Friday, February 3, 2012

Drafting History

One of the byproducts of being a lifelong Cubs fan is the ease by which you can resign yourself to the fact that morons run the club you love.

In the last twenty-five years, I've spent plenty of time scratching my head, trying to figure out why the Northsiders acquired or dispatched a particular player. But come what may, I've been obliged to root for whatever crap was put out on the field.

So it'll be a familiar feeling going to RFK for D.C. United fixtures this season.

I've no objections to letting Charlie Davies pursue his comeback elsewhere and I'm happy that I'll not have to see Joseph Ngwenya in the black & red for another season -- both Davies and Ngwenya were great with fans and I'd have preferred to see them do well, but they didn't perform and it was time to turn the page.

Maybe Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos will improve the attack. Maybe not. Whatever.

D.C. United also showed the door to most of the fullbacks on the roster, leaving only Chris Korb and Daniel Woolard under contract.

Having added Robbie Russell -- a 32-year old MLS veteran -- the front office declined to augment their depth at the position through the draft. But building talent through drafts is, in any event, not one of D.C. United's strengths.

Because it amuses me, a walk back in time through the club's drafts during Dave Kasper's tenure (relying heavily on wikipedia) --

Justin Mapp (1st)
Daouda Kante (1st)
Mike McGinty (2nd)
Mohammed Fahim (3rd)
Dennis Ludwig (4th)
Bob Brennan (4th)
PASS (5th)
PASS (6th)

(notable draft picks: Leonard Krupnik, 6th; Ricardo Villar, 5th; Davy Arnaud, 5th; Adauto Neto, 4th; Kevin Sakuda, 4th; Noah Delgado, 4th; Chris Leitch, 4th; Marshall Leonard, 4th; Cory Gibbs, 4th; Gavin Glinton, 3rd; Dipsy Selolwane, 3rd; Alejandro Moreno, 3rd; Ian Fuller, 2nd; Danny Jackson, 2nd; Jon Busch, 2nd; Shalrie Joseph, 2nd; Kelly Gray, 1st; Kyle Martino, 1st; Chris Gbandi, 1st; Brad Davis, 1st; and Taylor Twellman, 1st).


Alecko Eskandarian (1st)
David Stokes (1st)
Brian Carroll (2nd)
Doug Warren (2nd)
Hayden Woodworth (4th)
John Swann (5th)
Michael Behonick (6th)
PASS (6th)

(notable draft picks: Frank Sanfilippo, 6th; Kevin Friedland, 6th; Marco Velez, 5th; Chad Dombrowski, 5th; Jack Jewsbury, 5th; Kenny Arena, 4th; Jamil Walker, 4th; Matt Crawford, 4th; Taylor Graham, 4th; Josh Saunders, 4th; Rob Friend, 4th; Logan Pause, 3rd; Roger Levesque, 3rd; Arturo Torres, 2nd; Damani Ralph, 2nd; Tim Regan, 2nd; Scot Thompson, 2nd; Eddie Gaven, 2nd; Arturo Alvarez, 2nd; Diego Walsh, 1st; Shavar Thomas, 1st; Nate Jacqua, 1st; Todd Dunivant, 1st; Mike Magee, 1st; Pat Noonan, 1st; and Ricardo Clark, 1st).


Freddy Adu (1st)
Kevin Ara (3rd)
Josh Gros (4th)
Kevin Hudson (5th)

(notable draft picks: Alan Gordon, 6th; Jeff Parke, 6th; Andy Dorman, 6th; Khari Stephenson, 3rd; Matt Pickens, 2nd; Will Hesmer, 2nd; Seth Stammler, 2nd; Ned Grabavoy, 2nd; Josh Gardner, 2nd; Chris Wingert, 2nd; Steve Cronin, 1st; Ryan Cochrane, 1st; Matt Taylor, 1st; Chad Marshall, 1st; Ramon Nunez, 1st; Clarence Goodson, 1st; Clint Dempsey, 1st; and, of course, Joseph Ngwenya, 1st).

Freddy Adu pick received from Dallas for allocation money; 1st round pick, 6th round pick, and Ali Curtis traded for Ronald Cerritos; 2nd round pick traded for Hristo Stoichkov.


