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Only two taken in Stage 1 of Re-Entry Draft
by Ridge Mahoney, December 9th, 2010 12:50AM

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TAGS:  columbus crew, d.c. united, mls

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[MLS] Nobody expected Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft to be a blockbuster, and after just two players were selected Wednesday it’s quite possible the sequel will be much more riveting.

D.C. United used the first pick – allotted to the team with the worst finish in 2010 – to pick up the option on Joseph Ngwenya, whose contract had not been renewed by Houston.

Columbus, facing a rebuilding job after the departure of several players, took defender Aaron Hohlbein, cut loose by Kansas City after his contract expired last week.

While the two players are changing clubs within MLS and both do so at a specified price, they are not doing so under the same conditions. Players who have reached certain benchmarks in age and experience within the league can opt to participate in the Re-Entry Draft, and no longer can be retained indefinitely after their options are declined or contracts expire, as was the case in previous seasons.

Attacker Ngwenya will be paid the salary stipulated for the declined option year (2011) of his contract; his base salary was $72,000 in 2010. He played 12 games after arriving in midseason following a stint in Turkey; he played on the Dynamo’s 2007 championship team and also has MLS experience with Los Angeles and Columbus.

“Joe is a guy that I always thought posed big problems for defenses in our league,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said to mlssoccer.com. “He is an athletic guy that knows how to play the game, and I really do believe that his best days are ahead of him.”

United certainly needs attacking help; it scored a league-low 21 goals last year.

As an out of contract player, defender/midfielder Hohlbein must be tendered a Bonafide Offer, which is defined as one that pays him at least 105 percent of what he earned in the final year of his most recent MLS contract. He’ll come cheap, as he earned just $40,000 last season, yet as a player at least 25 years old with at least four years’ MLS experience, the Bonafide Offer must also be a at least a three-year deal (each year can be an option year at the club’s discretion) and each of those years will be guaranteed if the option is picked up. Hohlbein played 43 games for Kansas City in four seasons.

As for the other 33 players eligible for the Re-Entry Draft, they can resume negotiating with their current clubs or wait for Stage 2, in which salary terms can be negotiated in either direction. It’s certainly possible players can lose money by going through the Re-Entry Draft rather than bargaining for a new deal with the team that declined their option, but there are other reasons for players to change clubs.

“In terms of the whole system, I hope it gives the players some power and some capacity to pick the team they want to play for,” says Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad, one of the high-profile players who wasn’t picked in Stage 1. He’s out of contract and is anxious to see what kind of move he can make even if that means a pay cut from the $232,750 base salary he earned in 2010.

“They might have to take a lower salary, but they still have that option to move without another team trading their rights," says Conrad. "What we’re trying to avoid is when a team declines an option on a player and says publicly it doesn’t want him anymore, but a team that wants him has to trade a second-round pick or whatever.

“Once you decline an option, you give up the rights to that player and you shouldn’t have any more means to work with him. We want to eliminate that, which is bull****, for lack of a better phrase. That was the first step, to get rid of that, and also give players some ability to pick and choose where they want to play.”

Also passed over were veterans Juan Pablo Angel, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk , Josh Wolff , Jeff Cunningham, Pete Vagenas, Richard Mulrooney, Pat Onstad, Dema Kovalenko and Carey Talley. Players have until Monday to bargain again with their current clubs and decide if they wish to participate in Stage 2, to be conducted Wednesday.



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