Teams look to draft to shore up depth
With each passing year, MLS adds rules that have the effect of chipping away at the SuperDraft's importance. Last season it was the designated player rule as well as the start of youth programs by the league's teams. This year, the increase in the allotment of foreign players (eight per team, up from seven) and the removal of the youth international designation have made it easier to acquire overseas help.
But the SuperDraft still has its uses, and while the trend of trading away picks will make some teams like Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo near spectators, teams can never have enough depth, and the draft remains a vital way to restock rosters. With that in mind, here is what each team likely will be looking for on Friday.
San Jose (picks 1, 15)
Like any expansion team, the Quakes need help all over the field, but they'll have only two picks in the SuperDraft to beef up their roster, assuming they don't trade the first overall pick for a package of players and draft picks. With coach Frank Yallop emphasizing defense during the expansion draft, expect him to look for help on the attacking side of the ball, with both forwards and outside midfielders high on his priority list.
FC Dallas (picks 2, 8, 19, 22, 31, 45, 50)
FCD appears to have plenty of depth in the center of midfield and in goal, while the addition of defender Duilio Davino addresses the loss of Clarence Goodson. That leaves the Hoops to resume their now annual search for some outside defenders. With Carlos Ruiz rumored to be on his way out, coach Steve Morrow also may look to bolster his forward ranks as well as acquire some cover out wide. With more selections in the SuperDraft than any other team, Morrow should be able to address all of these issues.
Real Salt Lake (picks 3, 14, 17, 37)
RSL doesn't have a ton of picks but has several quality selections, including three of the first 17 choices. With only 31 goals scored last year, adding attacking help would appear to be Real's biggest requirement. But that issue already has been partially addressed with last season's acquisitions of Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan. An even bigger need is to add some depth to the back line, especially with the retirement of Eddie Pope.
Los Angeles Galaxy (picks 4, 21, 28, 29, 46, 51)
Befitting a team that failed to reach the playoffs, the L.A. needs help everywhere aside from an odd glut of central midfielders. Fortunately, the Galaxy have four of the first 30 picks to fill at least some of the gaps. The trade of goalkeeper Joe Cannon means finding competition for Steve Cronin is paramount. The same wafer-thin depth on the flanks that was present last year still exists, so shoring up that area will be important, as well. Finding a forward to partner with Landon Donovan, or at least to push the likes of Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon, is also a necessity.
Colorado Rapids (picks 5, 36, 47, 49)
For the past two seasons, coach Fernando Clavijo has been engaged in his own personal game of Whack-a-Mole. The league's worst defense in 2006 improved to third-best in 2007, but in the meantime, the attack sunk to near the bottom of the league. With that in mind, along with Conor Casey's latest long-term injury, expect Clavijo to try to bolster his front line, especially since many of his current options seem to be midfielders masquerading as forwards.
Columbus Crew (picks 6, 20, 48)
Crew coach Sigi Schmid is on record as saying he'll look to the draft to acquire a central defender with pace. Whether this is a smoke screen remains to be seen, but given the depth the Crew has in the back, their needs would appear to lie further upfield. So does Schmid look more toward midfield for new attacking options, especially with Guillermo Barros Schelotto wanting to return to Argentina? No college player can do what Schelotto does, but Schmid probably will look more toward the center of the park first and then try to add depth up front.
Chicago Fire (picks 7, 12, 26, 38, 40, 54)
If there was one enduring image of 2007 for the Fire, it was the sight of Cuauhtémoc Blanco gesticulating wildly over another blown chance in front of goal. For that reason, expect the Fire to select a forward that can provide some competition for Chad Barrett, especially with Paulo Wanchope now retired. Another need could emerge in goal, where incumbent Matt Pickens is out of contract and is training with English side Norwich City. If Pickens departs, that leaves only veteran Jon Busch to man the nets.
Toronto FC (picks 9, 10, 30)
All of trader Mo Johnston's wheeling and dealing has left TFC with a whopping three picks in this year's SuperDraft. Two are in the first round, however, giving Johnston a good opportunity to shore up the attack (25 goals set a record for futility last season). Such paltry production would lead one to think that the forward line was to blame, but the reality is that once Ronnie O'Brien was lost to injury, there was little creativity coming from the wings. With Johnston likely to look for forwards in the overseas market, expect him to beef up the wide positions and look for cover in the back.
Kansas City (picks 11, 23, 25, 39, 53)
You'd think a team stocked with forwards like Eddie Johnson and Scott Sealy wouldn't be in the market for another attacker, but with Johnson possibly on the way out and with last season's trade of Movsisyan, the Wizards will be looking to add some cover up front. The question is, will enough quality remain by the time the Wizards make their first pick at No. 11? If not, adding depth to the flanks will be Kansas City's next priority.
New England (picks 13, 18, 27, 41, 55)
While most teams need help in several areas, the needs of Revs coach Steve Nicol are clear. The loss of utility man James Riley in the expansion draft means New England needs defenders and perhaps some depth in midfield to make up for the loss of Andy Dorman. Given Nicol's track record of repeated draft success, chances are he'll use his ACC pipeline to find exactly what he needs.
New York (picks 16, 32, 34, 35, 44)
The Red Bulls' forward line is well-stocked, so finding help in the back, particularly in the center of defense, is New York's biggest priority. The loss of Joe Vide in the center of midfield, along with the fact that Claudio Reyna is a lock to miss at least 10 games in 2008 due to an ailment to be named later, means that acquiring some central cover will be on the agenda, as well. New York also could use a left-sided midfielder to allow Jozy Altidore to return to his natural forward position.
D.C. United (pick 24, 32, 52)
Bobby Boswell is now in Houston, and even though D.C. has been linked with several South American defenders, look for coach Tom Soehn to add to his back line. Of course, Soehn could go in other directions, as well. The loss of Josh Gros for the 2008 season means that flank players also will be on United's shopping list, and the team's decision regarding Jaime Moreno may also play a role in the draft approach.
Houston (picks 42, 56)
Coach Dominic Kinnear has increasingly looked to trades to bolster his roster, with the acquisition of Boswell just his latest maneuver. But Houston could stand to add a little depth up front, especially given Brian Ching's injury troubles and the fact that Joseph Ngwenya is out of contract. Another alternative will be to find cover for underrated left back Wade Barrett.
Chivas USA (pick 43)
A lack of attacking depth has scuttled the Goats' championship dreams the past two seasons, but with only one pick in the SuperDraft, coach Preki has used trades rather than stocking up via the draft. Chivas has already obtained midfielder/forward Atiba Harris and is on the verge of acquiring forward Alecko Eskandarian. So with Brad Guzan attracting increasing interest from overseas and Preston Burpo now in San Jose, look for Preki to address his goalkeeper shortage, with perhaps another eye towards adding depth in the back.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.