Or afternoon as it happens. Whatever. Let's address United's draft class one more time--briefly--before moving on with the more important business of finalizing a roster. I'm going to break this out in the time-honored Tickle v. Tackle format . . .
One of the big bugaboos with United last year was an overall lack of depth. That's going to be even more of an issue this year with the reduced roster sizes. So what was good about the draft? We added competition in a variety of areas: Wallace, all along the left flank; Pontius, up top and on the wings; Kocic, keeper; Adams, left and right back; and Barklage, midfield--mostly wide.
Of course, the one area that wasn't addressed at all is the area where we happen to need the most help--central defense. And while Wallace and Pontius have already inked deals with the league, the other three aren't guaranteed to show up. Kocic and Adams both potentially have opportunities in Europe.
Another issue that the braintrust obviously recognized from last year's team (how could they not?) was a general lack of speed. The late season addition of Khumalo and drafting Adams and Wallace definitely adds a dash of pace.
That said, we got a bunch of speed . . . at fullback. Yes, yes, Wallace could also potentially patrol the left wing, but outside of one forward who isn't particularly lethal (Khumalo), we don't have a ton of speed up top, and the additions of Barklage and Pontius don't appreciably improve on that.
I mentioned it before with the first "tickle", but I think the competition for spots should really yield some results when it comes to having depth that can actually absorb some minutes. At the moment, we've got somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 guys (the numbers aren't definite because we've got guys in contract limbo, potential signings, and unknown injuries to resolve) fighting for 24 roster spots.
Of course, three of those 24 spots are going to be "developmental" spots (Wallace takes one of the four developmental spots as GenAd), hardly a fitting reward for surviving the battle for a roster spot. I wonder why MLS didn't just do away with the developmental structure when they scrapped the reserve league. Why not let the clubs negotiate whatever deals they want as long as they can get under the cap? Bush League, baby--live the dream! You too can be a professional soccer player, drawing a salary that doesn't even threaten $20k. Ugh.
Alright, let's put this particular puppy to bed for a while. The players start arriving for physicals this weekend, so I'll kick off the official pre-season by compiling a roster chart which we can update as we wend our merry way to First Kick 2009. That should be up sometime this weekend. In the meantime, hope springs eternal, so . . .