This Thursday, January 12 will feature the Chicago Fire's 5th MLS SuperDraft with Frank Klopas as the team's technical director. In order to establish how Klopas has stacked up to his competition over this time period, we will take a look at the highlights and lowlights of the draft histories of the other MLS teams. This is rather lengthy analysis so the summaries have been split up into the teams currently in the Eastern Conference and the teams currently in the Western Conference. This article deals with Western Conference teams. Yesterday's article on the Eastern Conference can be found here.
The summaries judge teams primarily on their ability to draft talent and how many MLS minutes their players play. There are several acknowledged problems with this methodology. First, not all minutes are created equal. Bad teams will often give more minutes to a rookie than perhaps deserved due to the fact that the team does not have any better options. For this reason, each team's performance over the past four season has been noted. Players are not created equally either and that is why we are using minutes to weigh a player's impact on a team. Only counting assists and goals would discount the value of defenders. Teams are given credit for a player's minutes even if they don't play for the team anymore or even had no time with the team at all. There are cases to be made about the ability to develop a player but we are looking for front offices that can identify MLS talent on a regular basis. Selecting a player that can play in MLS is a skill in itself. Trading that player and convincing another front office you have something valuable is a different skill. Now that the guidelines are under way, the evaluations of the nine teams in the Western Conference are after the break.
152 pts - 2008: 43 pts - 2009: 45 pts - 2010: 28 pts - 2011: 36 pts
No. 4 (2011), No. 9 (2009), No. 10 (2010), No. 14 (2011), No. 35 (Kevin Tangney)
Ben Zemanski - No. 47 in 2010 - 3,599 minutes - 1,800 minutes per season
Zarek Valentin - No. 4 in 2011 - 2,114 minutes- 2,114 per season
Michael Lahoud - No. 9 in 2009 - 3,897 minutes - 1,299 per season
Blair Gavin - No. 10 in 2010 - 2,327 minutes - 1164 per season
Victor Estupinan - No. 14 in 2011 - 320 minutes - 320 per season
Kyle Christensen- No. 35 in 2009 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Kevin Tangney - No. 35 in 2010 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Overall: Chivas USA has done all right with their top picks. Ben Zemanski at No. 47 in 2010 is a sign of some good late drafting. Victor Estupinan should have seen more playing time on a below average Chivas USA squad this year. Chivas USA has struck out on their seven other draft picks. It's a decent record with no extremes leaving this team average at drafting.
173 pts - 2008: 38 pts - 2009: 40 pts - 2010: 46 pts - 2011: 49 pts
Top picks: No. 5 (2008), No. 18 (2011), No. 22 (2010), No. 23 (2010), No. 28 (2009)
Number of overall picks: 16
Andre Akpan - No. 22 in 2010 - 492 minutes overall - 246 minutes per season
Ross LaBauex - No. 23 in 2010 - 389 minutes overall - 195 minutes per season
Michael Holody - No. 59 in 2009 - 80 minutes overall - 27 minutes per season
Ciaran O'Brien - No. 5 in 2008 - 19 minutes overall - 6 minutes per season
Ross Schunk - No. 47 in 2009 - 10 minutes overall - 5 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Ciaran O'Brien - No. 5 in 2008 - 19 minutes overall - 6 minutes per season
Overall: Colorado's poor performance in the draft is highlighted by the fact that Ciaran O'Brien is a top producer and the biggest bust. IN 2008, Colorado passed on Patrick Nyarko, Andy Iro and Julius James among others when they selected O'Brien. They haven't had many good draft spots but this amount of production out these draft years is the worst in the league. Rapids fans would trade that in for the 2010 MLS Cup any day of the week but it is cause for concern in the future. This was a big mark against former head coach Gary Smith and no doubt helped the selection of new head coach and former FC Dallas academy director Oscar Pareja.
