I think it is time to take a look back at the offseason.
The new franchise had multiple drafts to build a team, but two were the most important. The Expansion Draft back in December of 2016 and the SuperDraft this past January.
It is the fun, cool thing to grade the NFL Draft the hour after it is done, but that isn’t necessarily helpful. It is about a half of a year since the Loons’ drafts and seems like the perfect time to grade them.
The Loons had 5 picks (down from prvious expansion drafts having 10 picks for each team.) The players available were selected from a pool of unprotected players from the existing MLS teams.
Chris Duvall (Traded to Montreal for Johan Venegas)
Chris Duvall was the first pick of MNUFC’s Expansion Draft. Chris Duvall also spent about a couple hours total as a Loon before he was traded to the Montreal Impact for some guy from Costa Rica named Johan Venegas.
Venegas has been a stalwart in a playmaking postion for Minnesota this season amassing 672 minutes played with 2 goals and 2 assists. While he has not been perfect, Venegas has shown great technical ability. Venegas’s starting spot might be in danger of being replaced by a rookie (who we will get to later), but for now, Venegas has been a reliable attacking option for Minnesota.
Initially, I was not that happy with this draft pick and assumed he would be a piece that is traded. I was wrong on both accounts.
Collen Warner had never impressed me in the few games of his that I had seen until this season. Admittedly, that is not his problem. This season, however, Warner had been arguably the Loons most consistent player. Until recently losing his starting position next to Sam Cronin to Ibson, Warner was slotted into that #6 role.
Now that Ibson appears to be the go-to option in the midfield, I do not think Warner will be starting very soon as Ibson brings more playmaking ability, but Warner provides depth that was unexpected.
Honestly, this pick has worked out in just so many ways. At the beginning of the season, it looked like Mohammed Saeid was going to be a stalwart in the Loons midfield. He played 243 minutes for the Loons. The Swedish midfielder could control the ball, but he had a tendency to get lost in the early blowouts.
Then he was traded as part of the package that brought Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to the Loons. Both Cronin and Burch have been in the Starting XI since arriving in the Twin Cities, with Cronin becoming the holding midfielder that I think all the fans wanted. Saeid seems like a great guy and a good player, but he was sent to the Colorado Rapids for the good of the team.
Jeff Attinella (Traded for the Discovery Rights to Miguel Ibarra)
Okay, I admit that I am torn on this one. I am a huge Miguel Ibarra fan (as many Loons fans are), but the goalkeeping situation with this team was well...not good. Jeff Attinella was the backup to Nick Rimando, but had impressed when he started. I thought he was going to be the backstop of the future for the Loons.
Instead, Batman returned. He was a bit player in the first couple matches, but now he seems to have locked down a starting spot, and he deserves it. How you rate this trade will depend on how you rate goals vs. saves. To me, Attinella (if he can stay healthy) and Ibarra are a wash. Ibarra is not a big goal scorer, but if his presence was a way to get Christian Ramirez signed, then the trade is absolutely worth it. If Ramirez would have signed either way, then keeping Attinella would have made just as much sense.
Grade: B, with big room to improve
Femi Hollinger-Janzen (Traded for Bobby Shuttleworth)
I do not think this was the plan. I assume the team had planned on using Femi Hollinger-Janzen in a depth role. He was a pretty good player as a rookie for the New England Revolution, and he looked to be a part of what has become a formidable attack from Minnesota United.
Instead, the goalkeeping situation was dire. Femi was shipped back to New England for Bobby Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth was on the bench for the first match and most of the Snow Bowl (until John Alvbage went down injured.) He hasn’t looked back. While not perfect, Shuttleworth has been a solid stopper for the Loons. And at the very least, given the fans reason to feel comfortable about the goalkeeping situation.
Overall, I would say that the Expansion Draft was a success. Sure, on one hand, only one of these players is still on the team. But on the other hand, the other four players were each traded for players that have each become key contributors for MNUFC. I would grade the Expansion Draft a solid A-, but hey, what do I know?
I understand how hypocritical it is of me to judge those that grade the NFL draft the hour after it is done and now I am going to judge MNUFC’s draft. But hey, at least I gave it five months right? The Loons entered the draft with 4 picks (first overall, 23rd, 25th, and 67th.) After a couple trades, the Loons ended with...4 picks.
Abu is coming along. The first overall pick started the season with an injury and it has hindered his progression. But as the season has gone on and Abu has been given more chances, he is showing flashes of talent that made him the right pick. He has yet to find the back of the net, but it has to be coming soon.
Comparatively, we here at E Pluribus Loonum thought that there were two ways to go with the first pick, Danladi or Duke’s Jeremy Ebobisse. Both players seemed to have the potential to be gamechanging forwards. Ebobisse ended up in a good situation with the Portland Timbers, but has since been loaned to Portland Timbers 2.
Grade: B, but looks set to skyrocket
2017 was not a strong year for the goalkeeping position. MNUFC selected Alec Ferrell out of Wake Forest 23rd overall. Ferrell is not on the roster, but MNUFC retains the rights.
Honestly, it does not seem like a great pick on the face, but Ferrell was dealing with a preexisting injury. And a quick google seach of the next three goalkeepers taken does not paint a great picture.
Hopefully, Ferrell can still pan out.
Grade: Incomplete because he is still young.
Thomas de Villardi
After MNUFC traded out of their 25th overall selection, the team traded back into the second round to select University of Delaware defender, Thomas de Villardi. Again, this is not a fair assessment as de Villardi has been injury plagued since being drafted.
De Villardi underwent successful surgery on his Achilles. He was signed to a contract, but will be out this season.
Grade: Eh, grading drafts is pointless
And with the 1st pick of the fourth and final round, MNUFC picked Indiana University midfielder, Tanner Thompson. Like Ferrell, Thompson was not signed to the team, but the team retains the rights.
Thompson has sinced joined Indy Eleven in the NASL. And he does not seem to mind. Maybe this pick will end up being a steal.
Grade: Pshhh, I don’t know. A good effort?
So, overall, the SuperDraft was exactly what would be expected. The rookies are needing some time to adjust to the level of MLS. Abu seems poised to breakout and really if he pans out, that will make this draft a success.
When it comes to starting a team, drafting is not an exact science. The front office did well with the Expansion Draft (if only after a couple of trades,) and Abu seems poised to make this SuperDraft look like a success. For an expansion franchise, the best way to build the team is to take advantage of the Expansion Draft. Hopefully, the rookies will pan given time.
What do you think of my assessment? Am I too lenient? Too harsh? Let us know, below?