KANSAS CITY, Mo. – All of the intrigue and the speculation surrounding the MLS SuperDraft yields to a cold slice of reality when it finally concludes.
Months and months of hard work by coaches and technical staffers went into the preparation for this day, but the verdict from it likely won't arrive for quite some time.
Despite the lengthy period required to place yesterday's proceedings at the Kansas City Convention Center in their final context, the Friday Five offers up some insight on some of the major events of the day before the Breakdown delves into a team-by-team look at the outcome on Monday:
1. What happened to the usual swap meet?: For the first time in MLS history, a SuperDraft unfolded without a single trade over two consecutive rounds. No teams went up or down. No draft picks changed hands at the last moment. Nothing. Not an ounce of movement directly related to the SuperDraft.
For a league that has seen nine trades in the first round of the past five SuperDrafts alone, it marked a significant change in operating procedure.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear did all he could to retain the status quo – the Dynamo spent plenty of time talking with Montréal about Brian Ching and the first overall pick – without success and theorized that the stability at the top of the SuperDraft trickled down throughout the order
“I'm sure the phones were ringing and discussions were made last night, maybe possibly into this morning on draft day,” Kinnear said. “I don't know if, historically, it was the first day that there were no trades [ed. note – it was], but I do think that the teams at the front of the draft – Montréal, Vancouver, New England – kinda had their minds made up. Unless there was a deal that would completely blow them away, they were taking the guys they wanted. I'm sure they're walking away pretty happy.”
Other tangible concerns played a role as well. The rather compressed nature of the draft pool – two players at the top, a third option right below and a larger group of players with a similar level of skill after that – and the paucity of excess allocation money available to most teams likely played a role in the reticence as well.
“Maybe the teams are very happy with what they have,” Columbus coach Robert Warzycha said as he pondered the situation. “The trades, they usually involve allocation money or a player. I'm sure there were some conversations about moving in the order, but nobody wants to give away picks (without) a player. That's probably why there wasn't too much movement.”
2. Montreal chooses Andrew Wenger over Darren Mattocks …: The league's newest side had the enviable task of selecting between the consensus top two players in the draft. The Impact technical staff did its homework over the past couple of months and eventually reached the decision to take Wenger (if it kept the pick) two days ago, according to coach Jesse Marsch.
“We spent a lot of time researching them, watching them both carefully, meeting with them, talking to everyone who has worked with them in the past however many years,” Marsch said. “We got a lot of input. I think Mattocks is a good player as well. I think he'll be successful. We just felt like with Andrew and what he's all about that this was our guy.”
Most observers believed the speedy Mattocks would edge the versatile Wenger out for the top spot, but Marsch said the Impact's faith in Wenger as a player – regardless of the position he eventually plays and the time he will miss this spring to finish school at Duke and play for the U.S. Olympic team – and a person made him their choice.
“We followed him very closely,” Marsch said. “He's been a good player at many different levels for many different years. We think he has the best future – both short-term and long-term – of anyone in this draft. As a new franchise, I think to have access to a player and a person like Andrew Wenger, we consider ourselves fortunate. Now it's just important that everything gets handled the right way – from what the expectations are for him within our organization to within our community. We know that he will handle being the number one pick well because he's a mature young man. There's a lot that goes into it, but we certainly feel like we became stronger.”
3. … and the Commish brushes up on his French to reveal the pick: MLS commissioner Don Garber caught more than a few people unaware when he unveiled Wenger en français before explaining the pick in English. Garber said the decision to dip into another language stemmed from his desire to extend the welcome mat for Impact fans in the best way that he could.
“We wanted to honor the people in Québec,” Garber explained. “When you're in Montréal, they speak French. It's their primary language. So we thought we'd surprise everybody and do the first pick in French. I was able to get through it. I was a little bit nervous.”
4. New England sees its plans pay off with Rowe: The landscape of this particular draft handed a significant measure of control over to the Revolution. By holding the third overall pick in a draft where the top two picks were almost guaranteed, the Revs would likely dictate how the rest of the SuperDraft would unfold if they went in an unexpected direction.
Instead of creating chaos, New England pretty much followed the script by shunning trade offers for their coveted spot and taking UCLA midfielder Kelyn Rowe.
“You never really know, right,” Revolution general manager Michael Burns said. “We had projected that one and two went the way we and most people thought it was going to go. Maybe not in that particular order, but we had known for a little while that Kelyn was going to our pick at number three. We felt good about it.”
5. Uncertainty at forward prompts New York to swoop for Cooper: While clubs resisted the urge to exchange draft picks, Portland and New York managed to strike a deal that sent Kenny Cooper to Harrison in exchange for a 2013 first-round pick and an undisclosed amount of allocation money.
New York's decision to add another striker to a group that already includes Juan Agudelo, Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers raised a few eyebrows. Red Bulls general manager and sporting director Erik Soler cited questions about the availability of Agudelo (Olympic and U.S. national team duty, though Soler waved away rumors of a possible European transfer) and Rodgers (potential work visa complications) in his explanation of the trade.
The move could work out well for all parties with the Red Bulls picking up a player Soler once tried to sign for Norwegian giant Rosenborg and the Timbers using the allocation money to bring in a forward more suited to their style of play.
“We don't typically play a game where it's very important to have a typical, English number nine,” Soler said. “We play the ball from side-to-side, we go on the wings with (Joel) Lindpere and Dane (Richards) and we score goals from those positions. We are not too preoccupied with the typical number nine. I think that if you ask Portland, that's why they moved him. They really want a number nine. I think he probably fits in our system better than their system. Even after that, he still scored a bunch of goals last season and he's proven earlier that he can do it again.”
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.