There are three ways to approach Expansion Draft picks. We saw Austin FC hit all three in Tuesday night's draft:
- Go with a value pick who's going to give you solid minutes but isn't going to be a star.
- Get an asset to trade
- Swing for the fences
Winger Jared Stroud, a 24-year-old who worked his way through the New York Red Bulls' uber-productive USL pipeline, and veteran central midfielder Joe Corona, late of the LA Galaxy, both fit into that first group. Neither guy is ever going to win a Best XI or have a super-high ceiling that is going to get the Twitter comp makers' guild all revved up. Even when Corona was a regular with the US men's national team and at Club America — still the biggest and most successful team in North America — he wasn't that type of guy.
But both have shown the ability to be the types of two-way players who can soak up minutes and provide some quality while they do so. The ceiling is super-high for neither, but the floor isn't low. They will contribute.
Kamal Miller, a left-footed center back who's also played some left back over the past two years, has already been flipped to the Montreal Impact for $225k of GAM and the 11th overall SuperDraft pick. It is up to Austin to make certain that's worth it — there is no rule that GAM will be spent wisely, and even the best SuperDraft prospects don't come MLS-ready. They will have to develop whoever they get with that 11th pick into a contributor (the fact that they made that move suggests that there's a strong belief they can do exactly that).
Austin swung for the fences with the Danny Hoesen and Brady Scott picks, though in different ways. Scott is a 21-year-old goalkeeper with potential (sporting director Claudio Reyna used the word "upside" about five times during the brief post-pick interview) and some degree of pedigree, having come through one of the country's best youth set-ups in De Anza Force, then spent a few years with FC Koln in Germany while earning a ton of appearances with the US U-20s. In the middle of this past year, he came back to the US and signed with Nashville.
Head coach Josh Wolff knows all about players who've followed a career path similar to that, because Wolff was the top assistant with Columbus when they brought Zack Steffen back from Germany and made him the starter. You see what's become of Steffen since then.
Cody Cropper and Jonathan Klinsmann (teammates with Scott on the 2017 US U-20 team, by the way) have done the same US youth soccer-to-Europe-to-MLS journeys. Their outcomes have been different from Steffen's.
Hoesen is the ultimate "eye test" center forward. He is big and strong, a skillful and smooth athlete who was good enough, in his early 20s, to warrant a few appearances with the Dutch national team and a move to Ajax. He did not really break through with either, though, and in his now decade-long career he's scored double-digit goals just twice. That is not the mark of a starting No. 9, especially at age 30 and coming off a season lost to injury.
But teams keep taking chances on him because if you just watch him move out there for a few minutes ... damn. I've mentally dubbed him "The Dutch Juan Agudelo." He's that type of player.
He's always left teams wanting more. If Austin are the ones to finally get that out of him, then swinging for the fences will have been worth it.