When you look at the selections made by the Montreal Impact in last Wednesday's expansion draft, it would seem like head coach Jesse Marsch and his staff made some wise picks.
They seemed to focus more on the defensive side on the ball, and were also looking closely at player salaries.
The most controversial pick to me (and probably everyone else) was their number one pick, Brian Ching of the Houston Dynamo. In some ways it was a surprise pick for these reasons:
- He said in no uncertain terms that if he were chosen, he would not go, but would instead retire to a front office job in Houston.
- At age 33 and after 10 years in the league, this is an injury prone player. Throughout his career he has played only one way, and that's all out. He has been one of the league's more physical players in terms of both dishing out and receiving punishment. Surely he can play another year, but can he play another two or three?
- Salary-wise, we are talking about a player who makes around the maximum for a non-DP. At his age, and with his injury past, is he worth that kind of money to an expansion team? Remember, in 2011, he scored just five goals while playing in just 20 games.
So, in spite of the leadership, character, and skill that Ching could bring to an expansion team, did Marsch really want him?
I'm guessing that he did not, but what Marsch did was put his team in a better place because Ching has some value. Surely Houston will want him back and my guess is that those two teams will be able to come to terms on a deal. Maybe Montreal get another player from Houston plus a draft choice and/or allocation money. If something doesn't work with Houston, Marsch could try to trade Ching to a place where Ching might be convinced to give it a go.
Don't blame Marsch for taking Ching. He is doing his job, just as the Dynamo were doing theirs. Houston took a gamble and lost.
Freddy Adu was left exposed in the expansion draft, which was a gamble by the Union. Unlike Houston's, Philadelphia's gamble paid off when Montreal chose winger Justin Mapp instead. While Mapp's production will need to be replaced, the combination of Adu's age and upside is more difficult to find.
Some teams took gambles and won, while others lost. Did Chivas USA really want to lose defender Zarek Valentin, the fourth overall pick in last year's SuperDraft, who was a regular starter as a rookie?
Expansion drafts are difficult to evaluate, because one doesn't know how many of these players will be kept on the roster, and how many will be used as trade bait. If you look at the Impact, they drafted a pretty good supply of defenders in Valentin, Bobby Burling, Josh Gardner, and Seth Sinovic, all coming via the expansion draft. They also picked Seattle right back James Riley, but traded him to Chivas for Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen. They would later add left back Tyson Wahl in a post-expansion draft trade with Seattle. Today, they moved Sinovic back to Sporting KC for midfielder Davy Arnaud and allocation money.
Marsch also picked up some very reasonably-priced talent in midfielder Collen Warner of Real Salt Lake and attacker Sanna Nyassi from Colorado.
The Impact made their defense that much stronger with the news Monday that they have acquired goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from the LA Galaxy in exchange for allocation money. Montreal did not select a goalkeeper in the expansion draft (Ricketts was protected by the Galaxy). The only other goalkeeper on their roster was Evan Bush, a number one goalkeeper for them in the USL Pro League, but untested in MLS.
This is a deal that clearly helps both teams. Montreal gets a legit number one goalkeeper, who is a proven commodity in MLS. LA won't miss Ricketts, since they have Josh Saunders who ended up as the Galaxy number one goalkeeper in the playoffs and MLS Cup. With Saunders as the number one goalkeeper, it would not make sense to have a high-salaried backup like Ricketts. Former Union goalkeeper Brian Perk, at least for now, becomes the number two goalkeeper in LA.
This has been a busy stretch for Montreal, but it's still a work in progress as they prepare for their inaugural season in MLS. While they picked up some good pieces in the expansion draft and have made some savvy moves post-draft, let's see what they do in the months ahead.
The Ching situation must come to a resolution before too much time passes. After that, it's the SuperDraft and the signing of players to try to make this team competitive in their first season.
As Union fans know from experience, that can be a tough proposition.