The wait is over, Philadelphia.
By the middle of the afternoon, the Union will finally have its first roster. Today's expansion draft (slated for 1:00p.m. EST) likely won't provide Philadelphia with ten opening day starters, but it will shed some insight on how Philadelphia plans to construct its playing staff ahead of its debut next season.
A few important things to note before delving into a deeper, team-by-team discussion about the possible selections:
The rules: Philadelphia has ten selections in the draft. It may pick no more than one player from any single team and may not select any player included in a team's protected list of 11 players or the Generation adidas program. If the Union selects a player, it has the right to renegotiate a player's salary and must exercise that right if the chosen player spent last season as a developmental player.
Three words to keep in mind – young, cheap and portable: Forget about those big-name veterans with massive salaries. Expansion drafts are about the young bucks who can play for peanuts and allow Philly to build its own roster with the extra dosh. That being said, there are a few veterans in the draft – step forward, Amado Guevara – who might get selected with an eye toward picking up extra allocation dollars and/or draft picks.
Don't overestimate the hometown connections: Sure, it makes all the sense in the world to pick up local boys like Chris Albright (New England) and Bobby Convey (San Jose) from a public relations standpoint, but does it make sense on the playing side? Union coach Peter Nowak isn't known as the sentimental type when it comes to personnel decisions, so if he's going to select and keep a player, it's probably not because he wants to make a nice splash in the papers.
Don't underestimate the influence of exposed players: Veterans are more than willing to make their preferences known regarding a new destination. There isn't much use in selecting a player if he's made it perfectly clear that he doesn't want to report. Surprisingly enough, those preferences also tend to float around to other clubs as well and damage any potential trade value.
Philly should obtain its starting left back in this draft: The Union will have plenty of reasonably priced options with Matt Besler (Kansas City), Mike Chabala (Houston), Jordan Harvey (Colorado), expansion draft staple James Riley (Seattle) and Daniel Woolard (Chicago) all on the board. On the open market, it's tough to see the Union going better or cheaper at left back without neglecting a greater need.
One final caveat: Trying to predict an expansion draft is nearly impossible. Two players many expect to be taken – Albright and Convey – aren't in my list, but could certainly end up in Philadelphia. It's all guesswork at this point and several unknown factors – contingent trades, etc. – could influence the final selections.
One point of reference: The salary numbers included below are the 2009 base salaries as published by the MLS Players Union on Sept. 15.
Chicago: The two most tempting options: holding Cuauhtemoc Blanco hostage upon his likely return to MLS after the World Cup or taking Gonzalo Segares in the hope that he doesn't sign overseas. Peter Lowry or Woolard would make sense too, but there are better choices elsewhere unless the Union is feeling mischievous. Verdict – Pass.
Chivas USA: If Nowak wants a veteran presence, he could certainly do far worse than Jesse Marsch (if he's healthy) or Carey Talley (a fine 2009 season) to lend that extra bit of nous. Gerson Mayen is an option at right back as well, but Jon Conway is the best fit as a possible starting goalkeeper. The Media, Penn. native is an experienced set of hands available at a considerably discounted rate ($36,000). Verdict – Conway.
Columbus: One of two above-average strikers – Alejandro Moreno or Emilio Renteria – makes the most sense. Moreno edges the duel here with his experience and combativeness at an appropriate price point ($132,000). Plus, if Nowak doesn't like him, some other team might register an interest in his services. Verdict – Moreno.
Colorado: Unless the Union desperately needs Pat Noonan before the Rapids attempt to ditch him or covets Jacob Peterson, it should take and keep Harvey ($50,000). He's young, cheap and steady on the left side of a back four. Verdict – Harvey.
FC Dallas: Dave van den Bergh is still very good, but it doesn't appear likely that he would leave FCD for Philly given his family ties in the Dallas area. Aside from the Dutch winger, there isn't much to see here. Verdict – Pass.
D.C. United: Forget about Luciano Emilio or Christian Gomez unless some third team wants Philly to broker a deal. Andrew Jacobson presents a cheap, tidy option in central midfield, but Devon McTavish's ability to play in a bunch of different roles off the bench makes the most sense for an expansion side. The price tag ($50,000) isn't horrible, either. Verdict – McTavish.
