Mock MLS Expansion Draft with Skyscraper Blues

As you probably know by now, the MLS Expansion Draft with Orlando City and New York City FC is TODAY. Arguably the biggest day in the history of these two clubs as they mold out their rosters for the first time with the 2015 season about four months out.

To get you ready for big event, we’ve teamed up with skyscraperblues.com, Fansided’s NYCFC site, editor Michael Schwartz to mock out this Expansion Draft as if it were the real deal. Orlando City selects first, with NYCFC second.

Plenty of great names available, and both of these clubs should have no problem competing for playoff spots next season.

Well, let’s begin the show.

Orlando City — Pick No. 1: Corey Ashe, Defender, Houston Dynamo

Orlando City doesn’t have the need for a left back with Luke Boden already under contract for next season, so Ashe would more likely than not slide over into the right back position, where he played well at in brief stints last season in Houston. The Lions also have a bright young full back in Tyler Turner, who could probably start right away in MLS next season, but building a good defense in this league is key and I think Orlando pulls the trigger. At the very least they could flip him elsewhere.

NYCFC — Pick No. 1: Zac MacMath, Goalie, Philadelphia Union

With the first pick, New York City FC addresses a vital need with selecting goalkeeper Zac MacMath from the Philadelphia Union. As Skyscraper Blues’ Alexander Schaefer put it, MacMath is a “strong shot stopper who slowly rounded out his game after starting for almost two years.” MacMath’s development with the Union seemed cut short after they drafted Jamaican International Andre Blake and signed Algeria’s starting keeper Rais M’Bohli. M’Bohli is also unprotected but his salary is double the amount of what MacMath earns. A solid starting option, MacMath developed nicely in 2013 with 69.0 percent save percentage and amassed 12 shutouts in 34 matches. In 2014, MacMath started 29 games and had five shutouts. Excelling with penalty kicks as well, MacMath has tremendous long-term value at only age 23. The best-case scenario is NYCFC could have their starting keeper for the next decade in MacMath who is an upgrade over Josh Saunders and the linked Akira Fitzgerald. I think with Saunders’ experience as a backup, a MacMath/Saunders combination makes up for a very dependable goalie duo for New York City.

Orlando City — Pick No. 2: Dylan Remick, Defender, Seattle Sounders

This seems bold, I know. I was deciding between defense and striker with this second pick, but decided to attack the defense early on because we all know how important it is to build a good back line in this league. The 23-year-old Remick appeared in 13 games for the Sounders this year, and showed a lot of abilities. He can play both the left and center back positions, giving versatility, and he’s very quick. Being young, he’ll benefit immensely with guys like Aurelien Collin and Corey Ashe playing next to him. Not to mention, he’s very cheap. 

NYCFC — Pick No. 2: Ned Grabavoy, Midfielder, Real Salt Lake

With all the new change happening with Jason Kreis, would you blame him for latching onto something he’s familiar with? A versatile midfielder who can play just about anywhere in Kreis’ famed midfield diamond Grabavoy would be a fantastic addition for New York City considering his familiarity with Kreis’ possession-oriented system. He plays in multiple positions and provides leadership, defensive resolve, and consistently strong performances. Adept at passing accurately and with the ball at his feet, Grabavoy is a durable, skilled midfielder that would improve New York City’s midfield.

Orlando City — Pick No. 3: Jacob Peterson, Midfielder, Sporting KC

I went with Peterson here because I think he would fit well into the left-winge position that we’re still looking to fill. He’s been in the league a long time and is still somehow under 30-years-old. Not a guy that’ll sell a lot of t-shirts most likely, but he’ll play well serving in balls to our striker, Kaka, and Kevin Molino.

