Expansion Draft Day: What Should the Whitecaps Do?

Julian de Guzman has been exposed in the expansion draft? Might he be worth taking a risk? (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

You doubtless remember that last week, the SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft was held. The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers each selected ten players, I gloated about it... of course you remember, it's still the third post on this page. Well, at long last, the official lists of available players have been released. The expansion draft itself takes place at 10:45 AM this morning, Pacific Standard Time, and will be streamed live on MLSSoccer.com.

There's no point in my explaining which players the Whitecaps should draft at which positions, since the mock expansion draft pretty much nailed it. The expertise of the SB Nation MLS bloggers has shown through: most of the lists released a couple of days ago are similar, in broad strokes, to the ones our bloggers came up with using nothing but their intimate knowledge of the team. Nobody who reads any of the other Major League Soccer blogs on this network will be even faintly surprised. But there are just enough changes to make things interesting. After the jump, a look at some potential new targets the Whitecaps might want to take a look at.

Of the ten players the Whitecaps selected in the SB Nation Mock Expansion Draft, eight are available in the real expansion draft. The Seattle Sounders have protected my first pick, midfielder Brad Evans (reasonable enough: the folks at Sounder at Heart were thoroughly divided on whether to expose the oft-injured Evans or not). As well, in an interesting change of pace the New York Red Bulls traded a later pick of mine, fullback Jeremy Hall, to expansion rivals the Portland Timbers for future considerations. These considerations, according to people smarter than I am, include the Timbers not pillaging the Red Bulls roster for any additional talent. If not for the trade the Red Bulls presumably would have left Hall unprotected, and I would not have hesitated to jump on him.

Without Jeremy Hall, my hypothetical Whitecaps lineup is awfully short on good, young fullbacks (Wes Knight and that's literally it). Luckily for us, the Philadelphia Union surprised fans by exposing young, athletic, and gutsy fullback Shea Salinas. I'm a massive Cristian Arrieta fan, but now we have a role we need filled more than "third or fourth central defender". Brotherly Game asked me if I'd have taken Salinas in the mock draft, were he available. If I still could have gotten Jeremy Hall the answer would have been "no", but with Hall unavailable Salinas is the next-best option.

Chief among the newly exposed players is Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman. De Guzman is a designated player and has been a massive disappointment to the Toronto faithful. He is probably one of the least popular players in the Toronto lineup, is clearly considered the most overpaid, and no doubt an awful lot of Toronto fans are crossing their fingers that one of Vancouver or Portland take him off their hands. Not even I, one of de Guzman's staunchest defenders, would argue that he has been worth the money for Toronto. He has been far from Toronto's most valuable player in spite of being its best-paid one, and indeed has at times looked unable to do so much as string together two passes in a row. Basically, Toronto is paying seven figures for performance they could get for less than a hundred grand.

Yet, at one point in his career, de Guzman was one of the ten best holding midfielders in the world. Athletically, there's nothing stopping him from succeeding in Major League Soccer, and while he's a mere 5'6" he also isn't getting outmuscled or otherwise roughed up. His form for the Canadian national team has been perfectly reasonable, if not remarkable. By picking a player in the expansion draft, the Whitecaps would have the right to re-negotiate his contract and that would presumably include a designated player like de Guzman, whose value has never been lower than it is right now. Nor is de Guzman the only skilled player who has mysteriously gotten much, much worse when he entered the zone of dysfunction and failure that is BMO Field. Reigning MLS champion Marvell Wynne or his opposing finalist Jeff Cunningham could both speak at length about being cast off by the non-playoff FC to resurface as key players on MLS Cup contenders.

I'm not saying I would take Julian de Guzman. But with Brad Evans no longer an option, the Whitecaps have very few good choices to anchor their midfield. If de Guzman was asked to play a more traditional holding role, similar to his days at Deportivo and his best performances with Canada, there's no reason he couldn't be just as successful taking the ball off of inferior MLS players and moving it up to the likes of Davide Chiumiento. The problem with de Guzman is that there's a lot of risk involved: if he refuses to renegotiate his contract to a more reasonable value and he actually is as bad as Toronto FC fans think he is, then the Whitecaps would be left holding an awfully large bag. I'd stick with Amadou Sanyang as my target from Toronto for sure, but I'd be looking long and hard at Julian as well.

The most surprising thing our mock expansion draft got right is that the Houston Dynamo have, in fact, exposed Pat Onstad. I drafted Onstad in the mock expansion draft because I don't have faith in Jay Nolly as an MLS-calibre starting goalkeeper, but didn't expect him to be available in the real one. Onstad looks like the best goalkeeping option (though Jeremiah Oshan takes Real Salt Lake's Kyle Reynish), and just because he'd be shocked if the Whitecaps selected him doesn't mean they shouldn't. Earlier this month Dynamo Theory suggested that Houston boss Dominic Kinnear wanted Onstad back, so I assumed Onstad would be protected. On the other hand, neither Portland nor Vancouver have shown any inclination to upgrade their goalkeeping in the expansion draft: the Dynamo are probably just being clever. I don't expect the Whitecaps to grab Onstad, but I wish they would.

In fact, I'm hard-pressed to find a player I picked who I think the Whitecaps will agree with me on. If there's one thing we learned through the 2010 USSF D2 season and horrors like the Jonathan McDonald Experience, it's that the Vancouver brass has a different idea on how to build a team than I do. I would have bet money on the Whitecaps taking Brad Evans were he available, but he isn't. My choice for the mock pick most likely to be an actual pick is therefore New York defender Andrew Boyens. The Jeremy Hall trade means the Timbers aren't likely to take any more Red Bulls, and the Whitecaps enjoy building from the back line forward. Boyens isn't all that athletic but Vancouver's central defenders often enough aren't: he could be a rich man's Greg Janicki.

We'll see in a couple hours, though.

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