If the 2009 MLS campaign proved anything, it's that instant success can be had if several player-acquisition avenues are exploited to the fullest. For Seattle Sounders FC, clever use of the expansion draft, as well as the international and domestic player markets, helped them become the first expansion team in over a decade to qualify for the postseason. The SuperDraft, whose death has been exaggerated for years now, also played its part.
With the MLS Silly Season in full gear -- and with the SuperDraft set to take place Thursday -- these are the successes teams around MLS will be hoping to emulate. Doing so will mean filling the needs listed below, regardless of the means.
Philadelphia Union (Picks 1, 17, 33, 49):
Philadelphia will be trawling the SuperDraft as if it were at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Union will take a little bit of everything, although goalkeeper looks to be well-stocked with Brad Knighton and Chris Seitz already on board. Various reports have manager Peter Nowak all set to make Oregon State forward Danny Mwanga the No. 1 pick, leaving him to fill out the rest of his roster with his remaining selections. Finding a right back and some depth in midfield appear to be the other priorities in Friday's SuperDraft, although New England's Chris Albright is reportedly a trade target.
New York Red Bulls (Picks 2, 14, 18, 31, 34, 50):
The Red Bulls weren't an expansion team in 2009, they just played like one. As such, New York is another side that needs help everywhere, with the spine of the team needing some serious revamping. The Red Bulls, who have plenty of early picks, began their defensive retooling with the acquisition of Costa Rican Roy Miller, and the selection of Wake Forest's Ike Opara would advance that goal. Look for the later picks to be used to shore up the midfield.
San Jose Earthquakes (Picks 3, 19, 28, 30, 37, 51):
|2010 MLS SuperDraft|
Convention Center, Philadelphia
2 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com
With Darren Huckerby now retired, and Shea Salinas gone via the expansion draft, the wide midfield positions are the most glaring need, especially given the forgettable season turned in last year by Bobby Convey. The Quakes are also a bit threadbare at the outside back positions, and could look to the draft to obtain cover for incumbents Ramiro Corrales and Chris Leitch. Manager Frank Yallop is known to desire an attacking midfielder/second striker, but a bigger forward like Akron's Teal Bunbury could be too good to pass up.
Kansas City Wizards (Picks 4, 20, 36, 41, 52):
After scoring a mere 33 goals last season -- a mark that tied for the second-worst offense in MLS -- the Wizards could stand to bolster their front line, and a forward like Bunbury would be a near-perfect fit if he's still around. Since the technology to clone Davy Arnaud is still a ways off, and with Herculez Gomez now plying his trade in Mexico, shoring up the wide midfield positions will also be a priority.
FC Dallas (Picks 5, 6, 21, 38, 44, 54):
FCD had the look of a complete team down the stretch last year, and with the arrival of Ghanaian defender Aziz Ansah, one of the team's thin spots has already been reinforced. This could have the domino effect of moving Ugo Ihemelu out wide, and Heath Pearce further up field. The other question mark is Daniel Hernandez. The SMU product added some much-needed steel to the Dallas midfield last year, but Hernandez has always had his eye on returning to Mexico, meaning a physical holding midfielder in the form of Virginia product Tony Tchani could be the call. Some depth up top is needed as well.
D.C. United (Picks 7, 39, 55):
The Black-and-Red have plenty of holes to fill, and with the only three picks, the SuperDraft will provide only a bit of help. Forward Luciano Emilio is back in his native Brazil and while Jaime Moreno continues to defy the soccer/time continuum, some help up top is needed. The back line -- which has never dazzled the eye in recent years -- could use some reinforcements as well. The recent acquisition of Salvadoran international Christian Castillo adds some zip to the midfield, although the losses of Ben Olsen and Christian Gomez will need to be addressed.
Columbus Crew (Picks 8, 12, 60, 61, 63):
Despite their playoff flameout, the Crew have enviable depth at almost every position, especially with Guillermo Barros Schelotto edging toward a return. The loss of Alejandro Moreno in the expansion draft doesn't cut especially deep, but obtaining another forward to take some of the scoring load off Schelotto would be a plus. The midfield could also stand some shoring up, especially if Robbie Rogers is occupied by the World Cup this summer.
