Climbing the Ladder: Digging deeper into Expansion Draft

When the Houston Dynamo released their protected list for the Expansion Draft, Brian Ching’s omission was surprising to many people, even taking into account his age and salary. Even though he’s vowed to retire if selected by Montreal, it’s still an unusual sight to see a franchise icon like Ching left exposed. MLS has now had six straight years with an Expansion Draft, and he’d been protected each time until now.

Protected in Each Expansion Draft (2006-2011)
Bobby Boswell, Brad Davis, Brian Mullan, Chad Marshall, Chris Wingert, Davy Arnaud, Drew Moor, Dwayne De Rosario, Jack Jewsbury, Kyle Beckerman, Landon Donovan, Logan Pause, Marvell Wynne, Matt Reis, Pablo Mastroeni, Shalrie Joseph, Ugo Ihemelu

New York’s Bouna Coundoul and Philadelphia’s Justin Mapp are in the same boat as Ching. Both had been protected for five straight years but were exposed this week. That leaves only 17 players who have been protected in each Expansion Draft since 2006.

Fifteen are Americans, plus longtime MLS standouts Dwayne De Rosario and Shalrie Joseph. All except Jack Jewsbury have been capped internationally. In addition, Kei Kamara might belong on this list. He’s also played since 2006 and been protected every year he’s been eligible – his Generation adidas status made him exempt for the first two.

In contrast to those players, there are four men who have played at least one game in each of the past six seasons but have never been protected. They are Jovan Kirovski, Stefani Miglioranzi, Tyson Wahl and Andy Williams. Seattle took Wahl in 2008, while Philadelphia selected Miglioranzi in 2009.

2. How big is the direct impact from the Expansion Draft players?

Expansion Teams by Minutes Played
Team Year Expansion Draft College Drafts Other
Toronto 2007 1.2% 14.4% 84.4%
San Jose 2008 31.5% 2.2% 66.4%
Seattle 2009 31.9% 6.8% 61.3%
Philadelphia 2010 41.5% 10.5% 48.0%
Portland 2011 12.5% 4.9% 82.6%
Vancouver 2011 19.5% 11.9% 68.6%

The Montreal Impact’s 10 selections will dominate the headlines Wednesday, but don’t expect them to dominate the team’s lineup next season. Only one of the past six expansion teams has had a contribution of more than one-third of the team’s minutes by players selected in the Expansion Draft. That was Philadelphia in 2010, which set an unbreakable record by having all 10 of their drafted players actually play for them in the following season.

That was the opposite approach taken by Toronto in their first season. They only ended up with 354 minutes played directly from the 2006 expansion draft, all from Paulo Nagamura. However, through trading those selections they ended up with other players, allocation money and future draft picks.

San Jose and Seattle got more playing time from the expansion draft, while Portland and Vancouver were fonder of wheeling and dealing. It remains to be seen in which direction Jesse Marsch and Montreal will go.

3. Ranking of the 16 MLS Cup champions

MLS Cup Champions (Ranked by PPG)
Year Team GP W L D Pts PPG PPG PPG GD
2011 LA Galaxy 34 19 5 10 67 1.971 1.41 0.82 0.59
2008 Columbus 30 17 7 6 57 1.900 1.67 1.20 0.47
1999 D.C. United 32 17 6 9 60 1.875 2.03 1.34 0.69
1997 D.C. United 32 17 7 8 59 1.844 2.19 1.66 0.53
2002 LA Galaxy 28 16 9 3 51 1.821 1.57 1.18 0.39
2000 Kansas City 32 16 7 9 57 1.781 1.47 0.91 0.56
1998 Chicago 32 18 11 3 57 1.781 1.94 1.41 0.53
2007 Houston 30 15 8 7 52 1.733 1.43 0.77 0.67
2001 San Jose 26 13 7 6 45 1.731 1.81 1.12 0.69
2003 San Jose 30 14 7 9 51 1.700 1.50 1.17 0.33
2010 Colorado 30 12 8 10 46 1.533 1.47 1.07 0.40
1996 D.C. United 32 15 13 4 49 1.531 1.94 1.75 0.19
2006 Houston 32 11 8 13 46 1.438 1.38 1.25 0.13
2005 LA Galaxy 32 13 13 6 45 1.406 1.38 1.41 -0.03
2004 D.C. United 30 11 10 9 42 1.400 1.43 1.40 0.03
2009 Salt Lake 30 11 12 7 40 1.333 1.43 1.17 0.27

The 2011 LA Galaxy may or may not be the greatest team in league history, but one thing’s for sure: They have the best regular-season record of any league champion, surpassing the 2008 Columbus Crew. Once they got to the playoffs, LA then proceeded to take maximum points from every game.

The top six consists of the six teams to win the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup in the same season – Kansas City is ranked ahead of Chicago by virtue of goal difference per game. The 2011 Galaxy have the second-best defense among the champions behind the 2007 Dynamo, and are also fourth in goal difference.

Shootouts from 1996 through 1999 were counted as draws to provide a fair comparison to the other years.

4. Coach of the Year no longer a “most improved” award?

The Galaxy’s excellent regular season saw Bruce Arena rewarded with the Coach of the Year award last week – voting took place before the playoffs started – for the second time in three years. His team ended up with the fourth-best regular-season record ever after the 1998 Galaxy, 2001 Miami Fusion and 2005 San Jose Earthquakes. Despite that accomplishment, his selection was a bit surprising.

For 10 straight years from 2000 to '09, the Coach of the Year award winner led a team with either the most or second most improved performance in the league. But last year, Schellas Hyndman won despite FC Dallas only being tied for the fourth-best improvement, beating out New York’s Hans Backe (first) and Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis (second) in the process.

That’s not to say Arena’s continued excellence shouldn’t have been rewarded. After all, it’s only the seventh time a team has averaged 1.6 PPG in three consecutive seasons – the first time for the Galaxy. LA have won two-straight Supporters’ Shields as the league’s top team, but normally the voters reward upward trends and this year’s Galaxy team only improved very slightly.

In fact, none of the three teams which improved the most in 2011 – D.C. United, Philadelphia, and Houston – had their coaches nominated. The other two nominees ranked behind them; Seattle and Sigi Schmid were ranked fourth for improvement with Peter Vermes and Kansas City next at fifth. D.C.’s Ben Olsen is only the third coach of a most-improved team to be snubbed from the three finalists, following Colorado’s Tim Hankinson in 2002 and Dallas’ Colin Clarke in 2004.