NEW YORK — Much of the big-name talent was overlooked in the first stage of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Wednesday, but the day turned out just fine for Joseph Ngwenya and Aaron Hohlbein.
D.C. United opted to pick up the contract for Ngwenya and the Columbus Crew picked up Hohlbein as the only two selections of the league’s inaugural event. All other teams in the draft passed and did not take a shot on one of the 35 players eligible for selection.
Ngwenya comes to D.C. United after 12 appearances last season with the Houston Dynamo. The six-year pro has also suited up for the LA Galaxy and the Crew during his MLS career, and he made 11 appearances for Turkish club Antalyaspor during a brief spell abroad in 2008-09.
He won an MLS Cup with the Dynamo in 2007, scoring nine goals in 33 games across all competitions and appearing in four playoff matches that season. He’s also been capped five times by Zimbabwe.
Ngwenya has shown flexibility as both a forward and midfielder during his career and should help to shore up the attacking front of D.C. United, who scored a league-worst 21 goals during 2010.
“Joe is a guy that I always thought posed big problems for defenses in our League,” United head coach Ben Olsen said. “He is an athletic guy that knows how to play the game, and I really do believe that his best days are ahead of him.”
Hohlbein joins the Crew after four seasons in Kansas City, where he made 43 appearances, including a career-high 22 starts in 2009. A midfielder/defender during his career, Hohlbein joins a Columbus team that has spent much of the offseason retooling a lineup that reached the postseason this year but failed to win the Supporters’ Shield for the first time in three seasons.
The news Wednesday was just as much about the players who didn’t get picked, including some of the top veterans in the league. Names passed over in the first stage of the draft included Juan Pablo Angel, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hejduk and Josh Wolff.
Those players – and the 28 others who had their options declined by their team at the end of the season or whose contract simply ran out – have another week to continue negotiations with their team or elect to be part of the second stage of the Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 15.
At that point, teams can select an available player for the right to negotiate a new contract for the 2011 season and potentially beyond. Selections in the second stage will take place in the same order as the first stage, beginning with D.C. United.
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