CD Chivas USA, RSL raid draft chest
Club Deportivo Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake -- stayed pretty much as expected when they raided the rosters of the league's 10 existing teams on Friday in the MLS Expansion Draft.
Entering the draft, Chivas USA was expected to select a number of players of Mexican descent, and four of their 10 picks fit the bill, including No. 1 overall pick Arturo Torres, who was selected from the roster of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Real Salt Lake selected a blend of experience and youth -- including a number of players who played for head coach John Ellinger in the U.S. youth national team program.
By the end of the draft, all 10 returning teams were forced to part ways with at least one player. The hardest hit were MLS Cup 2004 champions D.C. United, as well as the Chicago Fire. Both clubs had the maximum of three players taken during the proceedings.
Leading off the league's second-ever expansion draft was Torres, who will be staying at The Home Depot Center in 2005, though he will no longer be a member of the Galaxy.
Chicago Fire midfielder Andy Williams was chosen first by Real Salt Lake. The Jamaican international will join his sixth team in eight seasons in MLS. Williams could feature as an attacking midfielder for Real, possibly playing behind what could be a deadly combination up top. Jason Kreis, the league's all-time leading goal scorer with 91 goals, was signed earlier in the week to play in Salt Lake, and reportedly former MetroStars marksman Clint Mathis could be returning to MLS to play for Ellinger's team.
A great number of young players were taken by both teams during the draft, the league's newest squads obviously looking to build for the future. Expansion could be a great help to many of the league's talented young players, as they may be given the opportunity to shine at their new clubs after seeing limited action in 2004.
Goalkeeper D.J. Countess is one such player, selected by Real with their second pick from the Chicago Fire. Having picked up a good deal of experience as a young goalkeeper, both at the club and international level, Countess could become a starter again in 2005 after serving as Henry Ring's backup this season.
Other players in the same mold include Pablo Brenes, the young Costa Rican international who moved from the MetroStars to Real Salt Lake with their third pick, Nelson Akwari (Columbus Crew to Real Salt Lake), Kansas City forward Matt Taylor (to CD Chivas USA) and Matt Behncke (FC Dallas to Real Salt Lake).
A few veterans also moved to the new clubs, including nine-year veteran Brian Kamler (New England Revolution to Real Salt Lake) and the multi-year experienced Ezra Hendrickson (D.C. United to Chivas USA) and Francisco Gomez (Kansas City Wizards). Chivas might also have taken the biggest gambles in the draft when they selected two players who missed the entirety of the 2004 season through injury, forward Thiago Martins (from D.C. United) and defender Jeff Stewart (Colorado Rapids).
Defender Antonio de la Torre moved from the Colorado Rapids to Chivas USA, as was also expected. The Guadalajara native has two uncles who both played with Chivas in Mexico.
Other interesting moments in the draft came when the existing teams were able to "call back" players after losing a man to either of the expansion clubs. The MetroStars had exposed both of their goalkeepers prior to the draft, many assuming that starter Jonny Walker could be making the move to CD Chivas USA. Instead, Chivas USA did not select any 'keepers, possibly implying that the club is looking to bring one up from Mexico.
However, when the MetroStars did have a man selected (Brenes), they did not choose to immediately protect Walker, who started in 30 of the club's 32 games in 2004 (including playoffs). Rather, they initially protected Zach Wells, who served as Walker's backup. The Metros would eventually pull Walker back, after Craig Ziadie was taken by CD Chivas USA.
Another player pulled back that may have raised a few eyebrows is D.C. United's Ryan Nelsen. Amid numerous reports that the New Zealand international could be heading to England to join the Premier League, D.C. protected him at the first opportunity, meaning they would still retain his rights should the rumored signing not occur.
The Fire joined United as the only other team to lose three players, and they all came within the first two rounds. Henry Ring, who started all but two of the Chicago club's matches this season, was passed over for Countess, leaving Ring to stave off competition from Zach Thornton.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.