As promised yesterday, I wanted to provide more information on Chivas USA 2012 SuperDraft pick Casey Townsend. The 22 year old played four years at the University of Maryland, where he scored 43 goals, with a high of 17 in 2011. He has succeeded in high school, as a three-time Parade All-American, and coming from Traverse City, Michigan (I'm from Michigan, and Traverse City is a long way from Detroit) it probably isn't too easy to get noticed compared to players from other parts of the country. In college, he received ACC first-team honors in 2010 and 2011, which is impressive considering how much talent is in that conference. He was also a finalist in 2011 for the Hermann Trophy, given to the best college player in the U.S., won by Andrew Wenger, who ended up being the first overall pick. Can't consider that bad company, right?
Although salary figures will not be known until the players' union releases that information later in the year, as a point of comparison, defender A.J. Soares was selected in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by the New England Revolution as the 6th overall pick. Soares did not belong to the GA program and he made $42,000 in base salary and $82,000 in guaranteed compensation in 2011. Soares ended up playing 28 matches in 2011, all starts, with 2,464 minutes for an admittedly poor Revolution side. In contrast, Zarek Valentin, who of course was in GA, made $80,000 in base salary and $132,000 guaranteed compensation. Valentin made 25 appearances, 24 starts, for 2,114 minutes for an also admittedly poor Chivas side (Chivas finished two places higher than New England in the overall standings).
All of that salary talk is to say that Townsend is a good value compared to some of the GA guys, and will not have the same kind of pressure, either on the field or for the front office in salary considerations - assuming he can play, of course.
Now, about that. I think Rachna Kapur's description of Townsend following our mock draft selection of him last weekend breaks it down very well. He seems to have a nose for goal, and plays well in the penalty box, which would be a fantastic element in Chivas' attack, as most players seemed to be allergic to scoring in the box in 2011. His leaping ability has been vaunted, and despite a slight frame he seems to have an ability to get up high in the air and stay up for crosses and corner kicks. He is a hard worker, and seems like the natural replacement to Justin Braun among the Chivas strikeforce as far as that is concerned. I do hope Townsend's touch and overall consistency will represent an improvement over Braun, however. Otherwise, his departure will look very foolish indeed.
I have a few general concerns, but nothing necessarily out of the ordinary. The biggest is whether Townsend will be able to adjust to the professional game, with bigger and faster players, a much longer season and the general stresses that come with being a pro soccer player. Probably the biggest knock on Townsend is his size, and it could be a real concern when it comes to playing against grown men day in and day out. He needs to have strength on the ball and be able to fight for position on the field in a physical league. That said, there are a lot of thin or lanky players in MLS, and concerns about his size might ultimately be overrated. Also lending credence to Townsend's prospects in MLS is the fact that he was voted MVP of the recent MLS Combine. Obviously, he was playing fellow prospects, but for the most part, these players were the cream of the crop of draft-eligible players and he performed very well during the event.
Other concerns are also general to any player, such as his mentality, his ability to deal with injury or setbacks, and his ability to learn and take constructive criticism from coaches and players. I haven't read any indications that this could be a problem, but a consideration for any player. Finally, and I think I'm reaching pretty far here, he'll be moving to Southern California, and finally getting paid (albeit not like other pro athletes in the U.S.) gets some guys into trouble. I don't want to paint him as naive or anything, but Traverse City, Michigan has a population a little under 15,000, while College Park, Maryland has a population of roughly 30,000. There are small towns in Southern California, of course, but life in So Cal will be different. Still, I came from Michigan to this area myself, and it has yet to chew me up and spit me out, so he's probably going to be just fine.
Again, since he's already signed and will begin training with the rest of the squad next week, we'll get to see him in action pretty soon. I'm feeling optimistic about his prospects with Chivas, and who knows? This could be the start of a brilliant career. Greg Lalas tapped him as a potential rookie of the year candidate by season's end on the MLS ExtraTime Radio podcast yesterday. For his sake, as well as Chivas fans', at least Simon Borg didn't do it - he seems to curse every player he lauds.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!