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A closer look at the MLS Expansion Draft


As far as expansion drafts go, it is tough to say that Seattle Sounders FC had a great one.

Sure, the newest MLS expansion team scored some gems, including a bona fide target striker and some quality midfield threats, but the Seattle braintrust missed the mark on several of its picks, leaving you to wonder if soon-to-be head coach Sigi Schmid really did play a key role in the selections (you would think he did considering the selection of Schmid favorite Peter Vagenas.)

While we won't know the actual roster impact made by Seattle's selections until any potential trades associated with the picks are revealed, but first impressions of the group are mixed.

Here is a closer look at the 10 selections the Sounders made on Wednesday:

Nate Jaqua (Houston)– Easiest pick to make. Jaqua is a proven MLS target striker who has ties to the Pacific Northwest as an Oregon native. He should work well alongside Sebastian LeToux and should give Freddie Ljungberg a big target up top.

Brad Evans (Columbus)– Arguably the best value among the picks, Evans is a versatile midfielder who can play centrally or on the right wing if need be. He's a Sigi Schmid favorite and was the right pick to make off the Columbus Crew list.

Stephen King (Chicago)– Whether he is trade bait or someone Seattle plans to use as a defensive midfielder, King is another young and versatile central player who has a low salary and good upside. Some folks would have preferred Marco Pappa off the Fire list but the Guatemalan winger would have required a high salary in order to keep him from returning to Central America.

Tyson Wahl (Kansas City)– A young, talented and inexpensive central defender, Wahl should step right in and start for the Sounders, which makes it understandable why Seattle passed on the chance to grab Kevin Hartman and use him as trade bait.

James Riley (San Jose)– While most observers expected Seattle to turn to Washington native Brandon Prideaux to fill the team's need at right back, the Sounders turned to the more athletic and younger Riley, who made it two straight expansion drafts he has been taken in. Was it the right call? Prideaux was the safer pick and had the better 2008, but Riley is younger, faster and provides a better attacking threat from the right back position.

Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake)– There is nothing wrong with an expansion team taking a gamble on a talented but injury prone player, particular one with as much upside as Sturgis. It is certainly a gamble, particularly since Seattle will play on turf, but Sturgis was regarded as one of the league's best young talents before injuries cut short most of the past two seasons.

Khano Smith (New England)– One of the more mind-boggling picks in the bunch. Smith is an erratic and enigmatic player whose talent is matched by his inconsistency and penchant for making bone-head decisions. How Seattle passed on Pat Phelan, a young, inexpensive and versatile central defender/defensive midfielder is truly perplexing.

Peter Vagenas (Los Angeles)– Yes, Vagenas is a veteran with the experience to help a potentially young expansion team, but there are questions about how much he has left and whether he is still worth the salary he commanded in 2008 ($144K). If this was a Sigi Schmid-driven move, then it makes plenty of sense and you can justify Schmid wanting to bring in one of his own to be a clubhouse leader. However, given the wealth of central midfield talent already at Seattle's disposal, you can't help but wonder if Seattle wouldn't have been better off landing a young, talented and cheap left back option in Mike Randolph.

Jeff Parke (New York)– Looks like a very solid pick on the surface because Parke is one of the league's most underrated defenders, but the reality is Parke is out of contract and has plans to seek a much bigger deal in Europe than he could realistically hope to find in MLS. If Parke does move to Europe then Seattle committed a blunder. If Parke changes his mind about going abroad, or returns from Europe during the 2009 season, the Sounders could score a gem (though even if he does come back, he will command a six-figure salary).

Jarrod Smith (Toronto FC)– There was absolutely no bigger mistake in the expansion draft than taking Smith. Why? Well, for one he was the wrong Smith to take from Toronto (Johann Smith was the right one). Secondly, sources tell me TFC had every intention of waiving Jarrod Smith anyway so Seattle essentially wasted one of its 10 picks on a player it could have claimed off waivers a few hours later. Third, after taking Jaqua did Seattle really need another big forward, particularly one who proved largely ineffective in Toronto?

What did you think of the expansion draft? As a Seattle fan, which pick excited you the most? How about which pick disappointed you the most? Are you a Crew fan sad to see Evans leave? Are you a Red Bulls fans who can't believe Jeff Parke's days in New York are over? Are you a Galaxy fan who can't believe Seattle took Vagenas?

Share your thoughts on the expansion draft below.


