Expansion Draft - 2019 - Ben Sweat

2019 MLS Expansion Draft Grades | Ben Baer

Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC came into Tuesday night's Expansion Draft with plenty of pieces in place, but with five selections, the two sides had a chance to really build out their rosters. You can get a full rundown on what happened here, but how effective were their picks? It's obviously too early to judge, but check out some instant reaction grades below.

MIA

Inter Miami CF: B

I had pegged Ben Sweat as the player who should be selected No. 1 when the eligibility list was release and that idea became reality on Tuesday. The 28-year-old defender has started 62 matches for New York City FC over the last three seasons, contributing to one of the top defending sides in MLS. The Florida native can play on the left side of defense, either at left back or center back. Sweat was on a reasonable contract in 2019 ($200k according to the MLS Players Association) and is a proven commodity in MLS. That's exactly what you want as an expansion team.

It should be noted that Miami passed up on the chance to take 22-year-old Designated Player Jesus Medina with this selection, thereby also blocking Nashville's opportunity to select him.

Miami's next pick netted them Alvas Powell, a player who has had his ups and downs throughout his MLS career. The Jamaican international helped the Portland Timbers win MLS Cup in 2015, and was a regular starter for the Timbers for the next three years, before joining FC Cincinnati this season. He started just 10 matches, none after July 21, for the worst defense in MLS history. While he's still just 25 years old, this selection is certainly a risk — especially when you consider his salary (~250k).

Lee Nguyen was once an MVP finalist, but that was five years ago. And although the 33-year-old attacking midfielder was a contributor to the best regular-season team in MLS history, that mostly came in spot duty before Mark-Anthony Kaye's injury prior to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs (1,170 minutes, 4 assists). His contract status is crucial considering his TAM-level salary and the club could be looking to re-negotiate heading into the 2020 season. He should provide a veteran presence in the locker room that will likely be filled with young players, international or domestic.

The team's last two picks helped to fill out their depth. Columbus Crew SC midfielder Luis Argudo is a cheap, young player who played over 1,000 minutes and can fit in on the wing or centrally on spot duty. Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith has been Stefan Frei's backup for three seasons, appearing in just one MLS match. He will likely fill the same role in South Florida.

One word of caution on the last two, after filling spots on the supplemental and reserve rosters for their previous clubs, they will both be taking up spots on the senior roster with Miami. This could prevent them from signing higher-priced, higher-upside players.


NSH

Nashville SC: B+

Let's get the trades out of the way first. Nashville used one of their picks to get $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money from FC Cincinnati, trading former Atlanta United forward Brandon Vazquez to the Queen City. That's more than Atlanta got for losing Vazquez ($50k GAM) and seems like a fair number for a player who is still mostly unproven. Nashville also have two lower-priced striker options on their roster in Daniel Rios and Cameron Lancaster. More on that later.

There were plenty of established goalkeepers on the eligibles list but Nashville decided to acquire two who were not. Joe Willis, who they got from the Houston Dynamo for Zarek Valentin, has been a starter for three of the last four years. You can expect him to be a solid option in the net on a modest salary. Adrian Zendejas is a younger option (24) that is completely unproven at this level, despite performing at a high level with Sporting Kansas City's USL Championship affiliate in previous seasons. But if he wins the starting job over Willis, the upside and salary will more than outweigh the cost in acquiring him ($175k in allocation money + international roster spot).

Another Sporting player will be joining Zendejas in the Music City, as Jimmy Medranda leaves KC after seven seasons. One of the most versatile players in MLS, Medranda has featured at left back, central midfieder and winger in his MLS career. He's also been hampered by injuries, including this season when he played just 176 minutes. His domestic status, versatility and salary ($155k) make him a good depth option on the senior roster.

Jalil Anibaba has plenty of experience in MLS and is coming off one of the best seasons of his MLS career, helping the New England Revolution earn a playoff spot. The center back started 19 games for the Revs and could be looked at as the primary backup or starter in central defense.

Going back to the forwards on Nashville's roster, Mike Jacobs and co. did add a third on Tuesday. Abu Danladi, the No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft, is heading south following three disappointing seasons with Minnesota United FC. After scoring eight goals as a rookie, the UCLA product scored only three in just under 1,200 minutes over the last two seasons. Some of that could be chalked up to injuries, but the 24-year-old also failed to beat out other options up top, including 21-year-old Mason Toye. Danladi offers Nashville a high ceiling, low floor. It will be interesting to see what sort of role they have in mind for him.

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