Houston: Chabala is a tempting option because he might have some trade value as a promising left back. Harvey's a better player though, so perhaps the Union will look elsewhere unless a trade offer appears. This pick goes against the grain of avoiding more expensive and injury-prone players, but Eddie Robinson ($137,812) would be difficult to overlook. The former Best XI defender doesn't have a starting spot with the Dynamo and would provide a solid, veteran leader for a young back line. As for Ricardo Clark, he won't be back any time soon and isn't worth the selection. Verdict – Robinson.
Kansas City: Jonathan Leathers, Kevin Souter (for international slot purposes) and Graham Zusi all made the protected list in K.C., while Matt Besler – an Overland Park, Kan. product, the eighth overall pick in last year's SuperDraft and a starter in 26 of 30 matches in 2009 – did not. Not sure what that says about Besler ($36,000) or the choice to select him that high in the draft, but the former Notre Dame central defender looks like the most logical pick. Herculez Gomez wouldn't be a bad shout either. Verdict – Besler.
New England: Why take Albright ($176,000) here when the Revs – who look booked down the right side with Kevin Alston and Sainey Nyassi – will likely have to ditch him later for salary budget considerations? Philly could try to re-negotiate Albright's deal (the only reason to take him now, in fact), but will he give up enough cash to make the deal work? Taking him doesn't make as much sense as selecting the competent and cheap Pat Phelan ($34,650) to contribute in a holding midfield role. Verdict – Phelan.
Los Angeles: Aside from Todd Dunivant and perhaps Alan Gordon, the options are too old, too expensive or too raw. Those two players aren't enticing enough to use one of the ten picks given the available options. Verdict – Pass.
New York: A couple of interesting names – Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Nick Zimmerman – to ponder, but nothing trigger worthy. Verdict – Pass.
Real Salt Lake: Robbie Russell's versatility and reasonable price tag ($97,584) could prove too tempting to skip, but there are better spots than right back for a six-figure outlay. Ned Grabavoy has a nice price tag ($83,600) and a renewed commitment to working on both sides of the ball, so he'd make a nice addition to the midfield group. Verdict – Grabavoy.
San Jose: Convey doesn't make a whole lot of sense from this vantage point. He makes too much money ($222,000) and he's probably on a guaranteed deal of some sort that would make slicing that number somewhat difficult. He also didn't see eye to eye with Nowak when they were together in D.C. and didn't play nearly well enough this season to justify his price tag. Aside from those several factors, Convey's perfect for the Union. Maybe some team would want to trade for Convey and pay the freight, but Shea Salinas ($36,300) looks like a smarter selection for the right flank. Verdict – Salinas.
Seattle: Riley played well this season and could go in his third consecutive expansion draft. Stephen King (vying for a second consecutive expansion draft selection) and Sanna Nyassi are two other possible options. With those caveats in mind, there are other, better options elsewhere. Verdict – Pass.
Toronto FC: This one's fairly straightforward after TFC predictably left Guevara ($300,000) exposed once Preki signed on as coach. Even if Philly doesn't want him, some other team here or abroad will. Verdict – Guevara.
Around the League
- Chicago has decided to part ways with incumbent coach Denis Hamlett, according to several reports yesterday. Hamlett will immediately land near the top of the list of candidates for the remaining coaching vacancies. One intriguing possibility that might make sense for the Spanish-speaking Costa Rica native: Chivas USA.
- D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen officially announced his retirement yesterday. Tributes poured out from every corner of American soccer for the well-respected midfielder. The most remarkable thing about Olsen, at least from this writer's vantage point: his ability to adapt his game over the years to remain a vital contributor despite the nagging injuries.
- How does Stefan Frei (26 starts) remain a member of the Generation adidas program and retain his roster protection for 2010 while fellow rookies Kevin Alston (26 starts), Omar Gonzalez (30 starts), Jeremy Hall (22 starts), Rodney Wallace (25 starts) and Steve Zakuani (24 starts) all graduate to the senior roster?
- Speaking of fortunate breaks, Columbus lucked out when MLS handed Jed Zayner a fifth year in the Generation adidas program even though he made 16 starts in 2009. Zayner may have benefited from making only two career starts heading into 2009 and missing his entire rookie year with an ACL tear. If Zayner hadn't remained in the program, the Crew would have likely had to protect him or face losing him in the draft after a solid 2009 campaign.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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