Tomorrow, New York City FC takes a massive step forward in becoming a real team. That’s because at 2 PM EST/11 AM PST, the 2014 Expansion Draft will take place. They will participate in the draft along with fellow expansion club Orlando City SC. Each club will have ten picks, and New York City will have the second pick.
If you’re interested, you can peruse the rules here. The complete list of players available for both teams is here. You can watch the draft via live stream on MLSsoccer.com. The big takeaways from the rules:
- Existing teams are allowed to protect 11 players from their rosters. Generation Adidas players will be automatically protected, though players who graduated from the program to the senior roster at the end of the 2014 season were not.
- Once two players have been claimed from a team’s non-protected roster, that team is eliminated from the expansion draft and may not lose any further players. (emphasis added)
If you’re following along, you need to keep that second part in mind, because it’s definitely going to have an impact; if Orlando pick an RSL player, and Kreis is looking at several, he’ll have to pick one — and no other players from RSL will be available.
For this draft, I think the club needs to address areas of need in the roster — namely, defense and midfield. I’m also of the opinion that New York City will go young in this draft, since Lampard turns 37 during the season and Villa is 33. While’s there’s plenty of veteran players on offer, I’d be surprised if New York City select more than three or four players older than 30 or 31. Finally, the Schaerlaeckens article I mentioned earlier left an interesting nugget to keep in mind for the draft:
Kreis and NYCFC director of football operations Claudio Reyna say they want to pick up as many players with MLS experience as possible. Reyna said they will use all 10 slots in the draft. The plan involves keeping "five, six, maybe seven guys," while using the rest as trade bait. By the end of the year, the club hopes to have 16 to 18 players under contract. (emphasis added)
If that’s the case, then New York City’s selections might be more oriented towards landing other players on other squads, as opposed to filling out the roster and addressing needs. With that in mind, here’s whom I think they might select tomorrow, based on both needs and tradability:
1. Ned Grabavoy, MF (from RSL): If Orlando City don’t select him, you can expect Jason Kreis to pick Grabavoy with New York City’s first selection. The 31-year-old midfielder is incredibly versatile, able to play all four positions in Kreis’ preferred mid-field diamond formation. That matters significantly, because Lampard (assuming he’s here from the start) is nowhere as versatile, and will likely be deployed up top. Grabavoy was one of Kreis' keystone players at RSL; I fully expect him to be a keystone player for him here in New York City.
2. Zac MacMath, GK (from PHI): Lately, it’s become a habit to mock the Philadelphia Union whenever a goalkeeper becomes available on the player market, because of their recent stockpiling at that position. To recap, if you’re new to MLS: the Union had a promising keeper in MacMath. Then they drafted goalkeeper Andre Blake last year in the first round of the Super Draft, and as if that wasn’t enough, they went out and signed Algerian keeper Raïs Mbolhi after the World Cup.
Not that it made a difference for MacMath. He played in 29 games for the Union last season, with a 1.55 goals allowed average. In 2013, he played and started all 34 games of the season, logging 2060 minutes. He posted a 1.29 goals against average with a 69.0 percent save percentage and 12 shutouts over those 34 matches.
Both him and Mbolhi are available. Mbolhi is entering the prime of his career, and is taller, but MacMath was the first-choice keeper. I think cost is the deciding factor here, since Mbolhi makes $240,000 per year, while MacMath draws half that. New York City pick MacMath.
3. Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, MF (from SJE): At 29, Pierazzi is in the prime of his career. He starred for AC Ajaccio for eight years before joining the Earthquakes. We felt that he would complement Lampard well, as well as being able to play major minutes for the team and take a leadership role when necessary. At $240,000/year, he’s not exactly cheap. Don’t be surprised if he’s moved, since he’ll take up an international slot.
4. Benji Joya, MF (from CHI): Joya started nine games for the Chicago Fire, scoring 1 goal. He’s also played and captained the USMNT U-20 squad. The best part: he’s only 21, so he’s yet to reach his peak as a player. Putting him in a midfield with Grabavoy and Lampard will do wonders for his development, while allowing him to contribute right from the start. He’s on loan from Santos Laguna in Liga MX. For that reason, we might see F Omar Salgado (whom New York City acquired yesterday) going to Santos in exchange for New York City picking up Joya.
5. Patrick Mullins, F (from NER): Mullins, a two-time Hermann Trophy award winner as the nation’s top player in college, is a physical, left-footed forward, who is highly active both on and off the ball. This past season for New England, he appeared in 21 games, starting 14 of them. He scored four goals and had one assist. Although he cooled off considerably towards the end of the season, he had a sparkling game in the MLS Cup Final, setting up Chris Tierney’s equalizing goal late in the game, and nearly scoring a go-ahead goal in extra time.
6. Servando Carrasco, MF (from HOU): Carrasco is another young midfielder with some potential. He’s played for both the Sounders and Dynamo, starting nine games last season and appearing in seven others. I don’t see him starting a lot of games, but over the course of a long season, he would do well as a rotation player, particularly when you take the Open Cup into consideration. At $48,825 per year, he’s very inexpensive. I don’t know that he stays around, though; he probably serves as trade bait.
7. Danny Cruz, MF/D (from PHI): Cruz has been a workhorse for the Union since being acquired two years ago. In 2013, he played and started in 32 games, logging 2190 minutes. He scored three goals and assisted two. This past season, he appeared in 26 games, starting 16 of them and again scoring three goals and assisting two. He’s listed as a midfielder, but can also double as a defender; his versatility and durability are why I think New York City pick him. If they do, he’s another tradable asset.
8. Donny Toia, D/MF (from MTL): Toia was Real Salt Lake’s first-ever Homegrown Player (HGP). Like Cruz, he’s a versatile player who can do double duty as a midfielder, plus he can score. In USL PRO, he made 24 appearances and recorded six goals, which earned him a Rookie of the Year nomination in 2013. He then signed with Chivas USA; there, he appeared in 27 games, starting 24 and logging 2,240 minutes of game time.
9. Thomas McNamara, MF (from DCU): I’ve had a soft spot for McNamara for a long time. He reminds me of one of those stocky Argentine midfielders, complete with crazy mullet and the moves to match. As I wrote yesterday, he was one of the few bright spots for Chivas USA in their ill-starred final season of play. Then he blew out his knee, and spent the rest of the season recovering. He hails from upstate New York (West Nyack, to be precise), and he’d be a solid fit in New York City’s midfield. I’d love to see a midfield comprised of Lampard, Grabavoy, Toia/Jacobson, and McNamara.
10. Darrius Barnes, D (from NER): Assuming Orlando City haven’t picked him (or another Revolution player), Barnes is probably the final selection for New York City. Of New York City’s three current defenders, Josh Williams is probably the best one. Nothing against Jeb Brovsky (who’s got the potential to be a cult favorite) or Kwame Watson-Siriboe, but it’s got to be a bit concerning that neither saw much playing time during their loan stints.
If selected (and available), Barnes becomes New York City’s best defender. He’s an athletic defender who loves to attack the ball, and has great anticipation and timing in the run of play. Barnes is a natural center back, but he can play every position across the back — in both three- and four-man formations. It’s unusual to have a player who can play both left and right back; Barnes can. Finally, and this is the key point: Barnes is a good distributor of the ball from the back. Given that New York City want to play the game in the same style as Manchester City, that’s crucial — and I think that’s the clincher for his selection by the club.
There you have it. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments for other players you’d like to see New York City consider. In less than 24 hours, we’ll all know how wise — or foolish — our predictions are.