Tuesday, December 9, 2014

FC Dallas and the Expansion Draft - who gets picked?

So after going through the background and mechanics of the Expansion Draft to be held on Wednesday, then going through the Individual Player Options for FC Dallas, now we have our group of players available to Orlando City and New York City FC. What are the dynamics that will factor into which player might be taken? Let's take a gander, shall we?

Of those listed, many are players who have obvious talent and a lot of them have proven track records in MLS or professional soccer in general. A lot of them did not have their options picked up by FC Dallas. These will have to survive the Expansion Draft, then go back through the Re-Entry Draft process before Dallas can re-engage with them so I am not going to focus on them.

The ones I am going to focus on, though, are the ones currently under contract to FC Dallas: Span, Keel and Texiera.

Remember, if Dallas loses one, they protect a 12th player. If a second player is taken, the team is done.

Let's start with the one I think is least likely to be taken - David Texiera. This is not because he does not have talent. It could be argued on raw talent and remaining potential, he is the best forward on FC Dallas' roster. The questions are his salary cap number and whether other teams believe that talent can translate into MLS on a regular basis. The teams may be aware of what Texiera's cap number will be in 2015 - I am not. But as a DP in 2014, it can't drop too much - certainly not to numbers below $200,000. In other words, expensive enough that he needs to be a regular starter and consistent producer. Did we see enough in 2014 to think he can be that kind of player in 2015 for a club that he wasn't originally brought to? Anything is possible, but this seems unlikely to me.

Next is Stephen Keel. He is coming up on his 11th year as a professional, not all in MLS. He picked up a significant injury in FC Dallas' US Open Cup Semifinal loss to the Philadelphia Union and recently had surgery for it.  Before the injury, he had been out of the lineup for the team after a significant run at central defense. Question is - will teams see the first part of that and recognize a veteran player who can contribute to an MLS side, or will they see the fact that he has started less than half of his team's games over the last four years in MLS for various reasons, and has to deal with an injury after playing professionally for a decade? As mentioned earlier, clearly, he brings something to the table in terms of being a "glue" guy - someone that makes the team better in ways that rarely show on the scoresheet. His cap number is not high. In some ways, this typifies the kind of player that can be picked up in the expansion draft and work for a team.

Finally is Brian "Cobi" Span. There is no real way to gauge how Orlando City values the player. He made 19 appearances for the team, scoring three goals, but he wasn't a key contributor late in the season. A player who was not contributing at the USL Pro level - what value does he have in MLS? Up front, it may not seem like a big risk, especially for a player that did not make a significant impression in MLS. But like Hollingshead, Span is a player with a textured background, having left to play in Europe for a short while before coming to MLS. That may make identifying his ceiling hard to bracket and Orlando may be hiding the ball a bit.

As for NYCFC, it is even tougher to tell, but suffice to say, a free player is a free player.

The question then becomes who else is available from other teams, and it is pretty clear that other teams left more valuable players - some expensive, some not - vulnerable. And who knows - someone could take a player coming off an injury on a really high cap number because they remember that the guy was a regular starter once.... or not.

Let's talk about the teams for a moment. Jason Kreis worked with Garth Lagerwey to put together one of the best teams in MLS on one of the most economical salary cap numbers that has stayed in the top third of the league in RSL. I doubt he is going to make Ruud Gullit mistakes.

And Orlando City has been a very solid club that has a track record of smart moves in US soccer for years, albeit at the USL Pro level, and much to the chagrin of Austin Aztec fans... But their move to sell their USL Pro team rights to their now affiliate in Louisville? Very forward-looking in my personal opinion. Again, not a group that will make Hans Backe errors.

Bottom line - there is a very good chance that either of these teams will see something of value and make a play for it. Pound for pound, I expect these clubs to be very player savvy. Question is, whether there will be better value on other rosters or not.

We find out Wednesday morning. Ought to be fun. Check www.mlssoccer.com for details.

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