Monday Postgame: DC, Chivas make strides, JPA and GBS in the news
If you’re suffering from a SuperDraft hangover this morning, the MPG is a time-tested hair-of-the-dog cure.
Let’s take another shot of the draft, with a look at how last year’s have-nots did, how the expansion teams fared and a few potential sleeper picks. We’ll also size up a big-name transfer rumor and deliver the latest on some erstwhile MLS superstars.
By the time we’re through, your head will be clear, your hands steady, and you’ll be ready to face the day. We promise.
The purpose of any draft is to allocate players and, perhaps more important, to encourage competitive balance in a given league. Hence the selection order that gives the top pick to the team with the worst record in the league the previous season.
So how did last year’s cellar dwellers do in the 2011 SuperDraft?
The Red and the Black had the worst record in MLS in 2010, and would have had the top overall pick if this weren’t an expansion year.
Considering United got the player they said they would have taken if they did have that top pick, former Akron defender/midfielder Perry Kitchen, you’d have to say the draft was a success for United.
Kitchen is only 18, but most observers believe he will play regularly in MLS in 2011. He’s also versatile, capable of playing center back or holding midfielder.
DC selected Kitchen’s college teammate Chris Korb, a defender, with their second-round pick, then worked a deal with LA to nab 6-foot-5 goalkeeper Joe Willis at No. 50 overall.
After reinforcing their midfield and attack earlier in the offseason (McCarty, Wolff, Ngwenya) United used the SuperDraft to rebuild their defense.
United may have had the poorest record in the league, but Chivas USA, last-place finishers in the West, were arguably in worse shape after the 2010 season.
The Goats lost US internationals Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein, then bid adieu to their president, vice president of soccer operations and head coach. Their new head coach, Robin Fraser, came on board just 10 days before the SuperDraft.
On Thursday, Chivas improved their back line by grabbing US under-20 defender Zarek Valentin with the fourth pick overall, and added offense with skillful Liga de Quito striker Victor Estupiñan, whom they selected at No. 14. The Goats rounded out the event by picking Brown University midfielder Jon Okafor 40th overall.
Undermanned and under the gun to rally the franchise’s fortunes, Chivas pulled out a pretty good draft day.
WATCH: Victor Estupinan highlights
Of course this year’s expansion teams, Vancouver and Portland, selected ahead of last year’s basement clubs.
The Whitecaps surprised everyone by taking US youth international Omar Salgado—and not Darlington Nagbe or Kitchen—with the No. 1 pick.
Vancouver focused on Salgado’s long-term potential—and they may have no choice in that department. Due to a FIFA rule about transferring registrations for players under the age of 18, Salgado—who played in Mexico—may not be able to play in the US or Canada until he turns 18 on Sept 10.
The team is currently working with MLS to obtain an exemption for the rangy striker that club insiders say has “world class” potential.
The Whitecaps picked another skillful attacker in the first round, nabbing Akron midfielder Michael Nanchoff with the eighth pick. Nanchoff produced 10 goals and nine assists for the Zips in 2010.
Portland also threw off plenty of sparks on draft day. The Timbers traded two picks in exchange for allocation money (possibly to spend on rumored target Kenny Cooper) and saw the player they most desired, Nagbe, fall into their lap after Vancouver chose Salgado.
The club then added University of Tulsa defender Chris Taylor with the fourth pick of the second round.
Coach John Spencer said he was “ecstatic” about his team’s haul, and Portland fans who’ve seen Nagbe’s highlight reel probably feel the same way.
WATCH: Darlington Nagbe highlights
Several defenders at the Combine were tagged as the “next Tim Ream”—that is, a guy no one rated very highly who turns out to be an excellent MLS player. A.J. Soares and Jalil Anibaba both received the designation, and Bobby Warshaw was consistently noted as a player whose stock soared at the event.
But those players all went in the first round, which pretty much disqualifies them as sleepers. A true sleeper flies under the radar.
So who is the real “next Tim Ream”? We might start with former NC State defender Tyler Lassiter, whom Red Bulls coach Hans Backe described as “almost a copy of Tim Ream” after selecting him 30th overall.
Then there’s former Indiana defender Rich Balchan. He was taken fairly high (12th overall) but there was no hype surrounding him in the run-up to the draft, and some pundits doubted Columbus’s choice.
Finally, in the speed demon department there are diminutive Ecuadorian attacker Joao Plata and former UMBC striker Levi Houapeu.
Plata led the Combine in scoring, but tumbled all the way to the bottom of the third round (49th overall), where he was picked by Toronto FC. He may be small (some said under 5-foot-5), but he is Dane Richards quick.
The same goes for Philadelphia’s third-round pick, Houapeu, who underperformed at the Combine.
Keep an eye on them this spring.
After selecting his rights on Dec 15 in the Re-Entry Draft, the Galaxy are reportedly close to finally signing former Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel.
“We’re moving forward with our discussions,” LA coach Bruce Arena told MLSsoccer.com last week. “We’re hopeful we can reach a conclusion over the next week and have him in for preseason.”
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who joined MLS in 2007—the same year as Ángel—and was named MVP of the league the following season, will not be coming back to los Estados Unidos. The former Columbus playmaker signed with Argentine club Gimnasia La Plata last Thursday.
While the Whitecaps added youth in the draft, they may be adding experience from overseas. Former Premier League and current Derby County midfielder Robbie Savage has been in talks with the expansion club. “I am fully committed to Derby and seeing out the end of my contract there but Vancouver have asked whether they will release me so I can be ready for the MLS season starting in March,” Savage told The Daily Mirror.
He later agonized over the decision in his weekly column for that paper (really).
If all that doesn’t cure what ails you, hey, there’s always Tuesday’s Supplemental Draft—the fifth player-selection event of this busy offseason.