During Major League Soccer's 16 years, there have been eight different expansion drafts. All but three of them consisted of just one team picking players, just as the Montreal Impact did on Wednesday. Those five teams employed any number of strategies that have played out to wildly differing levels of success.
It seems safe to say that the Impact are the first one to use "trolling" as a major part of their plan. Sure, there are plenty of solid picks in that group, but it's hard not to think that Jesse Marsch and Co. were at least making some attempt to get under the skin of their new rivals.
The oft-injured and overpaid Brian Ching with your first pick? Snagging Humanitarian of the Year James Riley? Picking actual local boy Seth Sinovic from Kansas City? Sure, there are probably legitimate on-field reasons for taking each of these players, but they were all far valuable to the team on which they currently played than they could ever be to the Impact.
To be clear, I don't blame the Impact for taking this tack. MLS needs more vitriol and if a team owned by Joey Saputo is going to stir the pot, I'm all for it.
From a team-building standpoint, though, I do wonder about the intelligence of building your team this way. The Impact finished the day with a reasonably competent set of players, but it's also easy to second guess some of these picks.
Onto the grades:
Brian Ching: After saying he'd retire rather than play for the Impact, Marsch selected to big Hawaiian anyway. You gotta appreciate the chutzpah, but you also have to wonder what would have happened if Ching had just kept his mouth shut. There is almost zero chance he ever wears an Impact uniform. Clearly, the Impact are hoping to extract something that was otherwise unavailable to them by holding Ching ransom. That seems a dubious desire, as the Dynamo are no dummies. Grade: D-
Zarek Valentin: Shortly after the draft Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser indicated that Valentin's graduating from the Generation Adidas program (and thus necessitating them making a decision on whether or not to protect him) had caught the team by surprise. That's hardly an excuse for leaving him exposed, though, and this had to be the Impact's easiest pick of the draft. Grade: A-
Justin Mapp: The midfielder has somehow made enough of an impression in past years to be making some pretty decent money, at least by MLS standards. On some level, the Philadelphia Union are probably somewhat happy to have his more than $180,000 in guaranteed compensation off their books. On the other, he can probably be a useful piece in helping solidify the Impact's midfield. Grade: C+
Bobby Burling: Another popular player on his old team, but more importantly he was also a former teammate of Marsch's. Burling is a big, physical defender who had earned a spot in the Earthquakes' regular rotation. He should be a solid contributor. Grade: B
Jeb Brovsky: Of all the picks, this is the one that is hardest to understand. Brovsky is on the young side (22), but not so young that you expect him to improve vastly. He played a decent amount (24 appearances) during his rookie year, but it was for a really awful team. Surely, there had to be more interesting players out there than him. But he did play in Canada, which is something I guess. Grade: D
Collen Warner: No team had more interesting players exposed than Real Salt Lake. Any one of Paulo Jr., Andy Williams, Arturo Alvarez or Jean Alexandre could easily have been very good players for an expansion team. So who did the Impact take? A midfielder who showed promise, but not so much that anyone will miss him. Grade: C
Josh Gardner: People have really jumped on Marsch for picking Gardner, a 29-year-old midfielder-turned-left back who has spent the bulk of his professional life playing in the second division. That said, he provided some decent crossing and a dangerous shot. He's not without value. Based on who else the Impact picked, though, he's already the third best left back on this team. Grade: C
Sanna Nyassi: After scoring five goals and registering five assists despite moving around the field last year, it was a bit surprising to see him exposed. He's one of the fastest players in the league and given the right forward pairing could turn into the steal of this draft. Grade: A-
James Riley (Justin Braun and Gerson Mayen): The right back has now been picked in three expansion drafts and immediately traded after two of them. That the Impact managed to turn Riley and some allocation into Braun and Mayen suggests they do kinda know what they are doing. Braun is the real prize here and, for some reason, had fallen out of favor with Chivas USA. He has the potential to be a United States national team-quality forward and paired with Nyassi, could be a real threat. Grade: A
Seth Sinovic: A genuine local-boy-makes-good story with Kansas City, it was a bit surprising to see him unprotected. After getting cut by the New England Revolution, he caught on with Sporting and eventually earned a starting spot. He made less than the league minimum last year and is probably due a raise, but could definitely be a useful player. Grade: B-
*Tyson Wahl: Not officially part of the expansion draft, but his trade from the Sounders happened on the same day. Wahl is not necessarily a great defender, but he's a very good passer and proved to be very effective on set pieces. Prior to joining the Sounders, he had played center back and, considering who else is already on the team, could have been acquired with the thought of moving him back there. Depending on how much allocation money they gave up to get him, he could end up being a pretty decent pickup. Grade: B-