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Missing Elements in Expansion Draft Reaction - update

But are we missing something?

Sure it is generally a slow news week for MLS and so the Expansion Draft was THE story around MLS. For Seattle it caused a flood of blog entries, news reports and fan reaction when most should have been concentrating on cooking and family - it was Thanksgiving Eve. If you don't think that's a day to do stuff you haven't hosted a Thanksgiving Dinner yet.

To Sum up the Sounders Blogosphere reactions
From Prost Amerika we get a quick look at the draftees, some quotes from Adrian and speculation about Chris Eylander.

GoalSeattle's responded with two posts on Falk's blog, a blogosphere round up and a collection of video highlights. The message board activity at GS was so strong that a new thread was needed.

WVHooligan for some reason posted on Thanksgiving Day, noting that he got four players right.

GoSounders probably had the best coverage locally of the Expansion Draft with their team of two.

Ives at his own blog had a total of four different Expansion Draft postings, and in his "final" recap he and I got into it a bit, though likely due to his misunderstanding of my philosophy pre-draft.

Everyone seems to be concentrating on what Seattle Sounders FC did, and not what they didn't do. The focus is on players acquired, how those guys rank.

For me the story of this draft is that there are no known trades, that Seattle took a lot of depth but few that should be expected to start, Seattle went really young despite claiming to want to be in the CCL while Ljungberg is under contract, and the amount of cap space that is likely available.

I am a bit disappointed in the lack of draft week trades. It is almost as if Hanauaer and Company went in with low expectations of what they could do in such a short time and so they focused on getting talent and not on trying to wheel&deal. This is likely an artifact of the club truly being new to MLS and not just a rehashing of those already heavily involved. Maybe the network of GMs out there still see Adrian as being the minor leaguer. It is impossible to know, but I think that there were opportunities to acquire allocations, and that was ignored. The easiest way to have done this was to draft a Keeper to deal to the LA Galaxy.

It is notable that with an opportunity to play in 300 regular season games, the new Sounders only appeared in 184. Some of this was due to injury (Sturgis and Vagenas), as well as Jaqua's return, but

even with out those three there were only 153 appearances out of 210 possible. It is also notable that the players only started in 73% of those appearances. This was a draft more of depth than it was of starting talent. Which I guess should be good, as it means that most of players will either be used in roles as they were last year following a standard development path, or they were grossly mismanaged by their former teams. The best case to see how this occurs is the Jarrod Smith pick. 20 games, but only 6 starts. Will Seattle be treating a player that couldn't crack the starting lineup of the 3rd worst team in the league as a starter? If they do will it be because they know something that Carver and Johnston don't?

Part of the reason that these players didn't start a lot is because in general they are young. Prior to the draft the Sounders four players under contract averaged 28.25 years (kind of the sweet spot of athleticism) now with the 10 new guys brought in they are at 25.86. Seattle Sounders FC is now MUCH younger. This is despite the indications that Sounders FC wants to be in the CCL during Ljungerg and Keller's time here (both are thought to be on 2 year deals, possibly with options). In order to get to the CCL in year 2 though, they have to win something in year one that is harder to do with a younger overall squad. One of the good things though is that if these players are kept and developed here they will likely peak during that CCL run, if they can find a way to make it. IF.

Ives kind of blasted me for trying to guess at the cap impact of the draft as most players will be renegotiating their contracts, but I think that it is key from this draft because the club has 70% of its possible senior slots full. With a handful of USL Sounders and possibly other USL players making the squad as analysts of the team we should look at what money is available to see what the options are with the SuperDraft, the Discoveries (USL players) and possible January transfers. I'm going to have to give a guess on the contracts, almost all of the Expansion Draftees will make more in 2009 than they did in 2008.

Player 08 salary 09 estimate
Jaqua 174125 200000
Evans 33000 50000
King 17700 33000
Parke 58737 175000
Riley 33000 50000
Smith 46305 45000
Smith 36000 40000
Sturgis 108000 100000
Vagenas 144000 125000
Wahl 33000 50000

LeToux 96000 96000
Nyassi 33000 33000
Ljungberg 400000
Keller 200000

Total 1597000

Those estimates really come down to 2 players numbers about which I am least confident - Parke and Keller. Parke will need a payday in order to stay in MLS rather than go over to Europe. My take is that paying him over twice what the average defender makes in the league might do it. This would have him as one of the top 10 defenders for pay in the league. That's some serious respect for a guy who made a major mistake in choosing his protein shake. For Keller I'm assuming that he will be the top paid keeper, and that since he was SSFC's first allocation he will have a bunch of money coming in as a non-cap hit.

