The Great Keeper Kerfuffle

After all the discussion (great comments, folks--thanks!) yesterday over whether we could make Nowak deal for Szetela + whatever, the FO turns around and makes a deal that I'm still trying to figure out who comes out ahead on: Fred + our first round pick in the draft (#7) + allocation money for Perkins.

Points for consideration...

* I know I'm in the minority, but I was really looking forward to seeing what Fred could do given the coach's trust, a role as an a-mid/withdrawn forward, and fewer emotional distractions off the field. In my feverish tactical imaginings, I had envisioned Fred dropping deep off Pontius up top with Quaranta and Castillo playing high on the flanks, leaving Moreno available to supersub on for Pontius or Fred. That said, given that we don't know how if Fred will be able to recover his first-season form and the fact that we desperately needed to fix the broken keeper situation, I can accept losing Fred to gain Perkins. Perkins is, after all, a proven MLS and mid-tier Euro-league keeper who is getting looks with a national team known for great keepers. We're ahead at this point.

* But giving up the first round pick? I can understand that in isolation: we're not guaranteed to get a solid contriubutor at #7, despite our success in and around that position last year. The concensus seems to be that this year's draft pool is shallower than last and that the can't-miss talent will be gone by the #4 pick. So I get that that the #7 maybe wasn't as valuable as it would have been last year. But couldn't we have exchanged our first and third rounders for Philly's second rounder? As it stands, we'll have just two picks: one in each of the third and fourth rounds. At this point, I think we're just about even on the trade.

* Plus allocation money? See this is where I get a little confused. Dealing the first-round pick says to me that we're going shopping. The FO cleared a lot of cap space this off-season and also freed up some senior roster and international slots. United's default position has usually been to treat the draft with a bit of disdain, looking abroad for acquisitions that can make an immediate difference, rather than gambling on college kids. I guess we're going to the bargain bin, and that leaves me thinking that Nowak, who never needed a keeper in the first place, came out ahead on this one.

Overall though, I'm pretty pleased to have solved what I though was one of the biggest issues with the lineup last year. We traded two unknowns (Fred as meaningful contributor + whatever a highly-rated college kid could bring in his first pro season) for a proven commodity in an area we needed to upgrade. Even if we might have overpaid, the deal does make the team better, at least in the short-term. Now the question becomes: how do the rest of the keepers shake out?

Perkins is the starter. We'll take that as a given. But behind him, we've now got Hamid, Kocic, and Wicks on the books. Assume we're carrying three keepers. Who gets left by the wayside?

Hamid: I think we can all agree that Hamid is a no-brainer to keep. He's Generation Adidas, so he doesn't count against the cap, and a highly rated youngster to boot. To most minds, that makes him the automatic #3. But I'm going to just throw something out there. I wonder if American soccer is too much in lock-step with the Brits when it comes to not trusting young keepers. Buffon won his starting spot in Serie A at 17. Casillas won the starting job at one of the biggest clubs in the world (Real Madrid) around 18-19. Sure, I understand that those are two of the most talented keepers in the world, but we've produced some pretty damned good ones in this country as well. Who's to say Hamid shouldn't be getting some significant minutes at 19 just because that's not the way they do things in Ol' Blighty?

Kocic: I'm still not sure I'm seeing what the FO is seeing in Kocic. He's a decent shot-stopper, but his decision making, communication, and command of the box are questionable to say the least. Maybe with a sane veteran to mentor him, he turns into a reasonable backup, but that's a big "if" should Perkins go down and he be the man tasked with the job of replacing him. We saw last year the lack of trust in his ability when we went shopping for Cronin on loan when Wicks went down. Also, I wonder what his contract status is. Did he re-up for Dev Dollars or is he too old for a developmental contract now? Additionally, if we're going shopping overseas, does Kocic's foreign nationality make him a liability?

Wicks: It should come as no surprise that I'm not a big fan of Wicks as the starter. But as a backup? He's cheap and brings reasonable quality, so I wouldn't be averse to him returning. I just wonder if his ego takes a battering if he gets demoted? Also, he does have more trade value than Kocic would. If Kocic is now on the senior roster, I'd lean towards letting the slight difference in their salaries eat into our cap space and keep Wicks. If Kocic is still on Dev Dollars? Then things get a little more interesting.

I think my first inclination would be to part ways with Kocic and go with Perkins, Wicks, and Hamid. But I wouldn't be averse to dangling Wicks as trade bait to see who might be interested in a nibble.