NYCFC — Pick No. 3: George John, Defender, FC Dallas

This is the biggest risk I’m going to take as it really makes or breaks the entire draft. Soon turning 28, John has fallen from Premier League hopeful to being an injury casualty that was sidelined throughout last season. Considering his high wages ($300K) and persistent knee, concussion issues, he seems like a red flag. But I’m going to take a chance as when he’s healthy, John is a fantastic defender and his partnership with Matt Hedges was one of the best center-back combinations in MLS. There aren’t many accomplished center backs in the prime years (he turns 28 in March) of their career out there and New York City need to address a serious need. Looking at the roster, the only center-halves are Kwame-Watson Siriboe who’s unproven and newly signed Josh Williams who can play as a center back but really established himself in 2014 as a right back. Considering Claudio Reyna’s admission that the 3rd Designated Player slot will likely be another attacking player, where else is New York City going to find a dependable center back (you can probably tell I’m still a little disappointed NYCFC failed to obtain Aurielien Collin)? Therefore, John seems like an obvious target as he underwent a successful operation on a knee injury that thankfully wasn’t structural or associated with a ligament. A new opportunity could greatly benefit both John and New York City.

Orlando City — Pick No. 4: Patrick Mullins, forward, New England Revolution

Mullins has a lot of talent, and showed that off a few times during the MLS Cup Playoffs. The 22-year-old still has a lot of room to grow, and can be one of those young guys that Adrian Heath can get the best of here in Orlando. Probably won’t have be able to get many minutes next season in New England, but will have that opportunity in Orlando, depending on how the rest of the striker situation plays out.

NYCFC — Pick No. 4 Jermaine Taylor, Defender, Houston Dynamo (this takes Houston out of the draft)

Continuing to address New York City’s need for center halves, I’ll take Jamaican international Jermaine Taylor to partner up with George John. One of the most capped players for his country, Taylor is a veteran center-back who provides composure and sturdiness to the backline. A versatile defender who can play as a left back, Taylor established his starting place back when Houston won 2 Eastern Conference titles in 2011 and 2012. Since then, he has remained a consistent feature of Houston’s defense. At the age of 30 once next season commences, Taylor can be utilized by New York City in the club’s first few seasons.

Orlando City — Pick No. 5: Davy Arnaud, midfielder, DC United

Orlando already has, what we think to be, it’s starting defensive midfield already in place with Amobi Okugo and Darwin Ceren. However, both players are under 25-years-old, and having some veteran presence in that position would be nice. Arnaud had a good season for United. MLS might be considered a retirement league by outsiders, but Florida is also considered a retirement state. Arnaud is entering the final years of his career and might be able to come off the bench and teach the younger guys as he inches closer to calling it a career.

NYCFC — Pick No. 5: Chris Wingert, Defender, Real Salt Lake

Chris Wingert is a dependable, experienced left back that has been a consistent feature of Real Salt Lake’s formidable defense for many seasons. He also contributes to building up chances through providing assists. With a fledgling club like New York City FC, Wingert would bring a sense of assurance to New York City FC’s backline. He has a deep understanding of playing with Jason Kreis and is worthwhile addition considering the lack of reliable fullbacks. For Wingert, it would be great for the New York native to finish his career back home.

Orlando City — Pick No. 6: Andy Gruenebaum, goalkeeper, Sporting KC

Orlando City’s need for a goalkeeper isn’t as big as NYCFC’s, but this is still a pretty important position for us since Tally Hall is expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season while he recovers from his ACL injury. There are a lot of good choices out there on the board in terms of goalkeepers, but I feel that Gruenebaum would be a good fit to start in Hall’s absence, then transition into the backup when the time comes. Plus, he’s much cheaper than his teammate Eric Kronberg, who is also available, so you always want to take that into consideration.

NYCFC — Pick No. 6: Steven Neumann, Midfielder, New England Revolution

A young, attacking midfielder that can operate up top or further back, Neumann is a versatile hybrid that was heavily regarded in the 2014 SuperDraft. Making 23 appearances in his rookie season, Neumann excelled with keen vision and great passing skills. With a strong long-distance shot, Neumann can score and create opportunities for others. Excellent on the ball, Neumann could succeed in the intricate-possession oriented system Kreis and New York City plan on executing. Costing very little, Neumann could become a long-term success for New York City.