Nick Van Sicklen (2nd)
Tim Merritt (4th)
Matt Nickell (5th - Supp 1st)
Andrew Terris (7th - Supp 3rd)
Shawn Kuykendall (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Jeff Larentowicz, 8th; Chris Wondolowski, 8th; Dan Kennedy, 8th; Dan Gargan, 8th; Cameron Knowles, 8th; Bill Gaudette, 5th; Boyzzz Khumalo, 3rd; Gonzalo Segares, 3rd; Quavas Kirk, 3rd; Chris Rolfe, 3rd; Jay Nolly, 2nd; James Riley, 2nd; Kevin Goldthwaite, 2nd; Ryan Pore, 3nd; Jack Stewart, 1st; Tim Ward, 1st; Scott Sealy, 1st; Hunter Freeman, 1st; Drew Moor, 1st; Ugo Ihemelu, 1st; Danny O'Rourke, 1st; Chad Barrett, 1st; Michael Parkhurst, 1st; and Brad Guzan, 1st).

1st round pick and 3rd round pick acquired from Chicago Fire (for 2nd round pick in 2006 draft) traded for Jaime Moreno; Nick Van Sicklen pick received from Colorado for rights to Alberto Delgado; 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick traded for 2nd round pick in 2004 draft.


Justin Moose (1st)
Rod Dyachenko (3rd)
Jeff Carroll (4th)
Kenney Bertz (4th)
Andy Metcalf (6th - Supp 2nd)
Devon McTavish (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Chase Harrison, 7th; Willis Forko, 6th; Dasan Robinson, 6th; Daniel Paladini, 6th; Jordan Harvey, 5th; Mike Chabala, 4th; Jonathan Bornstein, 4th; Ray Burse, 3rd; Ryan Johnson, 3rd; Marc Burch, 2nd; Jed Zayner, 2nd; Blake Wagner, 2nd; Tyson Wahl, 2nd; Dominic Oduro, 2nd; Jozy Altidore, 2nd; Yura Movsisyan, 1st; Patrick Ianni, 1st; Calen Carr, 1st; Nathan Sturgis, 1st; Jason Garey, 1st; Kei Kamara, 1st; Mehdi Ballouchy, 1st; Dax McCarty, 1st; Marvell Wynne, 1st; and Sacha Klejstan, 1st).

2nd round pick traded to Chicago for 3rd round pick in 2005 draft; Jeff Carroll pick received from Columbus for Devin Barclay; 4th round pick and 6th round (Supp 2nd) pick in 2005 draft traded for Jason Thompson; Kenney Bertz pick received from New England for Doug Warren.


Bryan Arguez (1st)
Brad North (2nd)
Jay Needham (3rd)
Ricky Schramm (3rd)
Luis Robles (4th)
Shawn Crowe (5th - Supp 1st)
Guy-Roland Kpene (7th - Supp 3rd)

(notable draft picks: Daniel Woolard, 8th; Kevin Burns, 8th; Kosuke Kimura, 7th; Osei Telesford, 6th; Steve Purdy, 5th; Aaron Hohlbein, 5th; Jarrod Smith, 5th; Nick Noble, 5th; Sandi Gbandi, 5th; Adam Cristman, 4th; Bobby Burling, 4th; Tally Hall, 4th; Kurt Morsink, 4th; Nick LaBrocca, 3rd; Sinisa Ubiparipovic, 3rd; Mike Banner, 3rd; Omar Cummings, 3rd; Dane Richards, 2nd; Fuad Ibrahim, 2nd; Corey Ashe, 2nd; Ty Harden, 2nd; Ryan Guy, 2nd; Robbie Findley, 2nd; Brad Evans, 2nd; Andrew Boyens, 1st; Anthony Wallace, 1st; Chris Seitz, 1st; Wells Thompson, 1st; Michael Harrington, 1st; Bakary Soumare, 1st; and Maurice Edu, 1st).

Jay Needham pick and third round pick in 2008 draft received from Colorado for Brandon Prideaux.


