MLS

PSP’s mock MLS expansion draft

Image: Courtesy of MLS

Everyone loves mock drafts.

Often, they love to mock them.

I fall into both camps. I love to read them. And then I mock them. Usually because I disagree with them. And of course I think I’m right, just like everyone else who reads them.

After reading two mock MLS expansion drafts yesterday — at Sports Illustrated and MLSsoccer.com — I found myself smirking once again. Of the four mock drafters in those two drafts, only Matt Doyle at MLSsoccer.com was making anything I thought remotely approximated good calls. (Until he told me why NYC would pick Danny Cruz, that is.)

So I decided to take a crack at it for the first time since 2009, when we first started The Philly Soccer Page and very few people were around to see me get nearly every pick wrong. Pretend that 2009 draft never happened. This is the real deal, in which I proceed to get EVERY PICK RIGHT.

(Or not.)

The approach

I’ve taken a different approach with each team to approximate each team’s perspective in today’s expansion draft.

New York City FC: New York will face pressure to win right away so they can crack into a crowded New York sports market. They have to show they are not Chivas USA, v. 2.0, or merely Manchester City’s little brother. So they have to find quality starters immediately to establish respectability. Additionally, they know they will have a supply of loanees from Manchester City to bolster their ranks. Also keep in mind that both clubs can renegotiate players’ existing contracts upon drafting them.

Orlando: Orlando faces less pressure as the upstart in a sports market with only an NBA team. They have an established fan base, and they have shown they can win at the minor league level. So expect them to show more willingness to draft young, unproven players with more upside.

Me: Also a factor in a bit of logic here. Part of this is also me not just saying who I think they’ll pick, but who I think they should pick. Part of it.

Round 1

Orlando: A.J. Soares, center back, New England. Orlando has been building its spine, and they need a center back with quickness to cover for the aggressive and oft-erratic Aurelien Collin in the same way that Matt Besler did in Kansas City. Unless Soares is definitively signing with an overseas club, look for him to be the top pick, unless Orlando are not as high on the already signed Luke Boden as they claim. (NE pulls back Patrick Mullins.)

New York City: Corey Ashe, left back, Houston. NYC already has a proven left back in Jeb Brovsky, but Ashe has been one of the league’s best left backs for a few years now. One of them will become trade bait. (Houston pulls back David Horst.)

Round 2

Orlando: Bright Dike, striker, Toronto. If Dike can stay healthy and return to form, he is a beast of a center forward and a Nigerian international. (Toronto pulls back Steven Caldwell.)

New York City: Ned Grabavoy, center midfielder, Salt Lake. Grabavoy is one of the league’s most efficient center midfielders, and he’s an ideal foundation to help establish the possession game that NYC manager Jason Kreis played while coaching RSL. He knows Grabavoy well. (RSL pulls back Carlos Saucedo.)

Round 3

Orlando: Benji Joya, midfielder, Chicago. The U.S. youth international looked good upon joining Chicago, only to end up in the wilderness where young, talented players sometimes go with closed-minded managers. (Chicago pulls back Florent Sinama-Pongolle or someone else that nobody wants.)

New York City: Hendry Thomas, defensive midfielder, Dallas. Thomas will be a lockdown defensive midfielder on day one, allowing Frank Lampard (or whoever takes his place when he stays at Man City) to roam with fewer with defensive responsibilities. (Dallas pulls back Andres Escobar.)

Round 4

Orlando: Cordell Cato, attacking midfielder, San Jose. Young, talented, and the victim of a numbers game in San Jose. (SJ pulls back Adam Jahn.)

New York City: Raul Fernandez, goalkeeper, Dallas. Yes, NYC already has Josh Saunders, but in Fernandez, they can send out a legitimate starter for a South American national squad (Peru) who has shown his quality in MLS. That earns respect from fans right away. (Dallas out of draft.)

Round 5

Orlando: Steve Neumann, attacking midfielder, New England. The Bucks County, Pa. native showed well as a reserve for New England, who will be rather sore about losing him and Soares. If the Revs pull back Newumann instead of Mullins after the Soares pick, then Mullins will go in the draft almost immediately. (NE out of draft.)

New York City: Sebastian Velasquez, attacking midfielder, Salt Lake. Velasquez has good ball skills, played for Kreis at RSL, and is still in his early 20s. He also has a colorful personality that could see him flourish (or get into tons of trouble) in the New York media market. (RSL out of draft.)

Round 6

Orlando: Andrew Driver, wide midfielder, D.C. United (recently acquired from Houston). Good wide midfielder in his late 20s with European experience who would project as a starter. (Unless there’s some handshake deal in place to keep him from getting picked so soon after being traded.) (DC pulls back Chris Korb.)

