As I noted yesterday, Chivas USA's protected list produced a great amount of shock among fans and league observers. The hits keep coming with the 2012 MLS Expansion Draft taking place this afternoon. Although the Houston Dynamo tried to put in something of a puzzling decision themselves, it looks like Chivas wins the "WTF?" sweepstakes. I suppose if you can't win, at least keep things interesting, right? Well, let's see if these moves lead to wins in 2012.
As expected, defender Zarek Valentin was selected by the Montreal Impact in the draft, taken second overall, after Dynamo forward Brian Ching, who publicly threatened he would retire if selected. The Impact took him anyway. The loss of Valentin is huge, despite the Chivas' front office's evident ambivalence about losing him. However, it seemed pretty likely he would be leaving in the draft.Following the expected selection of Valentin, it got really interesting. With the ninth pick, Montreal selected Seattle Sounders defender James Riley, who was then traded to Chivas in exchange for Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen. Chivas also received allocation money in the deal, confirmed by the club, although the actual amount has not been disclosed.
It is perhaps not surprising that Montreal obtained several Chivas players, considering their coach is former Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch. He played with Braun and Mayen at Chivas, and Valentin is a coveted defender that many teams would like to have. As a result, among new players on the Impact, there is a strong Chivas-flavor, with San Jose Earthquakes defender Bobby Burling, formerly with Chivas, also selected in the draft.
In exchange for losing three players in 2011, including two starters, Chivas got Riley in return. Riley has been selected in three different MLS Expansion Drafts, which is something of a dubious distinction. Despite that, he was a regular starter with the Seattle Sounders, and could very likely replace Valentin at right back for Chivas. The sense I'm getting from Sounders fans today is that he's a good player, but most of them are not particularly devastated by his departure. So I think Chivas got a decent MLS pro out of this. The problem is that he's the only player obtained on the day. The allocation money should help the Goats sign a new player (perhaps two?) but we can't assume they'll actually use the money until they do. I know, it sounds cynical, but we can't assume players will be signed until they are.
I think the loss of Mayen is not surprising, as I predicted he may be on his way out of the club, and I think he never got a shot at a consistent position for Chivas, especially under Robin Fraser. And again, I think losing Valentin is incredibly short-sighted. If he turned into a senior USMNT-caliber defender, he might have four or five outstanding seasons with Chivas before making the move abroad to a bigger payday and a better challenge. If he didn't turn into a star, the signs pointed to him becoming a solid MLS pro, where he could have had a 15 year career with Chivas. Now Riley may actually be an upgrade in the short term, but he is 29, so his career from here on out is probably shorter than Valentin's.
On Braun, I think losing him is huge, but I can rationalize the reasons to let him go. Fraser clearly kept him on a short leash, and he didn't fully break out during the season to prove Fraser wrong. He is a hard worker, and played on the wing and came off the bench quite a bit, especially early in the season, but he is a center forward. The problem is that I still maintain he is a support striker, who would play best off another dynamic forward. I wouldn't be surprised if he scores double digit goals for Montreal in 2012, but his inconsistency for Chivas was maddening at times. He is a high-risk, high-reward guy - he showed in 2011 that he can score hat tricks, but he needs to score more regularly to really blossom as a player. Surprisingly, I think some non-Chivas fans valued Braun higher than those of us who watched him regularly, and I don't think he has any business being in the USMNT discussion this offseason. Could he become an international-caliber player? Absolutely. But he's not there yet.
I'm assuming Chivas will be signing another forward, as the other starting forwards at the end of the season (Alejandro Moreno and Juan Pablo Angel) are on the wrong side of 30. Plus, we don't know if Angel is returning, or if Marcos Mondaini will be coming back. The killer thing about losing Braun is that he was the youngest forward in the rotation, and it could prove costly in the long term. Plus, he was discovered by Preki when he was coaching Chivas, and he was one of the longest-tenured Chivas players. For his shortcomings on the field, a team without Braun is strange, to say the least.
In case you were wondering, here's full Expansion Draft results:
1.) Brian Ching, F (Houston Dynamo)
2.) Zarek Valentin, D (Chivas USA)
3.) Justin Mapp, M (Philadelphia Union)
4.) Bobby Burling, D (San Jose Earthquakes)
5.) Jeb Brovsky, D (Vancouver Whitecaps)
6.) Collen Warner, D (Real Salt Lake)
7.) Josh Gardner, F (Columbus Crew)
8.) Sanna Nyassi, M/F (Colorado Rapids)
9.) James Riley, D (Seattle Sounders) - traded to Chivas USA with allocation money for Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen
10.) Seth Sinovic, D (Sporting Kansas City)
What do you think of these moves? Leave a comment below!