Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two Notes on the Draft

I woke up this morning excited about the MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore.

After it was done? Not so much.

First off, congratulations to Zac MacMath, Billy Cortes, and Jason Herrick for being selected in the draft.

MacMath deserved to be the fifth pick in the draft and should find himself in a good situation in Philly, replacing former Terp Chris Seitz in goal. Philly added two other solid players in the draft, netting Tar Heel Michael Farfan in the second round and UMBC's Levi Houapeu in the third.

Compared to what United managed at the draft, the Union's Thursday is yet another reason to look longingly at our neighbors to the north. Already blessed with a gorgeous stadium, the Union have amassed an exciting young team built around Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerny up top.

With respect to United, I get it. I am supposed to be psyched that Perry Kitchen fell to United at the third pick. But as good as Kitchen may be, the consensus that he will be given a starting spot alongside Jakovic with Julius James pushed way down the depth chart (and Ethan White pushed even further down) doesn't sit well. Kitchen excelled as a holding midfielder at Akron and James was consistently the most committed player on a lethargic United side last season. But with Simms, Morsink, King, and Shanosky signed up to play ahead of the center halves, Kitchen's heralded ball winning skills are going to be restrained.

Still, Kitchen is extremely talented and the team is better with him on the roster. I'm not convinced that the same is true for Chris Korb and Joe Willis. This is not to say that either will fail as a professional soccer player, only that it's unclear how they will be able to ply their trades with this United squad. Having failed to protect Jordan Graye, using the 31st pick on Korb is singularly odd.

I sat near Ben Olsen several times last season at Ludwig. I know that Olsen's had a chance to see quite a bit of Jason Herrick and his development. And I know that the knock on Herrick is that he lacks the pace and size to project as a potent force in the MLS, but having done little to bolster an offense that managed a grand total of 21 goals in 30 games last season cannot be comforting for supporters. Even if Herrick was considered a risk and a project, he was less costly than a gamble on a 5'9", 33-year old veteran whose best days are clearly behind him.

Beyond my disappointment as a DC United season ticket holder, I'm gutted for Herrick who must feel slighted at falling to 45th in the draft. There were not 44 players better than him in the draft pool. Ultimately, a chance to return home to Chicago with something to prove and a chip on his shoulder the size of the Water Tower may further spur his development, but I doubt that it was easy to find any silver lining when other names continued to come off the board.

To secure Joe Willis, United traded the 57th and 70th pick to the Galaxy to move up seven slots and pick 50th -- the 70th pick being the same one they picked up from the Galaxy for Adam Cristman. Effectively, United parted with one of its few attacking players (presumably for contract reasons) to add a third goalie to complement Bill Hamid and the competent Steve Cronin.

The reviews I've seen of United's draft picks have been generally positive -- with most focusing on DC's need to shore up its defense. I cannot agree. United had already added the hugely talented Ethan White and had recently announced the signing of Rodrigo Braseco and Railhawk Daniel Woolard. On paper, United was going into the 2011 season with a stronger defense than the preceding season.

Adding three more defensive players in the SuperDraft would seem to be a grievously wasted opportunity. Moving up to pick a keeper and potentially losing the chance to snatch up players like Tulsa's Ashley McInnes, Sacramento State's Ernesto Carranza, and Dartmouth's Daniel Keat -- all of whom were still on the board when United (panicked and) pulled the trigger on the deal and remain undrafted now -- on Tuesday is not something I can get my head around.

Right now, United is a bad team, not terribly different in prospects from last year's squad. But worse than being a bad team, Olsen's army promises to be uninteresting. I would never have guessed that United could go backwards from last season, but I thought the same thing after Soehn left.

21 goals in 30 was not, apparently, good enough. 10 goals in 30 might be a more challenging target for next season.

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