Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winners and Losers

The MLS Superdraft is over and "experts" are throwing out their winners and losers. Give me a break. If there's anything we know from the Superdraft, it's that you can't tell who the winners and losers are until a year or more down the line. Again, the Superdraft shows a few things: 1) The scouting of college players isn't that good in the States, 2) many of the so-called "experts" don't know a quality player from an average player or even below average player and 3) that college soccer does not prepare these kids for life as a pro (with possible exception to the current program at Akron. Which don't get me started on that as it seem Caleb Porter just treats the game like the actually game of soccer and not some American mutation of the beautiful game).

The truth is every one of the players that were selected has just as good a chance to succeed or to fizzle out. As I wrote previously, when looking only at number one picks, only four have gone on to playing in Europe (though we may see Steve Zakuani and Danny Mwanga over seas soon). Only one, Maurice Edu, has fetched a transfer fee ($5 million) and played well for Rangers when fit. Sure, Freddy Adu was also drafted number one and bought for $2 million by Benfica, and as we all know he has not lived up to the expectations.

As I said there are no true winners and losers. No MLS rookie has come into the league and set the league on fire carrying their team to the MLS Cup. Not Freddy Adu, not Chris Gbandi, not Steve Shak, not Marvell Wynn.

Chivas USA drafted Jonathon Bornstein in the fourth round in 2006. Until leaving Chivas USA at the end of the 2010 season on a free he was only one of three players selected in '06 still with the team that drafted him. Not only that but he was taken 37th overall. At the time scouts and MLS teams thought there were 37 better players. Turns out he is as good if not better than the top 12 from the draft. The top 12 was Marvell Wynne, Mehdi Ballouchy, Jason Garey, Yura Movsisyan, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Justin Moose, Patrick Ianni, Kei Kamara, Calen Carr, Leandro de Oliveira and Nathan Sturgis

Bornstein has gone on to play for the US Men's National Team and played at the 2010 World Cup. He was one of our best players at the World Cup as well when given his chance. It's beyond me that Chivas USA and MLS didn't attempt to transfer Bornstein as they knew he wasn't about to re-sign with the team. But that shows MLS's shortcomings and naivety that they believe a US born player will stay loyal to the league and play for peanuts. Bornstein is now south of the border playing for Tigres in Mexico.

"Experts" seem to think Omar Salgado, this year's number one pick, will become nothing more than an average player in the league. But no one has any idea how each pick will turn out. It's not like other American sports in which the draft order plays a bigger part.

To close I want to give five high picks that did very little in the league as a brief example of how difficult it is to know what you're getting in the MLS Superdraft:

1. Justin Moose Midfield- picked 7th overall in '06 by DC United. Only featured in eight matches over two seasons. Most recently played for Vancouver, but was released in 2010.

2. Luchi Gonzalez Forward- picked 6th in 2002 by San Jose. Played eight times for the 'Quakes. Traded to Columbus a year later, but cut in pre-season. He bounced around Sweden for two seasons before returning to MLS with Colorado playing 22 times in two season. Followed that by playing a season for Miami FC and Minnesota Thunder respectively. He is currently an algebra teacher.

3. Jason Moore Midfield- The 1999 number one pick by DC United. I have no idea what has happened to him as I couldn't find much information. Obviously he didn't succeed in MLS.

4. Lazo Alavanja Midfield- Dallas Burn selected Alavanja fourth in '99. He played four MLS seasons as an average midfielder before dropping down in divisions. Most recently he has played indoor soccer.

5. Tahj Jakins Defender- Selected number one in 1997, Jakins played five season for Colorado and KC Wizards. Again, another player who dropped down to a lower division and ended his career in '01 after only five seasons.

These are just five players who had rather short MLS careers when they were predicted to be solid players in the league. Yes, there are reasons they didn't succeed as many thought; but the biggest reasons are the ones I've already spoken about and it shows there are NO true winners and losers following draft day. There are players out there who have better quality, but with the college game structured the way it is the difference isn't as great between round one and three or four as it is believed.

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