1-2-3 What are we drafting for?
I can't really must much enthusiasm for the MLS Superdraft this year. Maybe it is the lack of a first round draft pick, our analysis which has indicated (though not conclusively proven) that DC is not particularly performing well in the draft the last few years. Although, here we may be confusing causes and effects. Is the issue that DC isn't finding talent? Given United's decent performance in finding overlooked players who have made it to first team time, I don't think that's the scenario. The issue is, I think, one of developing players. If we find a player with a reasonable amount of talent, we can find a place for them. If someone's talent is marginal to begin with, I'm not sure we're as good as other team at developing and honing those skills to make them better than they are. This is, by the way, an area I think other teams do much better than United in.
Now, the counter-argument is that with a strong first team (back-to-back Supporter's Shields and all that) it is more difficult for new players to break in. And I understand that, but that only holds for the Best XI, and given the large number of fixtures we look to have, we can't always play the Best XI. Tom Soehn gave the US Open Cup to the reserves, a position I agreed with (and continue to agree with), but that was only one game (which they disappointed in). Quite simply, is the problem not the players, but the training? It is a question I don't have an answer to, but it is a question that should be asked.
To some degree, I also think United is a bit cavalier about its draft picks. I think you should get a decent first team player with a first round pick, someone who can give you several years. The others are all a bit hit or miss, but the first round pick should be good for something. And yet, United has valued a first round draft pick as equivalent to Rod Dyachenko, a player I am not sold on to this date. Of course, one might think we were, shall we say, coerced into overpaying to get Rod back (given that his passport issues could have prevented him from playing any games in Toronto, I can see why Mo Johnston might have felt swindled in the Expansion Draft and complained to someone). So, in short, I don't think the draft will provide you with much reassurance about our upcoming 2008 roster. And look at the comments coming from the Front Office:
"If we can add a wide midfielder, that would be useful," United general manager Dave Kasper said. "We always need more cover in the back, but we are really just looking for the best talent available."
Sure, it would be useful to add a startling level wide midfielder from the draft, but I wouldn't count on it. United could draft another striker for defensive midfielder with their first pick. If I had a guess, I could see United picking a defender, but the last three words are the important ones - "Best talent available." Drafting for need with our situation is naive, and could create more problems than it solves. Consider what Kasper said to the Express:
"We want to come away each year with one or two young guys who can contribute at around minimum salary," Kasper said.
In other words, maybe we can find some value, but we're not looking for superstars. Seems about right.