  1. Ives, regular reader, rare poster and rarer disagree with your view on Jarrod Smith.

    JaSmith was a pick for someone who can come in and play right away. Perfect choice for a cheap sub striker. He was not exactly given time to get going as a striker, moved to the wing and from there got lost in the mix. If he finished on a few of the chances confidence would have gone up. He isn’t flashy and that coupled with adapting to the league, cost JaSmith being rated in Carvers view, in my opinion.

    Johann Smith is far away less ready to play to play than Jarrod. “CrazyLegs” Smith is not ready to start and next season may not end the season with the club. Aside from one play in NY, he did nothing. He lost the ball, had no control and pulled a disappearing Ricketts act, the same one Rohan Ricketts pulled, on so many nights. Lets not mention defending because is is allegedly an “attacking” player.

    What was JoSmith really good at to warrant your thought of being selected? I do not see it and would be happy if JoSmith spent a year learning how to play the game, not rely on being able to run faster than the other guy.

    I was one of the few who foresaw this pick coming. Jarrod could have had 5 or 6 goals this past season, but just missed his chances early. TFC was in a bind on the wings and with the addition of Barrett and Ibbe, there was no room for Jarrod up front.

    Very possible it was a throwaway pick, give Jarrod a chance type deal, but I thought with money in LeToux and Jaqua available, JaSmith would be a good 3rd or 4th option.

  2. I’m glad Seattle chose Khano Smith. I’ve never been a big fan of his play for New England. However, with Smith and Adam Cristman now gone, do the Revs have any plans to replace them?

  3. I expected them to take Marco Pappa, Ian Joy, Zach Wells, Johann Smith, and Jim Curtin instead of Stephen King, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas, Jarrod Smith, Khano Smith and James Riley.

  4. One of the things that I think bothers me with these expansion drafts is teams approach to avoid higher salary players who are proven commodities in this league. I understand teams dont want to commit salary already, but I would like to see a team go ahead and pick the best players available and see how that plays out. I thought SJ did a bit of this, and proved to be fairly decent. Then again, I don’t get why Seattle has signed 3 guys who havent played in a yr to contracts already. So they either know something I dont, or are over thinking things.

  5. Vagenas and Jarrod Smith the two most mind boggling picks in my opinion… I don’t buy into your thought of Phelan over Smith. Phelan started only 5 games last season. Smith was a regular starter and contributor. He’s big, fast and while he’s a bone head, he’s more effective NOW than Phelan will be in the coming year or two.

    Jarrod Smith… wow, who knows?

  6. I’m not saying I would have picked him, but I’m not as down on the Khano Smith pick as many. He makes a lot of spectacular mistakes, but I like his attitude for an attacking player. He doesn’t let mistakes get him down and will go right back after a defense, which is what an attacker should do.

  7. As a fellow West Virginia grad DONT SLEEP on Jerrod Smith. He was a big time goal scorer with the Mounties. He will do the same with the Sounders once he matures…which will be soon.

  8. I hope Seattle is planning to make a big splash or two with its remaining cap room. I thought we needed to grab some younger, bigger midfield names in the expansion draft — Gaven, Pappa, Ricketts.

    Without a big splash, our draft looks very strange. Cheap, yes, but also a little old in places and a little injury prone. …and we already have Ljundberg.

  9. JLoome, you’re my boy, but I need to clarify some things. The term “you can rate him” meant you can think he’s good if you want. And you watching every TFC game doesn’t mean you’re an expert on Jarrod Smith, unless of course you spent every one of his minutes on the field just watching him. Even then I would ask if you’ve watched him in reserve matches, training, or spoken to his coaches or his teammates to get a full sense of his abilities as a player. I haven’t watched him in all these settings, but I’ve talked to enough people who have and the general consensus is that he’s not that effective a player.

    Did it occur to you that the reason that Smith didn’t get more chances for TFC at his natural position was because he simply wasn’t good enough? You took issue with the word “unproductive”. Isn’t the definition of unproductive to not produce? Is one goal in 20 games, one goal in 728 minutes productive? Nope, it isn’t, so how did I use the word improperly?

    If anything, I think I was kinder than I could have been with regard to Smith. I could have called him a stiff, not MLS quality, or a waste of a roster spot, but I didn’t. I called him unproductive. If he goes out and scores five or more goals for SEattle next year, I will gladly admit to having been wrong. If he gets waived before the start of the season, you might have to accept that maybe I was right about him (and that maybe the conspiracy theorists were right about Seattle taking the wrong Smith).

    JLoome, you seem to imply that if given a real chance to play “his position” Jarrod Smith would have been effective and scored more goals. I argue that he wasn’t given more minutes because he simply didn’t show enough in training or the minutes he did get to earn more playing time.

