The 2016 MLS Expansion Draft is finally here and I’m excited for Minnesota United FC to pick up a few more players. The protected lists were released yesterday, and MNUFC and Atlanta United most likely spent the night creating list after list of potential picks. This is an important step in the team building process, 5 players to build a team around (in MNUFC’s case) or to supplement an already stacked lineup (in ATLU’s case).
Burning the midnight oil. #MNUFC pic.twitter.com/KejgWCF3fC— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) December 13, 2016
While the teams created their draft lists, I set to work making mine. I’ll start with the list, and fill you in on how I got there.
- Rafael Garcia - MF - LA Galaxy
- Dilly Duka - MF - Columbus Crew
- Josh Saunders - GK - NYCFC
- Chris Korb - D - DC United
- Kyle Fisher - D - Montreal Impact
This list is... different... than most of them that you have probably seen. Don’t blame me, I didn’t pick it. FIFA 17 did. I figured my time would not be best spent pouring over the massive list of unprotected players and determine who would be the best fit to Adrian Heath’s system based on actual play and skills. Instead, I spent just as long editing rosters on FIFA 17 for Xbox1 to contain only unprotected players.
This type of simulation was loosely inspired by Jon Bois’ Breaking Madden simulations. If you have not heard of Breaking Madden
get the hell out of here, it is/was basically a chance for one man to make all his wildest (American) football dreams come true (like running a fake punt on every play, or whether a 5 foot, 400 pound quarterback could save the Jaguars) while simultaneously destroying his Xbox 360. The endless character customization meant lots of glitches, showcasing the best that Madden had to offer.
While Jon Bois’ simulations are much more intense, involving player creation/customization, I took the easy road and simply edited the rosters. And it still took forever. Using the protected list I went through and removed all of the players that were protected by the team. Unfortunately, due to roster size issues, I was not able to remove any Homegrown or otherwise automatically protected players from the roster. FIFA requires that each team have 17 field players on a roster, so removing the 11 protected players was already a challenge enough. To make sure that I had enough players on the roster, I went and added the worst free agents I could find to fill up roster space. This (ideally) also worked to ensure that the unprotected players would be selected to starting lineups and that teams wouldn’t venture to pick up new players during the simulation.
After a few hours of moving players on and off of MLS rosters, I finally had my unprotected season ready to go. FIFA grades teams on a five star scale, based on the quality of the team and the players. For most MLS teams, they have between 2.5 and 4 stars. After the protected players were removed, these ratings dropped to between 1 and 2. While some of this is a result of the protected players being moved, a lot of it had to do with the free agents I selected to replace them. Most MLS rosters have players between 60 and 75 ratings, the free agents I chose to replace the protected players were often 55 or lower. Woops.
Now that I had my roster set, it was time to run the simulation.I chose Manager Career Mode, where the game told me I could control all aspects of the front office. I didn’t have time for that. I didn’t even have time to select my customizable manager’s name, quickly selecting the default name: Mr. Manager.
I was moving quickly, I had a deadline. The Loons aren’t available yet in the game (but our friends at FUTNation suspect that will be changing soon) so I ended up managing the Chicago Fire. They are first alphabetically so I picked them. I wasted no time heading to sim the whole season. Transfer window? No time. Player development? Not a chance. I had to get this season done before the actual draft happened. After about an hour of waiting (and my Xbox sounding like a plane taking off at one point) here is how the season panned out:
The keen observer will notice that the Chicago Fire didn’t make the list. That’s because Mr. Manager led them to a 4-10-20 season, good for last in the league (and page two of the table). I had no control over the other teams’ rosters once the simulation started, they may have trained harder or picked up some quality transfer window signings that helped them pick up a few wins. Or it was because I had the difficulty set to Legendary. Who knows, Chicago’s goal differential was -40, maybe Mr. Manager didn’t player a keeper.
Now that the season had ended, and the Fire missed the playoffs, it was time to determine who to select in the Expansion Draft.
