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Draft aftermath yields much intrigue
by Ridge Mahoney, January 17th, 2014 8:38PM
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TAGS:  chicago fire, fc dallas, mls, montreal impact, philadelphia union, toronto fc


By Ridge Mahoney

A few thoughts in the aftermath of the 2014 SuperDraft held Thursday in Philadelphia:

HOMETOWN HOT SEAT. Philly fans are upset about the league "blocking" a Maurice Edu transfer, supposedly over a proposed salary of $1.2 million, but since he’s probably out of alternatives, this deal is much more likely to get done than fall through.

However, this move is no guarantee of anything. Edu hasn’t played regularly for more than a year and wouldn’t be the first U.S. player to struggle in MLS. Philly’s rabid fan base is just about fed up with moves that flamed out, of which there are many. Jeff Parke (brought back home from Seattle) had good days and bad days on a team that keeps rebuilding its back line. It’s about time Philly got this right and waiting on Carlos Valdes and his loan/transfer/whatever is getting tiresome.

After trading away Jeff Parke for a younger and less experienced Ethan White, bypassing the many central defenders who changed clubs in the past month -- Chad Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Pat Ianni, Bobby Boswell, Nana Attakora, et al -- and not dipping into a deep pool of candidates in the SuperDraft, the Union will look might bad if its young goalie – be it Zak MacMath or No. 1 selection Andre Blake -- is getting shelled because of leaks in the middle.

RE-STARTS. Nine teams -- counting Colorado, which has yet to fill the head coaching slot left vacant by Oscar Pareja’s jump to FC Dallas -- went into the 2014 SuperDraft under different men than for the 2013 event. There are far too many permutations to analyze here, but since several experienced head coaches have changed teams, they present viable reference points.

Frank Yallop, who left the Quakes last June, has set about to rebuild the Fire’s back line. He followed up the trade that landed ex-Sounders Hurtado and Ianni by using the No. 13 pick also included in the deal to get defender Marco Franco from UC Irvine. Franco presumably replaces Jalil Anibaba, who went to Seattle as part of the deal, at right back in Yallop’s effort to cut down on the 52 goals conceded by the Fire last year.

The man Yallop replaced in Chicago, Frank Klopas, hasn’t made many moves since taking the helm in Montreal. He moved up a slot in the draft, swapping spots with FC Dallas, to pick Creighton midfielder Eric Miller at No. 5 and then took George Malki (Cal Poly) late in the second round. The Impact already has a lot of midfielders and so further moves at this position are likely. The retirement of center back Alessandro Nesta strips away a lot of experience but there’s still plenty of that on the Impact roster.

Ambitious owner Joey Saputo will always have his team foraging in the international market. Some younger legs might stave off the late-season collapse of 2013 so what happens in the third and fourth rounds to be conducted Tuesday will be interesting to watch -- Montreal has the 10th pick in both rounds.

Pareja, officially hired by FC Dallas just days before the SuperDraft, didn’t have much to work with. He chose striker Tesho Akindele with the sixth overall pick (acquired from Philly in a trade) and is getting a talented and highly regarded player he’d scouted at the Colorado School of Mines. (The second-round pick had been traded away last year in exchange for Eric Hassli.)

Adam Moffat had already been brought aboard in a trade and FCD won the weighted lottery for Brian Span to restock a midfield that no longer includes David Ferreira, Erick, Jackson and Ramon Nunez. Pareja showed in Colorado that he can build a team and he’ll need time to get the talent that can implement his ideas. How he handles temperamental striker Blas Perez will be just one of many subplots.

TFC GOES BIG-TIME. Seven MLS seasons without playoffs is a league record TFC fans must bear, but perhaps the club finally has major names who can produce. Forward Jermain Defoe and midfielder Michael Bradley join a team whose track record with role players isn’t bad but has stumbled often with the big names, dating back to the days of Julian de Guzman and Mista, to name just two.

Drastically overpaying for Bradley may turn out to be great public-relations and bad business. He’s getting David Beckham money, remember. Handing talent such as Defoe and Bradley as well as staggering expectations to a relatively inexperienced head coach – Ryan Nelsen posted a 6-17-11 record in his debut season -- might seem like handing a teenager who just got a driver’s license the keys to a Ferrari.

Yet many youngsters, such as Jonathan Osorio, should improve rapidly playing alongside such talented teammates. TFC has taken a huge gamble and the payoff, too, must be big.

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