If anything has become clear these past two years, it’s that Carl Robinson likes to bring in players who have character, a good, stable background, are dependable, show leadership qualities and can play some pretty decent football. You can maybe also add in gingerness!
He also appears to like picking big centre backs with his first round picks in the MLS SuperDraft.
Cole Seiler from Georgetown University became the third centre back to be selected by Robinson and the Whitecaps in the first round of the draft for the third straight year. And like Tim Parker and Christian Dean before him, Seiler looks like an excellent prospect who will be sticking around in Vancouver.
Dean went at three, Parker at 13 and Seiler now joins them as the 16th pick in 2016. As we covered in our previous piece on the draft, having singled out Seiler as the player he wanted, Robinson nearly traded up for the Hoyas senior (the third Georgetown defender to go in the first round), but he didn’t have to and was delighted not only to get his man, but at what he now offers his Whitecaps squad.
“From day one when we saw him,” is how Robinson explains when his interest in Seiler came about. “Obviously we know Georgetown are a very, very strong team with a very strong back four, and they’ve come out of the draft very well. With each individual player throughout the back four, they’ve got different characteristics.
“We just thought that Cole was not the most flashiest one of the back four, but his little defending details were probably as strong as anyones and under the radar a little bit.”
All the attention and talk about Seiler’s teammates Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry heading into the draft probably brought a huge smile out on the face of Robinson, keeping the player off that same radar. Even the 21-year-old Carolina native was left wondering how many people would actually be paying any attention to him as he headed to Florida pre-draft.
“Going into the combine I was a little bit nervous,” Seiler admitted on a conference call following his selection on Thursday. “A lot of recognition is placed on my fellow teammate that I play next to, Josh Yaro, who went number two in the draft. I wasn’t really sure how many teams actually knew who I was but I thought that I played fairly well down in Florida.”
Seiler indeed had an excellent couple of days at the combine, not that Robinson needed any more convincing, but it did give the player’s confidence that much needed boost heading into Baltimore.
“I was fortunate to play well,” Seiler admitted. “I came in well prepared and when it came to Monday, when I had interviews with the teams, I had three meetings with New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps and after I got done with each meeting I talked to my parents.
It must be a nerve wracking time for a number of players. Their footballing future should in no way be decided by a couple of days performance at the combine, but you do worry that that is still the case in some quarters.
Not so when it comes to the Whitecaps, although he still had to go through what must be the even more dreaded coaches interviews. Again though, any doubts were soon eased by the smoothness at how the Vancouver one played out.
“It was a little bit daunting when I first entered there, just because you enter a ballroom and there’s all seven of the staff in the room, this grand ballroom,” Seiler said. “But after I got to introduce myself and got to talking with the coaches, specifically coach Carl, I really enjoyed the conversation.
“And luckily one of the goalkeeper coaches had seen me play previously, so I knew they were familiar with who I was, and they sounded like they were really interested in developing me as a player, which I was really looking forward to and hoping for in a club.
“I left that meeting and talked to my parents and by all means it was the best meeting I had while I was down in Florida, so I am really looking forward to exploring a new part of North America, a little bit far from home but I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Seiler has never been to Vancouver but has travelled to Toronto and Montreal on previous family vacations. He’s heard a lot about the city though and is looking forward to see it now first hand when he arrives next week for the Whitecaps preseason training camp getting underway.
And as he said, the chance of coming to a club and playing under a coach that gives young players more than a fair crack of the whip is exciting to Seiler.
“Definitely,” Seiler adds. “That was mentioned in my meeting as well, basically asking what my strengths were and weaknesses were. We were kinda on the same page in those facets and what I was really looking forward to in playing with some teams this summer, training with some first teams, was a team and a club environment where the coaches actually seem like there was a good connection between the players and the coaches and the coaches actually seem invested in developing the players and not so much in winning and losing.
“And just in the meeting I had with coach Carl and his staff, it definitely seemed like that showed through and after I was selected I got a chance to talk to him again and he was really excited, almost as excited as I was, and looking forward to working with me, so I’m very fortunate and blessed in that regard.”
Robinson was equally as jubilant after landing Parker in last year’s draft, which can only be a good sign! So just what has got the ‘Caps coach excited by the Georgetown four-year starter?
“He’s very good on the ball,” Robinson states off the bat. “He’s very comfortable. Decision making for centre backs is very important, whether it’s simple or whether it’s aggressive in their passing. Cole can play simple, he can play smart and he can also switch the point of attack sometimes when need be.
“It’s important you have good footballing centre backs but are able to defend. He has an ability to defend, he’s smart in his decision making and he can pass the ball, so he’s got all the tools to be a successful centre back.”
