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A fine day for a draft
January 13th, 2007 8:58AM

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With hundreds of NSCAA Coaches' Convention attendees roaming in and out of the ballroom staging the 2007 MLS SuperDraft and sections of Columbus and Chicago fans waving scarves, chanting and cheering - or booing - certain selections, the league began its first full day of the Beckham Era.
Beckham's team-to-be, Los Angeles, sitting cozy with the No. 5 and No. 10 picks and five of the first 23 selections overall, traded away both of those slots for allocation money totaling $250,000, which is the value of a major allocation. New England used the fifth pick in by far the most surprising first-round move, taking midfielder Wells Thompson of Wake Forest. Brilliant move or wasted pick? Only time will tell.

Toronto took LA's other pick for half a major allocation, and selected towering (6-foot-5 defender Andrew Boyens, one of only six non-Generation adidas players taken in the first round of 13 selections. By the time FC Dallas had nabbed 15-year-old Abdus Ibrahim with the first pick of the second round, all eight GA players - out of 14 selections - had been taken.

Coach Frank Yallop, who trimmed nearly half the players on the Galaxy roster after taking over in early June, is far from finished transforming the 2004 champion that missed the playoffs for the first time last year.

"I felt we could give up the two picks, because $250,000 is a lot of money in this league," he said. It could certainly be used to lure midfielder Eddie Lewis from Leeds United back to his Southern California roots.

Yallop still came away with five new players. He's planning to use Beckham in the middle, not on the right flank where he has flourished for most of his career. "I want him involved and around the ball as much as possible," says Yallop, whose transformation of San Jose from doormat to dynamo in the 2001 season was forged by shrewd use of that year's draft.

Forward Robbie Findlay, midfielder Josh Tudela and defender Ty Harden were selected in the second round. Goalkeeper Tally Hall and forward Bobby Burling were taken in the fourth round.

Findlay is an athletic, robust forward who could see considerable playing time with Landon Donovan and perhaps Nate Jaqua slated for national team duty. He can also play wide in midfield. Tudela is a holding midfielder, "a good connector" says Yallop. "Pete Vagenas does that for us, but I believe you can't have enough of those good players. We don't want to miss a beat when we have players injured and we did last year." Harden is a big, rugged defender that has been scouted several times by assistant coach Paul Bravo.

Expansion team Toronto FC started the draft as expected, picking midfielder Maurice Edu, a physical, talented midfielder who has been likened to Shalrie Joseph but can play in a lot of places.

"He's a good passer, he can play on the right, he can play in the middle, he can play on the left, whatever you tell him," says Toronto coach Mo Johnston. "He could play right back. He can play soccer and he's a clever kid. He has that No. 1 target on his back and he'll handle that easily."

Johnston had traded away his second round pick to land midfielder Ronnie O'Brien from FC Dallas. He chose Canadians with his last two picks: midfielder Rich Asante and forward Jeff Gonsalves. Despite having added playmaking midfielder Jose Cancela to the roster, Johnston has just 16 players.

THE NEW CREW. Columbus traded the No. 2 pick to Chicago, which chose, as expected, defender Bakary Soumare. He and Edu were perceived to be the Generation adidas players to be taken earliest. In return, Columbus got Costa Rican striker Andy Herron, who had sometimes seemed lost in the Fire shuffle of attacking players: Jaqua, Chad Barrett, Chris Rolfe, Justin Mapp.

"He's got big-time pace and with Joseph Ngwenya, Jacob Thomas and Ricardo Virtuoso, we present some problems to teams,' says Sigi Schmid of Herron. "He's a little bit of a solo forward the way he plays on his own but he can unbalance a defense. When he steps on the field, teams have to be aware of his pace and ability to go against people one-v-one is something you have to be aware of as well."

Schmid used all three of his remaining picks on forwards -- Aaron Chandler, Brad Evans and Ben Hunter - even though the return of Brian McBride seems a good bet. Still unclear is whether Chilean defender Marco Gonzalez will be back but Schmid did not address that possibility in the draft.

After the Revs took Thompson, Colorado used the No. 6 pick on Nico Colaluca, a wonderfully talented playmaker and perhaps the most skilled of the GA players. "Some people look at his size [5-foot-9, 150 pounds] and maybe don't like him," says Rapid coach Fernando Clavijo, "but I don't look at size. I look at the player, and he is a very good player."

