A guide to understanding front office-speak

The expansion draft is over and done with, and if you've been living under a rock for the past 5 days, here's a link to all our new players. Not surprisingly, following the draft, Adrian Hanauer and Chris Henderson took the opportunity to talk up each of their choices. But what did they really mean? Here's a rough translation.

Quote: "Without getting in to too much detail, Nate (Jaqua) definitely, from the Northwest, liked the idea of coming to the Northwest. Nothing was certain until it was certain in terms of the expansion draft."
Translation: Yeah, there was a pre-arranged deal for Jaqua to come to Seattle.

Quote: "We felt this group would blend well with the players already under contract, and those players we have in our crosshairs for the future, and guys who we’re pulling the wagons on as we speak."
Translation: We wanted to draft a supporting cast for Ljungberg and Sigi Schmidt.

Quote: "Whether all ten of them will be there or not, I guess that’s certainly a question. We will have more players vying for a roster spot than roster spots available. So I hope they’re all there, but at the same time, we are going to try to bring in as much quality to fight for roster spots as possible."
Translation: I am not going to tell you guys anything about how this team is going to be constructed. You can torture me like Westley in The Princess Bride, but I still won't tell whether or not we trade Sturgis.

Quote: (On Peter Vagenas) "He’s been a winner at every level. To have Pete come up to Seattle, I think his veteran leadership is going to be very important for us."
Translation: Sigi wanted him. Get off my back, okay?

Quote: "When you compare Gaven and Evans, first, they’re both very good players. We’ll start with Evans. He’s an exciting central player. I think he was a very big part of Columbus’ championship run. He can score. He’s a competitor. He has a great desire to improve as a player. He’s not afraid to shoot from distance, and that was an important piece for us as well."
Translation: We took Evans over Gaven because getting a young quality starter for 33k a year is totally ballin'.


The Expansion Draft Pre-Func

At long last, the list of players exposed for Seattle to steal from has been finalized. There are some surprises, both of players protected and unprotected. And now the two masterminds in the Sounders front office are going to be putting in some serious analyzation, because in under 48 hours they must make their picks. And while nobody can say for sure what their strategy is, I think I'm pretty well qualified to take a stab at it.


Houston left Nate Jaqua (F, 160k) unprotected. So there's one player. A pleasant surprise was New York casting out Jeff Parke (D, 60k), apparently wanting to distance themselves from his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. But Parke said all the right things, and thanks to NYRB's playoff run, has just 4 games left on his suspension. The positives? New York's best, most solid defender, one who can anchor a backline, at just 60 thousand a year. Yes, please.

Too Much Good Stuff

When a team is as stacked as the champions Columbus (congrats, by the way), they're gonna lose a good player. I'm going to change my mind on this one - yesterday I was sold on Brad Evans, but I'm going to have to go with Eddie Gaven (M, 165k). His only downside is his contract size, and he's good enough (and the rest of these players are inexpensive enough) that picking him makes sense. But if you prefer Evans, Pat Noonan or even Adam Moffat, I wouldn't argue.

The Question Marks

- Is Marco Pappa (M, 35k) able and willing to move to Seattle? He's currently on loan to Chicago, and that might the Guatemalan international from being picked. If not, he's the best bargain in the draft.
-Is Ian Joy (D, 120k) on his way to Europe? If not, he's a left-back starter for sure.

The Only Ones From Their Teams That Are Worth It

Johann Smith (M, 48k) of Toronto and Aaron Pitchkolan (D, 33) from Dallas fall into this category. The latter is a solid defender who can slot in anywhere, probably deserves a chance to start and might just get it. The former, Smith, I really believe is poised to have a breakout season. But if not, he'd at least provide a jolt of speed off the bench.

The International Defenders

Most of you will probably disagree with me right here. But allow me to state my case. I'd absolutely love to take Kosuke Kimura (D, 33k) from Colorado. He (mostly) started at right back for them this year and performed admirably on a team that was in various stages of chaos during the season. He was a player I identified early on this year (along with Ryan Johnson of San Jose), and I'm rather shocked he wasn't protected, as are many Colorado fans. Apparently he counts as an international player, but at age 24 he's still worth it. The other one is Gabriel Badilla (D, 120k) of New England which honestly is a bit of a gamble, but if it pays off he's a center-back starter to pair with Parke. He's been capped for Costa Rica, so he's no slouch.

Last And Possibly Least...

Kansas City exposed their starting keeper, Kevin Hartman, for reasons unbeknownst to me. It seems to make a lot of sense for the Sounders to take him, trade him to LA (his old club) in exchange for money/allocation, as the Galaxy have a gaping hole at the goalkeeper position. But if that doesn't happen, then it's probably a toss-up between 2 DC players. Defensive mid Joe Vide is tempting, but I'd prefer Francis Doe (F, 40k). I love his potential, and even if it doesn't develop this year, 40k for a semi-productive reserve forward is a steal.


So in summary here are my picks. I'd take 2 strikers (Doe, Jaqua), 3 midfielders (Pappa, Smith, Evans), and 5 defenders (Parke, Badilla, Kimura, Pitchkolan, Joy). The only 'hole' at this point is in defensive midfield, and that's because Kenji Treschuk of the USL Sounders will probably get a deserved crack at the starting lineup in that spot. These guys are all capable starters, save Doe, who would come off the bench with Pitchkolan and Smith. On talent and potential alone, it'd be hard to beat this group. But the best part? They make a combined $814,000. And with the salary cap around $2.3 millin, there'd be tons of money left for whatever international players we wanted. Hell, we could trade for another DP slot if we wanted! (Which I do not endorse.)

Of course, there's no way that this is how Wednesday's draft will turn out. But if it does, you Sounders fans should be pretty pleased.