  1. I think both sides got value on the trade - it's kind of a great example of "Getting to Yes." We have lots of cap space right now, so the financial allocation wasn't as important to us as maybe it is to Philly, especially with them taking on Fred's salary. They didn't need a keeper, but they need young bodies with potential, hence the draft pick, which we maybe weren't thrilled with to begin with. United gets a proven keeper and locker room leader, solving a potential crisis in both cases, and Philly doesn't feel forced to use the allocation on a keeper they don't need.

    I think it's absolutely true that United paid a lot for Perkins, but I think what DC got was more valuable to the team than what was paid. And I think the same is true for Philly. Everybody gets a car!

  2. Well, first of all, we don't have a third round pick. Sent that to LA for Wicks.

    I agree that Nowak came out ahead on this one, but at the same time I don't feel like we got worked. This fixes a big problem on the field and also adds much needed leadership.

  3. I opined a month or so back that the "conditional pick" from the Wicks' acquisition would be our third-rounder this year, but I never saw that it was made official. Thanks for the heads up. I guess that's just one more reason I have to not bother with following the draft this afternoon.

  4. As AMT says, this is a trade that improves both teams. I too was moderately optimistic about Fred as the a-mid, but what's really smart about this trade from a DC perspective, I think, is the long-term prospect.

    A draft pick is a crapshoot; lots of players will seem likely to pan out, but won't. We did well last year, but thinking back to the years before (Van Sicklen, Moose, etc.) should make that abundantly clear. I'm not sure what the percentage of first-rounders who go on to be solid long-term starters (your Namoffs) is, but I'm guessing (based on a quick survey of a couple of years of first-rounders at wikipedia) that 50% is about right. And of that 50%, some of them are the kind of player you can build a team around (Parkhurst, Kljestan, Clark), not all. So say 25% of the first-rounders will be extremely important to their team in five years.

    And Fred? Fred's 30. He might have a couple good seasons (2007) in him. But there's close to zero chance he has five good seasons left. He might not have any (though I'd put money on him starting and playing well for the Union).

    The impact of the allocation money can't be judged in quite the same terms, but I think when you compare a draft pick which has a 25-50% chance of turning into a solid long-term starter and a mercurial attacking midfielder who may never play like he once did again with an elite (and in MLS, Perkins is elite) goalkeeper who should have ten seasons left, this looks like one of the wisest long-term decisions that United has made in years. It's great to see evidence that they're not thinking "How can we patch this team together for one more shot at glory?" anymore, but about the long-term future of the franchise.

  5. I know it's become vogue to bash Payne and Kasper in the DCU internetosphere, but I feel like those guys are on fire this offseason getting us back on track. They're making all the right moves and covering most of the glaring needs.

    Left mid? Check.
    Goalkeeper? Big check.
    Cut out the rot/dead weight? (Fred, Emilio, Gomez, Olsen [i hate myself for including him]) Check.
    Put Pontius up top? mmhmm
    New coach? Yepper.

    Off the field, they even fired their Marketing VP, an area a lot of people have seen as not living up to expectations lately.

    There's a lot to be excited about for the 2010 season. Check off center back and forward and I could see us in contention next year.

  6. I'm not so sure I'd go as far as "on fire." There was a lot of excitement about the Sudamericano shakeup a few years ago, and look how far that got us. Anybody have any solid proof that Castillo will be a sure hit? Chances that Pontius/Wallace don't hit a rookie wall? Will Szetela show up to play, and, if not, where is the central midfield depth? Do we have a proven goal-scorer yet? Central defensive depth? Any guarantees that Onalfo doesn't blow up in our collective face? And he wasn't our first choice anyway, was he?

    So, not en fuego, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the off-season thus far. I do think the acquisition of Perkins, as I said above, checks a huge box on the off-season shopping list, and I'd do this deal again tomorrow. I just think that, considering Nowak wasn't in need of a keeper, Philly got more out of this than we did. That said, I'm pleased to have Perkins on board.

  7. @FB - I'm not worried about Philly getting a lot of value out of the trade; I'm just happy that United managed to get value to fill probably *the* most glaring hole in the roster. The FO didn't pay more than they were willing to pay, and Philly capitalized on the built-in windfall that is the #1 allocation pick.

    I understand the bitter taste in giving Philadelphia a windfall, but they were going to get one no matter what, just by virtue of owning that allocation pick. The parity police guarantee that one. Luckily, DCU managed to extract its own surplus from the situation, too.

  8. I see Ives thinks (see 9:20) its a bad trade for DC; that reinforces my warm feeling.

  9. I'd rep you for that if I could, rob. :-)

  10. I try to refrain from littering the internets with snarky comments about Ives, but sometimes it slips out, you know?

  11. I think DCU did exactly what they needed to do.
    Perkins commands the box, something we have not seen since, well, since Perkins was here last. I have to admit, I like Fred. I met him last year and he is genuinely nice guy. The problem is Fred was too nice to the opposition! Have people forgotten how much he gave the ball away last year? My memory is still pretty good and he lost or gave away possession entirely too much.
    The trade was even regardless of what outsiders may say. We know our team much better.