Andrew Jacobson (2nd)
Ryan Cordeiro (3rd)
Tony Schmitz (4th)
Brandon Owens (5th - Supp 1st)
Dan Stratford (6th - Supp 2nd)
James Thorpe (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Daniel Antunez, 7th; Tino Nunez, 6th; Kyle Altman, 6th; Mike Palacio, 6th; Chris Tierney, 5th; Kheli Dube, 5th; Danleigh Borman, 5th; Keith Savage, 4th; Steven Lenhart, 4th; Brandon McDonald, 4th; Mike Zaher, 3rd; Stephen King, 3rd; Ryan Miller, 3rd; Luke Sassano, 3rd; Geoff Cameron, 3rd; Peter Lowry, 2nd; Yomby William, 2nd; Jonathan Leathers, 2nd; Brian Edwards, 2nd; Alex Nimo, 2nd; Shea Salinas, 2nd; Michael Videira, 2nd; Eric Brunner, 2nd; Eric Avila, 2nd; Josh Lambo, 1st; David Horst, 1st; Dominic Cervi, 1st; Pat Phelan, 1st; Roger Espinoza, 1st; Andy Iro, 1st; Julius James, 1st; Chance Myers, 1st; Tony Beltran, 1st; Patrick Nyarko, 1st; Sean Franklin, 1st; and Brek Shea, 1st).

1st round pick traded for Rod Dyachenko (Toronto selected Pat Phelan); Ryan Cordeiro pick and third round pick in 2007 draft received from Colorado for Brandon Prideaux; 3rd round pick traded for Jerson Monteiro.


Rodney Wallace (1st)
Chris Pontius (1st)
Milos Kocic (2nd)
Lyle Adams (2nd)
Brandon Barklage (3rd)

(notable draft picks: Marcus Tracy, 4th; Michael Fucito, 4th; Nick Zimmerman, 3rd; Quincy Amarikwa, 3rd; Neal Kitson, 3rd; Danny Cruz, 3rd; Darrius Barnes, 3rd; Mike Grella, 3rd; Jack Traynor, 2nd; Andrei Gotsmanov, 2nd; Brad Ring, 2nd; Baggio Husidic, 2nd; Graham Zusi, 2nd; A.J. Delagarza, 2nd; Peri Marosevic, 1st; O'Brian White, 1st; Jean Alexandre, 1st; Jeremy Hall, 1st; Sam Cronin, 1st; Stefan Frei, 1st; Kevin Alston, 1st; Michael Lahoud, 1st; Matt Bessler, 1st; Steve Zakuani, 1st; Omar Gonzalez, 1st; and George John, 1st).

Chris Pontius pick received from Colorado for Christian Gomez; Lyle Adams pick received from Houston Dynamo with Zach Wells for Bobby Boswell; 4th round pick traded for international roster spot.


Jordan Graye (4th)

(notable draft picks: Euan Holden, 4th; Shaun Francis, 4th; Brian Perk, 4th; Joseph Nane, 4th; Sean Johnson, 4th; Steven Kinney, 3rd; Eric Alexander, 3rd; Chris Schuler, 3rd; Kyle Nakazawa, 3rd; Ben Zemanski, 3rd; Mike Seamon, 2nd; Korede Aiyegbusi, 2nd; Kwame Watson-Siriboe, 2nd; Ross LaBauex, 2nd; Toni Stahl, 2nd; Zak Boggs, 2nd; Andre Akpan, 2nd; Andrew Wiedeman, 2nd; Steven Beitashour, 2nd; Seth Sinovic, 2nd; Michael Thomas, 2nd; Tim Ream, 2nd; David Estrada, 1st; Austin da Luz, 1st; Tony Tchani, 1st; Jack McInerney, 1st; Amobi Okugo, 1st; Corben Bone, 1st; Collen Warner, 1st; Bright Dike, 1st; Blair Gavin, 1st; Danny Mwanga, 1st; Dilly Duka, 1st; Ike Opara, 1st; Michael Stephens, 1st; Zack Schilawski, 1st; Zach Loyd, 1st; and Teal Bunbury, 1st).

