Wynalda: Pins and needles
well, one's not so new -- have the endeavor of building a team from scratch, which is never an easy task. Regardless, it is a week that puts a lot of people in Major League Soccer, especially the players, on pins and needles.
Club Deportivo Chivas USA and their newly appointed coach Thomas Rongen have the advantage. Some big name players from Club Deportivo Guadalajara (Chivas) have already made up the spine of what this team will eventually look like, with the likes of Francisco Palencia and Ramon Ramirez and goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera rumored to be moving to Los Angeles. Rongen looks to fill in the blanks in Friday's expansion draft but keep the continuity of a mainly Hispanic team.
Real Salt Lake head coach John Ellinger, on the other hand, does not have the luxuries that Rongen is enjoying at this point. He must build his team from the ground up. Although the announcement of RSL's acquisition of the league's all-time leading goal scorer in Jason Kreis alleviates some of the worry, there are still a lot of holes to fill in this ghost lineup and they're still on shaky ground at best.
Of the 68 players who make up this very unhappy group, 10 are goalkeepers, which proves how strong Major League Soccer is at the goalkeeper position. Some surprising names and some not-so-surprising names hit the list -- mainly due to salary cap issues, Tony Meola is the most recognizable. I don't expect him to land in CD Chivas USA or in Salt Lake, but I'm not sure that Bob Gansler will make him a part of Kansas City's 2005 effort at his current salary. Still, there are some young guns looking for a change of scenery and an opportunity, namely D.J. Countess, Henry Ring, Matt Jordan and Zach Wells.
As far as defenders go, five-time MLS Cup champion Jeff Agoos tops the list, but the combination of a bad back and FieldTurf makes Salt Lake a dubious option. Ryan Nelsen is expected to depart the league for England, Steve Howey of New England may just stay where he is (in England) and hopefully Darryl Powell will go on vacation -- whoops, he already did that. This list is peppered with young talent, which gives Ellinger an opportunity to build a team he is familiar with, while CD Chivas USA will probably be less interested in a young U.S. player.
In the midfield, Andy Williams, Ronnie Ekelund and Preki are the three biggest names in the draft. While Earnie Stewart will probably be leaving to go back to Holland and New England captain Joe Franchino (who is probably the most disappointed of all) is available, I expect it to be more of the same: players of a Hispanic background (e.g., Arturo Torres, Francisco Gomez, Joselito Vaca) will probably find themselves in the red and white next year, but there may also be some surprises. While Rongen's goal is to fill in the blanks, he may bring the likes of Ezra Hendrickson or Alex Zotinca or maybe even Franchino as trade bait to the stadium-sharing Los Angeles Galaxy before this draft is over. Pablo Brenes looks like a good option for both teams, one of only a handful of such players. Expect him to be drafted.
Marcelo Saragosa is too expensive, Sergio Galvan Rey isn't good enough, Carlos Llamosa might be at the end of the line, and we may have a few more retirements by the time we're done. All in all, this is a difficult task for Ellinger, who has to be very wary of the history of some of these players before his selections because the complexion of his team is going to need a little bit of everything, and his quest to build with youth may cloud his recognition of the need for experience. When you make the wrong decisions in a draft, they come back to haunt you, and you too, will eventually be sitting on pins and needles.
Former U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda scored the first goal in MLS history, and is currently the analyst on RadioShack's Soccer Saturday on ESPN2. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He was inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame on Oct. 11. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.