MLS Expansion Draft Preview

Sounders FC fans: Now it begins in earnest. The 10 players selected in tomorrow’s Major League Soccer expansion draft will form the core of your 2009 roster.

With only four players already on the roster, the expansion players will likely fill at least 6-7 starting spots when the team takes the field next March or April. Each MLS team could only protect 11 players, meaning there are definitely some starter-caliber players out there.

I won’t act like I know all of the available players. However, as one of the 10 biggest fans of MLS nationwide, I consider myself uniquely placed to offer some educated guesses.

Learn about these players. Get to know them. You’ll be seeing a lot of them in the next year.

(Expansion Draft Rules: Seattle picks 10 players, no more than one from any team. Therefore, four teams will not have a player selected. Generation Adidas players are exempt. A full list of players and rules can be found here.)

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It's like this, but for soccer (from

Chivas USA
Raphael Wicky

Raphael Wicky

Raphael Wicky

Although he would cost the Sounders a senior international spot, I would like to see them gamble on Swiss National Team stalwart Raphael Wicky. We need a strong defensive midfielder to play while Kenji Treschuk (yet to be officially signed) adjusts to the pace of MLS.

Wicky started regularly for Bundesliga side Hamburg SV for most of the 2000s before coming to America (by way of Switzerland’s FC Sion). With some deft maneuvering, GM Adrian Hanauer might also be able to leverage MLS rules to adjust Wicky’s contract downwards, which would free up salary budget space for additional free agents. (This would be contingent on Wicky’s full recovery from the injury that limited him last season.)

One never knows what’s in the minds of these aging senior internationals, but if he seems excited to continue his career in MLS, let’s take him.

Notes: One might be tempted to select Ante Ravoz, whose 114 goals (including 33 game-winners) rank him second in MLS history, but his age and diminished work rate run counter to Seattle’s high-pressure ethos. Jorge Flores, a young middie who won the Sueno MLS competition, is also an intriguing choice.

Chicago Fire
Brandon Prideaux

This picks makes sense for two reasons:

  1. Seattle doesn’t yet have a defender on its roster. Adding the dependable Prideaux, who started 27 games for the Fire, gives them a calming presence who can slot in anywhere in the back four.
  2. Prideaux has Northwest ties. The 10-year vet grew up in Renton and captained the Huskies for coach Dean Wurzberger.

Colorado Rapids
Jose Burciaga, Jr.

Perhaps the best attacking defender in the expansion draft, Burciaga Jr. can get forward with the best of them. A liability at times on defense, I still think Hanauer and Henderson will take a gamble on him. If you like high-scoring games (at both ends of the field), JBJ is your man. Fantasy gold.

Not only was he named to the MLS Best XI team in 2007, but he’s also a stand-up guy.

Jose Burciaga, Jr.

Jose Burciaga, Jr.

Columbus Crew
Eddie Gaven

This is your lead-pipe lock of the draft. Players like Gaven, who scored the winning goal in the Eastern Conference Finals, don’t come along every day. The Crew must be in knots about having to leave him unprotected.

In addition to a reasonable salary, Gaven just turned 22 and has played for several years on U.S. Youth National teams. Some have expected more out of Gaven in his professional career, as he was one of the youngest players to score in league history. There’s no doubt that reuniting with Sigi Schmid in Columbus was beneficial for Gaven’s career and he’s just now starting to realize his awesome potential (although injuries hampered his 2008 campaign).

I personally wouldn’t take the big name here, which is Pat Noonan. Brad Evans is a solid player who also makes very little in his current contract.

Hispanic heartthrob Duilio Davino

FC Dallas
Duilio Davino

Why not take a chance on Davino, one of the most recognizable faces in MLS’ Hispanic community? The former Mexican National Team defender gives the Sounders instant credibility with that portion of their fan base. He’s also got a couple years left and plays defense, a need position for the Sounders.

Houston Dynamo
Nate Jaqua

Rumors about Jaqua joining the Sounders have been swirling for several months. Jaqua, a versatile target forward with good speed and a nose for goal, would slot in well beside Sebastian Le Toux. After spending the last couple years as a hired gun in MLS and in Austria, Jaqua’s been rumored to favor a move nearer to his hometown of Eugene, Oregon (Jaqua also played collegiately at the University of Portland).

Craig Waibel, another defender with local ties (University of Washington), could also find his way to Seattle via free agency.

Los Angeles Galaxy
Ely Allen

Kirovski, Vagenas, and Klein have unreasonable salaries, and the Sounders don’t need another goalkeeper (Cronin), and Franchino’s on the downside of his career, so that leaves former Washington Husky Ely Allen. Hanauer would have brought the striker in to play for the USL team if he didn’t catch on with Los Angeles. As a bonus, you don’t need to worry about him tearing up the clubs – he was on the books for a shame-inducing $12,900 last season. (At least he could live with his parents again.)

Julian Valentin, who earned valuable experience this summer playing for his country in the Toulouse International Tournament, is a possibility. (He carries the added bonus of being a young defender.)

New England Revolution
Khano Smith

I’m not the biggest Khano Smith fan (far, far too inconsistent), but other people are, so I’ll list him here.

Real Salt Lake
Nathan Sturgis

RSL will regret leaving the young Clemson product unprotected – he will be snapped up in a heartbeat. 

Also of note: Local product and Maple Valley kid Nik Besagno, burdened by the unreasonable expectation of being the first pick in RSL’s history at age 16, looks headed for greener pastures. I doubt it will be in Seattle – he played with the USL Sounders on loan in 2008 and did not impress. I do hope he catches on somewhere, though.

Toronto FC
Johann Smith

This speedy striker has already traveled the world and boasts EPL experience with Bolton Wanderers. Signed as a free agent in August, Smith only played a handful of games for TFC.

A player like Smith ties in nicely with the club’s attaching mentality. I see him ideally suited as a second-half substitute, where his speed can pose problems for the opponent’s tiring defense. Can also start.

Young Hunter Freeman would also fit well.

Johann Smith (from Soccer By Ives)

Johann Smith