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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Six possibilities for the Union in the Re-Entry Draft

The lists were released Monday for the latest of the MLS Drafts, the Re-Entry Draft. The first part of many in this process went on without the Union, who had no players eligible for the Re-Entry process, the only player surfacing on their list being retiring defender Chris Albright.

That leaves the Union in the position to be shoppers only, and the wheeling and dealing has already continued across the league. The Re-Entry Draft is among the more complicated of MLS personnel acquisition devices, so here goes a brief primer:

Clubs leave out-of-contract players or players with options they’ve declined that also fit a bunch of other criteria for service/age (scroll down to option G) unprotected and up for grabs. Clubs then have an exclusive period in which to negotiate with their players up until Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. The league then conducts Stage One of the draft, where clubs can pick players and have to either make them a “Bona Fide Offer” or, for those with option years declined by other clubs, automatically pick up those options. There’s rarely much action in the first stage.

After Stage One, clubs can again negotiate deals and/or trades with their players. Any remaining players go through Stage Two of the draft Wed., Dec. 18, which allows teams to pick players with greater flexibility in eventual salary negotiations. Each phase continues until each team has passed once.

For anyone still with me, here’s the list of players available and the calendar. The Union will pick sixth in the draft done in reverse order of league finish. (Full order here.)

It’s hardly a meaningless process. Remember, the Union picked up Conor Casey via the Re-Entry Draft a season ago. The LA Galaxy made five selections in 2011 for a team that would eventually win MLS Cup, and the decider in the 2013 MLS Cup Final came off the foot of a Re-Entry Draft pick last year.

For a club like the Union, it’s a valuable instrument to get important pieces. My reckoning based on recent roster moves indicates that the Union have only about 15 of their 20 roster spots filled plus a better situation in terms of depth. That could mean they make one or more moves in this draft – remember they want to save up for two or three draft picks – and there’s talent to be had. Without much cajoling, I see six intriguing prospects in this draft that may fit the Union’s needs, in order of necessity and plausibility. (Note: All salaries listed below are 2013 base salaries.)

Seattle left back/left winger Marc Burch would seem
to be a logical fit for the Union. (AP)
1. Marc Burch

Burch is no stranger to the Re-Entry process, having been the first pick in the 2011 draft by Seattle. After 29 appearances and 19 starts in 2012, his opportunities tailed off to 20 games and 13 starts in 2013 for the Sounders. As a left-footed player, his prospects are limited in Seattle by the presence of Leo Gonzales, he of the phantom Philly handball, who was named the team’s defender of the year. While Burch can play in midfield, you’d imagine the likes of Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey are clamoring for a bit more attacking verve than that. He fills a glaring need for the Union. He’s a left-footed player who can play left back (and get forward from there) or central defender or in midfield in spurts. He made just $75,000 last year. He’s got chemistry with former Seattle defender Jeff Parke. And he’d instantly challenge Parke for best head of hair on the team. It would be a no-doubt move.

2. Joel Lindpere

The Fire are in an interesting situation. Coach Frank Yallop is trying to usher in a regime change, which for some players like Lindpere might be a good thing, as it sounds like the Estonian wasn’t a big fan of his playing opportunities under Frank Klopas. But the fact is that the Fire declined options on eight players, including four starters, captain Logan Pause, and seven-year veteran Chris Rolfe. Some of those players will be brought back, but at lower salary points. If he’s allowed to continue to the second phase, Lindpere makes sense for the Union. He’s a guy who can play on the left side of midfield. If the Union got to a 4-3-3 next year, Lindpere would bring the kind of technical ability and defensive cover required for one of those outside midfield positions. The concern with Lindpere is two-fold: First, like Casey last year, the Union would have to coax him into a pay cut from the $180,000 he made last year. There’s also some concern that age 32, Lindpere isn’t what he once was. But he had an MLS career high eight assists in 25 games this season and after an indifferent start, provided some of his best games as the Fire pushed for a playoff spot down the stretch. If the Union could negotiate the salary figure down, I think the move would make sense.

3. Bobby Convey

Again, the dots here are easy to piece together. The Philadelphia native and graduate of Penn Charter is a Philly soccer icon for his 46 U.S. National Team Caps and his extended stint in England. It seems that Convey has many more miles on his legs than his age of 30 indicates, but he’s a left-footed midfielder, and that has a certain shelf life. He would provide a stirring counterpoint to the rugged Danny Cruz on the opposite wing with his more elegant and technical play. Price is again an issue, as Convey may not be capable of producing $200,000 worth of value at this point in his career. But the lure of home (see Albright and Parke) and the siren’s call of a left foot make this plausible, even if he did settle well into Toronto after a midseason trade from Kansas City.

4. Brandon Barklage

I keep trying to talk myself out of this one. But I really think the former Red Bull would be a great addition to the Union. He could play outside in the midfield trio of a 4-3-3. He provides versatility as a guy who can also play defense. He fits the role of “Philly Tough”. There’s plenty of overlap in his skillset, in terms of toughness and area of the pitch he would patrol with Cruz (in some ways, he’d represent on upgrade on Cruz but may not be compatible with him.) He’s also affordable, having made $65K last year, and doesn’t appear to be headed back to New York. He doesn’t, however, fill the need for a left-footed player.

5. Corey Hertzog

Forward depth isn’t something the Union necessarily need, but it’s something John Hackworth has hinted at. If that’s the case, Hertzog is an easy pick in the second or third round. His acquisition as a sixth forward on the roster would all but guarantee either Antoine Hoppenot or Aaron Wheeler would make way (the latter being more likely, in my opinion), but he’s a low-cost option ($50,004 salary last year) with local ties (Reading native, Penn State alum)
Could former MLS MVP David Ferreira be the No. 10
the Union are looking for? Not at his current salary. (AP)
6. David Ferreira

Alright, this is a little out of left field. But hear me out.
- The pros: The Union want a No. 10 and are willing to add one or more designated players; they have financial flexibility after freeing some bad contracts; Ferreira is just two seasons removed from being MLS MVP; despite not making his return from a serious injury until July 4, he had three goals and nine assists for a flagging FC Dallas team.
- The cons: Ferreira is 34; his numbers haven’t kept pace with his $625,000 salary; the Union’s recent track record with creative Colombian midfielders and 34-year-old midfield DPs isn’t great; Ferreira’s best position at this age is a central position that doesn’t exist in a straight 4-3-3.
I guess the question I’m left with is two-fold: A) What price would make Ferreira work for the Union?, and B) Would that price be enough for Hackworth to shelve his formational aspirations?

Other longshots/high value picks: David Horst (local defender who sounds like he isn’t going back to Portland, but coming off a massive knee injury); Bobby Boswell (Houston did this dance with him in 2011, and I’d be surprised if he hit the market, because he would be quickly snapped up by a team like, say, New York); Sean Franklin (versatile guy in defense and midfield, but I think Los Angeles is one of the few places that can afford to throw $225K his way); Yordany Alvarez/Khari Stephenson (two central midfielders who can do a lot more than just compete for minutes next to Kyle Beckerman at Real Salt Lake); Justin Braun (he’s 26, still has potential, is moderately affordable at the $112K salary from last year, plus a guy who’s been at Chivas and Toronto deserves a break).

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