For Revolution Head Coach Jay Heaps, who greatly values roster depth, the first stage of this year's Re-Entry draft on Thursday is an ideal place to begin strengthening his team.
Over 60 players, many of whom are former U.S. national team players, high college draft picks, and league veterans, are eligible for selection. Because the Revolution were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals of the playoffs, they have the 12th pick in the first round of the draft. But the Revolution could move up in the order for the later rounds of the draft if teams that are ahead opt to pass instead of select.
There are two stages to the Re-Entry process. The second will be held via conference call on Dec. 18.
In the first stage, teams can pick up players along with their current contracts or make them a bona fide offer. Players that go unselected in stage one will be available in stage two. Teams who make selections in stage two will have seven days to make a bona fide offer. If both parties can't agree to terms, the team will still own the rights to the player if they decide to continue a career in MLS.
Players who go unselected through stage two will become available to all MLS clubs on a first come, first serve basis.
The Revolution's current roster stands at 17. They're thin at most positions and the Re-Entry draft could be a vessel that helps the Revolution fill some gaps.
Yesterday, however, The Revolution made a pre-draft move by signing goalkeeper Brad Knighton from the Vancouver Whitecaps. The move was announced at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, four hours after Matt Reis announced his retirement from professional soccer. The Revolution sent a conditional pick to Vancouver in exchange for Knighton, 28, who started his career in New England in 2007 then moved to the Philadelphia Union, Carolina Railhawks, and Vancouver.
In today's draft, the most notable available forwards are Steve Zakuani, Fabian Espindola, and Kenny Cooper. Zakuani, the first pick in the 2009 MLS Draft, has had an injury-riddled career with Seattle, is one of the league's fastest forwards and can play on the flank. Espindola, 28, scored three goals against the Revolution last year with the Red Bulls and could be a dynamic attacking option with Juan Agudelo gone, the future of Charlie Davies unclear, Saer Sene injured for the near and semi-distant future, and Jerry Bengston still gun-shy at the club level. Cooper's best years might be behind him, though his 6'3" frame would be an asset for set pieces.
New England's midfield appears to be the most set after securing Scott Caldwell, Andy Dorman, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, and recently acquiring Paolo DelPiccolo. But the Re-Entry process could allow the likes of Chris Rolfe or Bobby Convey to sign with the Revolution.
Rolfe, 30, is a proven league veteran with some international experience with the U.S. national team. He's listed as a midfielder, but he plays best as a forward and could be another attacking option for the Revolution. Convey, 30, was a once a coveted young player for Reading and the U.S. national team but has become a league journey-man since returning to MLS in 2009. He hasn't fit in with San Jose, Kansas City, or Toronto but could have a place with the Revolution as they look to sharpen their set piece taking.
After permanently adding Jose Goncalves to the roster, the Revolution's defense is secure for next season barring an injury. Alston could re-sign with the club if an agreement is reached before Wednesday. Otherwise, suitable defensive picks would be Heath Pearce, Dan Gargan, Bobby Boswell, Nana Attakora, Marc Burch, Brandon McDonald, Sean Franklin, and Ugo Ihemelu.
The full list of available players is available here.
The Revolution will have to take salary cap space and international roster spots into account when they make selections and negotiate. However, the Revolution have only used up five international roster spots (they have at least eight) and have shaved off about $1 million in base salaries in cap space (calculated using the MLS Player Union's published salaries and taking into account league roster rules).
That should give Heaps and General Manager Michael Burns plenty of roster space to make some kind of Re-Entry draft signing.
The Revoluton have selected at least two players in every Re-Entry draft. The Re-Entry draft process has yielded the signings of Barrett, Simms, and Ryan Cochrane.
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