The cap game gets even more fun as we hear that Taylor Graham has agreement likely to announce soon to join the Rave Green. There isn't a lot of precedent, but I would operate under the assumption that in year one a USL player isn't going to make the league average at their position. In light of the lack of drafting of a Keeper I think we can assume that Chris Eylander is on the club as well. Between those two I think that 125k is a decent assumption.

But if all of that is true, Seattle Sounders FC would have between 2 and 4 roster slots open. For those slots they will have the SuperDraft (only the first round pick likely to be a Senior Player), the January Transfer window and maybe another USL Sounder to the Senior squad.

Without any trades, and under what I consider solid assumptions SSFC will have just about $600,000 to spend on those positions. A second DP slot counts as 325K$ of that, which means that if Seattle gets that second slot they would be just fine from a cap standpoint. I fully expect that the club will be active in the Transfer Window as they could still use a second forward and help in the widebacks. Sounders FC added two more nations to its International Roster, but has plenty of space left in international slots, and still hasn't signed a player from Asia.

This draft was a way to set-up the next stage, and I have a feeling we will get to see another big move in the near future because right now the team is too young to be competitive on a weekly basis.

Names that still interest me are;
Diouf of Sunderland as it is rumored that Sunderland has to cut payroll in order to bring more players to the club
Khalifan Ibrahim Khalifan, seriously, the kid is good and would be an ideal man to play the runs off of a target like Jaqua and mids like Nyassi, Evans and of course Freddie
Freddy Montero, it would be like getting an Eddie Gaven, but better.
Freddy Adu, not that the club needs another CAM, but I think as striker in this league he could succeed. Just not on a loan.
Henry, I still dream. I have no idea how SSFC could get the second DP, but this dream can still live.

If you can't tell, I'm really focusing on finding another proven scorer as I don't think that we can bank on LeToux as a second forward. Lastly, the roster page will take some time to rework, I'm trying to figure out which direction to take it now that the team is filling out.

The reason I'm focusing on another goal scorer is because at this point the team is counting on at least two of following things happening in order to be better than the lower third in scoring.

1. Le Toux translates his USL-1 success to MLS
2. Ljungberg's last two years are meaningless
3. Nyassi can score and/or feed the ball
4. Jaqua plays like his time in Houston

Why do I say that the team doesn't have much offense if two of those things don't happen?
Becuase with the lineup they currently have they will score 37 goals, based on two year averages of production for the team, and that's including Le Toux in the USL and Jaqua with Houston.

Name Games Goal Effeciency 15 games Full Season
Evans, Brad 30 5 0.17 3 5
Jaqua, Nate 39 11 0.28 4 8
King, Stephen 20 2 0.10 2 3
LeToux, Sebastian 54 24 0.44 7 13
Ljungberg, Freddie 54 4 0.07 1 2
Nyassi, Sanna 6 0 0.00 0 0
Parke, Jeff 52 0 0.00 0 0
Riley, James 51 0 0.00 0 0
Smith, Jarrod 20 1 0.05 1 2
Smith, Khano 52 4 0.08 1 2
Sturgis, Nathan 17 0 0.00 0 0
Vagenas, Peter 38 1 0.03 0 1
Wahl, Tyson 22 0 0.00 0 0

Total 18 37

Several of the players are young and could excede their history, but they could also NOT succeed. Freddie's last two years were poor. If we go back a few years (prior to the hip/migraine issues) and when Freddie played more than 30 games in two straight years that total goes to 44 goals by the club. That would be good for 5th. That's a best case with the current club though really. Sounders FC needs at least one more goal scorer and at least two of those caveats to come true, or a major improvement from Evans, Nyassi or Jarrod Smith in order to be a top-table goal scoring team.

Adding a major scorer would be a huge step towards that. Running 3 Forwards would help as well, as long as one of those Forwards is a wing playing back, or a second striker type with Ljungberg behind him in a CAM.

Also, it is notable that a player I thought might be drafted was waived and is also no longer a Generation Addidas player. That means that Nik Besagno is eligible to be brought on as a Developmental Player, at whatever salary the league determines is the max for said players. He showed some moments of quality, but not to be drafted over a healthy Sturgis. Nik is a Maple Valley standout and was one of the youngest players ever drafted. He still has talent if it can be nurtured and developed correctly.

If I had a choice both he and Kante would be on Developmental contracts, leaving one slot for the Super Search winner and the 1-3 remaining for some SuperDraft players or a guy who comes in second in the Super Search.

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