Orlando City — Pick No. 7: Brian “Cobi” Span, midfielder, FC Dallas

Orlando City fans will know this name. Span was a player that spent a lot of time on loan with Orlando City in USL PRO this past season. I liked him, the club liked him, and so did much of the fan base. The Lions don’t have any depth on the wings right now, and Span would be a good fit to give some energy and life off of the bench late in games.

NYCFC — Pick No. 7: Jorge Villafana, Midfielder/Defender, Portland Timbers

Coach Jason Kreis loves versatile players that provide balance form both defense and attack. That’s why the Portland Timbers may have done New York City a favor by leaving Jorge Villafana unprotected. Having just turned 25, Villafana is entering the prime of his career after notching 86 appearances, seven goals and six assists with Chivas USA. He spent last season in Portland where he further showed how he can play as both a left midfielder and left back. A strong crosser, Villafana is an affordable, worthwhile player whose abilities can grow with New York City.

Orlando City — Pick No. 8: Ben Speas, forward, Columbus Crew

Reporting coming out of Columbus suggest Speas is on the boards of both Orlando City and NYCFC, and for good reasons, too. The 23-year-old has some serious talent from the attacking midfield and left wing positions; he’s very affordable for the deep-pocketed expansion clubs; and he’s still has plenty of room to grow. Honestly, I think I should have made this picks rounds ago.

NYCFC — Pick No: 8: Chris Korb, Defender, D.C. United

D.C. United had one of their best defenses in the league last season so any available defenders should be looked at. Chris Korb established himself as one of United’s most consistent defenders especially in 2013. The fullback is entering the prime years of his career and New York City could take advantage of that. Considering his relatively low wages ($90K), Korb would be another solid fullback for New York City’s backline.

Orlando City — Pick No. 9: Dan Gargan, defender, LA Galaxy

Orlando City is all about winning, and Gargan has done thought after being a big part of LA’s defense this past season. Cheap, great in the lockerroom (which is always big with Adrian Heath), and can give you valuable minutes off of the bench or in a fill-in spot here are there. Either way, I see this as a move of adding depth that would pay off big time. 

NYCFC — Pick No: 9: Daniel Lovitz, Midfielder, Toronto FC

After excelling in college with Elon University, Daniel Lovitz made eighteen appearances in his rookie season with Toronto FC. Able to take on defenders with pace and proficient dribbling skills, Lovitz is capable of linking up with teammates and provide accurate crosses from the left. A versatile midfielder from the left side who can also play further back on defense, Lovitz has shown admirable work rate which makes a balanced player. While there’s nothing extraordinary about him, Lovitz has few weaknesses in his overall game which makes him an underrated talent. As a very inexpensive option, New York City can utilize a smart, energetic footballer like Lovitz for many years to come.

Orlando City — Pick No. 10: Cordell Cato, midfielder, San Jose Earthquakes

The 22-year-old Trinidadian will be able to link up with his fellow countryman and national team teammate Kevin Molino. He showed some promise in San Jose before falling into a bit of a rut this season. I think that with a little bit of work with the Orlando coaching staff, he’ll get back on the promising path he was head down.

NYCFC — Pick No: 10: Michael Azira, Midfielder, Seattle Sounders

Michael Azira became a vital member of the Sounders who made a deep playoff push this past season. A versatile footballer who primarily plays in midfield, the Ugandan national also can be fielded as a fullback. At age 27, Azira is at a prime age to get better considering he’s a strong passer, can contribute to building up chances, and provides defensive resolve. With low wages, Azira is a reasonably priced talent that will provide valuable depth as a defensive and attacking midfielder.

And that concludes the draft! Thanks for reading; please leave all comments below!