    IN the end, I think we agree that it wasn’t a great pick by Seattle considering what was available. The biggest issue Seattle fans should take with the pick is the fact that they could have had Smith off waivers rather than using one of their 10 expansion picks on him.

    Oh, and JLoome, who exactly is “gushing” over Phelan? Say what you want but Phelan is a more promising player than Smith. He didn’t play a minute for Toronto so what are you basing his lack of ability on? Nobody is saying he’s John Terry, but he’s a skilled central defender who can also fill in as a defensive midfielder. I don’t think Revs fans are complaining that their team still has Phelan.

    Let’s come back to this a few years from now and see how Jarrod Smith’s career went and Pat Phelan’s career went. I’ll gladly eat crow if Jarrod Smith becomes a late bloomer and turns into a productive MLS player.

  10. Ives,

    I can rate him because I’ve seen every minute the guy has ever played. Outside of TFC fans, I don’t think too many people have had that much of a chance to make an assessment.

    And I didn’t say he was a good pick, just that you were harsh for calling him an unproductive or ineffective player. He was a benchwarmer. I don’t know how a guy who gets, at most, 10 minutes per game in most of his 20 appearances, and only twice at his actual position, could be fairly judged “unproductive.”

    For the same reason, all the gushing over Pat Phelan is a bit much. He’s hardly played. And after seeing him when he was in Toronto’s squad, the excitement is premature, to say the least. Much like Julius James, he looked a long way off being a starter to me.

    Maybe I’m overrating him or he’s due for a big raise or something, but I wonder why they didn’t take Wells Thompson.

  11. Jarrod Smith is more versatile and more of a role player than Johann Smith. Johann is a one way player who plays left wing only with nothing but lots of stepovers. Both are bench players in MLS.

    If you were going to pick a bench player from TFC, I would have selected someone like Marco Velez, who is an experienced defender with a reasonable salary.

  12. jarrod turns 25 next year too, and has done absolutely nothing in his pro career to suggest he’s more than a benchwarmer.

    if he was 22 (hey, johann will be 22 next spring) I could see the pick happening based on potential. But 25 is getting up there — he has maybe a year or 2 to really grow as a player.

    His international experience is meaningless, since New Zealand plays teams like New Caledonia, Fiji, and Vanuatu.

  13. Also, what does John O’Brien think abour single table, getting our schedule in line with the rest of the world football community & relegation/promotion???

  14. Ives,

    Some very important and pressing questions that need to be answered.

    1) Whatever happened to John O’Brien?

    2) Where do you think MLS will expand to next?

    3) What is your favorite color?

  15. Well if they made a mistake on the Smith’s, they covered it well during their press conference, gushing about Jarrod’s ability to play as a target striker and being a star for New Zealand.

    I thought Smith had some potential coming out of college but at this point will be surprised if he sticks in MLS.

    MLS only insists on grass when they feel like it. Example #1: Toronto FC. Example #2: New England changing surfaces. Grass is preferred but clearly (and maybe unfortunately) not mandatory.

  16. JLoome, you can rate Jarrod Smith if you want, and make excuses for his lack of production. I say he’s not that good and there are plenty around the league who agree. More importantly, there were better players than him to be had, yet Seattle took him anyway. Nevermind the fact that he could have been grabbed off waivers rather than taken in the expansion draft. It was a terrible pick any way you slice it.

  17. I forgot that Seattle has turf. I thought MLS was insisting on stadiums with grass. Doe Seattle have any plans for a new soccer stadium with grass?

  18. I’m in the camp that thinks they might have made a mistake on the smiths, knowing they didn’t want the Smith who was a Kiwi, then seeing “johann” and assuming it was a foreign player.

    Or something equally dopey.

    But Ives, you’re too harsh on Jarrod Smith. He wasn’t ineffective; he only ever got two starts at his natural position, which is as a target forward. Carver preferred to use him as a sub winger, and he was all right. Nothing special, but certainly not a liability in any sense. There are some teams in this league with such lousy wide play he’d probably improve them immediately, and it’s not even his natural position.

    On the three occasions (two during the season and once in pre-season) that Smith played as a target forward, he scored twice, both in the air. They likely see him as a natural to sub in for either Jaqua or Le Toux (who is a converted wingback/midfielder and has similar skills).

  19. Alex, I was thinking the exact same thing. I’ll be waiting for Ives to break the story of how Chris Henderson wrote down Jarrod instead on Johann. That would be the story of the year.

  20. DaveClark-

    Only issue with you guys drafting Ricketts is the fact he hasnt resigned and would most likely take a higher paying job in England if he couldnt play at TFC under Carver (who he has great admiration for).

