November 20, 2007

MLS Expansion Draft: A preview

The San Jose Earthquakes v.4.0 start stocking their roster this week with the always interesting MLS Expansion Draft. The list of unprotected players have been out since last night (thanks to Goff and the Soccer Insider).

Let's take a look at it by position and see who might make good choices for the 'Quakes...

Pat Onstad being available makes this interesting. His ties to San Jose and his experience make him a pretty tempting pick. Kevin Hartman, Dario Sala, and Jon Busch are other veteran guys available. However, Steve Cronin of the Galaxy has a nice cap number, has shown well in his limited time, and would be a nice guy to build the team around.

Ryan Cochrane is the big one here with San Jose ties. His age and price tag are also a big plus. There are other interesting targets out there, with Jose Burciaga topping the list. What happened with him in Kansas City? His left foot is a rare commodity in this league, and one that could come in handy. Kevin Goldthwaite is another lefty that's unprotected, and he also has ties to the Bay Area. He's also about $70K cheaper than Burciaga. Other good value guys in the list are Brandon Prideaux and Clarence Goodson.

The wild card here is Amado Guevara. I'd assume that he has no interest in coming back to MLS, but you never know. If it's the Guevara of a few years ago, he could instantly make the 'Quakes interesting. Andy Dorman was another surprising player left unprotected, but the word is that he wants out of MLS. His contract is up in December.

There are other options though. Ned Grabavoy is a nice player that could contribute right away. Ramon Nunez is a young talent that has been seeing inconsistent playing time. Brian Carroll has been in the national team pool and had a bit of a loss of form this season in DC. Kevin Harmse is a versatile, hard nosed player for LA who would come pretty cheap. Eloy Columbano signed with KC late in the season, and did fairly well.

Andy Williams is also available, doesn't he always get picked in these things?

Chivas threw some tempting names on this list at the forward position, with both John Cunliffe and Laurent Merlin left unprotected. The one that I'd want more information on is David Arvizu though. He was a standout on the U17 World Cup team in 2005, but hasn't forced his way onto an MLS field just yet. I wonder if he's ready.

I've always liked Nico Hernandez, who lost his spot in Colorado this season. Andy Herron is a proven goalscorer in this league, even if he's also a proven troublemaker. Dominic Oduro is a young talent that hasn't earned consistent playing time. Willie Sims of New England can't get on the field for Steve Nicol, but has started getting some time with the Guatemala national team.

John Wolyniec could always add another jersey to his collection as well. Has he played for every team in the league yet?

There's some tough decisions here for John Doyle, Frank Yallop, and the 'Quakes. If it was me, I'd be looking for younger players, low salary cap numbers, and guys who are ready to break out with regular playing time. With that in mind, these would be my picks:

GK: Steve Cronin (LA)
D: Ryan Cochrane (HOU)
D: Kevin Goldthwaite (NY)
D: Brandon Prideaux (COL)
M: Brian Carroll (DC)
M: Ned Grabavoy (CMB)
M: Ramon Nunez (CHV)
M: Eloy Columbano (KC)
F: Dominic Oduro (FCD)
F: Willie Sims (NE)

This group would be a good base to start building a roster around, and would only hit your salary cap for around $620,000. That would leave you with around $1.6 million to play with under the cap, before allocations. Carroll and Nunez are the two biggest cap hits here, but I think they're critical players that couldn't be easily replaced. If you want to make a play for another schemer, you could pick up Cunliffe or Merlin from Chivas instead and save at least $50K per year. I think Nunez is worth the price though.

Let's see what happens tomorrow afternoon...

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