  12. I'm glad we got Perkins but I'm sad we had to give up the draft choice. Last year we put some effort into the draft for the first time in years and it paid off. A seven pick could've gotten us a decent young player who can stick around for a while.

    Now we will have to send Dave shopping in foreign lands and he can be a bit hit or miss on that score.

    Do we have enough saved up for Riquelme?

  13. I agree with the rest of you in saying that it was a pretty even trade. We both got something out of it.

    I don't share the same disappointment in seeing Fred depart before he got a chance to play CAM. Mostly because I don't think that we really had the intention of playing with a diamond 4-4-2 lineup. I think we're more likely to play with two central holding midfielders (Simms, Szetela/Wallace) and two attacking wide midfielders (Castillo, Quaranta). Fred was just going to be depth at wing in my eyes.

  14. I don't know about that, Shatz. I seem to remember Onalfo having a preference for the diamond in KC. We'll have to see if he's the type to adapt his tactics to the players or who tries to shoehorn square pegs into the round holes of his system. Also, Fred could have played off a striker in a withdrawn role. In the few glimpses we had of him playing higher last year, he and Emilio combined pretty well, and one of Fred's goals was a finish from the top of the box while playing that position.

    Of course, if we do go with two holders, we're sorely lacking depth. Who do you have beyond Simms and Szetela? DiRaimondo? McTavish? Maybe Barklage? Or Wallace, if that's even where they project him to play? Slim pickings... and that's assuming Szetela comes to play.

  15. Just to argue with myself from the previous comment, per Goff...

    "United could also alter its system and play with two central midfielders side by side instead of a traditional playmaker and defensive midfielder, Onalfo added."

    Still, I wonder where the depth comes from...

  16. We're absolutely lacking depth in central depth, no doubt about it. But I think a 4-4-2 with two central holding midfielders and two attacking wingers gives us our best starting 11 right now.

    Still hoping some quality foreign acquisitions are on the way...

  17. Sorry for joining this party way late.

    I thought this trade for Philadelphia was all about the #7 pick and the cash they needed to grab a number 6 pick from Dallas for allocation money. In essence, Philly got two first round picks and Fred in exchange for Perkins. I'm stoked to have Troy but am given pause when I consider we could have had picks 6 & 7 instead. I'd have happily gobbled up Okugo and Bone with those picks, and wonder if there was nothing else we could have done. I also would not be surprised in the least if Philadelphia moved Fred for more cash, but maybe Nowak has grand designs for him and likes the thought of him floating off Mwanga. Philly is going to be a menace in short order whatever they decide to do with our last Brazilian on the roster (for now).

    The other thing I was curious about is how long this deal was in the cards. When we resigned Federico, did we already know we were going to ship him and that Troy was on the way? I don't really think so, as I really do believe the FO was planing to give him another shot. If they were, and Fred wasn't just a throwaway to free up cash for a young Brazilian striker and a Costa Rican defensive stalwart, for example, then we really gave away alot. Still Troy, if not next year, will be the best keeper in MLS for a long time depending on how long he stays.

    Speaking of which, does anybody have an idea about how long his contract is for with MLS/United? That would be good to know. Even if we were to get 5 solid years out of Troy, we could probably command much more than $900k this time around if he were to head back overseas. We could get a second Troy windfall in other words.

    And does anyone know how long we signed Castillo for on loan? I've never seen this anywhere and have tried to figure this out to no avail. Hope its for at least a season and not until this summer when his Mexican club might be trying to shop him in Europe after a strong start with United.

  18. @Shatz
    I'm thinking Onalfo & Co. are still up in the air about formation until they see who else they can bring in. At least, that's the impression I got from Goff's draft piece with all the dithering about "maybe we play this way, maybe that way." Formation is only part of the tactical battle though. What I hope is that Onalfo has a solid idea about how he wants to play, and that the FO is on board with finding appropriate pegs for the empty roster holes and doesn't just grab the first shiny Sudamericano that fits Payne's idea of "style."

    Better late than never, welcome.
    Some really good questions there. I'm also really curious about what happened with Fred. I suppose it makes sense to talk a guy up before you dump him to improve his trade value, but I do wonder if that was the FO's intention when they resigned him. As for Castillo...

    "Per club and League policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed."

    Though Wikipedia says it's a season-long loan, and we all know that Wikipedia is never, ever wrong. ;-)