New York City: Samuel Inkoom, right back, Houston (previously D.C. United). Inkoom has top tier Europe experience and played for Ghana in the World Cup. He couldn’t beat out Sean Franklin after signing with D.C. United midseason, but that’s not unexpected, as Franklin is one of the league’s best and Inkoom faced an uphill battle as a midseason acquisition. (See trade note above for Driver. Same applies.) (Houston out of draft.)

Round 7

Orlando: Charles Eloundou, forward, Colorado. Rapids manager Pablo Mastroeni has revealed himself to be an extraordinarily bad man manager, and after all the trouble it took Colorado to get Eloundou from Cameroon, it will prompt a snicker or two to see him depart. But he will. (Colorado pulls back Tony Cascio or someone else nobody wants.)

New York City: Austin Berry, center back, Philadelphia. Berry was a good starter prior to injury problems this year. If healthy, he would slot in as a starter for NYC and spend his prime anchoring their back line. (Philly pulls back Pedro Ribeiro.)

Round 8

Orlando: Sal Zizzo, winger, Kansas City. Zizzo looked good early for KC this season. If only he could stay healthy, the former youth international and hilarious sidekick to Benny Feilhaber could be a very good addition. (KC pulls back Jorge Claros.)

New York City: Alan Gordon, striker, Los Angeles. NYC needs a banger to compliment David Villa. Gordon can be that guy for two to three seasons and score some clutch goals in the process. Forget his age (33). He has. He is a late bloomer who has found in niche in MLS. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Gordon can win you games all by himself. (LA pulls back Dan Gargan.)

Round 9

Orlando: Zac MacMath, goalkeeper, Philadelphia. It makes sense on so many levels. MacMath grew up near Orlando. He is a young goalkeeper who can deputize to Tally Hall for a few years while developing more. In the interim, he is a proven starter who can step in if Hall doesn’t return from a 2014 injury. But if Orlando rates Joe Willis better, they could select him earlier in the draft for the same purpose, provided they get to him before Houston loses two players. (Philly out of draft.)

New York City: Jack Jewsbury, midfielder/right back, Portland. New York needs players who can establish a positive, winning culture on and off the field. Jewsbury is that sort of guy. The former Portland captain can play multiple positions and is the ultimate team player. (Portland pulls back Jorge Villafana.)

Round 10

Orlando: Soony Saad, forward, Kansas City. Word has it he’s going to sign with a Thai team. But why would he do that when he could enjoy a breakout season for Orlando? I mean, who plays in Thailand? The Lions will take a shot and try to convince him to sign with them. The former national high school player of the year is due for a breakout year after showing tantalizing signs of doing it earlier. He’s still in his early 20s. (If they decide Saad is definitely going to Thailand and don’t want to waste the pick, Orlando could select D.C. midfielder Jared Jeffrey or forward Conor Doyle instead.)

New York City: Thierry Henry, forward, New York Red Bulls. Do you remember Henry saying anything about retirement? Neither did I. The ultimate shot across the bow at the Red Bulls would keep Henry in his beloved New York and allow him to depart a club of which he had likely tired. This has to happen. (And if not Henry, how about a pissed off and really motivated Tim Cahill?)

10 Comments

  1. I’d shit if Henry put on the cornflower blue of ManCity. He’d rather die. If you’re right I’ll treat you to an espresso the next time I’m in Italy- circa 2030.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Riberio just went to Orlando. 4th round
    .
    Lahoud pulled back
    .
    5 players from NE selected. Sucks to build that up and then have it all picked away.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Mwanga to Orlando. 8th round.
    .
    MacMath and Marquez not selected

    • Okugo, Ribero, Mwanga.

    • I love this pick. Absolutely love it. Mwanga goes and is roommates on the road with Okugo. They develop him in a non-pressure environment with kid gloves. They give him a chance. And some day, he settles in and scores goals.

      Everyone forgets where he came from. Except maybe Orlando. Love it.

      MacMath was my iffiest prediction in the whole intellectual exercise above, and the route they went instead is interesting. Ricketts starts while Hall recovers from ACL surgery, they compete well right away, and Hall takes over at some point. Honestly though, it has a bit of WTF quality to it. They could have gotten someone younger and cheaper to do that.

      I also like the Pearce pick. Will be interesting to see if he is the fast CB who covers for Collin (instead of Soares, who apparently IS going to Europe), or if he plays LB. My guess is the former, and I think it’s an inspired idea.

  4. old soccer coach says:

    we are now extremely thin at attacking central mid, as well as at defensive central mid.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Aah, who needs a presence in the middle?? They will never be able to score on us, with our ‘three goalkeepers in the starting XI’ tactical approach!!!!

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