Speculation and anticipation surround Friday's MLS Expansion Draft (4 p.m. ET, ESPNews). The experts at MLSnet.com have decided to throw in their two cents as they guess who they think will be selected by Real Salt Lake and Club Deportivo Chivas USA, as well as speculate on who teams will pull back when one of their former players is picked.
This MOCK draft is completely unscientific. This is solely the opinion of MLSnet.com and not that of the league or its clubs. If the draft unfolds close to as it is laid out here, the experts are headed to Las Vegas and plan on retiring shortly upon winning millions.
Based upon a coin flip at MLS Cup 2004, CD Chivas USA gets the first pick:
1. CD Chivas USA selects GK Jonny Walker - He played in Chile for six years and speaks Spanish fluently, which means he's a great candidate to play between the pipes for Thomas Rongen. Also, he won't cost CD Chivas USA an international spot.
1a. Metros protect Pablo Brenes - He's a talented midfielder who shone for the Costa Rican team at this year's Olympics, and Bob Bradley ought to pull him off the board.
2. Real Salt Lake selects GK D.J. Countess - Shocking? Yes. But bear in mind that coaches often take players they know in situations like these, and John Ellinger knows Countess from his days with the U.S. youth national teams.
2a. Fire protect Henry Ring - Real Salt Lake may end up selecting Ring rather than Countess. Either way, whichever player is not selected will be protected by the Chicago Fire.
3. CD Chivas USA selects DF/MF Antonio de la Torre - De la Torre is a versatile player who could be very useful in the 3-4-3 formation CD Chivas USA will likely put out. Also, he's Mexican, and the club's traditionalist fans ought to like that.
3a. Rapids protect Seth Trembly - Trembly is a hardworking young player with the potential to contribute to his team. He's worth holding on to.
4. Real Salt Lake selects DF Nelson Akwari - Again, Ellinger knows this player. Akwari was part of the U.S. team at the U-17 World Championship in 1999, and he showed this season that he is very capable of being an everyday player.
4a. Crew protect David Testo - The Crew might be willing to lose one promising young player, but they'll want to hang on to Testo. Highly touted coming out of the A-League in early 2004, Testo showed flashes of his talent this year. He could also be on Ellinger's radar.
5. CD Chivas USA selects MF Marcelo Saragosa - Saragosa was one of the best players on the Galaxy in 2004, and he should continue to shine at The Home Depot Center in the red and white of CD Chivas USA.
5a. Galaxy protect Arturo Torres - Galaxy head coach Steve Sampson seems to like Torres, and the young player should be wearing the Galaxy uniform again next season.
6. Real Salt Lake selects F Matt Taylor - Jason Kreis is expected to play the role of mentor at Real Salt Lake, and Taylor will be Kreis's first student. Taylor couldn't break the lineup in Kansas City with Arnaud and Wolff ahead of him, but he'll do well in Salt Lake. 6a. Wizards protect Alex Zotinca - The MLS Cup own goal aside, Zotinca has played well for the Wizards, and he will likely be part of another strong defensive unit in 2005.
7. CD Chivas USA selects F Sergio Galvan Rey - The 2004 season did not go well for the "King of Goals," but a change of scenery might be all he needs to get back on track. With a setup perhaps more like what he was used to in South America, he could fit in well at CD Chivas USA.
7a. Metros protect Zach Wells - Protecting Brenes early on might be a priority for the MetroStars, but they will also want to hold on to this season's backup 'keeper with Walker heading West.
8. Real Salt Lake selects DF/MF Evan Whitfield - Whitfield is a strong defensive player who will lend his considerable skills and athleticism to what could be a solid back line in Real Salt Lake's first year.
8a. Fire protect Dipsy Selolwane - The Botswana international could round out an impressive Chicago Fire strike force in 2005.
9. CD Chivas USA selects MF Francisco Gomez - The former Nike Project-40 midfielder has been in and out of the Wizards lineup over the course of his six-year career, but he'll be just 26 in January and Rongen may give him a shot.
