Like a lopsided, multi-levered contraption out of Dr. Seuss, the two-stage Re-Entry Draft was a little bit unwieldy and it took some getting used to, but in the end, it did its job.
That job was to provide veteran players with more flexibility and leverage regarding their futures, and to give teams a chance to acquire players they otherwise might not have considered.
To that extent, the new draft worked—and quickly. The Stage 1 draft was gone in 60 seconds. Stage 2 clocked in at nine minutes, but still featured 11 picks and reshaped the rosters of more than half the league’s teams.
It was free agency on fast-forward. And it was fun.
Let’s roll it back, and take a look at some of this week’s other developments, including a veteran goalkeeper re-signing for a 20th and final professional season, league-wide rebuilding efforts, and some prominent post-draft transactions.
JPA to LAX?
The most dramatic move of the Re-Entry Draft came when Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy traded up to get the fifth pick, which they used to nab former Red Bulls Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel.
Arena was instrumental in bringing the Colombian striker to MLS back in 2007, when he was coaching the Red Bulls. The 35-year-old Ángel is now New York’s all-time leading scorer, with 58 league goals in four seasons.
The Galaxy did not stop there. They continued to raid the Red Bull cupboard, choosing former New York midfielder Luke Sassano with the ninth pick, then dealing him to Sporting Kansas City for veteran right back Frankie Hejduk, whom KC had taken at No. 6.
Los Angeles are clearly in “win-now” mode, and understandably so: 35-year-old superstar David Beckham is in the final year of his MLS contract, and the team has come oh-so-close the past two seasons, losing MLS Cup 2009 on penalties and falling in the Western Conference finals in 2010.
It’s next year or never for the Beckham era, the end of which will likely see a massive turnover.
Speaking of turnover, Chivas USA are in the midst of a tidal wave of change after the second-worst season in club history (8-18-4).
In the past six weeks the franchise has said goodbye to its president, vice president of soccer operations and its head coach. Only one of the positions (club president) has been filled—and that is on an interim basis.
Given all the front-office holes, it’s a wonder Chivas even turned up for the Re-Entry Draft, much less made out pretty well in the process: The Goats snapped up one of the big names available in Stage 2, veteran defender Jimmy Conrad, then traded allocation money to the Galaxy for promising 19-year-old midfielder Tristan Bowen.
It remains to be seen whether or not Chivas can sign Conrad, a Southern California native, but if they do, they’ll have taken two solid steps toward regrouping for 2011.
Several other franchises in rebuilding phases used the Re-Entry Draft to boost the process, starting with D.C. United, the team with the worst record in the league (6-20-4) in 2010.
The Red-and-Black took veteran striker Josh Wolff, 33, with the first overall pick. Having already locked up quality midfielder Dax McCarty in an Expansion Draft-day deal with Portland, and added experienced striker Joseph Ngwenya in Stage 1 of this event, United are farther along in their efforts than Chivas.
New England, the only team to make a pick in the second round of this stage, are probably somewhere in between those two. The Revs selected veteran Brazilian attacker Fred in the second round after choosing former Houston center back Ryan Cochrane with the third pick of Round 1.
The Chicago Fire took former US international defender Cory Gibbs with the fifth pick to make up for their back line losses of C.J. Brown (retired) and Wilman Conde (Puebla).
The most puzzling choice in Stage 2 was probably Columbus’s selection of 34-year-old striker Jeff Cunningham with the eighth pick. Cunningham is the second leading scorer in MLS history, sure, but the Crew had just offloaded four players in their mid- to late-30s (including 2008 MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Hejduk), saying the club needed to invest in youth.
Former US international goalkeeper Kasey Keller, 41, announced Friday that he would play one more season, signing a one-year extension with the Seattle Sounders.
Keller, who was born in Olympia, Wash., and played college soccer at the University of Portland (and club ball with the Portland Timbers), said that the chance to play in the Cascadia Cup rivalry between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver was a significant factor in his decision to return.
It will be the 20th season of his remarkable career, which has included stops in the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga.
GPS for GBS
One other pedigreed veteran, former Columbus playmaker Schelotto, is not so sure where the last days of his career will unfold. He told MLSsoccer.com that he never expected to be selected in the Re-Entry Draft. He wasn’t. And now it remains to be seen where, if anywhere, the skillful veteran will play in 2011, though he also said he had been in contact with a MLS club.
To be frank, he looked like a player with something left in the tank last season, and we’d be willing to bet that, even at age 37, he would add some flashes of brilliance to any side that could work out a deal for him in 2011.
Minding the Stove
Player movement this week was not limited to the frenzied Re-Entry draft. Portland signed four more players—all from their D-2 side—to increase the Timbers roster to 15 players. (Fellow expansion side Vancouver currently have 11 players under contract.)
The Timbers also swung a deal with DC, sending goalkeeper Steve Cronin and some allocation money to United for the rangy Troy Perkins, who has seven caps with the US national team.
Houston unveiled four new players on Friday, including defender Hunter Freeman, who returned to MLS after two seasons in Norway. Freeman, 25, had previous stints with Colorado, New York and Toronto, and played the last two years alongside US national team defender Clarence Goodson at IK Start.
The Dynamo also signed defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron, arguably their most important player, to a four-year contract extension.