With 87 appearances for Georgetown, all but one as a starter, Seiler captained Georgetown to a 2015 Big East Championship and has previously been involved with the US U-17 set-up and has played two seasons of PDL football. Not bad for a player who came into the Hoyas program as an attacking player!
“I came in as a forward and it came down to preseason,” Seiler told us. “It came down to Brandon Allan and myself over who was gonna be taking over that starting position and it became clear on day one that Brandon was more capable at that spot than I was!
“Luckily I was fortunate enough that there was a another opening at centre back and there was a senior there, Tommy Muller, who used to be with San Jose Earthquakes, and he kinda took me under his wing, and coach Zach Samol as well, who could be a pain in the ass to be honest at certain times, just how detail oriented he was!
“But it became apparent in my meeting with the Vancouver Whitecaps that those details were noticed by them and it honestly became a little bit second nature. It could be kinda painstaking sitting in hours and hours of film but at the end of the day it definitely was a blessing in disguise and shows in my play I think.”
Like nearly every player you’ll find in the draft, he is nowhere near the finished article, and how he handles the jump to the senior game remains to be seen, but the signs are very promising and Robinson is high on Seiler’s existing attributes.
“He’s a good talker, he’s a good communicator,” Robinson added. “He needs to polish up in his stepping and dropping but his understanding of the game is fantastic. He reminds me of Timmy Parker. We saw him play at right back as well. He’s very comfortable on the ball and that was a big part of why it played into our decision.”
The comparisons with Parker will no doubt be inevitable. A senior, who was captain of their program, from the same eastern Conference, both first round picks and both gingers, as Parker joked on twitter!
It might see extra pressure on Seiler if some expect him to mirror the rise of Parker last season, but Robinson doesn’t see it as an issue and for all the similarities, there are also key differences.
“Yeah, people will do and that will be natural,” Robinson said of the likely comparisons. “If you’re Jack Harrison and you get picked by Chicago and then flipped to New York, I’m sure people will compare you to Ned Grabavoy. If you’re Joshua Yaro, people will compare you to Andrew Farrell. That’s what people do in football.
“We picked Timmy last year at 13. We picked Cole this year at 16. Both have got similar trait, and you compare them, but they’re both two totally different players. They’ve got a lot of characteristics the same, but they’ve got a lot different. I don’t think people will.
“The initial thing is, character-wise, they’re exactly the same. They’re both level headed, both kept their feet on the ground when you interviewed them, and I think they’ve both got really good characteristics to be successful in this league for a number of years….They’re not flashy players and I think that’s what we’ve gone away from recently, which I think is important.”
Seiler though has no problems with any Parker comparisons at all, and sees it more as a compliment, having watched last year’s rookie’s meteoric rise that has seen him earn his first US senior national team call up in his first year.
“Yeah actually specifically in my meeting, the Whitecaps asked if I knew anything about their club and he was the first name I brought up,” Seiler said of Parker. “Just because we’ve played in the same Conference, he was at St Johns, and we competed against one another.
“I try to emulate my game after his just because he’s a bigger guy, but yet he’s also you find when it’s time to tackle he definitely he doesn’t shy away and gets stuck in but also wows people with his foot ability and his skill in those aspects of his game, so I definitely try to emulate my game after his.”
Seiler definitely appears to be another gem unearthed by the Whitecaps in the draft. Having had two training sessions with New England and one apiece with Sporting KC and, most recently with Seattle last summer, it’s surprising he wasn’t picker or rated by one of those other teams. Their loss and the ‘Caps gain hopefully.
As we say every year in these articles, the hard work begins now for Seiler. He’ll be a long way from home, but he’s had it before when he was in residency with the US U17’s. He readily admits that didn’t go smoothly at the time, but looking back now, it was an experience that helped shape him and he’s hoping that coming to Vancouver will now be the next step to reaching the next level.
“As I mentioned earlier I came in as a forward and I think that going in, honestly, I felt I was a little bit immature,” Seiler told us. “Kinda moving away, the whole process and that, and I don’t think I necessarily got settled in there that well or kind of like showed my whole capabilities. They were kinda moving me around trying to figure out where I fitted best into their system. And unfortunately toward the end of the semester I suffered an injury and wasn’t invited back for spring semester leading up to the World Cup.
“But I think that, honestly, when I was home and was kind of able to reflect back on the opportunity, I realised how much I enjoyed living away from home and I did some growing up, but as far as soccer goes I was able to kinda identify how I matched up with the best people at my position and some things I definitely needed to work on.
“But I’m hoping that that opportunity presents itself again when I come with Vancouver and see how I stack up with the guys that are already on the team and hopefully be able to process the information the coaching staff there gives me and hopefully I’ll be able to translate that to my game.”