Chivas USA — seemingly forever mired in a vortex of crisis, unrest and poor results — was officially dissolved by Major League Soccer as the 2014 regular season came to a close. The club will re-emerge sometime in the future under new ownership (and name and brand and location and roster and basically everything) as Los Angeles FC.
But what about the players left behind under the dysfunctional Chivas umbrella?
On Wednesday (3 p.m. via teleconference), the remaining 18 MLS teams and the two newcomers — Orlando City and New York City FC — will take turns picking through the remains of the Goats roster.
Sporting Kansas City holds the third pick in the draft, which was decided via draw last week by the league. FC Dallas will pick first and New York City goes second. The picks cannot be traded and teams are on the hook for the selected player’s full 2015 contract plus any options.*
*Teams must choose whether to protect the player selected before the expansion draft. Teams can only protect 11 players from the roster. If a dispersal player is left unprotected, he can be chosen by Orlando or New York.
As Peter Vermes starts the complicated process of piecing together his squad for 2015, the dispersal draft represents a fairly large unknown. Vermes has the option to pass (which, given the parameters of accepting the contract status seems plausible) or draft.*
*And, potentially, trade that pick before the expansion draft.
Is there enough talent available? Is it worth it if there is? If he opts to draft, who are the best available candidates?
While Chivas’ roster might not be littered with talent — though, it’s worth noting that Colorado, San Jose and Montreal finished with fewer points in 2014 — there are a few gems.
The obvious prize Erick “Cubo” Torres however is off the table. The Cubo situation is complicated by the fact that Chivas de Guadalajara — the old parent club of Chivas USA — owns his contract. MLS is reportedly in the process of moving him to the league permanently as a designated player. As such, he will be allocated via a different as-of-yet-undetermined method.
I’ve come up with five players that could fit Kansas City’s needs/roster.
1. Dan Kennedy, goalkeeper. With Cubo off limits, Kennedy is the most highly regarded player left. He’s been a reliable — if often absolutely under siege — ‘keeper in the league. And with Eric Kronberg and Andy Gruenebaum not totally convincing this last season, a lot of SKC fans might be clamoring for him to take over — and let the dice fall as they may with Kronberg/Gruenebaum exposed in the expansion draft. Obviously, if he’s still around for KC, a conversation will be had.
However, Kennedy is fairly expensive ($211,750 base salary) and I don’t think he’ll be there at #3. Dallas isn’t really in the market for a goalkeeper, but New York City (with veteran backup Josh Saunders the only GK under contract) definitely is. Jason Kreis (NY’s coach) and Claudio Reynda (the technical director) both know that a reliable goalkeeper knowledgeable of the league is important to surviving the long seasons.*
*Should NYCFC take Kennedy, that might make it easier for Vermes to expose both Kronberg/Gruenebaum to the expansion draft. New York will be set at goalkeeper and Orlando traded for Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall last month.
2. Andrew Jean-Baptiste, defender. This has “Vermes pick” nearly stamped all over it. Young (22), versatile (plays CB and FB) and was an undervalued former high draft pick (sort of like Ike Opara). Jean-Baptiste was culled from a Portland team desperately trying to find veteran defenders and was absorbed into the vortex of sucktitude that was Chivas’ defense last year. I’d be willing to take a flier in Vermes situation.
With the team still negotiating with Aurelien Collin and unsure of the long-term health of Opara, Jean-Baptiste could represent some (relatively) affordable cover ($80,000 base salary). AJB is, in my opinion, the most likely of all the candidates available and almost certainly should be available at #3.
3. Marky Delgado, midfielder. At just 19, Delgado is a very intriguing prospect. The former Chivas academy product is technical and fairly experienced (37 games with the Goats). He’s versatile as well, capable of playing the midfield and at right back.
Vermes has played kids a lot this year and wasn’t afraid to rely on a 19-year-old (Igor Juliao) at right back this season. However, the big question mark with Delgado is that he’s had two minor knee surgeries the last two seasons. Vermes could take a chance, leave him unprotected in the expansion draft and see what happens in June.
4. Thomas McNamara, midfielder. A major knee surgery wrecked what was a promising start to his rookie season in 2014. He has potential and could be cheap depth at a position KC struggled to find reliable cover for — central midfield. But, that major knee surgery is also a pretty big red flag.
He could be an interesting pick for Vermes to stash and try to sneak through the expansion draft unprotected as well. With McNamara and Delgado, there’s really no obvious harm in trying that approach. If it succeeds, you have a new project to work with. If not, you go a different route in January.
5. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado/Bobby Burling, defenders. If Vermes feels like the gulf between KC and Collin is growing and Opara’s long-term prognosis isn’t solid, would Kansas City maybe opt for an experienced MLS vet to help shore up the defense? He went that route in 2010 with Shavar Thomas.
Of course, 2010 was a long time ago and KC needs defenders who are fleet of foot — which should rule out Burling. Either player could be a good backup for a playoff team, though at $210,000 and $115,000 respectively that’s a steep price for a backup.
There are a few wild cards out there as well.
▪ Nathan Sturgis is a well-traveled MLS vet (seven teams), but I expect he’ll reunite with former coach Oscar Parjea in Dallas somehow.
▪ Nigel Reo-Coker doesn’t really seem like a fit for Kansas City, especially at a base salary of $400,000. (That’s more than Benny Feilhaber, btw.)
▪ Marvin Chavez is a pacey and highly technical winger, but has a history of burning out quickly in this league. (Is he Honduran Bobby Convey?)
▪ Caleb Calvert, like Delgado, is a highly-touted academy product. He just turned 18 and has yet to play a minute in MLS. Would KC select — and then protect — an unproven forward at this stage? My gut says no.
▪ Pass. I would not be surprised, despite the potential players available, if Vermes declines the three spot. The salaries and lack of a true impact player might have the team looking down other avenues.