Top Stories

A primer on MLS expansion draft strategy (why Pappa and Parke were left exposed)

Marco Pappa (

                                              Photo by

When the lists were released on Monday of players who would be made available in the expansion draft, two names that drew plenty of scrutiny from fans were those of Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa and New York Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke. Not protecting these two fan favorites might seem like shaky moves but there are methods to the madness.

In the case of Pappa, sources tell me the Guatamalan winger will see his salary requirement increase dramatically if he were to join another MLS team, so a high price tag (nowhere near the $33,000 he made in 2008) is a safe bet to scare off a Seattle team that already has two wingers in Freddie Ljungberg and Sanna Nyassi. Seattle would be more inclined to select either veteran defender Brandon Prideaux or first-year midfielder Stephen King.

The case of Jeff Parke is a bit different.

Parke just completed the final year of his MLS contract and is therefore a free agent and can go to Europe if he chooses. Even if he doesn't, a new MLS deal would still need to be negotiated and Parke (despite the recent drug suspension) is good enough to ask for and deserve a deal north of $100K a year.

Is Seattle really going to use one of its 10 expansion picks on a defender who A) isn't guaranteed to re-sign with the league B) has a four-game suspension waiting for him in 2009 and C) might wind up costing a pricey salary even if he does sign? Parke is actually one of the better defenders available in the expansion draft, but don't be surprised to see Parke head to a smaller European league before possibly returning to MLS to play for his hometown Philadelphia team in 2010. That doesn't mean the Red Bulls don't want Parke, but it did mean that Parke was a player the Red Bulls could factor on Seattle passing on.

Ultimately, that is what the expansion lists are, a game of chicken where teams leave players exposed they figure the expansion team either can't afford or will be scared off by. Is there a chance Seattle could try to be shrewd and take a player it either doesn't need or can't afford? Sure, as we saw when Toronto FC grabbed then-Real Salt Lake forward Jason Kreis in their expansion draft. The difference in that instance was that Toronto actually could have used Kreis and it was pretty well known that Kreis was a big part of Real Salt Lake's future plans. 

If anything, the TFC-Kreis situation has taught teams to be somewhat cautious and smarter about their process. Now a team like Chicago knows that while Seattle could theoretically take Pappa in order to trade him back to Chicago, the Fire can stand firm and force Seattle to either sign him or waive him (or trade him elsewhere, but the market for unproven young foreign players on six-figure salaries isn't a big one).

Seattle has three simple tasks coming up on Wednesday: find some players who can start for Sounders FC, find players who are good values and find some players who could draw a good price in a trade. For teams like Chicago and New York, they are banking that the quality players they did leave exposed have just enough risks and question marks to convince Seattle to look elsewhere.


  1. High salary or not (unless above $200K), I woulng take a chance on Pappa. He has looked solid and every roster is now 24 not 28. It has to be Pappa or King selected from the Fire and I would take a chance with Pappa.

  2. Regarding Pappa, I’ve been told by solid sources that a high salary kicks in during the next year of his loan deal, which would make him an unlikely target for a team looking for solid veteran defenders and young forwards. Prideaux is an option off the Fire list, as is CJ Brown and Calen Carr. Personally I like Stephen King among the Fire’s available player but Seattle has midfielders and there are some other good midfield options available.

  3. Drew, Angulo has a contract with MLS. The Revs turned down the chance to sign Angulo but apparently the MLS rules dictate that the team with the last chance to sign him have his rights until the next year’s discovery period, which begins next month.

  4. Seattle are already in the DP bind — the blew 400K on one guy. Now they gotta sign the rest of their squad + bench on the cheap. (see: Galaxy). Given the last season of MLS I’m willing to bet that half the league is shopping for strikers, half the league is shopping for defenders and my TFC is shopping for both (no one really needs midfielders right now). If Seattle was smart they’d draft heavy in areas where they could sell and then sell-on for allocation money to allow them to bring in a few 300K-calibre players.

  5. Regarding taking a player and trading him, I’d say these are the two most likely.

    1) Kevin Hartman (to LA/CHV). A better keeper and Crayton, and way younger than Onstad. Of course, you’d have to get something back. He’s played for LA before. You could trade him to Chivas, they have more prospects and talent.

    2) Ronnie O’Brien. He hates playing on turf, but I bet many teams would give a lot for a RW of that quality (DC, RSL).

  6. Ives,

    Couldn’t someone negotiate a trade with Seattle for Pappa? Even if no, Seattle would be foolish to pass on Pappa. Let’s see if the Sounders make the right moves tomorrow.

  7. The Athority:

    Thanks, you as well. You might be right. I’m hoping Freddie can regain some of the magic he once had. In MLS, he won’t need quite as much of it because of the talent drop, and perhaps, his time in West Ham was misleading. It is hard to go from one of the best clubs in the world to a mid-table Premier club. The passes that would find Henry might not find Dean Ashton (who is a fine player, but no Henry). We will see though. If nothing else, Freddie is a hard worker, and I imagine, that even if he is unable to recapture the form of his Arsenal days, he will endear himself to Seattle’s fans for that alone.

  8. BLW – If Seattle take Onstad, they get him at his current salary. Remember, it is not the individual teams that a player signs with but MLS. So, if they want to trade him that salary goes with him and they just have to get the best deal they can for him. E.g. if LA wanted Onstad, maybe they would give up a young, less expensive player like Franklin who was protected. I wouldn’t, but they need a decent keeper badly. Of course, so do several other teams, Chivas, Colorado, DC, etc.

  9. Ethan,

    Good post. Freddie was the heart and soul (outside of Viera) of those Arsenal teams. With his bright red dyed hair (when he had hair), he was such a fire plug and spark.

    Seems that some players lose it all of a sudden and he is one of them. From one season to the next he was done. He lost that step that let him get around the outside and he doesn’t have the tight ball control to fool defenders easily.

    He is a good crosser, is smart, and is accomplished.

    I just don’t think that Ronnie O’Brien is a DP. That is the player that I can most closely associate him with.


Leave a Comment