Los Angeles, D.C. United among winners in MLS re-entry draft
You know who plays for your favorite MLS team, right? Not so fast there; you might want to check that roster. And check it again tomorrow, too, because it just might have changed overnight.
A month has yet to pass since Colorado lifted the MLS Cup, and the winter transfer window, which could see another major star or two tumble into MLS, remains a few days away. Yet the offseason has already been one of the most eventful and transient in recent memory. Last week's first-ever re-entry draft punctuated the absurdly busy December.
No one quite knew what to expect of a two-stage re-entry draft, the new mechanism for player swapping and shopping that was part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated earlier this year. Would teams just kick tires on a few names, play it safe and yield to a learning curve that's still ahead for players and teams alike on the re-entry process?
Not so much.
Thursday's process exploded into a dizzying blitz of movement, about two months of free agency-type activity crammed into less time than it takes to eat a sandwich. Stage 1, a week before, was relatively placid. But last week's Stage 2 saw the rights to 11 players exchanged over about five minutes.
The Los Angeles Galaxy certainly wasn't going to sit on the sidelines in the re-entry draft. Coach Bruce Arena helped make the day eventful, initiating a bold plan to land striker Juan Pablo Angel, who wasn't wanted at New York. Later, the Galaxy fortified its back line by trading for the rights to Frankie Hejduk after Columbus declined the former U.S. international's option. Hejduk, 36, isn't what he was just two years ago, and he would be stretched to beat out right back incumbent Sean Franklin at the Home Depot Center. On the other hand, the Galaxy can figure on a minimum of 40 competitive games next year and possibly quite a few more. If L.A. can negotiate a contract somewhere south of the $127,000 guaranteed that Hejduk made in 2010, agreeing on a number that makes sense for an experienced backup, the L.A. has the cover it needs at fullback.
As for Angel, the Galaxy has his rights and is required to make a "bona fide" offer this week. Then we'll know more about whether Los Angeles will have its third Designated Player, a scenario that Arena believes is likely.
"I would think there's a chance he's certainly going to be a Designated Player, but we haven't gotten into those discussions," Arena said in a teleconference following last week's draft. "My guess is if we sign him, he'll likely have that designation."
He also said he expected Landon Donovan to remain property of MLS. If Donovan, Angel and Beckham are all Designated Players, that means that all this talk of Ronaldinho going to L.A. will be just that -- talk. Teams may carry no more than three DPs.
All of this re-entry madness occurred after what was already an MLS offseason brimming with movement. The expansion draft to help stock the shelves at Vancouver and Portland created significant player movement, stripping away two starters from some unlucky clubs. Further trades ensued based on the expansion movement.
So champion Colorado has picked up three players in trades (including the re-acquisition of one who slipped away in the expansion draft) and added one more in the re-entry process. Seattle has been aggressive, already signing a promising Swede, re-signing Kasey Keller and adding two defenders in trades. Players are streaming out of Red Bull Arena, with no replacements named as yet. Stay tuned there.
Geoff Cameron has re-upped through 2014 in Houston, which has also added Hunter Freeman. Portland and Vancouver keep adding players, with more holes still to fill. Dallas appears close to re-signing league MVP David Ferreira. The youth movement is on in Columbus and on it goes.
And we still have the January college draft ahead and about three weeks after that until most teams report for camp.