Another step on Atlanta United’s journey to joining MLS is on Sunday when they take part in the Expansion Priority Draft. How did this event turn out for Orlando and New York City in 2014 and is there anything to learn from their experience?
In 2014, the first pick was determined by a blind draw with supporters from the two clubs. This time, we’ll be using this sweet coin:
Official coin that will be used in Sunday’s @MLS expansion priority draft. #ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/Y3kcKTpl6P— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) October 12, 2016
Who is the designated coin flipper?
In 2014, Orlando won the draw and was able to pick first. They chose the #1 pick in the Expansion Draft. Adrian Heath, then manager of Orlando, told MLSSoccer.com:
“We think we've got some really good young players. What we don't have: We don't have any MLS experience. We think with the Expansion Draft we're going to get one or two players that'll help us straightaway. It's important for us that we get some experience.”
Remember, Orlando was joining from the USL and had a core of players already to choose from for their inaugural MLS roster. Their philosophy, as discussed by former GM and now Atlanta United Director of Soccer Operations Paul McDonough, was to focus on a balance between youth and experience. Taking the top spot in the Expansion Draft was likely a way to try to find balance for a younger base of players who would be signed from the USL roster.
The Lions selected goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with the top choice. They needed a temporary replacement for Tally Hall, who was recovering from an injury. Once Hall was healthy, Ricketts became expendable. He was traded to the Los Angeles Galaxy for a 2016 second round SuperDraft choice. Orlando then packaged that pick with allocation money to get a first round pick from D.C. United and chose Hadji Barry. Still developing, Barry has played 19 games between the first team and Orlando City B this season.
New York City FC was up next in the Expansion Priority Draft, they took the #1 spot in the MLS Allocation Ranking.
Jason Kreis, then manager of NYCFC, told MLSSoccer.com:
“We do feel that there's quite a few players in Europe right now that would be interesting for us to use this selection on.”
They used that spot to sign Mix Diskerud about three months later. He has played in 41 games in all competitions for NYCFC, but has only been in the game day 18 man roster once since June 3.
Next, Orlando took the #1 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. They took Cyle Larin with the top pick that January. 32 goals in 59 games in all competitions is a pretty nice return on the Lions’ investment. This was by far the best value of anyone chosen via these acquisition methods.
Comedy ensued next as Kreis messed up and took the top spot in the Discovery Ranking. Then, he said he meant to take top spot in NASL/USL Player Priority Ranking. MLS would not let him change his choice. Orlando then took the NASL/USL Player Priority Ranking selection.
NYCFC took the Waiver/Re-Entry Draft ranking next, giving them the 19th pick over Orlando’s 20th pick. Neither team took a player in Stage 1, Orlando took GK Josh Ford in Stage 2. Ford spent most of the season on loan to Ft. Lauderdale of the NASL before being released after the season.
The other two acquisition methods selected are not part of this year’s draft.
What will this year’s Expansion Priority Draft hold for Atlanta and Minnesota? What would you prioritize? Let us know in the comments.