MLS Expansion Draft – What Nashville SC Can Learn From FC Cincinnati and LAFC
The MLS expansion draft will take place on November 19, 2019. Both Nashville SC and Inter Miami will get to pick five players from other MLS rosters. D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will be exempt from the draft, as each club had players selected by 2019 expansion side FC Cincinnati in the 2018 expansion draft. The other MLS teams can protect 12 players and a complete list of Expansion Draft-eligible players will be released Nov. 16. Nashville SC should be able to pickup a couple of players that will contribute on the field come March. So I thought I’d look back at the last two drafts to see what type of player to expect. It was not surprising to see that while LAFC knocked it out of the park, FC Cincinnati did a horrible job. Let’s take a closer look and then think about what that means for Nashville SC.
FC Cincinnati – Took 28 year old Darren Mattocks from DC United. A speedy attacking MLS veteran player, Mattocks was coming off his best MLS season scoring 10 goals for United in 1,267 minutes played in 2018. His first year in Cincinnati has not gone well where statistically he’s having one of his worst seasons ever in MLS. He’s played 21 matches (starting 13) and scored just 3 goals while adding 3 assists in 1,274 minutes played. Of course being on a historically bad team everyone’s stats are going to be down, but now 29 years old things may not get better for Mattocks at Cincinnati. Given his salary of $519,999, the club surely needs to get more. Grade C-
LAFC – Selected 26 year old goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders. The Sounders have to regret leaving him unprotected. Miller debuted against his former team, making 4 saves and getting a clean sheet in a 1-0 win. Miller hasn’t slowed down as he went on to start 33 matches for LAFC tying for second in MLS with 10 shutouts. In 2019, Miller has started 25 matches recording a 16-2-7 record with 9 shutouts. Miller is one of the better keepers in MLS. Even better for LAFC, he’s only making $77,565 (basically the league minimum). He’s clearly due for a big raise soon, but LAFC have already gotten a everyday starter for two years at league minimum allowing them to spend elsewhere. Grade A+
FC Cincinnati – Took Kei Kamara from Vancouver Whitecaps FC and flipped him to Colorado Rapids for an international roster spot. Kamara was 34 at the time. A bit older than an expansion team would be looking to acquire. Kamara has scored 11 goals through 26 appearances in Colorado. For comparison, FC Cincinnati’s leading scorer currently has six goals on the season. The club obviously wanted the international roster spot. I really don’t know what the value of this was in terms of GAM or TAM a year ago or presently. Given that – Grade C
LAFC – Picked 21 year old Latif Blessing from Sporting Kansas City. Despite having the best record in MLS and lots of attacking talent, Blessing has been a solid contributor for LAFC playing 1,804 minutes and scoring five goals and getting six assists in 2018. He’s followed that up 2019 logging 2,509 minutes bagging six goals and five assists. His salary is only $110,416 which again allows LAFC to us their cap space elsewhere. Given his age he’s likely to continue to improve in MLS, but even if he doesn’t the returns the first 2 years have made this an excellent pick. Grade A-
FC Cincinnati – Went with 30 year old Roland Lamah from FC Dallas. Lamah has made 25 appearances for Cincy this year scoring one goal and adding three assists in 1,741 minutes. An over 30 player whose best years are likely behind him. Lamah is making an whopping $806,250 this year, second highest on the club. Surely, they were hoping for more and not sure they can keep him at that number going forward. Grade D+
LAFC – Selected 28 year old Marco Ureña from San Jose Earthquakes. Urena played just over 1,000 minutes in 2018 scoring one goal and providing five assists. Urena made $294,000 in 2018 and after the season LAFC released him. Following his release, Ureña was selected by Chicago Fire in the MLS Waiver Draft on 12 December 2018, but he opted to return to Costa Rica to play for Alajuelense in 2019. Grade C-
FC Cincinnati selected 30 year old Eric Alexander from Houston Dynamo. He’s made just six appearances for Cincinnati so far this season playing 312 minutes and getting one assist. Given his minimal contributions and $270,000 salary, he was waived by the club August 6, 2019. Grade F
LAFC took Jukka Raitala from Columbus Crew and fifth round pick Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC and traded them to Montreal Impact in exchange for Laurent Ciman. A 33 year old defender at the time, Ciman was LAFC’s first captain and a 2018 MLS All Star. He started 22 matches in 2018 logging 1,980 minutes and scoring 3 goals. His salary was about $630,000. Despite the success, in August Ciman was transferred to Dijon FCO of France’s Ligue 1 for a reported fee of $500,000. Given his age and salary this was a shrewd move as it allowed the club to sign his centerback partner, Walker Zimmerman, to a new contact in early 2019. Zimmerman is only 26, was a 2019 MLS All Star and is currently making $600,000 under his new deal. Grade – A-
FC Cincinnati took 19 year old Hassan Ndam from New York Red Bulls. Ndam is a centerback prospect that has yet to play for Cincy. He was loaned to Charlotte Independence for the 2019 season on May 1, 2019. Grade C
What Can Nashville SC Learn From This?
First, this is a big deal. At least the first two picks need to contribute in a big way. Hopefully at a low price. Go younger if at all possible. Established MLS players look good on paper, but it is very hard to say how they’ll perform with an entire new set of teammates. The upside just isn’t there. LAFC got a ton of value out of picking younger players in the first two rounds where Cincinnati picked older more well known MLS players. Neither Mattock nor Lamah have helped Cincy in regards to the salary cap and neither has contributed as much on the field as the club certainly would have hoped when they made the selections. Now they have players a bit past their prime on large contracts. Not where you want to be going into year 2. LAFC, however, has had two established regular players each of which have been underpaid their first two years. Especially Miller, LAFC needs to pay that man soon. When LAFC did go old, they got a captain and all star. It’s not likely Nashville SC will do as well in the expansion draft as LAFC. Unfortunately, Miami is picking as well so the talent pool will be cut in half. That said, they really need to avoid making picks as poorly as Cincinnati did.
Nashville SC MLS Roster
Outside of Godoy, Nashville SC has only signed attacking players (Accam, Lancaster, Leal, Mukhtar and Rios) to their MLS roster so far which makes you think they likely will go defensive in the expansion draft. Though a lot depends on which players MLS clubs leave unprotected. With trades possibly happening during the draft anyone they pick might only be with the club a few hours or days. November 16 the list of eligible players will be released by MLS. Then we can speculate on who specifically Mike Jacobs will target. He’s so detailed I bet he already had multiple people project who they think teams will protect and has a highly accurate spreadsheet of those players likely to be available. Would love to see it. I’ll be looking for a #9 as I think that is the last attacking piece they need to add to roster. I suspect the club and/or Supporter’s Groups will have a big watch party around this event. Mark your calendars.