The list is out. The Fire own the 7th pick. The Fire have offensive and defensive needs. There are some good options for help defensively while the offensive pickings are slim and expensive.
First off the team needs veteran central defensive help. This draft is primed to give you exactly that. Jimmy Conrad is the obvious top choice. Yet he is also the most expensive choice considering his 30/8 status guarantees him a 5% raise. Roughly a $250,000 player. His play did slip last season but he does provide excellent veteran leadership which would be a boon for a defense that is going to need exactly that.
Other central defensive options include Corey Gibbs. A younger (relatively, he is 30) cheaper option who has bounced around MLS since he returned from a European stint that was cut short due to a series of terrible knee injuries. Nick Garcia also might be able to handle central defensive duties but I would rather have Gibbs considering the price tag.
Conrad has to be a guy the Fire are taking a hard look at. Yes his contract is big, yet the Fire are going to get a great amount of defensive leadership for their currently young back line. He is worth the price. Most likely he can be had later in the draft due to his high price tag. I could easily see Gibbs being the fallback or compromise option. Younger and cheaper with veteran experience.
Right and left back are seemingly under control but perhaps an investment into a veteran to back up both spots wouldn't be a bad idea. Gino Padulla or Frankie Hejduk would provide veteran presence to the wings. I would target both guys in the second phase of the re-entry draft as their price tags are a little high for backups.
I think we can all agree the need for a creative force is the top priority with the apparent departure of Freddie Ljungberg. One of the best playmakers in MLS the last 5 years is available. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has had his option declined. It is rare you see a player who had 9 goals and 8 assists the previous season available. If you take a look at the list below you can see that his base salary was under $200,000. No brainer if that is the case but frankly I don't believe it. There has always been a huge discrepancy between what GBS has made and what the union has reported his salary as. If the guy doesn't cost us a DP slot he has to be the number one option for this team at the 7 position of the draft. He has been playing a bit deeper and creates well for his team mates. He doesn't need to dribble to create which would fit in well with Pappa, Nyarko, and Castillo. He does come with some risk. He is old and faded down the stretch for Columbus last season. On the plus side he won't have to play in Champions League games which should make him fresher later in the season. Also he did log the most minutes in his entire MLS career last season missing only 1 game. I see the risk as minimal and would draft him if he was available at 7. The above all goes out the window if the Fire have a creative midfielder they are planning on signing. I would prefer someone younger but if there isn't a player coming in GBS is a terrific stop gap option.
Other potential midfielders include Nico Colaluca, a young and fairly talented guy. A bit on the expensive side for his age but could be worth a flyer. Dema Kovalenko is available but also expensive. He would be a nice veteran to have off the bench to provide some spark. He can still play when he isn't busy getting cards. He did suffer through his least productive season in quite a while last year. There are a plethora of decent bench fodder midfield types available. Look for those guys to be taken during the second phase so they can be offered lower contracts than what they are making now.
The Fire need strikers, unfortunately there are not a lot of options here. Juan Pablo Angel or Jeff Cunningham are about it. If you take JPA during the first phase he will cost you a DP slot and $1.6 million. The team that selects him might be able to have a verbal deal in place to renegotiate but that team does have to make him a legitimate offer following the rules of the re-entry draft.
Cunningham would be a risky selection. Streaky, old, best suited to come off the bench but wants to start. Still he is a striker who has scored double digit goals the last two seasons. No one is like that on the Fire roster. Might be worth the price tag in phase 1 if the team doesn't have any striker signings on the horizon.
Other options at forward: Jaimie Moreno. Age has caught up with him. I would avoid. Joseph Ngwenya is also available. Never been a reliable scorer in MLS. Would not be interested in him at all.
Josh Wolff: I would not support drafting Josh during the phase 1 of the draft. His status as a 30/8 player, combined with his unimpressive goal scoring totals from last season should ensure he goes undrafted during phase 1. To put his recent history in perspective: 2008 he scored 3 goals in 12 games. 2009 he scored 11 goals in 27 games played and last season he scored 2 goals in 25 games played. Just not sure how he provides guaranteed goal scoring help. I would draft him during phase 2 to see if I could negotiate a lower price with him. I understand that he has historical significance with a lot of fans (hi Tweed!) but lets not throw our cap money around for guys who can't come in and immediately offer something of value.
I would like to see the Fire acquire the following players during Phase 1:
Guillermo Barros Schelotto: If no signing is imminent to fill an offensive central midfielder then I would grab Schelotto. Makes sense and I can imagine him meshing well with Pappa and Nyarko.
Jimmy Conrad: A veteran central defender who can start and help lead the defense is a priority for the Fire. Conrad gives you exactly that. He is a bit on the expensive side. If Conrad isn't available I would grab Gibbs.
That would use up 1 international spot and roughly $450,000-$550,000 in cap room (depending on GBS cap status). I acknowledge that is a lot of cap space invested into to two older veterans. The core of the Fire is young and veteran leadership is needed across the board. Even with that amount invested it would still leave the Fire around $900,000 in cap space with 3 international roster spots to work with. It would fill two important positions and still leave the team a lot of cap space to sign players with. Sprinkle in a few more key international signings and you have the makings of a solid squad for 2011.
I plan on discussing phase two in more depth after the first phase is complete.
Salaries listed below:
All salary numbers taken from 2010 players union release. The letter listed next to the age of the player is the best guess as to there international or domestic senior roster status. Those players that don't have an age listed do not have a player page on the MLS website.
Marcelo Saragosa 28i M $130,000
Alex Zotinca $60,000
Claudio Lopez 36i M $120,000
Ciaran O'Brien 23d M $75,000 GC: $108,750
Peter Vagenas 32d M $117,000
Frankie Hejduk 36d D $120,000
Duncan Oughton 33i M $40,000
Gino Padula 34i D $165,000 GC: $190,000
Guillermo Barros Schelotto 37i M/F $140,000 GC: $241,250
Jeff Cunningham 34d F $220,000
Dario Sala 36i GK $160,000
Jaime Moreno 36d F $160,000
Ryan Cochrane 27d D $100,000
Richard Mulrooney 34d D $120,000
Joseph Ngwenya 29i F $72,000
Pat Onstad 42d GK $164,000
Adrian Serioux 31d D $96,000
Jovan Kirovski 34d M $84,000
Dema Kovalenko 33d M $136,500
Preston Burpo 38d GK $70,000
Nico Colaluca 24d M $100,000 GC: $133,000
Cory Gibbs 30d D $121,000
Khano Smith 28i M $50,004
NY Red Bulls
Juan Pablo Angel 35i F $1,620,000 GC 1,918,000
Luke Sassano 25d M $40,000
Carey Talley 34d D $99,996
Chris Seitz 23d GK $100,000
Khari Stephenson $151,500
Tyrone Marshall 36i D $165,000
Jimmy Conrad 33d D $232,750
Aaron Hohlbein 25d D $40,000
Josh Wolff 33d F $220,004
Nick Garcia 31d D $190,000
League Pool GK