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Jan 21, 2006

Clarke pleased with his draft haul

Last week's run-up to the draft was an opportunity to peer into the crystal ball. Now that the picks have been made, it's time to break out the tea leaves and divine how things played out.

As the GM's, coaches, and players from each team dispersed following the conclusion of Friday's MLS SuperDraft, the goodwill that was on display was near universal. As Kansas City Wizards' head coach Bob Gansler put it, "We're one of 12 teams walking out of here today saying, 'We helped ourselves.'"

Of course, the extent to which each team helped itself won't be apparent for a couple of years. Will Marvell Wynne end up being the next Carlos Bocanegra, or the next Steve Shak? Will the selection of Mehdi Ballouchy make John Ellinger look like a genius, or a dunce? And just how much will Chivas USA coach Bob Bradley be kicking himself for trading down to No. 5, and then looking on in horror as the guy he really wanted, Pasadena City College forward Yura Movsisyan, was nabbed by Kansas City with the fourth pick.

And grading the draft this year was complicated even further by the inordinate number of trades that were rumored, but never quite nailed down. For example, Columbus forward Edson Buddle was supposed to be a headed to the Metros in exchange for Eddie Gaven, yet it still hasn't been formally announced. Ditto for Amado Guevara's proposed deal that would send him to Chivas USA, as well as the rumored trade that would send Joe Cannon from Colorado to Kansas City.

But even with all of the uncertainty surrounding the player swaps, it was clear that some teams helped themselves more than others. Here's the breakdown following Friday's activities.

Helped Themselves a Ton

Dallas --

The Hoops had the most picks of any team on Friday, and used just about every one of them wisely. Dax McCarty was labeled by Dallas head coach Colin Clarke as, "the best player at the combine," and while opinions might differ on that claim, there's no doubting that the UNC product is an excellent prospect.

But it was in the second round that Dallas really showed that it had done its due diligence. FCD plugged their gaping hole at fullback by nabbing Clemson product Justin Moore and U-17 standout Blake Wagner, and then obtained underrated forward Dominic Oduro out of Virginia Commonwealth. Moore and Wagner in particular could see a lot of playing time this season.

Colin Clarke finished his day by obtaining Ohio State goalkeeper Ray Burse, Jr., Maryland midfielder Michael Dello-Russo, and Indiana forward Mike Ambersley.

"We're very pleased," said Clarke, as he cracked a rare smile. "We've come in here, we knew what our needs were, and we've got everybody we were looking for."

Columbus --

Another team that had a ton of picks (six), and took full advantage.

"Certainly, Columbus did well," said one MLS head coach. "You always remember the team with the most picks, but I think Columbus did a good job and were the team that accomplished the most."

After spending the last month overhauling his defense, Sigi Schmid focused his initial attentions on his forward line, obtaining Maryland forward Jason Garey and Cal State-Dominguez Hills striker Kei Kamara. Indiana's Jed Zayner was acquired with the 13th overall pick before Schmid used his final selections to obtain New Mexico's Brandon Moss, Memphis' Dayton O'Brien, and SMU's Duke Hashimoto.

With Edson Buddle supposedly headed to the Metros, Garey and Kamara could see some significant time on the field, although Garey looks the more polished of the two. Zayner looks to be a backup to Tim Ward, although he could see see spot duty in the middle.

Los Angeles --

The rich just got richer. The Galaxy were aiming to bolster their backline, but couldn't believe their luck when Clemson defender Nathan Sturgis -- who was pegged by many as a top-five pick -- fell into their lap at No. 12. Head coach Steve Sampson could barely contain himself, and was even more overjoyed when Maryland's Marc Burch was still on the board at No. 24.

"To have [Burch] available when we chose him, I think that was the 'get' of the draft," said Sampson.

Sturgis couldn't have been far behind, and the Galaxy got another player who fell further than expected when they selected up-and-coming defender Kyle Veris. L.A. finished off their day by obtaining Bradley goalkeeper Chris Dunsheath, and North Carolina State forward Aaron King.

MetroStars --

Alexi Lalas got his man, and he didn't have to give up much to get him, sending defender Jason Hernandez westward with the fifth overall pick for the right to get Marvell Wynne. There is some concern that Wynne might not excel in a three-back system, and while such a formation will prevent him from getting forward, the UCLA product certainly has the physical ability to be a marking back.

An even more intriguing pick was the Metros' selection of Josmer Altidore. The U.S. U-17 international won't be available for the first half of the season while he finishes school, but could be one of the steals of the draft.

"I thought [Altidore] was a good pick for the MetroStars," said one MLS head coach. "For New York to get him was good by them."

Duke midfielder Blake Camp was the Metro's final pick of the day.

Solid Showing

Kansas City Wizards --

Chances are Wizards' head coach Bob Gansler won't be getting any Christmas cards from Chivas counterpart Bob Bradley after Gansler's heist of Yura Movsisyan. And Gansler can't wait to see Movsisyan in training camp.

"At the combine, I felt [Movsisyan] came with a soccer maturity that belies his 18-years-of-age," said Gansler. "This is a younger and more powerfully built version of Igor Simutenkov."

