Expansion Draft: Orlando City Anaylsis, Grades, and Breakdown

August 11, 2013; Carson, CA, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Tony Cascio (14) moves the ball against the defense of Chivas USA defender Carlos Borja (5) during the first half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 MLS Expansion Draft has come and gone with many questions left to be answered.  Orlando City SC shocked many with it’s selection of Portland Timbers Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with the first overall pick. But how do our selections stack up overall? Here is my player by player breakdown with individual grades.

1) Donovan Ricketts, Portland Timbers: Goalkeeper was a need heading into this Expansion Draft. With Tally Hall needing extra time to recover from his ACL injury; it was a position that was bound to be addressed. But very few saw Orlando City diving into the goalkeeper market with the first overall selection, while none could have foreseen Donovan Ricketts being the goalkeeper of choice.  But Ricketts was the shocking selection and the rest is now history. Orlando City quickly confirmed that Ricketts will be kept heading into the 2015 MLS season instead of being used in a trade. While many assume Ricketts will simply be a temporary starter until Hall is ready to go; I strongly feel that Heath will continue to stick by Ricketts if he plays at a level that saw him recognized as the 2013 MLS Goalkeeper Of The Year. Heath’s recent history with Miguel Gallardo and Carl Woszczynski suggests the Gaffer will go with whatever hand he feels is hottest. There is nothing wrong with having two starting quality goalkeepers on a team; but this is an incredibly large investment for Orlando City. Especially considering how many holes this roster still has moving into MLS that could have been addressed with the top overall pick. Grade: C

2) Tony Cascio, Colorado Rapids: The first of our two selections from Colorado Rapids; Tony Cascio is an attacking midfielder that can bring a lot of firepower to our attack if he develops. The former UConn product has 4 goals in 3 seasons in MLS. Didn’t do too much on a loan stint with Houston Dynamo in 2014; but he is still a highly regarded prospect. I was a little surprised to see Orlando City head in this direction considering Ben Speas from Columbus Crew was available here; but I’ll defer to Orlando GM Paul McDonough who has intimate familiarity with the UConn soccer program that Cascio came out of. At the very least he’ll provide a good depth option on our 2015 roster as he continues his development. Grade: C+ 

3) Jalil Anibaba, Seattle Sounders: Anibaba was quickly packed to Sporting Kansas City as part of the Aurélien Collin trade. Grade: Incomplete

4) Pedro Ribeiro, Philadelphia Union: The young Brazilian midfielder has to be over the moon to be able to play alongside Kaka in Orlando City next season. Ribeiro was a 2014 First Round MLS SuperDraft pick and was able to notch 2 goals for Philadelphia Union last season. Ribeiro may just be the most physically gifted of our Expansion Draft picks and has an incredibly high ceiling. I don’t think he’ll make an immediate impact as a starter; but I think he can get there with hard work and will surprise a lot of people. I really look forward to seeing how his game develops here in Orlando City under the watchful eye of Adrian Heath. Grade: B+

5) Lewis Neal, DC United: An Orlando Original comes home! Neal has spent the past 3 seasons with DC United serving as a valuable veteran and backup midfielder with a few spot starts since leaving Orlando City. While he isn’t the most gifted player; Neal brings much needed veteran leadership to the Lions and provides Coach Heath with a valuable weapon he can plug into multiple spots. Grade: B

6) Jairo Arrieta, Columbus Crew: Heading into the later stages of the draft; Orlando City invested in some veteran firepower with this pick. The 31 year old Costa Rica international started 14 games last year while scoring 5 goals. Arrieta can provide some much needed goal scoring prowess and creativity in the attack for the Lions next season. I also think he’ll do a good job helping younger players like Rochez adapt to MLS on and off the pitch as a mentor. Solid veteran pickup. Grade: B

7) Heath Pearce, Montreal Impact: As it turned out; Pearce was the only pure defender Orlando City kept at the end of Expansion Draft day. The well traveled former USMNT player has a long history of injuries and was part of the league worst Montreal Impact last year. But he’s also 29 years old and has over 10,000 minutes of MLS game experience to bring with him to Orlando City. This selection comes down to how much Pearce has left in the tank and his contract situation. If Pearce is on his game he can hold down the centerback spot next to Collin until Tommy Redding is ready to ascend to the spot. But it’s asking a lot to expect that out of Pearce at this point. Grade: C 

8) Danny Mwanga, Colorado Rapids: The former first overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft has certainly seen his peaks and valleys in MLS. After bagging 7 goals in 24 appearances in his tremendous rookie season; Mwanga has seen his minutes and opportunities fade just as quickly as they had risen. After hitting rock bottom with only 214 minutes and 2 goals scored for the lowly Rapids last season; Mwanga’s career was obviously hanging in the balance. Enter Orlando City with the magic that Adrian Heath can bring in both coaching and the system. This is The Gaffer’s ultimate reclamation project and Mwanga is a tremendous physical specimen to mold. Can Heath turn this kid around? We’ll have to see. But I’ve learned never to bet against Inchy. Grade: B

9) Mark Sherrod, Houston Dynamo: The severely injured Sherrod was traded to San Jose Earthquakes. Grade: Incomplete

10) Eric Gehrig, Columbus Crew: A needed centerback that started 14 matches oddly traded to the Chicago Fire: Grade: Incomplete

My overall thoughts on the 2014 Expansion Draft? It was a roller coaster afternoon that went in the exact opposite direction I thought it would. But it falls in line with everything that Orlando City has done thus far: players are selected to fit the system plain and simple. Orlando City fans must put trust in Adrian Heath and the front office staff. They have obviously placed a premium on players that fit the system and addressed some needs accordingly. The players picked in the midfield and brought in to reinforce the attack were fine selections. Plenty of potential in many of these selections. But the clear misses here are Ricketts, lack of investment in Centerback, and the two later trades. We’ll see how this pans out heading into 2015; but we walk away from the 2014 Expansion Draft with a few more holes needed to fill that could have been taken care of with certainty today. Overall Grade: B-