9a. Wizards protect Igor Simutenkov - Simutenkov overcame a preseason injury to help the Wizards capture their first U.S. Open Cup and a spot in MLS Cup 2004. If he can regain his fitness during the offseason, he could match his form of a year ago.
10. Real Salt Lake selects DF Philip Salyer - Salyer is another player who hasn't gotten much of a shot thus far in his MLS career, but he may be familiar with Ellinger after spending time with both the U.S. U-20s and U-23s.
10a. FC Dallas protect Toni Nhleko - After sending Jason Kreis to Salt Lake City, FC Dallas need someone to be Eddie Johnson's strike partner in 2005.
11. CD Chivas USA selects F Eliseo Quintanilla - Another player who has been hampered by injuries, the 21-year-old El Salvador international has already shown that he can perform well in MLS. The potential attacking style with Chivas will suit him well.
11a. D.C. United protect Troy Perkins - Given the revolving door goalkeeping setup that was seen in D.C. in 2004, head coach Peter Nowak might want to have as many options as possible next year, just in case.
12. Real Salt Lake selects MF Alexandre Boucicaut - Ellinger has likely seen Boucicaut play as much as anyone else in the league has, as the Haitian teams tend to train a lot in Florida, and Ellinger is familiar with many young players within the CONCACAF region.
12a. Third player selected from Fire - They can't lose any more.
13. CD Chivas USA selects F Thiago Martins - Thomas Rongen has seen Martins play - and probably practice - a lot in the last couple of years through his job as D.C. United's color analyst. Martins is a big, imposing presence in the attack.
13a. United protect Kevin Ara - Ara impressed a lot of people at United with his performance in the 2004 preseason, and his work ethic throughout the year only helped solidify the team's opinion of him. Nowak should keep him.
14. Real Salt Lake selects DF Rusty Pierce - Another with experience in the U.S. youth system, Pierce has done well for himself with solid performances the past five years in New England.
14a. Revolution protect Adin Brown - Matt Reis is the starter now in New England, but it's never a bad idea to have a good second option, especially with youngster Kyle Singer prone to injury.
15. CD Chivas USA selects M Tim Lawson - Lawson didn't play in any MLS games for D.C. United after joining the team in August, but he is a talented player, and Rongen could well have seen that.
15a. Third player selected from D.C. United - They can't lose any more.
16. Real Salt Lake selects DF Ronnie Ekelund - Some may argue that Ekelund doesn't have much left in the tank, but one thing he does still have is his professionalism. Ekelund, at the very least, will be a good presence in RSL's locker room (and we still think he's got something for the field of play, too).
16a. Earthquakes protect Chris Roner - It was unfortunate that Roner was lost for the season before it even began because he showed in 2003 that he can contribute to a championship team.
17. CD Chivas USA selects MF Joselito Vaca - In his three years in MLS, Vaca has been praised for his promise, but on-field success has yet to come. Regardless, CD Chivas USA may take a flyer on him and see what happens.
17a. Third player selected from MetroStars - They can't lose any more.
18. Real Salt Lake selects DF Matt Behncke - If Real Salt Lake is after players who will work hard every day and be team players, Behncke would be a good guy to pick up. He boosted his own value with a solid, though not spectacular 2004 season.
18a. FC Dallas protect Scott Garlick - Like the Reis-Brown situation in New England, its always good to have a viable second option.
19. CD Chivas USA selects MF Oscar Pareja - His days on the field are coming to an end, but he could be for CD Chivas USA what Ekelund would be for Real Salt Lake: a good player to have around.
19a. Third player selected from FC Dallas - They can't lose any more.
20. Real Salt Lake selects F Erick Scott - The terms of Scott's contract might come into play, as his loan to MLS and the Crew might or might not turn into a permanent deal this offseason, but he's a talented young player from a CONCACAF nation whom Ellinger probably knows something about.
This draft was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.