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Expansion or bust?
November 21st, 2007 7AM



There's a sprinkling of good players available in Wednesday's expansion draft, as well as a few quirks regarding mechanisms thereof.

For example, San Jose coach Frank Yallop can claim a developmental player but must place that player on the regular 18-man roster and keep him there until the next roster compliance date or pay a fine. Hardly seems worth the trouble. Developmental players can be claimed but Generation Adidas players are automatically protected.

Also, the team need not pick up a player's current salary as a condition of claiming him. League rules permit San Jose to renegotiate, either up or down, the salary of a claimed player. If the number goes up, great. But what if it doesn't?

Chicago has left versatile midfielders Ivan Guerrero ($160,000 base) and Diego Gutierrez ($126,500) unprotected. Is it fair to Gutierrez, whose option for the final year of his contract has yet to be picked up by the Fire, to possibly lose bargaining power by being claimed in a draft he has no way of avoiding other than by retirement?

On the other hand, by offering him a raise and an extension, Yallop could snag an experienced player and get off on the right foot.

Also hanging over the draft is a proposal, which first came to light about a month ago, according to an agent with knowledge of the details, for the league to eliminate age distinctions among foreign players.

Teams are currently permitted four senior (25 or older) internationals and three youth (24 or younger) internationals. This would need approval from the USSF Board of Directors, which isn't likely to grant MLS teams the right to sign up to seven senior international players, assuming a team could fit their salaries under the cap, which is tentatively set to be increased to $2.25 million (from $2.1 million) next season. But a team with ample allocation money could swing at least a few deals.

League rules permit teams to use allocation money to sign new players or re-sign players already under contract to that team. Adding more senior international slots would put a tighter squeeze on the 18-man roster, and likely displease the MLS Players Union.

One asset Yallop has always valued highly is allocation money, and he may try to stockpile cash beyond the three major allocations he's expected to receive as an expansion allotment. The five teams that missed the playoffs - Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles, Columbus, and Toronto FC - will also be receiving major allocations, so Yallop can try to grab players those teams don't want to lose and trade them back for allocation money, or trade them to other teams. Right now, he has no bargaining chips other than allocations, draft picks and "future considerations."

Allocations can be split, so teams don't need to sacrifice a major allocation just to get a player back. That's how TFC coach Mo Johnston nicked Real Salt Lake in last year's expansion draft. RSL left Jason Kreis exposed, Johnston claimed him, and RSL had to fork out a partial allocation ($100,000 or $125,000 according to which source you believe) to get him back.

Also flush with cash is New England, which netted about $2 million from the Clint Dempsey transfer and RSL, about $1.3 million richer after the Freddy Adu deal.

Those teams can't use all that money for allocation maneuverings, but they do have available funds. (Teams receive two-thirds of the transfer fee; the MLS Competition Committee decides how much can be plunged back into the player market.)

Revs head coach Steve Nicol has left both Avery John and James Riley unprotected; if John is picked, Nicol can move Riley into John's slot on the left side of defense. Losing the versatile Riley might prompt Nicol to buy him back. Or it might not.

These are other Yallop-type players he might be wanting, some of whom he has coached in the past: Brian Carroll, Jamil Walker (D.C.), Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane, Zach Wells (Houston), Josh Tudela, Kevin Harmse, Steve Cronin (Los Angeles), Andrea Lombardo, Marco Reda (Toronto), Jose Burciaga, Tyson Wahl (Kansas City), Mike Petke (Colorado), John Cunliffe, Jason Hernandez (Chivas USA) and John.

Yallop is expected to claim an unprotected Houston player and trade him back for either Stuart Holden or Brian Mullan. A few Dynamo players have inquired about returning to the Bay Area.

The expansion draft will be held starting at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday. No team can lose more than one player, and San Jose can choose up to 10 players. If a player isn't claimed, his current team is not obligated to pick up his option for next season, should one be in play.


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