By Andrew Villegas
The problem with the MLS expansion draft candy dish is that you have to wade through a hundred stale Tootsie Rolls (some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, go figure) to get to that proverbial Snickers bar. This is the worst kept secret in American soccer. Teams stack the unprotected lists with big names past their prime or young players who just never panned out to tempt new teams into taking over the bad contracts on their overpriced, underperforming players.
But to the new team, this time Le Montreal Impact, the expansion draft is the great playing-field-leveler. Sure you can get tooth rot from the MLS candy dish, but you can also ride a sugar high for a time, build a formidable team from this pool of players and compete right away (See the Portland Timbers, who took, among others, Dax McCarty and Arturo Alvarez before dealing them away to others to further the depth of their expansion draft experience.)
If they can do it, why can’t I?
So Monday, when MLS teams released their protected player lists, I thought I’d try my hand at playing le Montreal Impact and choose 10 players I’d take if I were them in Wednesday’s expansion draft.
Take this for what it is: I never got into the full-on football manager games, and manager mode in FIFA 12 bores me to tears. The only manager simulation I play is Hattrick, and it’s taken me two years to move up one division with no breakthrough in sight. So I’m basically Andrew Villegas, coach of no one, fan, making these decisions. The kid in me wants to pick all the designated players available, slap them on the team together and watch the championships roll in. Though amusing, MLS Commissioner Don Garber probably wouldn’t appreciate the unprofessionalism of my first press conference where I told him what he could do with his salary cap.
From the back with their salaries:
Joe Cannon VANCOUVER Whitecaps ($199,500)
Kosuke Kimura COLORADO Rapids ($63,525)
Zarek Valentin CHIVAS USA ($80,000)
Michael Harrington SPORTING KC ($110,000)
Chris Birchall LA Galaxy ($144,000)
Freddy Adu PHILLY Union ($335,000)
Danny Cruz HOUSTON Dynamo ($80,000)
Bobby Convey SAN JOSE Earthquakes ($313,500)
Diego Chaves CHICAGO Fire ($45,000)
Andres Mendoza COLUMBUS Crew ($500,000)
Some thoughts: I think a guy like Cannon (though I will certainly take heat for including him) could balance the “dark side” of Mendoza. Kimura, when he gets healthy, could be a top-tier fullback in MLS for a long time. A tip of the hat to The Shin Guardian for Birchall, whom I had to include here. With Montreal, Convey gets a chance to play midfield. It gets him out of left back, which he hates. He might also be trade-bait, but he might relish the chance for a new start, even if it is in Canada.
The salary cap last year was $2.675 million, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for Montreal to complete their roster with the guys they’d pick up here (they’d have about $40,000 per player to spend), but they would almost certainly want to trade a player or two of those they pick to use on other, cheaper players and/or other draft choices.
This gives Montreal a balance between guys they can build around and guys they can dangle to others. They’ve already signed 4 players. The fan in me thinks that if Montreal puts these 14 players and a bunch of mimes up there to fill in the rest of the roster, the results would be must-see TV. (They have mimes in Montreal, right?)
The soccer player in me thinks it could be a disaster.
Now someone get this waxy chocolate out of my teeth.
Andrew Villegas is Senior MLS Writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at andrew.villegas[at]gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @ReporterAndrew.