MLS Expansion Draft Recap – Wahl-to-Wall Coverage!

Today, Seattle Sounders FC selected 10 players through the MLS Expansion Draft. After one year of airy speculation, this squad is finally starting to take shape. 

Let me preface this post by saying I have the utmost confidence in the Sounders FC braintrust: GM Adrian Hanauer and Technical Director Chris Henderson. Between Hanauer’s insane attention to detail and Henderson’s personal experience from his successful, decade-long MLS career, they have access to more knowledge than the casual fan could ever dream of.

Sounders FC even retained the services of player-scouting firm Match Analysis, which keeps records, statistics, and video for nearly every player in the world. In fact, they conducted the draft from the Match Analysis headquarters in California.

Now that we have that out of the way, let the second-guessing begin! (You can view the official press release here.)

Peter Vagenas (Midfielder, Los Angeles)
Ives Galcarep speculates the Vagenas pick shows the direct influence of Sigi Schmid, who’s rumored to be announced as Sounders FC’s coach as early as Monday.
I’ve already weighed in Vagenas. I don’t think he brings much to the table, personally, but if you saw him in the David Beckham interview on 60 Minutes, you’d know he’s an affable, personable guy. Great guy to have around the clubhouse.
Petey V and his old friend Cuauhtomec Blanco. "How's your mum?"

"How's your mum?"

Nate Jaqua (Striker, Houston Dynamo)
No surprises here. With Jaqua, Sounders FC acquire a hard-nosed, skilled target forward. He’s shown the ability to score goals at every level. His work ethic and attitude also embody Seattle’s philisophical approach of pressure and positive football.

Hanauer confirmed discussion have been taking place between the two teams since Jaqua returned from Austria.

Brad Evans (Midfielder, Columbus)
A bit of a surprise her, in my mind – I thought they would go with Eddie Gaven. But I will defer to the expertise of Henderson, who played with Gaven in New York and knows him very well. I wouldn’t personally consider Gaven a headcase, or someone with a poor work ethic, but Henderson might know something I don’t.  

Salary concerns may have also played a part here – Evans makes a great deal less then Gaven and could be considered a “value” pick. He was certainly a key cog in Columbus’ championship run.

Jeff Parke (Defender, New York)
Yikes. This pick raises eyebrows. Parke’s a huge gamble, for three reasons:

  1. Parke made MLS history by being the first player (along with Jon Conway) to be suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. As such, he’ll miss the first four games of next season.
  2. Parke’s the only player of these 10 who’s not currently contracted to the league. Rumors have been swirling that he’s headed to Europe in the offseason and could walk away, leaving Sounders FC with nothing. And…
  3. Since he’s not under contract, he can command a big money salary from Hanauer. (Some have his price tag at north of $100k/season, which is big money in Major League Soccer. Honest! Trust me!)

Nobody’s questioning his talent – he is an above-average MLS defender. Whether he ever suits up for the Green and Blue is another question entirely.

Jeff Parke

Jeff Parke

James Riley (Utility, San Jose)
I didn’t know a ton about James Riley going in, but he did start 23 games last season for the Earthquakes. His main attribute is his versatility – he can play in every position. A safe pick: Riley’s a solid professional and is at the age (26) where young men settle down and get serious about their occupation. Supposedly.

Khano Smith (Midfielder, New England)
With the wealth of outside midfielders available (Gaven, Jorge Flores, Johann Smith), color me surprised by the inclusion of Bahaman sensation Khano Smith.

Jarrod Smith (Striker, Toronto FC)
Huh? Who? Don’t you mean Johann Smith?

That’s a synopsis of the discussion on the Big Soccer and Goal Seattle message boards. Johann, arguably the fastest player in MLS, was predicted to be a shoo-in by many people, including myself. Jarrod Smith’s a good player in his own right. Henderson described him as a hungry player with a great deal of upside.

One possible drawback: He’s in the player pool for New Zealand and may miss part of next season playing for his country in the 2009 Confederations Cup.

Nathan Sturgis (Defender/Midfielder, Real Salt Lake)
As expected. Another versatile guy, I can see Sturgis lining up in defense, a role he filled for the U-20s in the 2005 World Youth Championships. A heady soccer player, Sturgis possesses the ability to know where the ball should go and the feet to get it there.

An excellent player who will find the field as a starter from Day 1.

Stephen King (Midfielder, Chicago Fire)
Don’t know a ton about Mr. King, except that he’s a young defender with a good deal of upside potential. One might even say it’s tremendous.
Played 20 games for the Fire last season, starting eight. Not bad for a 22-year old.  Played collegiately at perennial powerhouse Maryland. 

Tyson Wahl (Defender, Kansas City)
Solid young defender. Great pick. I feel like an idiot for not including him in our preview. Here he is getting dropped by Eddie Robinson. Welcome to the leauge, rook-job!

With only three defenders selected in the expansion draft, Hanauer sends a strong signal that he is going to lock up some defenders from his USL team. Taylor Graham, who’s Wikipedia page briefly listed him as a member of Sounders FC, is one such defender. Danny Jackson, the skipper and Graham’s partner in central defense, could be another.