FRISCO - Finding the next FC Dallas SuperDraft home run is no easy task, but it’s what Marco Ferruzzi is tasked with year after year.
A first-team assistant by day, Ferruzzi is responsible for keeping up with the best college players in the country in preparation for the annual January event - not easy when you consider that the college season, spanning from August to November with the NCAA College Cup in early December, coincides with the busiest and most crucial part of the MLS calendar.
Unlike the process of turning pro for some other sports, college soccer players generally play through their senior season before becoming eligible for the MLS SuperDraft - unless of course they’re signed to a Generation adidas contract, allowing them to leave school early. This gives Ferruzzi a full four years to track the progress of the majority of players and how the develop from year-to-year. The handful that do come out of school early are a small enough group to research fully on a case-by-case basis ahead of the Combine.
And while following the college soccer landscape over several years, Ferruzzi relies on a network of coaches, friends and contacts across the country, knowing the pattern of what types of players each produces.
“Over an accumulation of time, you end up following these guys for two, three, four years,” Ferruzzi said. “Basically we got two more weeks that we didn't want to get [being knocked out of the playoffs this season], but we were available to go see these guys. Drew [Keeshan] and myself went out there, and physically watching them is important - just checking up on guys that you've already seen for three years or two years. And you're already planting a seed watching a kid that you might be seeing next year or two years from now coming out.”
FC Dallas has another unique tool in it’s arsenal as well. Aside from keeping tabs on the traditional college soccer powerhouses, the club leans on their robust Academy when it comes to SuperDraft prospects.
As youth players are brought up in Frisco, they are taught the same playing style as the first team - a top-down mentality that produces Homegrowns with more success than any other club. Certain college programs dip heavily into the Academy player pool knowing it meshes well with their own model. Inversely, if a Dallas player is coveted by a school, they’re likely coveting similar players from around the country - players that could easily be a match on some level to the FC Dallas system. At least in theory.
“We produce good Academy players that can go and play in different programs,” he said. “You're already starting to create this relationship where we're coveting the same types of players, guys that like to play, people that are good character people, team-oriented and focused on winning, but in the right way.”
Regardless of how a player first catches the eye of the technical staff ahead of the Combine, it’s just the beginning of process. The week-long showcase immediately before the draft is where the final options are narrowed on the field and countless interviews are held to find the right fit for FCD.
“For us, it's always important that they go into that type of setting and they still show something about themselves…Getting to know the guys off the field and having those interviews, they become more important every year,” he said, noting that in 2014 they opted to go with Tesho Akindele over another attacking player in-part based on how they perceived his personality would fit with the club.
“We always get players out of the Academy and that's a beautiful thing for the league, but you always get someone in the draft that you're talking about a year later or two years later.”
For FC Dallas and Ferruzzi, the culmination of this year’s work will take place as the 2017 MLS SuperDraft gets under way on Friday at 2 p.m. CT. You can catch full coverage on FCDallas.com