Two different strategies, one identical goal.
The 2019 MLS Expansion Draft came and went on Tuesday as both Inter Miami and Nashville SC used it to bolster their rosters ahead of their inaugural seasons in the league. The approaches the two clubs took were a bit distinct, however, with Inter Miami surprisingly opting to keep all of its picks while Nashville SC chose to do a bit of wheeling and dealing.
Here is a closer look at each of their picks as well as their entire expansion draft hauls:
1. Ben Sweat — left back — New York City FC
Inter’s best pick of the draft. Left back is a difficult position to fill in Major League Soccer, and Inter Miami got a very serviceable one in the veteran Sweat. While he is not very attack-minded, he is a solid overall defender and can either start or serve as good depth. What’s more, he can play center back in a pinch and is a Floridian to boot.
2. Alvas Powell — right back — FC Cincinnati
More in line with the attack-minded style that Inter Miami wants for its team, Powell was a decent selection from a fit standpoint. That said, the Jamaican international’s level dropped quite a bit in 2019 and his defensive limitations can be pretty jarring. Inter Miami looks to have addressed fullback depth here, but may have been better suited to trade Powell for allocation money.
3. Lee Nguyen — central midfielder — LAFC
The oldest player taken in this draft at 33, Nguyen feels like a stopgap reserve playmaker that Inter Miami will count on for one year and one year only. Nguyen is technical, possesses decent vision, and can play both as a No. 10 and a No. 8. Time is certainly not on his side, however.
4. Luis Argudo — Midfielder — Columbus Crew SC
Argudo is both versatile and young, and the flashes he showed this past season centrally and out wide make him an intriguing selection for depth purposes and long-term planning. Inter Miami probably could have dealt him to someone for a decent penny, but keeping him to see how he develops is not a bad option either.
5. Bryan Meredith — Goalkeeper — Seattle Sounders
Inter Miami needed some goalkeeper depth, especially since Drake Callender is not yet signed, but there were much better options than a player who has only 13 MLS appearances since his debut season in 2011. Tyler Miller would have made more sense, even if the club flipped him elsewhere, as would have the more experienced Matt Lampson and Brian Rowe. The latter would have had the added benefit of delivering a blow to inner-state foe Orlando City, which used Rowe as its No. 1 in 2019.
EXPANSION DRAFT GRADE: C
It was not a great draft nor was it a bad one. It was just kind of ‘meh’. Inter Miami knocked it out of the park at first with NYCFC’s Ben Sweat, but then made questionable picks the rest of the way as it addressed midfield and defensive spots while avoiding picking any forwards. There were certainly some better options out there, especially for that fifth and final pick.
1. Abu Dunladi — Forward — Minnesota United
A solid if unspectacular first selection. Dunladi is young, relatively cheap, and can still grow plenty as a player. His production has reduced significantly since his solid rookie season in 2017, but he can still be a regular contributor and spot starter for this Nashville SC side.
2. Zarek Valentin — Fullback — Portland Timbers (Traded to Houston Dynamo for Joe Willis)
Nashville SC went the trade route with this pick, flipping the limited Valentin and some allocation money to the Dynamo in exchange for a veteran goalkeeper in Willis. The 31-year-old shotstopper may not be among the elite at his position in MLS, but is serviceable and has the ability and experience to be an every game starter if needed.
3. Jalil Anibaba — Centerback — New England Revolution
Anibaba is the very definition of depth. Boasting experience and versatility, the American can be a serviceable role player or spot starter. He was a lineup regular for the Revolution over the past two seasons, but is nowhere near a shutdown defender in this league and at this point in his career should probably just be option No. 3 in the centerback depth chart for Nashville SC.
4. Brandon Vazquez — Forward — Atlanta United (Traded to FC Cincinnati for allocation money)
Once again opting to move a pick, Nashville SC sent a young striker to FC Cincinnati in exchange for some allocation money that will be spread out over the next two seasons. Nashville SC certainly could have held onto Vazquez, but moving a player who is more promising potential than proven product is no crime either.
5. Jimmy Medranda — Defender/Midfielder — Sporting Kansas City
Nashville SC added more veteran seasoning and versatility to its roster by picking Medranda. The Colombian can play as a No. 6, left fullback, and left midfielder, but his form has dropped tremendously over the past couple of seasons. Even if the club cannot get him back to his best, Medranda should provide decent cover at a number of spots, particularly in midfield behind Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy.
EXPANSION DRAFT GRADE: B-
Nashville SC did not have any home run picks like Inter Miami did with the selection of Sweat, but got decent value out of all five selections. Nashville, like Miami, prioritized bolstering the defensive side of the ball. The big difference, though, was that SC Nashville also got a young forward and astutely added allocation money via trade.
What did you think of the picks made by both teams? Were you surprised with several talented players left on the board? Who do you think had the better draft?
Share your thoughts below.