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5 thoughts on the expansion draft

Ever read those posts on SI.com, Fox Soccer, or ESPN.com with the “five thoughts about …” and then, well, lo and behold, they offer you five random thoughts about a topic?

Yeah, I always thought they were mailing it in too, too rushed or whatever to come up with a lede, coherent structure for the column, etc. But I always read them! I hate that. So if they can mail it in and successfully entertain and inform readers, maybe I can too.

So here are five thoughts about Wednesday’s expansion draft that don’t overlap with Eli’s analysis of the Union’s protect list. Here we go.

1) Zarek Valentin left unprotected? Huh?

Chivas USA left the former Reading United star unprotected, choosing instead to protect a 36-year-old player with a salary upwards of $1 million, Juan Pablo Angel. This, despite the fact that Chivas chose Valentin in the first round of the amateur draft this season and then started him in 24 games. Inconceivable!

Valentin ought to consider this his get-out-of-jail-free card, because the young defender is a relative lock to get snatched up by the Montreal Impact and leave the bumbling Chivas franchise. How often do you get a crack at 20-year-old starters in the expansion draft?

This is just the latest confirmation that Chivas USA simply doesn’t know what they’re doing. For all the good we see coming out of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and Philadelphia, Chivas is a reminder of how recently MLS got expansion clubs terribly wrong. They need new ownership, a new team name, and a move to San Diego.

2) Convey, Alexander, Cruz among big names unprotected

Valentin isn’t the only attractive player to appear on an unprotected list, but the others were more victims of numbers games than outright stupidity.

  • Danny Cruz, Houston midfielder: Cruz, 21, is a good presence on the wing who, despite his pension for diving, was a big contributor for Houston during their excellent stretch run. He was left unprotected likely because Houston had to protect three international players under expansion draft rules, and their third, Jermaine Taylor, clearly was not as important a contributor as Cruz. The other 10 players, maybe except Colin Clark, weren’t guys Houston could give up.
  • Eric Alexander, Portland midfielder: Alexander, 23, was the guy Dallas liked so much that they let Dax McCarty go in last year’s  expansion draft. Former Union midfielder Andrew Jacobson’s emergence in Dallas made Alexander trade bait, and he landed in Portland, where an abundance of young talent has now left Alexander available. He’s a good central holding midfield presence who’s proven he can start in MLS. Update: However, he’s unlikely to be chosen due to a deal between Portland and Montreal. (See below.)
  • Bobby Convey, San Jose midfielder: The Philly native can be either seen as straight-shooting or temperamental (or both), depending on your point of view. After a great 2010 season in which he was able to move back to his regular left midfield slot, he was often pushed back to left back this season with predictable disappointment. His contract with San Jose is up, and he said last month he won’t be returning. MLS doesn’t have free agency though, so to join another team, he’ll have to go via the reentry draft next month, the expansion draft Wednesday, trade, or mutual consent with San Jose. (If he’d consent to play left back and find a way to work with Peter Nowak, the Union should love to have him, but the likelihood of these two strong personalities ever working together again is pretty slim.) He’d be a good pick for Montreal, but that’d be predicated on him actually wanting to play there.
  • Brian Ching, Houston striker: Ching won’t get drafted. That’s the calculated risk Houston took, and it’s a smart one. Why would you take a 33-year-old forward with an extensive injury history over Danny Cruz? You wouldn’t. Ching will be back in Houston next year.
  • Collen Warner, Real Salt Lake midfielder: RSL thought Warner, 23, would go last year, but he didn’t. Don’t be surprised if this is the year RSL loses him. Warner had 5 assists in 23 games this year, and he’s fast down the wing.

3) Former Union players protected

The two players that Philadelphia Union let go in last year’s expansion draft, winger Shea Salinas and forward Alejandro Moreno, were protected this year by their new teams. So too was holding midfielder Andrew Jacobson, who was traded to Dallas after the Union’s trade for Brian Carroll during the short pre-draft trade window made Jacobson expendable. The Union selected all three in their expansion draft along with Jordan Harvey, who Vancouver protected this year.

Moreno scored five goals for Chivas USA, where he was sent in an expansion draft day deal, while providing good hold-up play, showing that he isn’t yet ready to leave the field for the broadcast booth on a permanent basis. Salinas overcame a preseason injury to eventually win back a regular spot in Vancouver’s starting lineup. Jacobson was moved back to his natural holding midfield spot and even spent some time in central defense, and he proved to be a core part of this year’s Dallas squad.

4) Projected picks

Projections are a crap shoot, but I’m thinking about half these should be right this year. Here are the 10 players Montreal should take, with comments about the ones I haven’t yet mentioned.

