Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Crew SC Protect, Expose, Make Moves Ahead of Expansion Draft


This draft is strange animal. The purpose of it is to help along new teams without having to field an existing team before entering the league (even though Orlando City SC did have a team). In theory, it's suppose to help maintain the level playing field that the league wants - while behind the scenes it helps control cost of starting up a fully professional "top division" team from scratch (more at bottom).

Whether this mechanism works on the competitive level is up for serious debate. Recent expansion teams in Toronto, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Montreal and even Portland (save for one year) have been mid to bottom half teams since they joined. In fact, one could make the argument that the expansion draft dilutes a limited pool of players and drags the overall quality in the league down... is probably a topic worth exploring further, in another post.

On the financial front, it's been a cost saver for expansion teams because they don't have to give up anything for MLS level players. There are league granted "allocation funds" given to teams that have players plucked but it costs little else. With the next two waiver drafts coming up along with a number of picks in the college draft, new teams can have full rosters in no time for basically nothing. They don't even have to flip the bill for developing any players. Magic.

Every existing Major League Soccer team had to submit their "protected" list of 11 players yesterday as required by the expansion draft rules. Both Orlando City SC and New York City FC get to pick ten players each from every exposed list of players from each team.

Before the draft even started, Gregg Berhalter and Company got to work trying to get something in return for valuable players that they were not going to protect. That ended up coming by way of to of the longest tenured guys in Josh Williams (sent to NYCFC for reported more than the would have received from the draft) and Bernardo Anor (to Sporting KC, no word on what the Crew got in return).

PROTECTED ELEVEN
GK Steve Clark
D Waylon Francis
D Michael Parkhurst
D Emanuel Pogatetz
MF Tony Tchani
MF Hector Jimenez
MF Romain Gall
MF Ethan Finlay
MF Justin Meram
MF Federico Higuaín
F Kei Kamara

Exempt: GK Matt Lampson (HGP), D *Ross Friedman (HGP), D *Matt Wiet (HGP), D Chad Barson (HGP), CDM Wil Trapp (HGP), MF *Matt Walker (HGP), D Ben Swanson (HGP) and MF Mohammed Saied (new signing)

A couple notes: First off, it gives you an idea of what the starting line up might look like. Second off; this draft blows your 18 to smithereens (where Williams and Anor would have been).

Next up is who the MLS Columbus did not protect, along with a quick player rating (out of stars ✪) and some notes by yours truly:

Ben Sweat, 23 (LB) ✪✪✪
Admittedly didn't see as much as I should have (Crew closed scrimmages save for the one in Dayton) but I liked what I saw when I did. He's better with the ball than your average college left back, confident and makes good decisions. You can tell when a player knows what he's doing, and he's one. Too early to tell if he is starter quality but I think an expansion side is just what the doctor ordered with a player like Sweat. He needs game time.

Ben Speas, 23 (CM) ✪✪✪
In three years in Columbus, Ben has proven he can play in MLS. In fact, I should probably put him above Sweat, but I'm leaving it as is. He could easily be a four star guy. Maybe he is. There is something about him that keeps him right on the fringe of starting under two coaching staffs now. I've seen two sides of the player. One fully engaged in the action and another, towards the end of this season, where he was letting the game happen around him. In my heart of hearts, I want him to get picked up by NYCFC so he can start along side Josh Williams. Don't care what the scouts or advanced stats might say about the two. If you have both of them starting you will finish in the top half or they will die trying to get you there. What more should you ask for in MLS.

*Agustin Viana, 31 (LB, CDM) ✪✪✪
There is enough MLS footage out there to tell you that Viana is league ready. What he lacks in speed he makes up with in skill. Too often MLS teams look at speed. Viana didn't fit Berhalter's wing back role and was overlooked as a central defensive mid off the bench behind Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp. Also had a couple injuries. He's out of contract with the Crew and not likely back either way but would be a solid pick up for anyone.

Brad Stuver, 23 (GK) ✪✪
I'd give Stuver two and a half stars if I could figure out the alt-code. I think a lot of the same things about him as I do with Sweat. These guys need game time. Stuver's performance against Indy Eleven this year (in a blowout loss, but that's were you get the best looks at GKs) was inspiring. He also played well with Wilmington Hammerheads to close out the USL Pro season, including two late season shutouts against league leaders Sacramento and Orlando.

*Eric Gehrig, 26 (CB, RB) ✪✪
Playing or not, Gehrig is the quintessential team guy. That's, by far, his number one attribute. In all honesty, I hesitate to put something like that down as a label for a player this day and age. Not a sports show (especially on the MLS site) goes by without pundits mentioning how much heart and grit a guy plays with. It annoying and used so much that it minimizes the meaning when a someone actually has those things. Gehrig has mostly been role player in his four years with the Crew with the exception of the back end of 2014, where he helped propel the team into 3rd place in the East.

Tyson Wahl, 30 (CB, LB) ✪✪
Like Gehrig, contributed greatly towards the end of 2014. Even, it appeared, kept a major team signing in Emanuel Pogatetz on the bench. Plenty on Wahl. Durable, probably the first word that springs to mind. He seems to find good teams, good coaches. Something to be said for that.

*Jairo Arrieta, 31 (F) ✪✪+
Before last season, Arrieta was a four or even a five star player. Something happened along the way and I'm not quite sure what. I do believe there is another couple productive years for Jairo but I feel sort of bad for him this year as Berhalter decided to go with Adam Bedell and Aaron Schoenfeld over him. I put a little + up there because he's the perfect player for a team to pick up (expansion or otherwise). He's still on the outer fringes of the Costa Rican national team and looking to impress.

The rest:
Kevan George, 24 (CDM, CB) ✪✪
Aaron Schoenfeld, 24 (CF) ✪✪
Adam Bedell, 23 (CF) ✪
*Daniel Paladini, 30 (CDM, RM)
*Kingsley "Fifi" Baiden, 23 (CDM)

*Currently out of contract with the Crew SC.

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To fully understand why something like this exists in the world of soccer means you have to accept that a team can buy their way directly into the highest tier vs starting from the lowest tier and working their way up. Some might say that the top divisions buy their way in via best players, which is true, but those players still have to perform and you are also talking about a very small percentage of teams. The other 99% of clubs are grinding their way.

1 comment:

Vidda Grubin said...

interesting move, shipping Anor to KC. He will fit well there. Pogatetz and Gall better be legit, because Anor always seemed a net positive in terms of Crew wins when he played.