March 21

According to league commissioner and grand poobah Don Garber, this is the date that should be circled, highlighted and exclamation-pointed on all of your calenders, ladies and gentlemen. And not just because it's the first day of spring. Or because it's exactly 4 months away.

Because it's opening day of the MLS season, and consequently the first game for the Sounders FC.

(Of course, some other stuff as well from the mouth of the commish. There's going to be no reserve league next year, so you south Sound folks around Tukwila are going to miss out on games that would have been played at Starfire. Montreal's giving up on their expansion bid... will that make Vancouver more likely? And Seattle officially has over 18,000 season tickets sold. Well done, us!)


Youth versus Experience

One of the most interesting choices in the expansion draft is going to be who the Sounders take from Chicago. And I say 'who' because the Fire are so deep, they are guaranteed to lose a player to us. While they have a number of quality players who have faint possibilities of being unprotected, I'm going to focus on the choice between 3 of the likely candidates.

Brandon Prideaux is the definition of veteran. At 32, he obviously has the age, and having played for 4 different clubs in MLS over 10 years, he has a wealth of experience. The fact that he is a Seattle native, UW alum and former USL Sounder will surely not go unnoticed by fans and front office alike. He is steady if a bit slow for an outside defender, and was a reliable presence in the league-leading Chicago Fire defense this year. He is apparently allergic to the net - he holds the MLS record for most matches played without having scored - but that's not too important for a defender. A definite starter for Seattle, if chosen, and will definitely be unprotected by Chicago.
That's the safe choice. That's the choice most Sounders fans anticipate and hope for. But I want to look very closely at the idea of taking a young, cheap player with upside.
Chicago has a few of those. In particular, Mike Banner and Dasan Robinson. The former is a short speedy winger, the latter (pictured) a speedy defender. Both have unquestionable talent and upside, both are 24 years old, both are relatively unproven but could probably get major playing time for most teams in the league. And the best part? Both have ridiculously cheap contracts, and would count little against the Scroogelike salary cap. (Well, to them that might not be so great, but hey, that's for the players union to quibble about.)

Personally, I think Robinson would better fit the Sounders attack-heavy scheme than the scoring-averse Prideaux. I think many people are overvaluing Prideaux because he's a local boy - that philosophy's been killing the Mariners for years. So assuming he is unprotected, which he should be, I endorse picking Robinson. And Dasan, I know you only make 45k a year, so come to Seattle and I'll buy you a steak dinner.
***MONDAY EDIT*** Interestingly, Robinson was protected by Chicago. Maybe they read this article and got scared...? And maybe I'm Messi in disguise. The point still stands - the Sounders should focus on youth, talent and economic value in Wednesdays draft.


The mystery of the missing coach

November 26 - MLS Expansion Draft
January 18 - MLS Draft
January 28 - Sounders FC Training camp begins
2nd or 3rd week of March - Inaugural Sounders FC home match
??????? - Head Coach is announced

As you can see by the above timeline, the expansion draft is fast approaching. In under 2 weeks the Sounders will add 10 players and finally have enough to construct a full side. The question, however, remains - who will be doing the construction? Logic suggests that it might be a good idea to have the coach in place prior to the draft, so an announcement should be coming soon. Like we haven't heard that before.

Adrian Hanauer is notorious for playing events close to the chest and not wanting information to leak ahead of time, so who knows how far along in the process the Sounders are. They may not have had the chance to interview one candidate, current Columbus head coach Sigi Schmidt, who has been linked with the job by multiple online sources. But since his side is heading to MLS Cup next Sunday, he'd presumably be unable to interview for a new team in between. And reportedly the Sounders were denied permission to speak with him. I've never thought Sigi ever had a chance of happening, anyways. He's about to have a bunch of money thrown at him by Columbus ownership, and he's crafted the Crew into the best team in the league over the last few years. I think he stays put.

The other major candidates are currently part of teams who already are out of the playoffs - Brian Schmetzer (Seattle) Preki (Chivas), John Spencer and Dom Kinnear (Houston), Paul Mariner (New England). All crashed out last week, save for the USL Sounders who went out in the first round of their playoffs. I would not be in the least bit surprised if some or all of those names are going through the interview process this week. With that timeframe in mind, the new coach very well could be announced as soon as next Monday, or in the days following.

Oh, you want a prediction? At the risk of sacrificing my stellar prognostication reputation, I think Preki gets the nod.


The most efficient players in MLS

Major League Soccer has a dearth of statistical information. Certainly less than the other major sports in America. So here is the start of my effort to change that.

What I have done is taken all the attacking players (strikers and midfielders) and calculated how often they either score or get an assist. It's a way of looking at the raw numbers to try and account for factors like injuries or national team callups. Without further ado, Adu or Edu, here are the 10 most efficient players in MLS for the 2008 season. The number is in minutes per point scored (assists or goals).

73.66 Donovan LAG
85.23 Barros Schelotto CLB
93.05 J. Moreno DCU
93.71 Eskandarian CHV
101.00 Casey COL
109.50 Gordon LAG
112.63 Jaqua HOU
114.33 Ralston NE
115.00 Angel NY
116.44 Ching HOU

Quick thoughts - You would obviously expect strikers to score higher on these totals, as they are most involved with the offensive attack. So a guy like Schelotto totaling a point every 85 minutes is amazing. That's more than a goal or assist a game! So with that in mind, Steve Ralston of New England had a brilliant and underrated season as well. Alecko Eskandarian didn't play as much as some of these guys, but he was damn efficient when he did. And what's Alan Gordon doing on this list?

It's way late so I'll have more numbers in the morning. Want the whole list, email me.