  • Kyle Nakazawa, midfielder, Philadelphia: A solid central midfielder and good character guy with terrific skill on set pieces. Montreal may hope he’s this year’s Jack Jewsbury, a player with a similar set of skills but different instincts. Union midfielder Justin Mapp would be just as good a pick if not for his salary being four times that of Nakazawa, who makes the league minimum. Still, don’t be surprised if Mapp goes instead, because he’s more of a proven quantity.
  • Sanna Nyassi, midfielder, Colorado: 5 goals, 5 assists in 23 games, just 22 years old, went first in last year’s expansion draft. The only reason not to take him is that you like Colorado fullback Kosuke Kimura more, but good right backs are easier to find in expansion drafts than good wingers. (Seattle’s James Riley is available at right back — again.)
  • Joe Cannon, goalkeeper, Vancouver: Montreal clearly likes Evan Bush, the 25-year-old keeper who was retained from Montreal’s second division roster. Cannon would be a good, experienced veteran to tutor Bush and possibly start for a year if they decide not to throw Bush to the wolves like Philadelphia did with Chris Seitz.
  • Darrius Barnes, defender, New England: Barnes is a 24-year-old defender with 72 starts in three years who can play center or left back. He can start immediately next to Nelson Rivas and be there for a long time.
  • O’Brian White, forward, Seattle: The former Hermann Trophy winner was playing terrific ball for Seattle this year until he was injured, finally showing what he could do after getting out of a bad situation in Toronto. White can count as a Canadian domestic player for Montreal, which makes him that much more attractive. (San Jose defender Nana Attakora is another Canadian who could draw interest in part because of his citizenship.)
  • Seth Sinovic, defender, Kansas City: Sinovic, 24, is an attacking left back who won a starting job in Kansas City after coming over in a trade from New England. The player he replaced, Michael Harrington, 25, is also available and was a regular starter for five years. Starting quality left backs are hard to find.
  • Zarek Valentin, defender, Chivas USA: 20-year-old regulars don’t come along often.
  • Danny Cruz, midfielder, Houston: See above, save that he’s 21.
  • Eric Alexander, midfielder, Portland: Update: According to The Oregonian , a deal is in place for Montreal not to take any Portland players. Whether that means the player at the core of it, Ryan Pore, goes over in the expansion draft or via another method is unclear.
  • Collen Warner, midfielder, Real Salt Lake: There are so many good players exposed by RSL that one of them could get taken instead of Warner, particularly if Montreal prefers an immediate, proven starter such as Robbie Russell or Ned Grabavoy and actually takes two outside midfielders like Cruz and Nyassi. But in these drafts, you take the best players available, and that should be Warner or former Everton player Cody Arnoux, who hasn’t gotten the chance to break through yet with RSL.
  • Adrian Cann, defender, Toronto: He’s Canadian, he’s a decent player, he’s started in MLS, and he’s played in Montreal before.

So that’s four midfielders, four defenders, one forward, and one goalkeeper. The three defenders are all under 25 and have been regular starters in MLS. Of them, only Valentin might not project as an immediate starter. Two of the five midfielders (Alexander and Cruz) have started regularly in MLS and would be locks to start in Montreal. The biggest shoo-ins here should be Alexander and Cruz, but it’s possible their teams could quietly make agreements with Montreal for the Impact not to select them.

5) A look at the Union’s 2009 expansion draft

While looking at some old posts for PSP’s 2nd birthday post, I came across one of our first posts, a 2009 preview of the Union’s expansion draft. It offered an interesting reminder of who the Union could’ve taken and didn’t, as well as which picks they got very right over some of the alternatives.

The Union could’ve taken from Los Angeles goalkeeper Josh Saunders or left back Todd Dunivant, each of whom is among the best at their position in MLS. I projected Saunders. Instead, they took Stefani Miglioranzi from Los Angeles and Brad Knighton as a goalkeeper from New England. Ouch.

I projected Seattle right back James Riley over my second Seattle choice, Sebastien Le Toux. In my defense, Le Toux hadn’t yet proved he could score in MLS. But whatever. There really is no defense for this projection. What was I thinking?

The Union could’ve taken Herculez Gomez from Kansas City, even though he said he was going to Mexico. If they had, they’d still hold his rights today.

Instead, they drafted some guy named Dave Myrie from Chicago, who was cut after one brutal match. He resurfaced this year in Norway’s top division.

Overall, the Union’s expansion draft still looks good on paper, but what the Union did with the players they got looks more questionable. Five of the 10 players — Le Toux, Salinas, Jacobson, Moreno and Jordan Harvey were regular starters this season in MLS, but all but Le Toux start for someone else now. Le Toux and Miglioranzi are the only draftees left on the Union roster.

16 Comments

  1. Overall I don’t mind the Unions expansion draft. How many of those drafts end up producing a playoff roster anyway? In fact, you say “what they did with those players” in a negative light, but really what they did with those players is a positive, as we clearly did well for ourselves regardless of getting rid of them.

    It shows just how good a FO we have, being able to identify talent and replace it when it leaves.

    • I think I understand. You are, on one hand, sufficiently happy with how we drafted, and at the same time, satisfied that we were objective enough to decide some of them, after a second look, weren’t right for the system or team and we got better talent. Maybe?

      I think, I partly agree. The only pick of the 10 that upsets me is David Myrie. Moreno and Salinas’ time with us was cut short by a double edged draft which most other expansion squads haven’t had to deal with so its hard to hold that against anyone. And we rolled 3 players into draft picks or cash (what some would have argued we needed to try and get more of through the expansion draft) and have had more success building our team from that direction. Seattle still sports five players from their expansion draft but I think they are much more the exception than the rule.

  2. I know how this is gonna play out … Montreal snags Valentin, then promptly trades him to Philly for Mapp and money/draft picks. It’s a win-win for us, no?

  3. I love this place!!! Great off season dialogue and coverage!!! Good to see all these comments!!! Nakazawa is too slow, please Montreal take him!!! Rather him than Mapp or Paunovic…

    • The Shin Guardian wrote that Montreal might take Naka and use him as an outside fullback. Clearly, they’ve been paying attention.

      • Not that Kyle wouldn’t do anything you ask him to in a pinch, but I don’t think he’d hold up as a wide starter in the back when trying to deal with a speedy wing.

  4. The expansion draft could have produced LeToux and 9 Myrie’s and still been a success.

  5. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Interested in Adu, new kit reaction, WPS troubles, Blatter says row over, more news

  6. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Meet the new evil genius of MLS

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