177 pts - 2008: 36 pts - 2009: 39 pts - 2010: 50 pts - 2011: 52 pts
No. 2 (2008), No. 5 (2009), No. 5 (2010), No. 8 (2008), No. 14 (2009)
Number of overall picks: 16
Brek Shea - No. 2 in 2008 - 5,188 minutes - 1,297 minutes per season
George John - No. 14 in 2009 - 6,081 minutes - 2,027 minutes per season
Zach Loyd - No. 5 in 2010 - 4,185 minutes - 2,093 minutes per season
Eric Alexander - No. 44 in 2010 - 2,521 minutes - 1,261 minutes per season
Erica Avila - No. 19 in 2008 - 2,581 minutes - 645 minutes per season
Perica Marosevic - No. 5 in 2009 - 457 minutes overall & Josh Lambo - No. 8 in 2008 - 0 minutes overall
Overall: FC Dallas have made out like bandits with Brek Shea, Zach Loyd, and George John... but curiously that's it outside of the selection of Eric Alexander at No. 44 in 2010. Perica Marosevic is one of the highest draft picks to play so few minutes and after Dallas waived him this year, he scored two goals for Toronto FC. Josh Lambo continues to sit on the bench for the team without playing a MLS game in 4 years. You generally want more than that out of a No. 8 pick. Head coach Schellas Hyndman was a college coach for years before coaching at FCD. He should have a very good idea of what talented college players look like. Given the case of Marosevic and several other players just not seeing playing time, it's possible that Hyndman is very good at selecting college players. He just needs to work on his rotation. Other teams might want to start making offers on the players hiding on his bench.
207 pts - 2008: 33 pts - 2009: 48 pts - 2010: 59 pts - 2011: 67 pts
No. 3 (2009), No. 4 (2008), No. 16 (2011), No. 16 (2010), No. 19 (2009)
Number of overall picks: 13
Omar Gonzalez - No. 3 in 2009 - 7,791 minutes - 2,597 minutes per season
Sean Franklin - No. 4 in 2008 - 7,974 minutes - 1,994 minutes per season
Brandon McDonald - No. 46 in 2008 - 7,338 minutes - 1,835 minutes per season
A.J. DeLaGarza - No. 19 in 2009 - 5,688 minutes - 1,896 minutes per season
Michael Stephens - No. 16 in in 2010 - 2,993 minutes - 1,497 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Julian Valentin - No. 29 in 2008 - 54 minutes - 27 minutes per season
Overall: Bruce Arena has simply been masterful taking over the mess the LA Galaxy were in 2008. You could argue the Galaxy did rebuild in a classic American sports way by being terrible in 2007 and 2008 to get those high draft picks. Top picks Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin have been invaluable to LA's turnaround. Arena's not just good at keeping blue chip prospects blue chip players though . Despite a points total that suggests a veteran squad with little room for rookie integration, Arena has rotated Paolo Cardozo (No. 16), Michael Stephens (No. 16), and A.J. DeLaGarza (No. 19) into the lineup without the team skipping a beat. There's no equal in Major League Soccer.
42 pts - 2008: N/A - 2009: N/A - 2010: N/A - 2011: 42 pts
No. 2 (2011), No. 22 (2011)
Number of overall picks: 2
Darlington Nagbe - No. 2 in 2011 - 1,651 minutes overall - 1,651 minutes per season
Chris Taylor - No. 22 in 2011 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Chris Taylor - No. 22 in 2011 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Overall: Obviously it's impossible to tell what is going on here. It's hard to screw up No. 2 picks. It is interesting to note that Chris Taylor couldn't get any playing time on an expansion team. 2012 will significantly help add to the picture.
Real Salt Lake
189 pts - 2008: 40 pts - 2009: 40 pts - 2010: 56 pts - 2011: 53 pts
No. 3 (2008), No. 12 (2009), No. 14 (2008), No. 15 (2010), No. 17 (2008)
Number of overall picks: 12
Tony Beltran - No. 3 in 2008 - 6,020 minutes - 1,505 minutes per season
Chris Schuler - No. 39 in 2010 - 1,728 minutes - 864 minutes per season
Collen Warner - No. 15 in 2010 - 1,532 minutes - 766 minutes per season
David Horst - No. 14 in 2008 - 1,346 minutes - 337 minutes per season
Jean Alexandre - No. 12 in 2009 - 1,296 minutes - 432 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Alex Nimo - No. 17 in 2008 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Overall: Real Salt Lake used their top draft pick in the last four years very wisely when they picked up Tony Beltran with the No. 3 pick in 2008. Beltran has been in RSL's trio of rotating fullbacks since his rookie year and a big part of a defense that has set multiple defensive MLS records. Other mid-range picks Jean Alexandre, David Horst and Collen Warner have been decent contributors to championship quality teams. The eight other draft picks have made little to no impact except for Chris Schuler who Real Salt Lake drafted with the No. 39 pick in the 2010 draft. Schuler came up big in 2010 filling in along the back line when needed and impressing along the way. The late selection of the St. Louis native helps to give Real Salt Lake from a slightly above average draft record.
