Now we start entering the realm of players with playing time. Of guys that may have value to other clubs in trade, and quite possibly seeing the guy that Philadelphia takes in the Expansion Draft later this month. This collection of players are in two sets.
The first set are two USL Sounders, and the second two players are young talents with promise, but who have lacked the playing time to showcase their reputations in competitive matches.
Taylor Graham: A towering Centerback skillful at winning the header, Graham spent the 2009 season plagued with injuries so he got the opportunity to guest on the Price Is Right and blogging at SoundersFC.com. In the last scrimmage of the season Graham did a solid job interfering with the crosses of the Seattle Wolves, but still wasn't quite healthy. On his third MLS team and with his second version of the Sounders the injury likely forced him down the depth chart from 3rd CB to 4th if everyone comes back. His off-field leadership is solid, and he will certainly be back with the club. With a 55K contract in 2009 he likely would have been undervalued again, if healthy and his performance as a good to great USL defender meant anything.
Expectation for 2010 - Unprotected for Expansion Draft. Resigned by Seattle. Invited to training camp and making the roster.
Short Term Peak - Rotational Centerback for League play with regular starts in non-league competitions.
Zach Scott: Likely the biggest surprise player from the old USL Sounders. He went from not being expected to make the club to being the starting Left Back to open the season. Also plagued by injuries he is currently recovering from surgery, but is expected to return to the pitch effectively by the start of the season. Scott routinely was praised by Left Wing Steve Zakuani as a solid defensive stopper who enabled Zakuani to get even further forward. Zach earned 40K, which for a +5 in seven appearances must be considered a great value, his +/- per 90 was a stunning 0.91 and second on the team. We must recall that Scott only played early in the season due to the abdominal issues. Scott provides more than just cover at the Left Back, but the ability to shift the style and tenor of the back line entirely as he is such a different type of player from Leo Gonzalez.
Expectation for 2010 - Unprotected for Expansion Draft. Resigned by Seattle. Invited to training camp and making the roster. 10% chance drafted by Philly.
Short Term Peak -Substitute Left Back for League play with regular starts in non-league competitions.
Nathan Sturgis: The former Generation Adidas player still has plenty of time to prove his worth on the pitch and still has a bright future. The young (22) player has 3 pro years, not to mention having played on U-20 National Teams and on the 2008 US Olympic team. For the Sounders this year he played at Left Back, Left Midfield and as the Defensive Midfielder in his seven appearances. Sigi loves this kind of positional flexibility on his bench as cover in case of injury. Nathan did not score in competitive matches for the full squad, but he did present a +3 (+0.61 per 90) in his limited League action. His contract value is likely overpriced for a rarely used substitute, but with his former GA status and youth might be considered an investment in future performance.
Expectation for 2010 - Unprotected for Expansion Draft. Resigned by Seattle. Invited to training camp and making the roster. 5% chance drafted by Philly.
Short Term Peak - Regular substitute but rare starter at either fullback, either wide midfield and as a defensive midfielder. Occasional starter in non-league play.
Stephen King: Another dynamic young (23) talent with plenty of upside left to show. King played every midfield role for the Sounders in league play during the past season 3 of his 7 appearances were as a starter. More importantly though was King's performance in the US Open Cup and its Qualifiers where King scored 3 Goals. His Productivity in all competitions was 6th on the team at 0.66, and he put his shots on target more than 40% of the time. King has the skills necessary to take advantage of the opportunities he is given and with time should develop into a solid MLS attacking midfielder. King has the misfortune of being the only Sounders outfield player with a minus at -2 (-0.42 per 90), but is also currently under-priced at a mere 34K. That price makes him a likely target for an expansion pick.
Expectation for 2010 - Unprotected for Expansion Draft. Resigned by Seattle. Invited to training camp and making the roster. 15% chance drafted by Philly.
Short Term Peak - Rotational attacking midfielder and occasional starter in non-league play.
Would you be surprised if any of these players were picked by the Philadelphia Union? Surprised if any are protected by the Sounders? Do you have expectations for their 2010 season?