Gansler also bolstered his squad by obtaining New Mexico midfielder Lance Watson, and Cal defender Tyson Wahl, who will provide valuable cover this summer with Jimmy Conrad possibly occupied by the World Cup.

St. John's midfielder Matt Groenwald, VCU defender Stephen Shirley, and Cal goalkeeper Eric Kronberg rounded out the Wizards' selections.

Chicago Fire --

As one MLS head coach put it, "Chicago always does their homework," and this time was no different. Chicago head coach Dave Sarachan was pleased to nab forward Calen Carr and his electrifying pace, although the Cal product might be better suited to a wide midfield role. Jeff Curtin joins older brother Jim in Chicago, and Sarachan counted his blessings when Indiana's Brian Plotkin fell to him in the No. 20 slot.

"I think [Plotkin] was one where his draft position depended on a team's needs," said Sarachan. "But when he came to us at No. 20, we were a little surprised and it was the right pick for us that point."

Southern Connecticut State defender Jordan Russolillo and Marshall midfielder Jeremy Ashe were acquired in the later rounds.

D.C. United --

If there's any truth to the adage "Good things come to those who wait," then United are living proof, especially given the amount of time they've been scouting first round selection Justin Moose.

"[Moose] is a player who we've tracked for three years now," said United's technical director, Dave Kasper. "He's a true wide player and will be a great fit in our system."

United took UNLV midfielder Rod Dychenko with the 31st selection overall, and made out quite well in the fourth round in selecting St. John's midfielder Jeff Carroll and Maryland defender Kenny Bertz, both of whom were slated to go higher.

"Dychenko is the sleeper in all of this," added Kaspar. "He's very gifted technically, smooth on the ball, he can make things happen."

Mixed Bag

Chivas USA --

As much as he tried to hide it, head coach Bob Bradley was bitterly disappointed to miss out on Movsisyan. Acquiring a talent like Sacha Kljestan will soften the blow somewhat, as will getting a familiar face in defender Jason Hernandez, but there's no doubting that Bradley didn't get the guy he wanted. That didn't stop him from putting a brave face on the proceedings, however.

"[Movsisyan] is a good young player, and we were high on him," admitted Bradley. "There was the possibility of him being available at No. 5. But we felt good that between him and [Kljestan], there was a comfort level that we were going to get a good player."

That may be, but if the rumored Guevara deal goes through, Kljestan may find it tough to get on the field.

The only other pick that Chivas had was a fourth round pick that was used to acquire UCLA forward Jonathan Bornstein.

Houston --

The yet to be named Houston franchise didn't have many picks in the draft, putting them in less of a position to help themselves than some other teams. Given their deep roster, it shouldn't matter much, but they did do well to get UCLA standout Patrick Ianni, who could help either in defense or in a defensive midfield slot.

"From our standpoint, sitting at No. 8, we were wondering if Ianni would last that long," said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear. "Some picks went in our favor, and we had a chance to get him."

The selection adds credence to the rumor that Danny O'Rourke is on his way out of town, but there is nothing concrete yet. Houston spent their later selections on St. John's midfielder Andre Schmid and a possible sleeper pick in Washington midfielder Mike Chabala. Houston also acquired MetroStars' keeper Zach Wells, in what amounted to a swap of backup keepers since they dealt Jon Conway to the Metros last month.

Real Salt Lake --

There is plenty of risk as well as upside with John Ellinger's selection of Santa Clara midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy. While there is near universal praise for Ballouchy's game, very few, if any, attacking midfielders drafted out of college have ever had much of an impact in MLS, so Ballouchy will be looking to buck a considerable trend. But if anyone can do it, the Moroccan-born Ballouchy can, whose vision and passing are otherworldly. Still, the success of this draft for RSL depends on Ballouchy's production this season.

Real also did well with their selection of Oregon State midfielder Ryan Johnson, who impressed more than a few coaches at last week's combine.

Going Backwards

Colorado --

The Rapids only had two picks on the day, obtaining Indiana forward Jacob Peterson in the second round and University of New Mexico midfielder Josh Brown in the fourth. Colorado also used their third round pick to prize goalkeeper Matt Jordan away from the Crew, increasing speculation that nominal keeper Joe Cannon is on the trading block.

While dealing Cannon will clear some cap space (Cannon made about $130,000 last season while Jordan took in around $100,000) it makes little sense to deal one of the premier goalkeepers in the league just so you can save $30,000. The Rapids also got Chris Wingert from the Crew, but with Nat Borchers rumored to be heading to Europe, it's difficult to see how this team is any better than they were last year.

Say What?

New England --

Special mention must go to the Revs, who had those in attendance scrambling for their programs with their first round selection of UAB midfielder Leandro de Oliveira. Given his track record in the draft, head coach Steve Nicol's judgment is almost beyond reproach, but the general consensus is that he overpaid for a player who many agreed would have been around when the Revs picked again at No. 23. Of course, the genius tag that is currently attached to Nicol's name will shine even brighter if de Oliveira becomes the third Rev in a row to garner the Rookie of the Year award. de Oliveira is left-footed, filling a major need for New England, but it's said that his best position is in an attacking midfield role.

Nicol spent his last two picks on Cal State-Northridge forward Willie Sims and Tulsa forward Kyle Brown.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at eljefe1@yahoo.com