Jeb Brovsky Minnesota United

Former(?) Loon Jeb Brovsky was selected by the Whitecaps in Vancouver's first SuperDraft.

The Angle

Looking Back: Expansion Teams and the MLS SuperDraft

by on 8 December 2016

Since 2007, nine teams have joined MLS and taken part in the MLS SuperDraft in their first year. Each team has had a slightly different approach to the draft. Minnesota has the first pick in the upcoming SuperDraft, so which team should the club model its approach after?

The 2017 SuperDraft, taking place on January 13, has four rounds of 22 selections for teams to select college graduates or otherwise new-to-MLS signings. Just as in the NFL Draft, the selection order is based on teams’ regular season finish and then playoff finish (with expansion teams picking first). Unlike the NFL draft, however, MLS teams have very low odds of finding a day-one starter outside of the first few picks. Even then, success is not guaranteed.

In fact, the odds of finding a player worth keeping around are so low — your line is “how low are they?” — that several teams passed rather than select a player. That’s right, six out of the 80 picks in 2016 were “pass.”

Breaking down each expansion team’s SuperDraft selections from the last 10 years shows the trend of players rarely getting minutes with the team that drafted them continues even with teams desperate to fill rosters. *cough* MNUFC *cough*

Check out this breakdown of the average minutes of SuperDraft picks by expansion teams since 2007:

Round Minutes First Year Minutes per player
1 13,654 1,241.27
2 2,406 267.33
3 1,024 170.67
4 47 9.40

Essentially, if a player wasn’t taken in the first round, the odds are he didn’t see the field for the club (with a few notable exceptions). Let’s take a look at each expansion team and some of their stand-out selections. (Note: All minutes are for the first year with the club.)

2007 – Toronto FC
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Maurice Edu 2,180 1.5 (Sold)
1 10 Andrew Boyens 1,825 1
3 27 Richard Asante 0 0
4 40 Jeffrey Gonsalves 0 0

Toronto started off their MLS saga with a bang. USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu was picked first overall and won the MLS Rookie of the Year award after scoring four goals in 25 appearances. It wasn’t long into his second season with the club that Toronto sold him to Rangers FC in the Scottish Premier League for a €4.0 million transfer fee. Center back Andrew Boyens played in just 23 matches with the club and was released before his second season.

2008 – San Jose Earthquakes
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 TRADED for Nick Garcia 2,151 2
2 15 Shea Salinas 544 2 (returned)
3 29 TRADED for coach Frank Yallop 3 (won Cup)
4 43 TRADED for Preston Burpo 0 0

San Jose took an entirely different approach to the SuperDraft, opting instead to build their roster using the picks as trade currency. The club traded the first overall pick to the Kansas City Wizards (who used the pick on Chance Myers) for defender Nick Garcia. At the time, Garcia was the Wizards’ all-time leader in games played (224), games started (224), and minutes (20,158). Garcia played for San Jose for two years, playing as captain until he was traded to Toronto. Winger Shea Salinas played very little for the club in his first stint, but returned to the club in 2012, where he has played significant minutes for the past five seasons.

San Jose also traded their third- and fourth-round picks, the latter for a player who never saw the pitch. But the third-round pick brought back head coach Frank Yallop from the LA Galaxy. Yallop went 62-62-51 in a five-and-a-half-year stint with the club from 2008-2013. He managed to get the club to the playoffs in their third season and won the Supporters’ Shield in 2012. Considering the value of a third-round pick, the Earthquakes paid a nominal fee to get back a coach who was able to get a team together and make the playoffs in just a few years.

2009 Seattle Sounders
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Steve Zakuani 1,993 5
2 16 Evan Brown 0 0
3 31 Jared Karkas 0 0
4 46 Mike Fucito 47 2

Seattle had a rough inaugural SuperDraft, but their first overall pick, winger Steve Zakuani, stuck around the club for five years and 100 total appearances. However, 72 of those appearances were in the first two years. Zakuni was able to score 11 goals in his second year, but a severe leg injury cut his third season short and Seattle went with other options outside. Mike Fucito was the only other player selected to see minutes. He didn’t do much for the Sounders in the first year, but made 19 appearances with 1,045 minutes in his second year with the club. No other expansion team had a fourth-round player who saw the pitch, so we’ll chalk this up as a win.

