Peter Vermes has said he’s fairly content with the club’s roster heading into 2019. Still, the team had a No. 21 pick Friday and landed Florida Gulf Coast defender Kamar Mariott, who was not present in Chicago for the draft.

Marriott was announced as a defender, but Vermes said he was also capable of playing in the midfield. That versatility was an obvious aspect that drew the coaching staff to Marriott – especially from a club that values players who can bring a level of creativity to the defense.

“One of the things we are looking for is central defender,” Vermes said after SKC made its selection. “We like the fact that he’s also played as a No. 6, as a defensive midfielder, so that means he can actually play on the ball pretty well. We’re a team that likes to play out of the back, so having a player that has the confidence to play on the ball like he does – he’s also extremely athletic.”

Marriott contributed to Florida Gulf Coast’s 26 shutouts during his 64-game career. He scored three goals and added six assists.

Vermes went with a similar approach with the team’s second-round pick. SKC drafted Camden Riley out of University of the Pacific. Riley said he’s comfortable either in the midfield or as a defender. 

“I see myself fitting in either kind of learning from (midfielder) Ilie Sanchez or (defender) Graham Zusi on the right back,” Riley said after being drafted. “Also see myself maybe playing as a centerback and trying to play the ball.” 

“I think my game is best described by my thinking off the ball and my ideas in my head. I think that can translate to be played at a lot of different positions, provide some tech ability with the ability to see certain passes and things like that.”

Riley left the University of the Pacific as the program’s all-team leading scorer, with 19 goals and 10 assists.

That central defender position was a focus from Vermes, who wanted to shore up the back line before SKC embarks on a quickly-arriving 2019 season. The club has a shortened offseason this year, thanks to Champions League play starting in February.

“We’re gonna have to have a strong roster, gonna have to have two teams basically, and you also have to factor there’s gonna be injuries along the way,” Vermes said. “To have another player in that area of the field I think is really important.”

With that, Vermes said the club’s roster is pretty close to completion.

SKC had already made quite a few moves upon the end of the 2018 season. It signed free agent Rodney Wallace and Hungarian defender Botond Barath, and it traded for forward Erik Hurtado and midfielder Kelyn Rowe.

Still on SKC’s roster is also defender Ike Opara, who reportedly had asked for a trade a few weeks ago (which Vermes explained as Opara essentially just asking for more money).Vermes noted Friday that nothing had changed with that situation and SKC had not received an offer for Opara that was worth a conversation. The offer they did receive wasn’t “even a quarter of the market value,” Vermes said Friday.

As for Friday’s draft picks, it still remains to be seen whether both will eventually make SKC’s final roster. But paring-down-of-the-roster aside, according to Vermes, the team is pretty close to done with its offseason moves.

“We’re pretty much there,” he said. “There might be another forward, but I’m not in any rush. I feel good with what we have. We’re going to be actively looking, but by any means, I’m very comfortable with what we have at the moment.”

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