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Posted at 8:40 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

MLS re-entry draft - who should United take?

By Jeff Maurer

The re-entry draft is today. Not familiar with the re-entry draft? It's simple...

First, certain players are set adrift on an ice flow by their current teams. These players send a homing pigeon to each team with a note that says: "Do you like me? Check 'yes' or 'no'." If the team checks "yes", then the player becomes property of that team IF they give 80 head of cattle to the player's former team AND the team passes a home inspection by the SPCA. Then, the negotiation ritual begins: the MLS team fans out its plumage, at which point the player's buttocks becomes swollen and engorged. The MLS team lets out a warbling, staccato mating call. The player kicks dirt up dirt with his claws and puts forth an offering of regurgitated nuts and berries. If, at that point, the player can identify the one item on the blanket that belonged to him in a past life, then the deal is done.

Got it? Good. There are some interesting players in the draft, but they all come at a price; they're only on the list because their current club didn't want to pay their 2011 salary. Still, United are already saying that they're going to draft someone. I won't pretend to know the specifics of United's financial situation - MLS salary cap rules are ridiculously complex, and information about player contracts is hard to come by - by I'll assume that with Moreno and Allsopp coming off the books, they have a moderate amount of money to spend. 

So, let's take a look at some of the more interesting players in the draft. United's needs are: everything except a goalkeeper.

D - Frankie Hejduk. Fans love gritty, hustling players. And we love them even more when they're not overwhelmed with talent - it's like watching a bad dancer own the dance floor at a wedding: you have to respect someone who makes the most of what they've got. Fankie's always been that kind of player - he's probably got the highest work rate of any player I've ever seen. I am a fan. He also made $127,500 in 2010...very reasonable. But he's also 36 and has had some leg problems. Plus, remember Bryan Namoff? You know who might not...Bryan Namoff. That was a pretty serious concussion. But if Namoff can come back, then we don't need another right back.

D - Cory Gibbs. Like Hejduk, missed the 2006 World Cup due to injury. Unlike Hejduk, it took him a long time to get healthy. I always liked Gibbs - he's a good player who has caught some really bad breaks with injuries. Actually, his career has had a sort of Ben Olsen-like arc. Maybe Ben will feel a kinship and take him on, and for $128,000 (2010 salary), you could do worse. 

D - Jimmy Conrad. Now for one of the guys who benefited from Hejduk and Gibbs' injuries during the '06 World Cup: Jimmy Conrad. Do I like him because he's good, or do I like him because he's funny? Hard to say. But he seems like exactly what United is looking for: a solid, veteran presence in the middle of defense. He's one of the top center backs in MLS. The bad news is he'll be 34 in February, and he made $244,000 in 2010. Is he still worth that kind of money? I'd say yes (of course, I won't be signing his check). He hasn't had many injuries, and he's widely known to be a fitness freak. Plus he was never a player who relied on speed (he is almost Boswell-esque in that department). Unless his salary would cause serious cap problems, I say you take him.

MF - Fred. Nice guy, decent player, but I remember 2009. I also saw him several times in 2010 and wasn't overly impressed. No thank you. 

M/F - Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Before I talk about Guillermo, can I ask this: Argentina is a modern country...why is their hair stuck in 1986? Look at their national team: mullet, perm, bowl cut, pony tail. Why is that? Is it Maradona's fault? Are his countrymen sabotaging their own hair so that he doesn't feel self-conscious about his Noir-Ronald McDonald perm? At any rate, hockey hair aside, Schelotto is an outstanding player. Yes, he'll be 38 in 2011, but he still led the Crew in goals and assists in 2010. And $241,000 (2010 salary) is a very reasonable price for that kind of talent. But there's a problem: where does he fit in United's lineup? Boskovic is your DP, so he's not going anywhere. You just picked up Dax McCarty. You could play Schelotto as a withdrawn striker, but that makes either Pontius or Hernandez the hold-up guy. That's not ideal. With all of the holes in United's lineup, you'd hope you could draft someone who wouldn't cause you to play three other guys out of position. 

F - Josh Wolff. The extra "f" is for "fond memories of the 2002 World Cup", which is why he still peaks people's interest even though he's only an average MLS player these days. 

F - Jeff Cunningham. What if I told you: "hey, I'm going to hook you up on a blind date with a friend of mine. He/she has 47 exes." For starters, you'd probably be put off by my use of "he slash she" in that description. But you might also be concerned about the 47 exes. I mean, what does that tell you about a person? Jeff Cunningham has been with five teams in the last seven years. A lot of those relationships ended badly. True, he's scored 132 MLS goals, but like most people with attractive stats who can't stay in a relationship, he's a little bit crazy. I don't think he's what United need right now.

F - Juan Pablo Angel. Like Conrad, seems to be a perfect fit for United, but money is a problem. Here's where the weird rules of the two-round re-entry draft come into play. If you take a player in Round 1, you're almost certainly going to end up paying him something close to his 2011 salary. If you take a player in Round 2, you have a lot more ability to negotiate. I don't think United will take him in Round 1; in fact, I don't think anyone will. He made $1.9 million in 2010, and I'd bet that his 2011 option is somewhere in that ballpark. If United get him in Round 2, he'll probably still make mid-level DP money (we still have our second DP slot, right? I couldn't confirm this online), but I think he'd be worth that.

So, what should United do? I say take Conrad in the first round, and take Angel if he's still available in the second. If you can't afford Conrad, Gibbs is a more cost-effective plan B. Either guy would be the best player in our back four right away. If you pick up a defender and Angel, then you almost certainly don't really have any money to do anything else, but that's okay with me: McCarty, Conrad, and Angel would be a pretty amazing off-season haul.

By Jeff Maurer  | December 8, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
Categories:  Jeff Maurer, United  | Tags:  D.C. United, Jeff Maurer  
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Comments

ice *floe*

Posted by: Ron16 | December 8, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

*piques*, not "peaks" interest

Posted by: Ron16 | December 8, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Ron "Sixteen" has some good corrections to an otherwise fine and infotaining article.

My question is whether the player with the swollen and engorged buttocks kicks up dirt with his claws while he is still on the ice floe or does this (and the ceremonial regurgitation) take place back upon terra firma near an MLS facility?

Very fascinating.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | December 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, meant to get to this earlier. Re Schelotto: I'm OK with the hair. What weirds me out is before the set pieces, when all those people in day-glo yellow start chanting "Gui-LLER-mo! Gui-LLER-mo!" while extending their arms forward and bowing down repeatedly, kowtow-style. I'm afraid that if we took him, they would come along.

Posted by: dccal | December 9, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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