BALTIMORE – The Major League Soccer draft on Friday featured 56 selections, lasted four hours, featured some predictable wheeling and dealing and yet produced only a handful of meaningful storylines.
The biggest deal involved the Los Angeles Galaxy sending Chris Albright to the New England Revolution, while the Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas both made surprising choices with the first two picks.
Here's a rundown on the key moves and selections on draft day at the Baltimore Convention Center.
1. Albright goes to New England; Galaxy gets cap freedom.
David Beckham will be sorry to see his good friend Chris Albright headed to the East Coast after L.A. shipped the veteran defender to the Revolution for allocation money. The deal was initiated by New England, which is banking on Albright remaining fit after he missed virtually all of the 2007 season. The Galaxy freed up some space in the salary cap – something which was in short supply following the pre-draft acquisition of Carlos Ruiz from FC Dallas.
Albright made $142,500 last season, while his replacement Sean Franklin (taken fourth in the draft) will make significantly less. Expect L.A. to use the cap space to sign another international player, although not necessarily a big name.
"It is a function of some of the decisions that we have made," Galaxy president Alexi Lalas said. "As positive as they were, there are consequences, and while it was not a trade we wanted to make, it was one we needed to make.
"Every team in the league would love to have all 18 senior players as the best. But reality says that we have some who make big amounts. That causes for us to hedge our bets here and there and make some difficult decisions."
If Albright performs at the level he is capable, the Revolution will be even more of a force this season.
"We sat down and looked around the league at what defenders we liked and he was one of those guys," New England coach Steve Nicol said. "Fortunately for us and unfortunately for L.A., he is coming to us now. We are delighted to get him and we have absolutely no doubts about his fitness."
2. Kansas City takes Chance Myers with the top pick.
Myers is an accomplished defender and could fit in nicely with the new 3-5-2 system that Wizards coach Curt Onalfo is planning to implement. The question is whether Myers was worth getting rid of a solid veteran like Garcia.
"We felt we could move Garcia because we have some players who can step in and do a job," Onalfo said. "It was a no-brainer and we got a guy in Chance Myers who has a bright future.
"We are tinkering with our formation and we will see how our team reacts preseason."
However, unless Myers proves himself as an immediate impact player, the Earthquakes will feel they got the better end of the deal.
"You have got guys going who are decent players and the draft is pretty deep," San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. "But we didn't think there were any real standout players who were way ahead of the pack."
"Garcia has played seven years in the league and it hasn't cost us very much. We were a little surprised we got him and that Kansas gave him up, but they are in a different position than we are."
3. Andy Iro snubs Europe in favor of MLS and Columbus.
Prior to the draft it looked as if Iro may explore options in his native England if he was not taken by the Galaxy, Chivas USA, San Jose or Houston. However, he was delighted about being chosen by the Columbus Crew and immediately pledged his future to the club.
A strong center-half who is likely to start right away for Columbus, Iro trained with Championship side Preston North End after finishing up at UC Santa Barbara, but he is pleased to remain in the United States.
"I have only heard good things about Sigi Schmid and I trust these guys to further my career," Iro said. "I am staying in MLS and I am happy. England will always be there, whether it be now or in a few years, and I can only develop from here."
4. Generation adidas dominates the draft.
Salary cap issues dictated that the temptation to sign Generation adidas players, whose wages do not count towards the cap, was too strong to resist for many.
The top three selections, and six of the first eight, came from the development program, and the 19th selection, Eric Avila of UCSB, was the last of the 10 chosen. Those factors caused players like Iro, Julius James and Eric Brunner to drop lower than expected.
This trend is likely to continue as the potential to open up cap room for international players becomes more attractive.
"The development of the young American player continues to go well in this league and players see their future in MLS," league commissioner Don Garber said. "It is a good story for us."
5. Brek Shea comes from nowhere to land in Dallas.
Texas youngster Brek Shea's superb performance in the MLS combine saw him rise all the way to the No. 2 spot.
It was originally thought he would end up in his hometown of Houston, but the Dynamo were too low in the draft order to make it happen. FC Dallas waited in the wings to snap up Shea.
"We are delighted to get him and we think he has great qualities," coach Steve Morrow said. "Brek has had some interest from Europe as well and we have been aware of him for quite some time.
"He was top of our list coming into the combine and stood out there, showing everyone what a talented player he was. We think he has a big future."
Shea, from College Station, Texas, has previously trained with English Premier League side Bolton and German club Freiburg, and he looks to have the tools to put together a strong MLS career.
"I was just shocked to get taken when I did," Shea said. "It is great to stay close to home, especially for my parents – they still think I am a little kid!
"My brother Kevin lives in Dallas, so I will be able to live with him. … It is a great move for me."
6. Mo Johnston gets a ready-made defense.
Christmas arrived early (or maybe a few weeks late) for the Toronto FC coach, as defender Julius James and midfielder Pat Phelan fell into his lap.
Toronto had the ninth and 10th picks but still managed to get James, who was widely considered to be a lock for the top five.
7. The best player in the draft goes … 35th?
Johnston also took arguably the best player in the draft at No. 35, but it is unlikely he will ever get to use him.
Notre Dame's Joseph Lapira, who has already represented the Republic of Ireland national team, looks certain to pursue options in Europe rather than play in MLS. However, if for any reason things do not work out and he decides to play in North America within the next two years, Toronto would hold his rights.
- New England
- Chance Myers
- FC Dallas