Here are the rules I set out for myself before looking at the stats:
- I would select the best player on the best overall team.
- I would select the best scorer on the highest scoring team.
- I would take the keeper on the team with fewest Goals Allowed.
- I would take the best defender on the team with next fewest Goals Allowed.
- I would take the defender with the most cards on the team with the next fewest Goals Allowed.
FIFA doesn’t have a ton of defensive stats available, so selecting the defenders was going to based a lot on the players rating, games played, etc. Here’s how the picks worked out.
1. Best Player on best overall team: Rafael Garcia - MF - LA Galaxy
The Galaxy finished with 72 points, leading the Western Conference by 16 points. Garcia finished the season with 15 goals and a league-leading 10 assists. His goal total was also good for fifth in the league.
2. Best scorer on the highest scoring team : Dilly Duka - MF - Columbus Crew
As you can see above, Duka led the league in scoring while leading the high powered Columbus Crew offense to 59 goals.
3. Keeper on the team allowing the fewest goals : Josh Saunders - GK - NYCFC
The Galaxy allowed the fewest goals, followed by Columbus. The rules of the Expansion Draft state that a team can only lose one player during the draft, so I went to third on the list. Josh Saunders led NYCFC to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference, tallying 11 clean sheets (good for second in the league behind Columbus’ Steve Clark).
4. Best Defender on team allowing next fewest goals : Chris Korb - D - DC United
Siems would probably kill me if I didn’t include any defenders on the list so my last two picks are defenders. DC United gave up the 4th fewest goals, and Korb had two goals and an assist to lead the DC defense in offensive statistics (I know, this isn’t the best way to measure defense but I must play with the hand I was dealt).
5. Most cards on team allowing next fewest goals: Kyle Fisher - D - Montreal Impact
This rule was supposed to be the best defender in the playoffs, but Mr. Manager was sacked by the Fire front office as soon as the last regular season game was simulated. I was not able to access the tournament results and still have no idea who ended up winning (my money is on Columbus). Don’t worry, Mr. Manager landed on his feet, getting signed immediately by Accrington Stanley F.C. in England’s EFL League 2.
Why I ended up selecting bookings as the choice for defender, I am not quite sure. Maybe I thought aggression in a player would be nice, or maybe I just ran out of statistical categories easily accessible on the game. Anyway, Fisher was an interesting choice, because it was actually supposed to be Portland’s Alvas Powell until I realized that he was supposed to be protected. There were a few players that ended up sneaking in (like Graham Zusi, I must have just been in denial that we could not pick him up as we did in our mock draft).
I took a quick look into how these players performed in real life.
Rafael Garcia - The 27 year old was drafted in the second round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft, he has played in 27 games for LA Galaxy, playing 850 minutes.
Dilly Duka - The 27 year old has been in the league since 2010, playing for Columbus, Chicago and Montreal during that time. He has played 138 games, and has tallied 14 assists. He played in 3 playoff games with Montreal last year.
Josh Saunders - The 35 year old keeper started all 10 of LA Galaxy’s playoff games in their back to back MLS Cup seasons in 2012 and 2013. He has spent time with LA, Real Salt Lake, San Jose, and NYCFC in MLS and has also spent time with Puerto Rico, San Antonio and Miami FC in NASL.
Chris Korb - The 29 year old outside back missed the entire 2016 after an ACL tear in 2015 required a second additional surgery. He has played in 105 games with DC United since 2011.
Kyle Fisher - The 22 year old was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2016 Super Draft.
Overall, I would probably not suggest using this strategy to select players. I hope that MNUFC didn’t select players this way. Though, maybe Atlanta prepared their draft this way, having free time last night to play virtual golf. I haven’t seen any of these players on anyone’s lists of players that MNUFC or ATLU should take (though Saunders did make Bruce McGuire’s DO NOT DRAFT list) so I do not foresee these players getting drafted, but it was worth a shot.
Who do you think MNUFC should take? Should I have run a few more seasons to get more detailed stats? Would you take any of these players?