We’re a few hours from the 2017 MLS Re-Entry Draft getting underway, and seeing as how this is a D.C. United site, we’ve been thinking about what we’d do if we were on the teleconference call. After a dreadful season and the necessary thinning of the ranks, United could add up to 12 players, and they need both starters and role players to get back to being a playoff side.
After perusing the list of players available for selection in today’s stage one, we’ve got a few names we would not have a problem seeing United GM Dave Kasper pick. As a reminder, stage one is the stage where the act of picking a player means you are on the hook for his 2018 contract option, which means no negotiating a lower salary. Generally speaking, we’re talking about their 2017 wages plus a 5-10% raise, though in some cases with back-loaded deals, the option may include a major pay hike.
With that in mind, and proceeding in alphabetical order, here are some players we’re interested in today:
2017 salary: $137,000 base, $138,667 guaranteed
Position: Right back and right wing, but he’s also spent some time in the last 2 seasons on the left flank as well
Other notes: Trinidad & Tobago international (20 caps), has a green card
Jason Anderson: I’m thinking more along the lines of boosting United’s depth and overall team speed here. Cato would be one of the fastest players in the squad, and he’s already played over 7,000 MLS minutes by the age of 25. Plus, since Cato can play anywhere on either flank, he’s competition in multiple spots. United’s current projected starting back four isn’t fast, and having someone who can feasibly play four different positions is very useful on gamedays.
I think he could start around 10 games for United next season (and probably make 20-25 overall league appearances) without being seen as a weakness, and the price tag here isn’t a problem in my book.
2017 salary: $186,000 base, $188,250 guaranteed
Position: Predominantly a left winger, but he could play on the right too
Other notes: Grella was a trialist with United back in 2013
Ryan Keefer: I mean, it’s not like D.C. hasn’t acquired a former New York Red Bulls outside midfielder with English league experience before, right? This time it’s slightly younger, slightly cheaper backup in case Lloyd Sam doesn’t re-sign for whatever reason. He is coming back from injury and will be on a longer path to full speed during the preseason, but he’s still got a pretty good engine to test defenders and could work with Kemp and the mids/forwards well.
2017 salary: $200,000 base/guaranteed
Position: Defensive midfield mostly, with a bit of defensive #8 thrown in on occasion
Other notes: French-born Haiti international (9 caps)
Ryan: Normally I’d be a little reticent to burn an international spot on a RED player. That said, if you can get a younger, cheaper version of Marcelo Sarvas, you’ve got to do it, especially if Ian Harkes shows the slightest bit of apprehension in his sophomore season. I’d love for Harkes to be a little more attentive to his own half of the field but if he's not and a formation change is in order, getting Mustivar to complement the defense and/or attack would seem to be an appealing choice.
2017 salary: $65,000 base, $187,942 guaranteed
Position: Defensive midfield/center back
Other notes: former US under-23 starter
Donald Wine II: Another guy who has been around a while and is younger than most people think, with a pretty decent cap number and the ability to provide cover both at defensive mid and on the back line. If he can work his way into the rotation, he will provide MLS-quality depth on the back line, which will be much needed.
2017 salary: $160,000 base, $170,000 guaranteed
Position: Anywhere in central midfield, with a somewhat conservative #8 role probably the best fit
Other notes: The Swedish-born son of Eritrean immigrants would require an international spot
Jason: As with Ryan’s recommendation for Mustivar, I’m a little hesitant to push for signing an international, and in Saeid’s case he was deemed non-essential by both Minnesota and Colorado this year. However, Saeid certainly fits a need for United, having played both holding midfield roles on playoff teams in Columbus, and has even played as a #10 at times (Saeid stood in for Federico Higuain the day Columbus crushed United 5-0 to close the 2015 season).
I think Saeid’s recent moves have just been the result of being the odd man out on teams in flux (not to mention Colorado’s confusion about what he’s even good at, since they frequently played him as a winger), and it’s telling that he has 72 starts in MLS over the last three seasons, (including 30 in 2017. While he has more of a rep as being a steady “glue guy” than a creator, Saeid has quietly produced 9 assists in 2016 and 2017, and was 4th in all of MLS for passing accuracy in 2016 (89.2%).
As for that international spot? They don’t really matter until the end of February, provided we’re not going 3-4 internationals over our limit. There’s plenty of time to address that problem, and holding back during the RED in deference to international slot concerns is a mistake for a team that just needs more talent, period.
2017 salary: $105,000 base/guaranteed
Position: In United’s 4231, anywhere in the 3 attacking midfield spots. He can also play as a second forward in a two-striker system
Other notes: USA under-23
Donald: Villarreal would be a decent pickup [editor’s note: Donald and Jason both initially signed up to write about him for this piece], as he is a young striker who has had some international experience and hopefully can turn it around. He hasn’t entered the prime of his career yet, so maybe a change of scenery and a chance to get some playing time will give him the confidence he needs to get back to what he was doing his rookie season. Plus, his cap number is very reasonable.
That’s our list. Who jumps out at you?