Following the unveiling of each MLS team’s unprotected lists, it’s time to take a look at how Atlanta United and Minnesota United may fare in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft.
Atlanta United and Minnesota United enter Tuesday with vastly different needs. The former has taken an aggressive approach to roster building, having already signed a core of 14 players with varying international and domestic experience. The latter, meanwhile, has opted to move at a slower pace after inking up a pair of NASL centerpieces in Kevin Venegas and Justin Davis.
That fact makes Tuesday’s Expansion Draft all the more intriguing. With defense at a premium, does Tuesday’s event turn into a race to compile defensive options? Will either team be willing to select high-priced players, or will they wait and make their own decisions in the international market? Which MLS veterans and young prospects will find new homes with one of the two new teams?
SBI’s Ryan Tolmich and Franco Panizo share their predictions for the 10 players who will be chosen in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft.
1. Atlanta United – Chris Duvall (New York Red Bulls) – The fullback is a Georgia native, making him a natural fit for an Atlanta United team in need of defensive help. When healthy, Duvall is a very good defensive fullback and should be counted on to step right into the Atlanta United lineup.
1. Minnesota United – Harry Shipp (Montreal Impact) – True playmakers are hard to come by, and Shipp is the best of the bunch in Tuesday’s draft. His time in Montreal wasn’t always impressive, but simply looking at his production with the Chicago Fire offers a glimpse at what he could offer to the Loons in 2016.
2. Atlanta United – Collen Warner (Houston Dynamo) – Warner isn’t a sexy pick, but the Houston Dynamo midfielder could certainly do a job in the Atlanta United midfield. Warner offers a true No. 6 option, one that could certainly squeeze into the starting XI behind Miguel Almiron.
2. Minnesota United – Jared Watts (Colorado Rapids) – Watts is likely the best defender in the draft, and it would be surprising to see him left untouched on Tuesday afternoon. In Minnesota, Watts should be a day one starter after helping lead the Rapids to the best defensive record in the league in 2016.
3. Atlanta United – Kofi Opare (D.C. United) – With Michael Parkhurst already on the roster, Atlanta United could certainly use a younger option like Opare. The D.C. United defender could never quite beat out Bobby Boswell or Steve Birnbaum, but Opare offers plenty of talent and upside for a team that will be on the hunt for defenders.
3. Minnesota United – Erik Friberg (Seattle Sounders) – Veteran midfielders are always valuable, and Friberg would certainly be a solid addition following Saturday’s MLS Cup win. Certainly not the most exciting pick, but one that could provide stability for the team going forward.
4. Atlanta United – Chris Klute (Portland Timbers) – Klute has ties to the Atlanta area having previously played for the Silverbacks, making him another natural target for Atlanta United. A perfectly solid fullback, Klute could easily slide into the Atlanta United defense from the get-go.
4. Minnesota United – Clint Irwin (Toronto FC) – After waiting a bit, it would make sense for Minnesota United to finally pull the trigger on the goalkeeper they need. Jeff Attinella is an option, but Irwin is the best of the bunch when it comes to goalkeepers in this draft.
5. Atlanta United – Zach Loyd (FC Dallas) – A slightly risky pick given his concussion issues, but Atlanta United has more than enough room to take some flyers. If healthy, Loyd is a very good defensive option with a great contract and plenty of experience.
5. Minnesota United – Luke Boden (Orlando City) – Boden was one of Heath’s first pickups at Orlando City, and could certainly fit in well with Minnesota United. Heath already trusts him, and Boden does add depth at the fullback position heading into the season.
1. Atlanta United – Chris Duvall (New York Red Bulls) – A Georgia native with plenty of MLS experience and a cheap contract ($63,000 in 2016), the young and versatile Duvall seems the easy and obvious choice here.
1. Minnesota United – Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy) – Filling all three Designated Player spots this winter with difference-makers will not be easy, so the club could do worse than going with a proven goal-scorer that has star power and plans to stay in MLS in 2017.
2. Atlanta United – Luke Boden (Orlando City) – Director of soccer operations Paul McDonough knows what Boden can bring to the table after having the defender at Orlando City, and that familiarity combined with the Englishman’s low salary ($82,500 in 2016) will be too good to pass up on.
2. Minnesota United – Jose Goncalves (New England Revolution) – Goncalves is out of contract, so a new deal would have to be agreed upon this offseason, but his addition could give the club a defensive centerpiece with a bruising style of play.
3. Atlanta United – Bobby Boswell (D.C. United) – With the team’s brass valuing MLS experience, Boswell seems like an ideal candidate to serve as a locker room leader and partner for the recently-acquired Michael Parkhurst in the heart of the defense despite Boswell’s heftier price tag of $260,000.
3. Minnesota United – Cristian Maidana (Houston Dynamo) – The playmaking midfielder’s 2016 campaign with the anemic Houston Dynamo may have been disappointing, but the two seasons prior saw him deliver an impressive 26 assists with the Philadelphia Union. He has shown he can be effective in MLS, and can fill the No. 10 role for several seasons to come given that he is only 29-years old.
4. Atlanta United – Amobi Okugo (Portland Timbers) – One of McDonough’s first acquisitions in Orlando City, Okugo is the kind of young but experienced player that can add a boost, be it as a holding midfielder or centerback, to a side in need of defensive reinforcements.
4. Minnesota United – Clint Irwin (Toronto FC) – The club needs a proven goalkeeper capable of starting, and it could do much worse than acquiring a cheap one ($107,625 in 2016) in Irwin who helped Toronto FC reach the MLS Cup Final.
5. Atlanta United – Charlie Davies (Philadelphia Union) – A former U.S. Men’s National Team teammate of technical director Carlos Bocanegra, Davies would provide a different kind of skill set up top than that of Kenwyne Jones and deepen the club’s forward corps.
5. Minnesota United – Cristian Techera (Vancouver Whitecaps) – The Uruguayan winger might be small, but he is young, skillful, speedy, and capable of making an impact as evidenced by his 2015 season. All of those qualities make him tough to pass up on with the final pick.