D.C. United was close to trading one or more of its eight draft picks last night, but a deal never materialized.
United is looking for a holding midfielder or a right back. Sometime during today’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Orlando, Fla., expect United to consummate a trade for a proven veteran.
Last year’s SuperDraft loaded United’s cupboard with teen-age phenom Santino Quaranta, midfielders Mark Lisi and Bryan Namoff and defenders Craig Ziadie and Ryan Nelsen. Add 18-year-old star Bobby Convey to the mix, and United is set with young players for the future and coach Ray Hudson knows it.
“There is really nobody, no player that sends off a big red light in this draft,” Hudson said. “There’s as many as seven or eight that have a real decent chance to get into MLS and perhaps as many as two that will get a chance to start. A guy like Ziadie [whom United selected with a third-round pick in last year’s SuperDraft] would stand out like a lighthouse.”
United holds the fourth pick in the draft and appears on the verge of trading it for a veteran holding midfielder. The Dallas Burn have been shopping Chad Deering, whose wife is originally from Northern Virginia. The New York/New Jersey MetroStars may be willing to part with former United standout Richie Williams, especially if they are able to land John Harkes in today’s draft.
The New England Revolution have their backs squarely against the league’s stringent $1.7 million salary cap and may be willing to part with durable veteran Jim Rooney, who played for Hudson last season in Miami, for the fourth pick. The Los Angeles Galaxy may listen to offers for Peter Vagenas.
“We’re hopefully going to make an announcement on a holding midfielder of great value and will be a popular addition to the team,” Hudson said.
Yesterday, Hudson said he made a deal on a handshake. But this is MLS, where an innocent handshake can turn into a complicated mess involving international angles and open palms.
Because Hudson is unimpressed with the draft field, it’s safe to assume United will deal its first-round pick. United also has the 11th, 24th, 31st, 40th, 42nd, 53rd and 63rd overall picks in the SuperDraft.
“We’ve got a couple [prospects] lined up that we can utilize across the back,” he said. “I think we’ll use one of [the draft picks] and cause a bit of a surprise very much a sleeper.”
Hudson prefers playing veterans over younger players. With a core of young players already in place, Hudson feels he doesn’t need to keep stockpiling youth.
The biggest problem Hudson faces is the league’s salary cap. United stars Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno and Eddie Pope eat up almost half of United’s cap. Given that scenario, United probably won’t draft top-dollar veterans or, as Hudson calls them, “expensive commodities,” out of this draft.
“I’m very, very fortunate of the decisions that were made to bring in the Conveys, Lisis, and Quarantas because there is nobody in this draft,” Hudson said. “The pickings are pretty slim.”
Curt Onalfo, United’s assistant coach, has spent all week in Florida evaluating the college talent. Hudson joined Onalfo last Wednesday and coached one of the select all-star teams the past few days.
Hudson is certain Connecticut defender Chris Gbandi will be the first player chosen. Gbandi is recovering from an ACL injury and may not be ready to play this season, but his upside is too good for most teams to pass up.
An intriguing player for United to consider with the 11th pick is Southern Methodist’s Carl Bussey. Coming out of high school, Bussey was recruited by Texas to play cornerback and clocked a 10.8 100-yard dash. Bussey plays right back or defensive midfielder both needy areas for United and he and Virginia’s Marshall Leonard are considered the two fastest players in the draft.
“We’ve got a couple of decisions to make,” Hudson said. “The players have been identified, we’re familiar with them and we like them. I’m leaning towards perhaps using the picks, but everything is etched in soap. Our defense needs to be bolstered.”