1st round pick traded for Fred; 2nd round pick traded for Christian Gomez and goalkeeper Mike Graczyak; 3rd round pick traded for Josh Wicks


Perry Kitchen (1st)
Chris Korb (2nd)
Joe Willis (3rd)
Blake Brettschneider (5th -Supp 2nd)
Pass (6th - Supp 3rd)

(notable draft picks: Amani Walker, 4th; J.C. Banks, 4th; Ryan Richter, 4th; Jimmy Maurer, 4th; Dan Keat, 4th; Michael Boxall, 4th; Matt Gold, 3rd; Scott Gordon, 3rd; Jarad van Schaik, 3rd; Alex Caskey, 3rd; Ryan Kinne, 3rd; Davis Paul, 3rd; Bilal Duckett, 3rd; Bernardo Anor, 3rd; Joao Plato, 3rd; Charlie Campbell, 2nd; Cole Grossman, 2nd; Hector Jimenez, 2nd; Anthony Ampaipitakwong, 2nd; Jeb Brovsky, 2nd; Servando Carrasco, 2nd; Stephen McCarthy, 2nd; Michael Farfan, 2nd; Victor Estupinan, 1st; Eddie Ababio, 1st; Corey Hertzog, 1st; Michael Nanchoff, 1st; Justin Meram, 1st; Kofie Sarkodie, 1st; Bobby Warshaw, 1st; A.J. Soares, 1st; Zarek Valentin, 1st; Rich Balchan, 1st; Paolo Cardozo, 1st; Omar Salgado, 1st; Janil Anibaba, 1st; Will Bruin, 1st; Zach MacMath, 1st; Darlington Nagbe, 1st; and C.J. Sapong, 1st).

2nd round pick traded for Stephen King (United's second round pick of Chris Korb was obtained from Red Bulls for Carey Talley); 3rd round pick traded for Avery John (United's third round pick was obtained from Galaxy for two 4th round picks -- LA used the picks to take Dan Keat and Ryan Thomas).


Nick DeLeon (1st)
Lance Rozeboom (4th - Supp 2nd)
Charles Rodriguez (5th - Supp 3rd)
Matt Kuhn (6th - Supp 4th)

2nd round pick traded for Jed Zayner and 4th - Supp 1st round pick in 2011 draft; 3rd - Supp 1st round pick traded for Julius James.
The club's poor track record in drafts can't be for lack of recognition of the usefulness of college soccer: Kasper played forward for the Terps and translated his collegiate success into a multiyear professional career in the early 90s.

Plus, the MLS draft has a high bust to boom ratio. I've not taken the time to breakdown other franchises' experience in the draft, so it may be unfair to look at D.C. United's history in isolation.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the draft has been a priority for the club.

In the last decade, draft picks have accounted for seven core players on the team, with over half of those coming in the 2003 and 2004 drafts alone:
Perry Kitchen (2011); Chris Pontius (2009); Rodney Wallace (2009); Josh Gros (2004); Freddy Adu (2004); Brian Carroll (2003); and Alecko Eskandarian (2003).
If you expand that list to those that have provided cognizable first-team impacts, nine more are added:
Blake Brettschneider (2011); Chris Korb (2011); Jordan Graye (2010); Andrew Jacobson (2008); Guy-Roland Kpene (2007); Rod Dyachenko (2006); Devon McTavish (2006); and David Stokes (2003).
This means that in ten years, a grand total of sixteen draft picks have been significant additions.

Joe Willis, Nick DeLeon, and Lance Rozeboom may yet be included amongst them, but we can already be sure that 2012 draft picks Charles Rodriguez and Matt Kuhn will not.

Not that cutting two draft picks early in camp could have been that surprising. Consider Chad Ashton's comments following the draft:
“They’ve all gone to programs that have had success the past couple of years, and we feel like they have those qualities that will translate to our league," Ashton said. "[It] would be a wonderful surprise to not only make our team but come in and play some minutes for us."
A wonderful surprise? It would be a wonderful surprise if someone who walked off the street made the team and played some minutes for United. But draft picks? What kind of scouting philosophy does this reflect?

But maybe that's just the way things are, that there is such a dearth of talent in college soccer that fifth and sixth round draft picks are largely longshots to make, let alone contribute to, an MLS team.

Except its not.

Of the sixteen draft picks that saw more than a handful of games with the first team, two were taken very, very late -- Kpene was effectively a seventh round pick and McTavish was effectively an eighth round pick. Going back to 2002, United's only used picks that deep on three other players: James Thorpe; Andrew Terris; and Shawn Kuykendall.

