The past two days, here at the Confidential we've been taking a look at past LA Galaxy drafts, in order to learn something about what to expect in this draft. None of the three top draft picks in 2007 are still with the club, 2008 produced Sean Franklin but little else, and now we're onto Bruce Arena's first year selecting for the Galaxy. This should be familiar territory.
In the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, the Galaxy had the natural third pick after another disappointing season. Grant Wahl had begun to write The Beckham Experiment, chronicling all the ways things had gone wrong since David Beckham had been brought in. Alexi Lalas had lost his job, with Arena taking over both coach and GM duties. The strain between Beckham and Landon Donovan was starting to become public.
LA used their natural third pick to select Omar Gonzalez. Per some miracle, when the Galaxy's second round pick came around Omar's teammate A.J. DeLaGarza was still available. Arena called them the two best defenders in the draft, though he originally saw A.J. as a right back.
The Galaxy's natural third pick in the second round had been traded to FC Dallas for Carlos Ruiz part II. Ruiz was a Golden Boot and MLS Cup MVP winner in 2002 for the Galaxy, but was traded away for the top allocation spot when Landon Donovan expressed his desire to return to MLS. Ruiz part II had one goal for the Galaxy in 8 appearances. Don't trade your draft picks for aging veterans.
Arena was able to swoop up Toronto FC's natural second round pick, which had been traded to Chivas USA. Chivas got Ante Jazic in exchange for that draft pick, so that one worked out, but Ante Jazic vs A.J. DeLaGarza? Come on.
In the third round the Galaxy selected Joshua Boateng, who was never offered a contract because he had issues with his visa. The Galaxy might be about to lose Paolo Cardozo because Quilmes has decided a year later they want him back. International players are risky when considering long term roster building.
With their natural pick in the fourth round, the Galaxy selected Kyle Patterson who came from England to play soccer and go to college at St. Louis University. Patterson made three appearances with the Galaxy, but with the reserve division scraped at the end of 2008, players off the senior roster were loaned the USL clubs and then weren't renewed.
I've been glib about some of these late draft picks, but doing away with the reserve league for two years is really what hurt many of them. A year or two of development could have seen them placed on the senior roster, but we'll never know.
At any rate, we've been able to work out some trends, and some pitfalls. In MLS, less is often more. Especially with the return of the reserve league, throwing around draft picks can result in missing out on the next big star. Plugging holes with veterans seems like a fine solution, but unless it wins you the title that year all that's been accomplished is hamstringing the team's future.
All of MLS has to play Moneyball. Everyone has to find a way to compete using as little money as possible. The best way to do that under the current structure seems to be through the draft. So long as the GM knows what they're doing.