Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MLS welcomes the Impact; Montreal unlikely to host Ching

Obviously it's hard to predict how a club will perform throughout their first season of Major League Soccer - there are simply too many variables to make prophecy a worthy exercise. Today though, we begin to take stock of exactly what Montreal can expect to achieve given the players they selected in the MLS Expansion draft.

The Impact selected some quality players for their own use, some for leverage purposes and others simply to on-trade. It was puzzling that they left good (and cheap) prospects like Mike Fucito alone. They, like the Whitecaps last year and Philadelphia before that, chose to ignore some high profile (read: expensive) guys like Freddy Adu and Jonathon de Guzman, preferring to focus on supplementing their NASL quality with legitimate CONCACAF talent.

Public and pundit response has been mostly positive - especially given the calibre of player left unprotected by the established eighteen MLS franchises. Reaction has been fair, with the selection of former US men's national team forward Ching by far the most debated business item. As the draft was structured, the Impact simply had to select the Houston forward regardless of his threats to retire. Doing so put the Impact - and coach Jesse Marsch - in a bargaining position where they hold all the cards.

The purpose of Expansion Drafts is not to provide the bulk of a team's roster for the future. Were a club coach to take that approach, the club becomes mired in youthful mistakes and that coach is fired. The best strategy to take is to focus on acquiring serviceable starters without stretching for salary or the future.

It is rare that expansion draftees last for the long-term at a club: three of the Sounders taken in 2008 now remain in Seattle. Two initial Union draftees still reside in Philadelphia only two seasons into that club's MLS existence. Of last year's Expansionistas, three sapling Timbers are still in Portland while the Whitecaps finished with five of their initial ten.

Whoever sticks - perhaps Sanna Nyassi, Justin Mapp or Zarek Valentin - can be joined by Impact players who've competed well in Gold Cups and attempt the step up. The new boys have high hopes for new signings like Nelson Rivas and Evan Bush. Perhaps Marco Materazzi, Luca Toni or SuperPippo Inzaghi could bowl up in Little Italy as well.

It's not the place of Expansion Drafts to provide the basis for future success, only for stability and to give the incoming club some assets that aren't initially super out-of-pocket expenses. In following this principal, the Impact came out winners from today's draft.

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