  21. Sorry, forgot this. I was hoping for Ricketts from TFC, he’s actually good, but expensive and he’s played (limitedly) with Ljungberg and Keller.

    Also was hoping for the young and talented Gaven over Evans.

    They didn’t draft for a starting lineup, but for depth, which in some ways makes sense, as most of the players taken likely didn’t start for the clubs losing them, so why should they be expected to start on a team that has stated it wants success in the CCL in year two?

  22. Ives,

    I’m actually disappointed. I advocated spending some money on talent and dealing them for allocation cahs or draft picks.

    Sorry you took at as defense. I think the hidden gem from this draft is that it is obvious that there are either bigger moves coming, or that talent evalution here is suspect. And yes, we can’t know for certain the contracts that the players will have, but I think it is rather obvious that there will be plenty of cap room for the players that are left to sign.



  25. I still think that they were thinking about Johann Smith when they wrote down Jarrod Smith.

    If that story came out… man that would be emberrasing.

  26. Khano Smith is often underrated, because of his inconsistency and his spectacular mistakes. He is, however, one of the faster players in MLS, has much better touches than he is given credit for, and has scored some clutch goals. He is the most effective dribbler on the Seattle draft list. For Seattle to have taken Phelan, who plays Evans position, but is less gifted than Evans in every category, would have made no sense to a Rev fan.

  27. explain to me Guys…how come seattle passed on Johann smith?

    1)he’s younger

    2) he has a lot of potentials and skills.

    johnn didn’t really that much of a time to show off his stuffs he had couple of minutes. when he did have the time he showed you what he could do…..come on now

  28. Ives 1)do u have any idea bout Toronto and NY DP are?

    2)for next season do you think Toronto gonna have some real grass on the field

    3)do u think one day DC UNITED might have its own stadium? if they do. that stadium would b the most rawdy,noisy and entertain place to be

  29. Dave, the piece was “A closer look at the MLS Expansion Draft” NOT “The State of the Seattle Sounders salary cap.” And just for the record, you can’t really know how much below the cap Seattle is until you know what the 2009 figures are for all these guys. Since we don’t know, we can’t know how much more wiggle room Seattle has.

    I didn’t criticize the cheaper picks, if anything those were the good picks. My issue was with some of the picks where they actually spent money (Vagenas and Khano Smith) and at least one pick that made no sense (Jarrod Smith).

    Seattle still has plenty of room to maneuver and build a strong club (I don’t seem to recall anybody saying any different), but their performance in the expansion draft was weaker than it could have been. That’s all.

    Way to jump to the defense of your team before it ever takes the field though. Shows that there are already some folks who care about and are ready to defend the team. Nice.

  30. Ives, no comment on the fact that the club has nearly 1 M$ left of cap space for between 4 to 6 Senior roster players?

    They went cheap for a reason. They picked these guys not to be starters, that or you think they are going to sign 5 USL player for about 150k each?

  31. I actually think you’re spot on with most of the analysis. I’ll differ on Phelan because even though several out there think so, I’m not convinced he’ll be good in MLS. But anyways Phelan would have been better than Khano. I’d have rather gambled on Badilla rebounding to previous form or have grabbed a solid role player like Pitchkolan. Lawson Vaughn, Stephen Keel, and even Quavas Kirk would have been better picks than Khano Smith.

    Any word on who DC, Toronto, San Jose, or Houston might have waived? Are some teams not disclosing which developmental players they’ve released? I get the idea of discretion in basically firing someone the week of Thanksgiving. But as a pro league MLS needs better transparency and attention to detail in describing player transactions.

  32. I’m counting a lot of internationals here: Freddie x2(if the other one ever comes over), LeToux, Nyassi, Smith x2. Only leaves 2 more spots open to import talent from Central, South America…

  33. Ives, I agree all around. They scored some good players, but I have absolutely no idea what they were thinking with a few of those picks, particularly Jarrod Smith. To be honest, at first I thought it was a typo and that you meant to type Johann. How on earth can you pick Jarrod Smith over Johann Smith? Perhaps they mistook Jarrod for Johann?

    Phelan over Smith also looks like an easy pick. Unless Parke really likes the idea of playing in Scandinavia, I think he’s going to be back in MLS, and I think he’ll be worth his salary for Seattle.

  34. As a Crew fan, it’s sad to see Evans go. Good pick by Seattle. Let’s hope Moffat stays healthy and Noonan shows us why everyone in New England cannot stop raving about how versatile he is.

    It would have hurt us more if Lenhart was chosen. I have a feeling Robert is going to use him well.

    Go Crew!


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