After a rather inactive first stage of the Major League Soccer Re-entry Draft, front-office executives rolled up their sleeves and resumed wheeling-and-dealing season in lightning-quick fashion.
The second stage of the draft on Wednesday was met with the eagerness of rabid shoppers on Black Friday, with players being yanked off the shelf at a rapid pace. Within about 10 minutes, 11 players were claimed, including most of the big names available. The teams that participated took great leaps in improving their rosters, or at the very least accrued trade bait ahead of next month's SuperDraft.
Three clubs dealt their selections before the end of a whirlwind day for players and general managers alike (and that doesn't even include the surprising post-draft deal in which Los Angeles sent budding young striker Tristan Bowen to rival Chivas USA).
Now comes the business part of the proceedings. Instead of being locked into a selected player's existing contract option, as was the case in the first stage of the draft, teams have a week to extend new contract offers to their respective selections. If deals cannot be reached, the selecting team still controls the MLS rights to its player(s).
Here are five other notable outcomes from the first MLS Re-Entry Draft:
The Los Angeles Galaxy made the biggest splash of the day, trading a fourth-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft to Houston to move up in the Re-Entry Draft order and acquire the rights to former New York Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel to potentially bolster its already-potent attack (Angel was brought to New York as a DP when Bruce Arena was the coach there). With star power along the lines of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Edson Buddle, Los Angeles was already the top road draw in the league. Combine the current roster with potentially adding Angel, along with the long-rumored move to bring in Ronaldinho, and the Galaxy could hypothetically take a run at some of the league's offensive records. Imagine defenses trying to game-plan for a front line of Buddle and Angel, with a row containing Donovan, Ronaldinho and Beckham behind it in the midfield. It's not a reality yet, but if it does materialize, look out, MLS.
Have we seen the last of Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Jaime Moreno in MLS? No team attempted to acquire either player's rights. Schelotto, one of the league's premier playmakers for the last four years, has reportedly been weighing a return to his native Argentina, where he would continue his career as a player and/or coach. Moreno, meanwhile, hardly got a chance to contribute on a floundering D.C. United team last season, and his best days are clearly lingering in the rear-view mirror. The league's all-time leading scorer is adamant that he hasn't retired, but Moreno will be hard-pressed to find minutes in MLS next season. An administrative position in D.C. or a move back to his native Bolivia seems likely.
The team name and soccer-specific stadium won't be the only new looks on the surface for Sporting Kansas City heading into 2011. The team lost the most players of any squad during the Re-Entry Draft process, losing Aaron Hohlbein (to Columbus) in the first stage and Josh Wolff (D.C.) and Jimmy Conrad (Chivas USA) in the second stage. Kansas City figured to fill the defensive-veteran void left by Conrad by selecting former U.S. national team fullback Frankie Hejduk on Wednesday, only to turn around and trade his rights to the Galaxy for the rights to Luke Sassano. While the team shed some salary with the departures of Wolff and Conrad, it will need to address the lack of defensive depth and leadership going forward. With the addition of Designated Player and Mexican forward Omar Bravo for next season and the lack of veteran U.S. national teamers on the roster, Kansas City will be sporting a bit of a different lineup in 2011.
D.C. United wasted little time in announcing a contract agreement with its first pick on Wednesday, Wolff, meaning that the club and the 33-year-old former Kansas City and national team striker had a deal in the works for a little while. In adding Joseph Ngwenya in the first phase of the draft, Wolff in the second and Dax McCarty a few weeks ago through a trade with Portland, United has seemingly upgraded its offensive arsenal and figures to focus on its glaring defensive issues during the remainder of the offseason.
The MLS Players' Union has craved free agency, and for 21 of its players, that dream is now a reality. After going unselected in the Re-Entry Draft, the following out-of-contract players are free to negotiate and sign with any team: Preston Burpo, Nico Colaluca, Nick Garcia, Dema Kovalenko, Claudio Lopez, Moreno, Richard Mulrooney, Ciaran O'Brien, Pat Onstad, Duncan Oughton, Gino Padula, Dario Sala, Marcelo Saragosa, Schelotto, Adrian Serioux, Chris Sharpe, Khano Smith, Khari Stephenson, Carey Talley, Peter Vagenas and Alex Zotinca.
D.C. United - Joseph Ngwenya
D.C. United - Josh Wolff (agreed to contract terms)