Clavijo traded his one of his second-round picks to FC Dallas for defender Greg Vanney, whom he says will play left back. "I have been trying to get him for a year and a half, but we couldn't get a deal done last year," says Clavijo, who used the other second-round slot to nab former U.S. U-20 Greg Dalby, an all-American holding midfielder in college who could play center back in MLS if he doesn't catch on in Europe. "It was a risk taking Dalby," says Clavijo, "but a good risk." Forward Omar Cummings, goalkeeper Justin Hughes and midfielder Nick LaBrocca are also Colorado-bound.

On hand in Indianapolis to handle the draft for Chivas USA was assistant coach Preki, who seemed pleased with whatever coaching decision had been made in the wake of Bob Bradley's departure. A coaching announcement is expected early next week. With the No. 7 pick, Preki took a player somewhat cut from his own mold, Englishman John Cunliffe, and also swung a trade to land former U-17 star David Arvizu from Red Bull New York, where his pro career has been rocky. Defender Cameron Dunn, like Arvizu a Southern California product, was taken in the fourth round.

Cunliffe's time on the youth teams of Manchester United and Blackburn didn't pan out, so he opted for tiny Division II Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. His blend of creativity and finishing lit up the combine after he amassed 75 goals and 62 assists in 86 games.

"John is a very technical left-footed player who can play in various attacking positions," said Preki, who might as well have been talking about himself. "Cameron is a solid defender who can play centrally or as a fullback. And David is a promising young forward who has already shown his quality with the U.S. U-17's."

Aside from moving up to take Soumare, Chicago didn't thrill its boisterous fans with popular picks. Still, UAB forward Jerson Monteiro, taken eighth, could be a surprise for a team with a good history of drafting attackers.  Midfielders Mike Banner and Nate Norman and forward Simon Omekanda round out the list. Rumors the team has inquired about former Czech international Pavel Nedved as a Designated Player had a few tongues wagging.

FC Dallas, whose pursuit of rugged Dutch midfielder Edgar Davis sparked much of the SuperDraft buzz, took GA defender/midfielder Anthony Wallace with the No. 9 pick. He's expected to battle for a starting central defender slot with Adrian Serioux, Clarence Goodson and Drew Moor. Forwards Ryan Guy and Tommy Krizanovic and high-scoring midfielder Scott Jones were also picked, so obviously Coach Steve Morrow isn't putting all of the attacking burden on Carlos Ruiz, Kenny Cooper, and Ramon Nunez.

Kansas City had only three picks, and used the No. 3 slot on defender Michael Harrington, a left back whose propensity to get forward delights many coaches and shocks a few others. "I started out in college outside midfielder and halfway through I switched to the back," said Harrington. "I've had to learn that position and in the last year or so I've kind of perfected that position. But I still have to continue to learn defending and knowing the right times to attack."

Recently hired head coach Curt Onalfo also picked up forward Edson Elcock and midfielder Kurt Morsink.

Real Salt Lake, whose negotiations with former D.C. keeper Nick Rimando have stalled, took U-20 keeper Chris Seitz at No. 4. "We think in a few years he could be challenging for a spot on the national team," says Real coach John Ellinger, who coached Seitz with the under-17s in Bradenton. "He'll be with the U-20s and might miss a month or so, but we expect him to really push Scott Garlick for that starting spot."

Ellinger used his only remaining pick on former U-20 Steven Curfman, who was unable to keep a regular starting spot at Wake Forest this past season.

ACC REUNION. New England took its natural first-round pick (No. 12 overall) on GA and U-20 defender Amaechi Igwe, who left Santa Clara after his freshman year. He's also used his tremendous speed in midfield. The Revs loaded up on ACC players with their six selections. They took Thompson's Wake Forest midfield teammate Ryan Solle, Duke defender Kyle Helton and Virginia forward Adam Cristman. And that's not all! Midfielder Bryan Byrne was also taken by Coach Steve Nicol, whose choices were apparently shaped by a decision not to approve a sale of Joseph to Glasgow Celtic.

Red Bull New York, somewhat impaired with just two picks, used them on attackers: Jamaican forward Dane Richards and midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic. For a team that just squeaked into the playoffs last season, that ain't much, but the transfer of former U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna from Manchester City is done.

Defending champion Houston chose last in each round and selected, in order, midfielders John Michael Hayden and Corey Ashe, forward Mike Sambursky and mid Eric Ebert. Hayden comes from the successful Indiana program and Ashe is a left-sided attacker. Coach Dominic Kinnear has no pressing need to change a strong squad, of course, but wasn't averse to discussing deals. "A lot of people are talking," he said before the draft, "but they aren't talking to me. I don't need to do any deals and I'm willing to talk, but if nobody wants to, that's fine."

With just about everyone present basking in a Beckham afterglow, and ESPN2 cranking out a first-class production, it was a fine day for a draft.



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