The first stage of the re-entry process generally passes with little fanfare. Today's affair will likely adhere to the emerging rule.
Little incentive exists to pull a player off the board at this stage. By and large, there aren't a ton of appropriately priced starters on the board. If production matched value, then the players wouldn't find themselves plunged into this process in the first place.
Clubs can adjust that balance by offering reduced deals for second stage choices, but they must pay the option price for any player selected in stage one. Why would they absorb a guaranteed deal for next season at a price point that might drop significantly in the space of a week?
The short answer: they wouldn't. Only a handful of players have come off the board in stage one during the first two instances of the re-entry process. A couple of fellow professionals may join them this year. In an attempt to identify the type of characteristics usually found in stage one selections, the Friday Five sorted through the available options (listed in full on MLSsoccer.com) and identified five players capable of bucking the trend today.
1. Eric Avila, Toronto FC midfielder ($125,000 base/$158,000 guaranteed compensation in 2012, per MLS Players Union documents): Avila shares a common trait with three out of the five players selected in the first round of the re-entry process: he will see his contract conclude at the end of the year. A team can select the inconsistent midfielder and secure his MLS rights by extending a bona fide offer for his services. In this particular instance, a team that selects Avila acquires the rights to a potentially useful contributor and protects itself from assuming a deal it does not want to carry on its salary budget.
One caveat worth noting: none of the three out-of-contract players selected in stage one in 2010 and 2011 – Arturo Alvarez (Paços de Ferreira), Danleigh Borman (SuperSport United) and Aaron Hohlbein (Fort Lauderdale Strikers) – signed with the MLS club that selected them in the re-entry process.
2. Colin Clark, Houston midfielder ($105,427/$110,427): Clark falls into the same category as Avila with his contract set to expire at the end of December. Although he isn't the same winger that once reached the fringes of the U.S. national team after a pair of ACL tears, Clark remains a decent left-sided option in a league lacking in that particular department.
3. Maicon Santos, D.C. United forward ($106,400/$113,833): The other two players selected in the first stage of the re-entry process resemble this itinerant Brazilian striker: they were capable veterans with an established track record in MLS.
Santos fits that bill. He offers relatively stable production (21 goals in 88 MLS games) in his own streaky way. Any team that picks up his relatively modest option (assuming there isn't some sort of poison pill included to increase the standard year-to-year markup) will land a player capable of serving as a third striker at a reasonable price. And in this exercise, that sort of production represents a decent haul.
4. Stephen Keel, New York defender ($65,000/$65,000): Central defenders – and defenders on the whole, really – are a rather precious commodity in MLS. Keel isn't a starter, but he fared well enough with the Red Bulls over the past two seasons to suggest he could probably operate as a third or fourth center back. At this price point, he might merit a look even with the fully guaranteed deal he carries for next season.
5. Paulo Jr., Real Salt Lake forward ($65,000/$65,000): It usually isn't a good idea to pluck a RSL castoff out of the pile. The folks in Sandy tend to know when to cut ties with a player. Paulo Jr., however, might deserve another shot in a different locale. He never really found his footing or his form after bursting onto the scene in 2010, but the 23-year-old boasts a small salary, an ample amount of pace and a relatively high ceiling compared to the other options. His status as a senior international won't help his cause, though.
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