The Angle

Minnesota Bound? Scoping out MLS Players for Re-Entry

by on 28 November 2016

As the majority of the MLS is already in the offseason, clubs are going through the process of accepting and declining their players’ contracts. This week, many clubs made major announcements about players who are staying and those who will move on. How will that affect Minnesota United’s roster building?

In October, Manny Lagos partook in the Expansion Priority Draft. The final item selected in the draft of drafts was the Re-Entry Draft and Waiver Draft slot. Minnesota holds the 21st pick in both editions. Much of the focus of the Priority Draft results was given to the SuperDraft, Allocation Order, and the Expansion Draft, as these tend to be flashier commodities. However, this week Minnesota inched closer to utilizing these two mechanisms that were seen as an afterthought at the time.

Before we begin, let’s establish a bit of background on how these two drafts work. When players (23 years or older) either end their contracts and aren’t re-signed or have their options declined, they begin the hunt for a new club in phase one of the Re-Entry Draft. If drafted in phase one, their salary figure doesn’t change, but they’ll move to the new team. After phase one, clubs can perform sign-and-trade deals to get slight compensation for their players. Then phase two takes place, where players will renegotiate their deals with the drafting team. After this, it’s all fair game for the players.

Here’s the updating list of announcements made by clubs this winter regarding their players for 2017. The first major takeaway: Minnesota United is there! And so is FiftyFive.One, linked for the expected announcement of full backs Justin Davis and Kevin Venegas as the club’s first players. Around that, each team has a column to keep track of transactions. Using these as a guide, here are some notable names that may be up for grabs.

A Chicago Fire-sale

One of the most active teams over the past couple weeks have been the Chicago Fire. They announced the retention of nine key players, most notably young defenders Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell as well as goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Matt Lampson. However, a few players slipped through the cracks and will be with new clubs next year.

Romanian central midfielder Razvan Cocis joined the Fire in 2014, starting 49 games over two-plus years. He actually had his best year yet in 2016, scoring five goals and adding two assists in 30 matches. He made $160,000 last season and his friendly cap-hit makes him a potential phase one-candidate for the Loons.

League veteran center back Eric Gehrig was released after two years with the Fire, preceded by four with Columbus. His $106,875 base salary would be club friendly and, at 28, he has plenty left to offer. If the club wants a wild-card, they may take a look at 21-year-old defensive midfielder and full back Rodrigo Ramos. Only on $80,000 and offering great flexibility, he may be a good prospect to groom in Minnesota.

A True Starting Goalkeeper

The Columbus Crew’s lists of cuts only featured six players. While 33-year-old center back Michael Parkhurst deserves a fair amount of attention for his veteran leadership, the real target played behind him in the net. Steve Clark joined the Crew in 2014 after four seasons with Hřnefoss BK in Norway. At 30, Clark started 100 matches with Columbus, but was shown the door as the club brought in US U-23 prospect Zack Steffen. With a 1.46 GAA and 37 wins, Clark may be a steady starter for United.

DFW ? MSP?

With 10 players out of contract, reigning U.S. Open Cup champs and Supporters Shield winners FC Dallas will have some major shake-ups in store for themselves. Their list of departing players runs across the entire field and there are some enticing options among the lot.

The Dallas defense has been incredibly stable over the last two seasons. While center backs Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman rightly get a lot of credit, right back Atiba Harris and center back Zach Loyd do a lot of heavy lifting. Harris is an 11-year veteran of MLS, having started 194 matches in the league before the age of 32. Making $143,000, he would be a good value for a starter from day one. Meanwhile, Loyd (drafted fifth overall in 2010) lost his starting role for the first time in his career to Zimmerman. On $200,000 and capable of playing out right in a pinch, he’d be a good pickup as well.

Heath’s Old Boys

With Minnesota United gearing up to announce Adrian Heath as their first MLS gaffer, his former employers in Orlando clarified the futures of a dozen players. While assistant GM Niki Budalic said the club will negotiate with a few players, City declined the options on Kevin Alston, Luke Boden, Seb Hines, Pedro Ribeiro, and Júlio Baptista. The sixth player on the list, however, is most intriguing: defender Tyler Turner.

A former US U-17 captain, the right back played seven matches in 2015 before riding the pine in 2016. He was signed as a Homegrown Player going into the Lions’ inaugural season, earning minutes and practice time under Heath and new coach Jason Kreis. Turner is a quick full back prospect and at 20 would be a prime candidate to develop into a regular on the team for a decade.

Right Down I-35

Finally, 2016’s USOC opponent Sporting Kansas City made cuts of their own. While midfield maestro Benny Feilhaber was re-signed, nine players either had their option declined or are out of contract.

A couple of prospects were let go after struggling to make impressions in fleeting minutes. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin spent 2015 on loan with late NASL side San Antonio Scorpions, ultimately featuring in an 11-round shootout against eventual MLS Cup champions Portland that postseason. Meanwhile, winger Connor Hallisey struggled to show the promise that made him a highly-touted prospect out of college. Both are in their young-to-mid-20s and may be worth a waiver.

Meanwhile, Portuguese center back Nuno André Coelho is out of contract. The 30-year-old started 20 games in SKC’s rotating backline, scoring once and adding strong veteran presence. With a base salary of $275,000, he may be at a good price point for United. Two of Kansas City’s most consistent defenders are also at odds, with center back Kevin Ellis still in negotiations with the club. The 2008 SuperDraft first overall pick Chance Myers started just six matches in 2016. Myers started 78 matches from 2011-13 for SKC, including their MLS Cup title in 2013.

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Who would you want to see join Minnesota as a returning league veteran? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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