San Jose Earthquakes
147 pts - 2008: 33 pts - 2009: 30 pts - 2010: 46 pts - 2011: 38 pts
No. 3 (2010), No. 15 (2008), No. 17 (2009), No. 19 (2010), No. 28 (2010)
Number of overall picks: 9
Steven Beitashour - No. 30 in 2010 - 2,295 minutes - 1,147 minutes per season
Brad Ring - No. 17 in 2009 - 2,035 minutes - 1,017 minutes per season
Shea Salinas - No. 15 in 2008 - 4,340 minutes - 1,085 minutes per season
Ike Opara - No. 3 in 2010 - 1,399 minutes - 700 mintues per season
Anthony Ampaiptakwong - No. 33 in 2011 - 546 minutes - 546 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Ike Opara - No. 3 in 2010 - 1,399 minutes - 700 minutes per season
Overall: It might be harsh to call Opara a bust considering the fact he is 22 years old and was in a weak draft class but you hope for more from any No. 3 draft pick. San Jose hasn't had many draft picks but their roster has been wide open for rookies to break into. The fact that some of these players have minutes under their belts but not too many minutes for a struggling club is a warning sign. A poor technical staff is giving mediocre talent in-game trials before yanking them back on the bench when they don't produce. The Earthquakes may not have high picks to work with but they haven't pulled out any late gems either.
158 pts - 2008: N/A - 2009: 47 pts - 2010: 48 pts - 2011: 63 pts
No. 1 (2009), No. 11 (2010), No. 16 (2009), No. 20 (2011), No. 21 (2011)
Number of overall picks: 12
Steve Zakuani - No. 1 in 2009 - 4,731 minutes - 1,577 minutes per season
Michael Fucito - No. 46 in 2009 - 1,092 minutes - 546 minutes per season
Servando Carrasco - No. 27 in 2011 - 689 minutes - 689 minutes per season
Mike Seamon - No. 27 in 2010 - 314 minutes - 157 minutes per season
David Estrada - No. 11 in 2010 - 196 minutes - 98 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Evan Brown - No. 16 in 2009 - 0 minutes - 0 minutes per season
Overall: When Seattle had their No. 1 pick, they didn't screw it up. Steve Zakuani was phenomenal in 2009 and 2010 and primed to start a MVP campaign in 2011 before suffering a broken leg on April 22, 2011. The success outside of Zakuani has been almost non-existent. Mike Fucito was a nice late pick in 2009 but decent picks like No. 11 in 2010, No. 16 in 2009, No. 20 in 2011, No. 21 in 2011, and No. 27 in 2010 combine for just over 500 minutes of regular season play. Seattle does not have a body of 2008 draft picks to work with. The team has been very successful between 2009-2011 so it's been tough for rookies to crack the lineup. Based on what other teams have been able to do though, Seattle falls somewhere between the below average to average range.
28 pts - 2008: N/A - 2009: N/A - 2010: N/A - 2011: 28 pts
No. 1 (2011), No. 8 (2011), No. 19 (2011), No. 37 (2011)
Number of overall picks: 4
Jed Brovsky - No. 19 in 2011 - 1,509 minutes - 1,509 minutes per season
Omar Salgado - No. 1 in 2011 - 504 minutes - 504 minutes per season
Bilal Duckett - No. 37 in 2011 - 226 minutes - 226 minutes per season
Michael Nanchoff - No. 8 in 2011 - 137 minutes - 137 minutes per season
Biggest bust: Michael Nanchoff - No. 8 in 2011 - 137 minutes - 137 minutes per season
Overall: It's tough to name Michael Nanchoff the bust here but the players that immediately followed him in the draft were Jalil Anibaba, C.J. Sapong, Will Bruin and Rich Balchan. Nanchoff was injured last year so he could very well bounce back in 2012. Brovsky provided from solid minutes from the No. 19 spot albeit for the worst team in the league. Salgado remains one of the league's top prospects at 18 years old.