when during its 2010 expansion season the Philadelphia Union plays its first game at its new stadium, the building process really starts Wednesday with the selection of 10 players plucked from the
rosters of other MLS teams. Big names abound among those unprotected
for the Expansion Draft: a two-time Goalkeeper of the
Year (Pat Onstad
), a league MVP (Amado Guevara
), one of the most inspirational U.S. players in history (Frankie Hejduk
), and all manner of current
and former internationals and other members of Best XI squads.
Hejduk is just one of several attractive options on the Crew list, but Philadelphia coach Peter Nowak
take only one. Defender Andy Iro
or forward Alejandro Moreno
might be headed further east if Frankie isn't taken.
A solid keeper is always an asset for
a new team, so might Nowak take Onstad, even at age 41, since the 2009 season was among his best? Is Kevin Hartman
(Kansas City) a younger, 35, and better option? Is a precocious
younger player like Josh Saunders
(Galaxy) or Danny Cepero
(Red Bulls) ready to step into the nets full-time in the big-time, or is a safer choice the somewhat
experienced Jon Conway
, a native of Chester, Pa., site of Philly's new stadium?
Seattle had the advantage of filling his huge need with a hometown player coming home
from Europe in Kasey Keller
; could midfielder Bobby Convey
get somewhat the same treatment after playing a rather mediocre season in San Jose in his first season back
from Europe? A most important factor is that Philly doesn't have to take a player at his current salary-budget charge figure (i.e., how much he counts against the salary cap) unless he's guaranteed
that salary for the 2010 season.
By exposing Convey, the Quakes have devalued him, for if they thought he had any major value and believed Philly wanted him they'd protect him and talk
trade. Or they have acceded to his wishes to play in Philly and are willing to lose him for nothing after facilitating his move from England and paying him a base salary of $222,000. But Nowak wants
players willing to run through walls, and that ain't Bobby Convey, who might not mind going back to D.C. United, either, hint, hint.
The Union can negotiate a player's salary up or down
and thus it makes sense to take a younger player and bump him up under terms of a long-term contract. Other "local" options are defenders Julian Valentin
(Chivas USA), and Chris Albright
(New England), and midfielder Stephen King
One of the most enticing options is Guevara, who
has settled into a more two-way role with Dwayne De Rosario
in the Toronto FC lineup, even though DeRo played as a second forward as well as attacking midfielder. Guevara turns 34
next year and would have to turn in a superman season to merit the $324,000 he earned this season. But at a lower number, well, maybe.
Nowak must be mindful of the salary-cap figure,
which is still being discussed and hasn't been set for next year. (It isn't contingent on negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, so disregard any reference to those discussions
affecting the cap.)
Nowak must also be shrewd; teams must notify players by the end of the month if their options for 2010 will be picked up, and if he thinks a player might not be
re-signed and could be waived, he might opt to use the expansion pick on somebody else. And with new coaches to be hired by Chicago, New York, D.C. United and Chivas USA, he can wait and see what
shakes out on those rosters come waiver time. Red Bull Nick Zimmerman
is on the watch list of many teams.
Also not finalized is how much allocation money Philly will
receive as an expansion team; Seattle started with a kitty of $1.2 million, which can be used to acquire players coming into the league, or to re-sign current players, a classification that will
include those taken in the expansion draft.
Even if Nowak could knock down Jesse Marsch
from his $175,000 salary, his history of injuries and age (34) would make him a
huge risk. Striker Alecko Eskandarian
(Galaxy) is younger and played for Nowak on D.C. United's 2004 championship team, but his history of concussions renders him risky as well.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear
has taken the tactic of exposing both of his left backs, veteran Wade Barrett
and Mike Chabala
, as well as
central defenders Eddie Robinson
and Ryan Cochrane
. He can only lose one of them, and is considering moving Geoff Cameron
back into a midfield role
if Ricardo Clark
and/or Stuart Holden
head overseas, so he's already set in motion the revamping of his back line regardless of whom, if anyone, Nowak takes off his
Left exposed by Kansas City are rookie Matt Besler
, who played both outside back and center back, and third-year centerback Aaron Holbein
former eventually displaced the latter, though KC's poor finish under interim, and now full-time, head coach Peter Vermes
(3-6-3) has assured there will be changes.
There's always the chance that picks have already been arranged, as was the case last year, when former Kansas City coach Curt Onalfo
knew Seattle was going to claim Tyson
, and Kinnear had pre-approved the move of Nate Jaqua.
But here's a guess at who Nowak could pick, and why, with the proviso they could be moved onto other teams in
Luciano Emilio F Flawed but scores goals. Any questions?
Matt Besler D Good tools, just needs coaching and experience
Jordan F Quick, relentless, great potential
Ned Grabavoy MF Always regarded as smart and skilled but a reserve at RSL
Stephen King MF Jersey
lad showed enough in brief stints with Chicago and Seattle
Andy Iro D Beast of a central defender
Danny Cepero GK Brave, sharp reflexes, played at Penn
Amado Guevara MF Greatest value may be in a trade
Eddie Robinson D Worth a shot if his knee isn't shot
Chris Tierney D
Underrated and left-sided
For the list of unprotected and protected players in Wednesday's Expansion Draft, click HERE.