New England Revolution (Picks 9, 25, 57):
Last year, the Revs set about revamping their defense, and after the stellar seasons turned in by Kevin Alston and the underrated Darrius Barnes, Steve Nicol can now turn more of his attention to the attack. The future of forward Taylor Twellman is still up in the air, so obtaining a box-crashing forward will be on the Scot's wish list. And with midfielder Jeff Larentowicz casting his gaze across the Atlantic, finding some depth in the center of midfield is a must as well. The retirement of the steady Jay Heaps is another hole to be filled.
Chivas USA (Picks 10, 26, 35, 42, 58):
New Chivas head coach Martin Vasquez is on record as saying a central defender is tops on his priority list, especially now that Shavar Thomas is in Philadelphia. The questions surrounding Claudio Suarez's future also demand attention. But the Goats have other needs as well. The possible retirement of Jesse Marsch could thin the midfield ranks, and while Justin Braun has shown some potential, Chivas could stand to add some additional frontline options.
Seattle Sounders FC (Picks 11, 27, 59):
Look for the Sounders to acquire some help on the attacking side of the ball for a number of reasons. First, even if Fredy Montero signs with MLS, the possibility of him heading overseas if the right offer came along is still very real. The loss of Sebastien Le Toux in the expansion draft thins the wide midfield ranks, and then there is the fact that for all of Seattle's success last year, it was its inability to score goals down the stretch that was its undoing. A classic, hold-the-ball-up forward is foremost on its shopping list.
Chicago Fire (Picks 13, 29, 45):
The Fire suffered arguably the heaviest losses of any MLS team over the past six months, with Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare and Brandon Prideaux all exiting. The outside back and center back spots seem the most likely to be filled via the draft, although some midfield help is there to be had as well. New manager Carlos de los Cobos is rumored to be bringing El Salvador international Julio Martinez with him to Chicago, which would boost the attack.
Los Angeles Galaxy (Picks 15, 46, 64):
By securing the services on loan of Brazilian trio Alex, Juninho, and Leonardo -- all of whom are younger than 22 -- the draft started early for the Galaxy. In the process, manager Bruce Arena satisfied his goal of acquiring some young depth for his aging midfield, while also finding cover in the center of defense. That leaves Arena with the goal of finding some additional attacking options, especially since Landon Donovan and David Beckham will be gone for extended periods.
Real Salt Lake (Picks 16, 32, 48):
At first glance, the champs don't appear to need much of anything, but there are few items on Jason Kreis' to-do list. A replacement will be needed for departed forward Yura Movsisyan. There isn't that much depth in the center of defense beyond Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. And some of the midfield components, like Andy Williams and Clint Mathis, are getting up there in years. The trade of goalkeeper Chris Seitz to Philly creates a need at the backup goalkeeper position.
Colorado Rapids (Picks 22, 23, 40, 56):
After watching almost its entire corps of wide midfielders laid low by injury last season, expect the Rapids to reinforce that area of the field. Pablo Mastroeni isn't getting any younger, so the search for a long-term replacement is officially underway. The loss of Jordan Harvey in the expansion draft cries out for finding a replacement, although technical director Paul Bravo indicated that he may look to promote from within to satisfy that need.
Toronto FC (Picks 24, 53):
After having a glut of picks last year, TFC will be largely sitting the SuperDraft out. That is unless general manager "Trader Mo" Johnston conjures up one of his patented deals. Foremost on his list is finding some defensive help, especially in the middle. With Honduran club Motagua acquiring Amado Guevara, the Toronto midfield has a bit more balance, but could still use some more punch at the wide positions. The departure of attacker Pablo Vitti means some additional options in attack are needed as well. Johnston is known to covet Bunbury, a Canadian citizen, but whether he can put together an enticing enough package is the big question.
Houston Dynamo (Picks 43, 47, 62):
Another year, another draft in which the Dynamo is largely a spectator. Given the imminent departures of Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, as well as the advancing age of Brian Mullan, Houston badly needs some cover in midfield. The left back position could use some fresh blood as well, but like he has in years past, expect head coach Dominic Kinnear to use the trade route to satisfy these needs.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPNsoccernet. He is also the author of Soccer's Most Wanted II: The Top 10 Book of More Glorious Goals, Superb Saves and Fantastic Free-Kicks. He also writes for Centerlinesoccer.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.