It is a limited sample size, but a 40% hit rate in the seventh and eighth rounds of the MLS drafts should indicate scouting genius. And it should cement the simple observation that every pick matters.

Now compare the success in those two rounds with the team's second and third round picks since 2002.

United pulled Brian Carroll in 2003 and Chris Korb in 2011, but their other seven second round draft picks were Mike McGinty; Doug Warren; Nick Van Sicklen; Brad North; Andrew Jacobson; Milos Kocic; and Lyle Adams.

A similar story is presented by the third round picks. United took Joe Willis in 2011 and Dyachenko in 2006, but their other six picks were Mohamed Fahim; Kevin Ara; Jay Needham; Ricky Schramm; Ryan Cordeiro; and Brandon Barklage.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to Willis, four out of seventeen in the second and third rounds of the MLS Draft would seem to reflect scouting incompetence.

In the years that United made picks in those rounds, the club passed on MLS stalwarts like Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury, Josh Saunders, Jeff Parke, Andy Dorman, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Wondolowski, Jordan Harvey, Mike Chabala, Jonathan Bornstein, Aaron Hohlbein, Kosuke Kimura, Kheli Dube, Steven Lenhart, Danleigh Borman, Chris Tierney, Michael Fucito, and Michael Boxall -- all taken in the fourth round or later.

Dyachenko merits special mention, as he was not only a third round draft pick in 2006. Two years later, United burned a first round pick to get him back from Toronto FC.

In lieu of college scouting, the club seems to approach draft picks as assets that can be used to acquire veteran players. Indeed, trades of draft picks for veteran players has played a major part in United's personnel strategy:
  • Justin Mapp, D.C.'s first round pick in 2002, was traded for Dema Kovalenko.
  • United's second round pick in 2004 was trade for Hristo Stoichkov.
  • A first and third round pick was traded for Jaime Moreno in 2005.
  • Their first round pick in 2010 was traded for Fred.
  • The second round pick in 2010 was traded for Christian Gomez.
  • Josh Wicks was acquired for a third round pick in 2010.
  • DC's second round pick in 2011 was traded for Stephen King.
  • Avery John was obtained for a third round pick in 2011.
  • The second round pick in 2012 was used to obtain Jed Zayner.
  • Julius James cost United its third round pick in 2012.
Not starving for irony, United used draft picks to acquire players that other clubs had picked up as draft picks and developed. Zayner was a second round pick in 2006, taken after United selected Justin Moose in the first round. Julius James had been a first round draft pick in 2008, the year United gave up its first round pick to get Dyachenko back. Stephen King was a third round pick that year, while United took Ryan Cordeiro in the that round.

If Rozeboom isn't offered a contract, the current United team will have just as many players on the roster acquired through the draft (five) as those drafted by other teams in the third round or higher:
  • Daniel Woolard was an eighth round pick in 2007.
  • Kurt Morsink was a fourth round pick in 2007.
  • Brandon McDonald was a fourth round pick in 2008.
  • Stephen King was a third round pick in 2008.
  • Danny Cruz was a third round pick in 2009.
In other words, season ticket holders are being asked to come out and root for a team loaded with later round draft picks developed by other clubs while simultaneously being told that the draft is not important enough to merit roster spots for the club's fifth and sixth round selections.

The roster's current construction belies any claim that there is a D.C. United way of playing soccer and 2012 will present, once again, a team lacking any meaningful identity.

I'll remain optimistic about the academy and am excited to see Ethan White, Bill Hamid, and Andy Najar play for another season. But it's pretty difficult to get ginned up for another group of vagabonds pieced together by management that ludicrously and uproariously claims that the change that needed to come to the club was in the culture of the locker room and not the front office.

Maybe this is the season it all works out. In which case, fine. The MLS is a different animal and player development has to take a back seat to fielding a winning team.

But the more likely scenario is that this is yet another season where the vaunted international scouting machine of United places risky bets on foreign players that don't pay off while season ticket holders are denied even the delusional optimism derived from cheering for a hard-working, hungry kid like Brettschneider.

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