The available player pool and the results from last year's process suggest coaches and executives should search for complementary contributors for their squads today.
As a player acquisition mechanism, the second stage lacks a bit of verve. Top candidates generally miss out the re-entry process entirely as clubs attempt to retain valuable assets. Other prominent or prudent candidates find their way out of the pool by coming off the board during stage one, meandering their way to a new club via trade or opting out of the process entirely to sign a new deal with their current club.
Culling the initial group of 70 eligible players to the second stage list of 50 removed some of the more tempting potential additions, but it did not eliminate the ability to dip into this pool for a tidy choice or two during today's conference call.
In order to sort through the group and identify the right type of option to choice at this juncture, it makes some sense to look back at how clubs fared during the process last season.
Thirteen players came off the board during the inaugural re-entry process. Four members of the group never suited up for the side that selected them (out of that quartet, only Fred made more than ten appearances before he departed for A-League side Melbourne Heart in July), while a fifth did not reach terms on a new deal with MLS.
After removing those five players from the crop entirely, the remaining eight players posted the following statistical lines with their new clubs:
Joseph Ngenwya (D.C. United): 16 games, seven starts, zero goals, zero assists
Juan Pablo Ángel (Los Angeles – Designated Player): 22 games, seven starts, three goals, one assist (traded to Chivas USA – numbers not included)
Ryan Cochrane (New England): 22 games, 19 starts, one goal, one assist
Jimmy Conrad (Chivas USA): Two games, two starts (retired due to post-concussion symptoms), one goal, zero assists
Jeff Cunningham (Columbus): 21 games, four starts, two goals, one assist
Cory Gibbs (Chicago): 26 games, 26 starts, three goals, one assist
Tyrone Marshall (Colorado): 27 games, 24 starts, zero goals, one assist
Josh Wolff (D.C. United): 30 games, 23 starts, five goals, seven assists
Total line for the eight retained re-entry process selections: 166 games, 112 starts, 15 goals, 12 assists
Average line for the retained re-entry process selections (minus Conrad): 23.4 games, 15.7 starts, two goals*, 1.7 assists*
(* – These numbers are basically irrelevant due to the inconsistency between the positions and the roles of the seven included players. For the record, the four designated strikers averaged 2.75 goals and 2.25 assists for the clubs that selected them. Those numbers do not include Ángel's productive stint at Chivas USA.)
Evaluating the data compiled through just one year of the process does not allow for any grand conclusion about the production of the selected players. It does, however, reveal a pattern for the type of player that might prove most tempting in stage two.
In every case, the players selected in 2010 could point to a fairly lengthy history of productive MLS seasons. They may have found themselves drummed out of their previous clubs due to their wage packets, but they accepted the vagaries of the re-entry process and located newclubs by agreeing to salary cuts (except for Ngwenya) that placed their new deals in line with their projected performance. All but one of the players boasted multiple international caps and the lone exception to that rule appeared for the United States at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship.
(Note: It's probably fair to suggest that Ángel's selection and the availability of Guillermo Barros Schelotto last year may represent something of an outlier in the process. The novelty of the concept ensured agents, clubs and players entered the re-entry process with little insight as to how the mechanism would work. Los Angeles managed to pluck Ángel as its third DP by flexing its financial power, but the malleability of process and the stringent qualifying guidelines to enter into it would seemingly allow teams to extract some value if a DP did qualify in the future.)
By employing that particular set of criteria, there are a few candidates that jump out from the available pool. Once-capped former D.C. United captain Clyde Simms looks like a probable selection, while other tested figures like Chris Albright, Bouna Coundoul, Simon Elliott and Pat Noonan tick all of the above boxes as well.
(Note: Cochrane, Cunningham, Hejduk and Ngwenya all find themselves in the mix again after they were picked during stage two last year. Of the four returning players, Cochrane seems the most likely to find himself drafted for a second consecutive year due to his age and his salary.)
The model may change as clubs proceed through the re-entry process over the next few years and the options in the player pool evolve, but it provides a decent template for what to expect in today's second stage.
Weaker clubs will likely take advantage of the mechanism to take a player – eight of the first ten selections were used last year – to increase their depth, while stronger clubs will have to work harder to accommodate any potential pick within their salary budgets. No player will likely rise to prominence, but a few seasoned players – including players that do not fit neatly into the group listed in the previous few paragraphs – could establish themselves as regular starters in the right situation.
In the end, the second stage should re-distribute productive players to new destinations if it unfolds as expected. Clubs may not land a star through this mechanism, but they could certainly leave satisfied if they harbor reasonable expectations about their objectives and select a player capable of supplementing their current squad.
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 MLSsoccer.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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