Expansion drafts of yesteryear have provided limited lasting talent, but 2016 could be different. Those close to Minnesota United have indicated a real excitement about the players available. The Loons are looking to pull five regular contributors from the expansion draft process, players who can contribute in 20 to 30 matches a season. We look at the biggest points of interest for the draft and at the end, some of our writers throw out their five picks.
The Expansion Draft has a remarkably large pool of goalkeeping talent available for pickup. Since Atlanta United opted of the big money signing of Brad Guzan in goal, Minnesota will be alone in picking and choosing from the goalkeepers. The only obstacle to their free pick is the rule that prevents an established team from losing more than one player. If Atlanta opt for Steven Beitashour, that takes Clint Irwin off the table.
Clint Irwin may be the most notable name on the list, having recently lost in the MLS cup final in penalty kicks. Irwin was a mid-season pick-up for Toronto and he could be tempting enough for the Loons to pick up early.
A few starting goalkeepers find themselves exposed to the draft, any of whom would be solid starters for an expansion side. Like Irwin, the Columbus Crew’s Steve Clark finds himself unprotected just a year after losing in an MLS Cup final. Clark has made around one hundred starts for the Crew in the last three seasons at the age 30 would be a good signing for the Loons.
Chris Seitz goes from Supporters Shield winner with FC Dallas to unprotected as well (recurring theme here). What makes him an unlikely pick up is that there might be a more enticing choice in Zach Loyd.
Bobby Shuttleworth is available from the New England Revolution and may be a target. Though, since it looks Shuttleworth is being ushered out for Cody Cropper and Minnesota had a chance to sign Cody Cropper over the summer while the keeper was rehabbing here, it would be very odd for Minnesota to then pick up the player the Revs think is second best.
One other player who may get a look is Real Salt Lake’s Jeff Attinella. Minnesotans know Attinella for his penalty kick saves that led the Tampa Bay Rowdies over the Minnesota Stars in 2012. Attinella moved to RSL after that season and has been probably the best deputy goalkeeper in the league.
Just like the goalkeepers, there is a large pool of veteran defenders available for pick up in the expansion draft. Veteran defenders can be a bit of a gamble, offering experience on the one hand and creaking joints on the other.
Toronto’s Steven Beitashour can play as a right back or center back and was a regular starter in Greg Vanney’s 3-5-2 formation. The Iranian international can also turn provider. During his time at San Jose he had 16 assists in a three-season span — more than any defender in that time.
DC United center back, Kofi Opare will likely get picked up by one of the Uniteds. He was starting to break into the first team until his progress was halted by a concussion. He did however, play in the last regular season game for DC and also contributed two goals in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Zach Loyd has been a consistent starter for FC Dallas since he joined the league in 2010, making it a surprise that he was left unprotected by Supporters Shield and US Open Cup winners FC Dallas. A concussion back in June ended his season, but if Heath and Lagos think that he’ll get back to playing, Loyd should be a no-brainer.
Jermaine Jones would be a tempting choice for Atlanta and Minnesota. He’s certainly a player who can make a difference in matches, but having only played a thousand minutes this season, he would be a risk. There are also talks that he’s in negotiations with Los Angeles.
Will Johnson probably won’t be taken by either Minnesota or Atlanta but he’s worth noting. He’s a free agent this offseason and the MLS veteran could contribute for Minnesota on day one.
There are very few difference-making creative players available in the expansion draft. These players are usually viewed as commodities more precious than experienced defenders. But a few players stand out as worthy of attention. Perhaps most notable is Harry Shipp, who moved from Chicago to Montreal this season and never made much of an, errr, impact. At 25, Shipp is a talented young player who could tempt the Loons. However, having just returned from South America, looking for creative players, Adrian Heath and Manny Lagos may want to fill their creative spaces with foreign talent.
Many of the attacking players available are not necessarily “creative,” but offer real attacking threats. Montreal’s Dom Oduro is a speed merchant and a consistent goal-scorer, the type of player who can get you seven-to-nine goals a season while making life hell for defenses.
We cannot fail to mention the Sounders’ Oalex Anderson if we don’t want to invoke the wrath of our colleague Alex Schieferdecker, who summarized Anderson as “offer[ing] blistering pace, and [having earned] the nickname ‘Bounty’ from fans for his goal-scoring ability.” Anderson was recently injured in a Sounders practice and that will likely mean that neither United will take a chance on him.
The Philadelphia Union picked up Sebastian Le Toux in their expansion draft and the Frenchman proved to be one of their best signings. At 32, Le Toux is getting up there for a forward, but he continues to prove his worth in Colorado and may be worth a pick.
Jack McInerney is also available. I put him here because I was told to, but his salary is $270 thousand. If Minnesota United pick up McInerney and don’t sign Christian Ramirez, who has scored more goals in three seasons than McInerney has in six, well, you can fully expect seven or ten apoplectic articles from this writer.
Young players that can contribute to the first team are a premium in MLS. Both Atlanta and Minnesota would love to find their own Tommy McNamara in the expansion draft. Unlike McNamara, the best young prospects in this draft are on the defensive side of the ball.
Raymon Gaddis’ first team football decreased this past season with the emergence of rookie fullback Keegan Rosenberry. Still the 26 year-old can play on both sides and has 118 appearances for the Philadelphia Union.
Gideon Baah was initially brought in by NYRB after the departure of Matt Miazga. Injuries hindered his first season with the Redbulls. His season ended in July after he fractured his tibia during a 2-0 win against Orlando City SC.
With only three rostered players this is a great chance for Minnesota to fill the many holes that remain. Adrian Heath and Manny Lagos have an important task ahead of them on Tuesday. If we were in charge, here is who we would pick.
|Dominic Oduro, MTL||Dominic Oduro, MTL|
|Raymon Gaddis, PHI||Zach Loyd, FCD|
|Zach Loyd, FCD||Kofi Opare, DC|
|Gideon Baah, NYRB||Raymon Gaddis, PHI|
|Steve Clark, CLB||Steve Clark, CLB|
|Steven Beitashour, TOR||Jared Watts, COL|
|Harry Shipp, MTL||Harry Shipp, MTL|
|Nuno Coehlo, SKC||Clint Irwin, TOR|
|Jeff Attinela, RSL||Ray Gaddis, PHI|
|Mohammed Saeid, CLB||Marc Pelosi, SJ|