2010 Philadelphia Union
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Danny Mwanga 1,461 3
1 6 Amobi Okugo 437 5
1 7 Jack McInerney 350 5
2 17 Toni Ståhl 41 1 match
3 33 Kyle Nakazawa 798 2
4 49 Brian Perk 0 0

Philadelphia decided to take a stab at quantity over quality, trading for a couple extra first-round picks. As a whole, this strategy worked for the Union. Danny Mwanga (who Loons fans may know from short stints with the Cosmos, Rowdies, and Fury) made 61 appearances for the club before being traded for another forward mid-season in 2012. Defender Amobi Okugo stayed with the team for five years and appeared in nearly every game for the club his last two years in Philly. He was then traded away to Orlando City.

Philly’s third first-round pick Jack McInerney remains a bit of an unknown quantity. Still only 24, McInerney has been in the league for seven years, just over four of which were with the Union. The forward scored 25 goals in 95 appearances during that time and started fairly frequently for the club after a couple years. Now with Portland (his fourth MLS team), McInerney is still trying to find his spot, but was a solid contributor for Philly considering his draft position. On the other hand, Ståhl played in one match. Third-round selection midfielder Kyle Nakazawa made a few sporadic starts for the club before being traded to the Galaxy in his second year.

2011 Vancouver Whitecaps
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Omar Salgado 504 4
1 8 Michael Nanchoff 137 2
2 19 Jeb Brovsky 1,509 1
3 37 Bilal Duckett 226 1

First-round selection Omar Salgado made only a few appearances with the Whitecaps, but was traded and sold to Liga MX. The still-young, 23-year-old forward saw fewer than 30 games for Vancouver. Michael Nanchoff played very little in his time with the club (and found his way to the Rowdies last season). Then there’s Jeb(!) Brovsky. The #6 started 16 and subbed in eight more games in the club’s first season. He likely would have continued the trend, but he was selected by Montreal in the Expansion Draft the next season.

2011 Portland Timbers
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 2 Darlington Nagbe 1,651 6+
2 22 Chris Taylor 0 2
3 38 TRADED for Jeremy Hall 1,424 1

The Timbers did alright with their first-round pick. Darlington Nagbe has been up and down for the club, but played a substantial amount of minutes year one and has continued to grow his role with the club. He made his USMNT debut in 2015. The team traded its third-round pick for Jeremy Hall, who played as a regular starter for the Timbers before being traded midseason to FC Dallas for Eric Alexander.

2012 Montreal Impact
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Andrew Wenger 823 2.5
2 20 Calum Mallace 289 5+

The Montreal Impact joined in a strange year when the SuperDraft was only two rounds. The club made the most of their chance, however, with two solid selections. Andrew Wenger was a good young forward for the Impact, but was traded after just over two seasons for the aforementioned McInerney. Minnesota’s own Calum Mallace saw very few minutes his first two seasons, but he’s seen his playing time increase in recent years. However, Mallace saw his playing time decrease last year and there’s a good chance he’ll be left unprotected in next week’s Expansion Draft.

2015 Orlando City SC
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 1 Cyle Larin 1,906 2+
2 22 Conor Donovan 14 2+
2 25 Akeil Barrett 0 0
3 43 Earl Edwards, Jr. 0 2
4 63 Sidney Rivera 0 1

Orlando City SC is another club that knocked it out of the park with their first pick. Under the tutelage of current MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath, Cyle Larin scored 17 goals for the expansion side on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. He saw his playing time increase in year two and rumors are circulating that he’ll be transferred before next season. The rest of Orlando’s draft was less than useful.

2015 NYC FC
Round Pick Player Minutes Played Years w/ Team
1 2 Khiry Shelton 824 2+
2 23 Connor Brandt 9 2+
3 44 Andre Rawls 0 2+
4 64 Markus Naglestad 0 0

Orlando’s counterpart still has some time to figure out if their draft was a success. Three of the four picks are still with the club or out on loans, but only first-round pick Khiry Shelton saw any substantial playing time in NYCFC’s first season.

Looking at past expansion clubs, it appears the best strategy to find a year-one player is to either strike it rich with the first-round selection or trade the assets away for immediate help. What would you like to see the Loons do on January 13?

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  • nathan3e

    It seems better than 50/50 that this first pick will pan out. Teams will still trade for a draft pick if they can send a well renumerated player they no longer wish to pay the other way. It could be worth doing.

  • Wes

    SJ TRADED FOR YALLOP!