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2012 MLS Draft: Aftermath notebook

2011 MLS All-Star Game Press Conference
Hans Backe's evaluation of Juan Agudelo pushed headlines on Thursday.
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Ives Galarcep

Ives Galarcep is a 14-year veteran of the American soccer beat. He created and operates the popular American soccer blog, Soccer By Ives, which was voted Best American Soccer Blog by US Soccer in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Ives was also voted Best Football Writer by SoccerLens in 2010. 
 

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During the week leading up to the 2012 MLS Draft, there was plenty of chatter about trades and teams looking to move up and down the draft board. By the time the MLS Draft ended on Thursday afternoon, there had not been a single trade involving any draft picks.

No, this year was different than past years, with teams deciding to keep their picks rather than shipping them off for veterans or allocation money. It made for a relatively quiet draft day, but it also gave us a chance to see which teams were most prepared to take advantage of a draft that most coaches considered a deep one.

2012 MLS DRAFT

 
Andrew Wenger

Duke's Andrew Wenger is the first pick in the 2012 MLS Draft.

Darren Mattocks

Montreal elects to pass on Akron's Darren Mattocks.

MLS combine

Check out who Ives Galarcep rated as the top 50 going into the draft.

Still, the day did have its blockbuster trade, even if it didn't alter the order. The New York Red Bulls acquired Portland striker Kenny Cooper in exchange for allocation money and a first-round pick in 2013. The deal was met with skepticism in MLS circles, with most considering the deal a lopsided one for a forward who Portland had been shopping unsuccessfully since the middle of 2011.

The trade made sense for a New York side that looks set to lose young US international Juan Agudelo, who Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe kept on the bench for much of the second half of the 2011 season. The buzz out of New York is that Backe simply doesn’t rate Agudelo, and with the young striker heading into the third year of a four year deal, selling him now may make the most sense for a club that could use the cash infusion.

Sources in New York told FOX Soccer that the trade has contingencies, chief among them that Portland only receives the large sum of allocation money (believed to be between $200K and $300K) if New York picks up Cooper’s option after the 2012 season. In other words, the Red Bulls will be paying a first-round draft pick in 2013, as well as most of Cooper’s considerable salary, even if Cooper is a complete flop.

New York surprised people on Thursday, giving Portland a first round pick for out-of-favor striker Kenny Cooper. (Photo Credit: Jay Drowns)

The Red Bulls are banking on Cooper having a career renaissance, but Cooper hasn’t enjoyed success since leaving MLS for Europe in the summer of 2009. Portland tried dealing Cooper for months, but multiple clubs passed on him; at least, until New York stepped up, needing some cover for a potential Agudelo departure an American player (considering Tim Ream is heading to Bolton) which could leave New York without a single American starter.

The trade could wind up being a major score for a Portland side that has long ago written off Cooper as part of the team's future plans. The general consensus among officials around MLS was that the Timbers had robbed New York in unloading a player who had considerably diminished trade value.

The Red Bulls aren’t done wheeling and dealing. Sources told FOX Soccer that New York is closing in on a deal to acquire the rights to former Chicago fire defender Wilman Conde. A one-time MLS Best XI selection, Conde is looking for a new club after struggling since leaving MLS for Mexico. The Red Bulls are preparing to pay the Fire an a six-figure allocation for Conde’s rights, and while Conde makes sense as a left-footed center back replacement for Ream, the fact that he has had multiple foot surgeries and has lost a step could ultimately make the deal a costly one for New York.

Here are some other tidbits from the MLS Draft, and around Major League Soccer:

Philadelphia head coach Peter Nowak denied former No. 1 overall pick Danny Mwanga is being shopped. (Photo Credit: Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

  • Philadelphia Union officials have categorically denied suggestions that they are shopping striker Danny Mwanga. Head coach Peter Nowak admitted that there are teams interested in the forward, but he insisted the team is not looking to move him in a deal. While that may be true, the fact that the Union drafted UCLA forward Chandler Hoffman (adding him to a stable of forwards that includes Sebastien LeToux, Jack McInerney, Mwanga and newly-acquired Josue Martinez) seemed to suggest that we might see somebody leaving Philadelphia soon.
  • The New England Revolution were expected to grab a forward in the MLS draft but did not, which makes finding a forward a priority for the Revs. Head coach Jay Heaps drove that point home after the draft, stating clearly that the team was going to make a move to get a goal-scoring forward.
  • One forward who may make his way back into MLS is former Chicago Fire standout Chris Rolfe. Sources tell FOX Soccer that Rolfe is looking to return to MLS, but it is unclear whether the league and Rolfe will be able to agree on contract terms.
  • The Houston Dynamo continue to negotiate with Academy product and US Under-23 national team defender Sebastian Ibeagha but have yet to reach an agreement with the Duke standout. Ibeagha has been impressing with the U-23 team and would be a major off-season score for the Dynamo.

GRADING THE DRAFT

Ives Galarcep grades the performance of all 19 teams in Thursday's 2012 MLS Draft.

USA | MLS

  • The Brian Ching saga has yet to reach its conclusion, and now it looks as though the former Houston striker is preparing to report to Montreal Impact training camp. The Impact and Dynamo have come no closer to reaching a deal to bring Ching back to the Dynamo, and one may not be completed because the sides just can’t come close to agreeing on parameters. The main issue is Houston does not have allocation money to help make a trade happen. Montreal’s draft, which saw the team pass on taking a forward, would seem to suggest the Impact are hopeful of convincing Ching to play for the Impact instead of retire, which he threatened to do when Montreal too him in the Expansion Draft.
  • U.S. Under-17 national team standout Junior Flores has yet to reach an agreement with MLS on a Generation adidas deal, but the sides are said to still be negotiating. If he does reach a deal, he would go in a draft lottery similar to the one Luis Gil went into after the 2010 MLS Draft.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.

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