With Philadelphia Union’s first offseason looming, the technical
staff is focused on taking three points in the season finale against Columbus, while simultaneously continuing to prepare for the club’s encore campaign in 2011. The first
offseason obstacle is the MLS Expansion Draft, which will take place on
November 24. Each club can protect 11 players, as well as Generation adidas
members and Home Grown Players, when the
Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers select 10 players apiece in advance of their MLS debuts.
While the Union don’t have any Home Grown Players currently on the roster, they do have four Generation adidas members: 2010 first round picks Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney, and GK Chris Seitz. Okugo and McInerney are expected to retain their GA status given their limited playing time (437 and 350 minutes, respectively), and Seitz will almost certainly graduate, but Mwanga’s status is more uncertain.
“MLS and the [Competition] Committee take a look at all the Generation adidas players and they have a criteria that they go through,” Coach John Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com on Thursday. “We don’t have an idea right now whether (Mwanga) will come off of that designation. That’ll be determined before MLS Cup so that teams can then know who they don’t have to protect.”
The criteria for GA graduation are more complex than simply comparing minutes played to a specific cutoff, and Mwanga’s 1,416 minutes played with one match remaining put him in a grey area. History has shown some players with less
minutes graduating (Brad Davis and Logan Pause), while others who accumulated more minutes in their rookie season
than Mwanga can possibly finish with have retained their GA status (Bobby Convey, Nick
Rimando and Stefan Frei).
Mwanga would be a lock to be protected in the expansion draft should he be forced to graduate, but having the ability to protect one extra player would obviously be Philadelphia’s preference. Keeping Mwanga as GA for another season would also provide additional salary cap flexibility for the Union, as players in the program won’t count towards the $2.68 million cap in 2011 (reflecting a five percent increase from the $2.55 million cap in 2010, as per the most recent CBA).
The GA verdict on Mwanga is just one more consideration that’ll play into the offseason strategy of a Union side that have shown all the signs of being a legitimate playoff contender in 2011.