Justin Meram photo Courtesy Atlanta United
Fullbacks/wingbacks are the next position to get the ranking treatment in advance of Tuesday’s Expansion Draft. With the full data here (positions as defined by American Soccer Analysis).
The first few are in order, the rest are mostly alphabetical within their tiers. If there’s trade value in a guy who might not otherwise seem like a smart pick, that’s just life: these are mostly obvious “use or flip” rankings, not fully-nuanced wheeling and dealing-aware.
Lock it in
1. Zachary Brault-Guillard, Montreal Impact
Brault-Guillard got only about 10 games’ worth of action for the Impact this year, but that was a very good defense (with the usual caveats of “are the defenders to blame when the GA vastly underperforms xGA). He’s only 20, and within spitting distance of a senior-minimum cap hit. Put it all together, and that’s a top prospect.
2. Ben Sweat, New York City FC
Sweat carries the second-biggest salary ($200k) of anyone I have in this section, but he also got a bunch of time for a top defense. He’s young enough at 28 to play for several more years, is a two-cap US International, and so on and so forth.
3. Mohamed El-Mounir, LAFC
El-Mounir is another expensive-ish player ($185k), and one with a much less robust resume (at least in the United States) than Sweat. He also got only 660 minutes last season as a 27-year old. That was… while trying to find time for a stupid-good LAFC defense, though, and the ol’ “winning is an acquired trait that rubs off” plays to his strength, too.
4. Kyle Smith, Orlando City SC
Smith got 1500 minutes for an Orlando City defense that wasn’t half-bad last year. He’s also on a senior-minimum budget hit, and at 27 has at least a few years left in the legs. From an NSC-specific perspective, right backs are (ironically, given the course of US Soccer history) a little rarer in this pool than left-sided players.
5. Saad Abdul-Salaam, Seattle Sounders FC
Another senior-minimum player who got decent minutes, albeit for a much worse defense. He’s turning 29 toward the end of next season, so one of the older players on this list.
6. Marcos Lopez Lanfranco, San Jose Earthquakes
The most expensive player on this list ($280k) carries that price tag for a reason: he’s a 19-year old Peru international who likely has big sell-on value in the future. He got about 1200 minutes for a weaker San Jose defense, though, so it’d be a risky pick (and from Nashville’s perspective, they likely have agreed not to draft any Quakes).
7. Jorge Corrales, Montreal Impact
I think I’m proving myself a sucker for senior-minimum players who got decent time (1200 minutes) for good defenses (the Impact allowed 1.21 xGA per 96 minutes). He’s turning 29 early next season, so not necessarily a long-term play.
Good with questions
Mikey Ambrose, Atlanta United
A 26-year old senior minimum player, Ambrose was mostly with ATL UTD 2 last season, but there’s little shame in struggling to crack that loaded Five Stripes lineup.
Steven Beitashour, LAFC
Beitashour was a first-choice player for the best defense in the league (and even if some of the quality in that defense was playing keepaway, he can do that, too). His age and compensation matrix – $275k at 33 by the time next season begins – makes him a risky pick, still.
Diego Campos, Chicago Fire
Just 24 and on a senior-minimum salary, Campos is a value pick. The Fire’s defense was underrated if you believe xGA is meaningful (it is – but how much does underachieving it reflect on the players?). He did get only about five games’ worth of minutes, though, so the contributions he personally made to the success.
Connor Maloney, Columbus Crew
Maloney got about nine games’ worth of minutes for a Columbus defense that was pretty good (though certainly not great). That defense also became more Gary Smith-like later in the year when Caleb Porter put his fingerprint on it. On a senior minimum salary at 24 years of age, there’s upside in the risk of taking a largely unproven player.
Justin Meram, Atlanta United
Meram is a massively risky pick: he’s well into DP/TAM territory in terms of compensation, and played for three different teams over the course of 2019 after failing to live up to expectations at either of the first two. He’s also 30 years old… but a fullback/wingback converted from winger could be a nice piece, and at least has some trade value.
Eric Miller, New York City FC
An 800-minute player for a very good NYCFC defense, Miller is 26 and makes just over $108k, so he’s not a massive cap hit.
Justin Morrow, Toronto FC
Morrow is getting up there in years, 32, and makes pretty good scratch at $330k. He did manage to play over 2500 minutes for a decent TFC defense, though, so Father Time may take another couple years to catch up with him. Then there’s the winning pedigree he could bring.
Diedie Traore, LA Galaxy
Traore only got 238 minutes for a poor Galaxy defense this season. However, he’s available on a reserve-minimum salary for three more years at just 20, so there could be value available.
Zarek Valentin, Portland Timbers
Valentin makes $160k and is 28, so this is a guy who has to contribute pretty quickly in his tenure with the club to be worth the price. He got nearly 1800 minutes this season, but Portland’s defense was really bad. If he can be renegotiated down a bit, this coule be a value pick.
Edgar Castillo, New England Revolution
Already 33, Castillo is getting up there in years, and 1800 minutes this season isn’t as meaningful when it came for a horrid Revolution defense.
Waylon Francis, Columbus Crew
A 29-year old making $160k he played almost 1500 minutes for a mediocre-to-poor Crew defense. That’s not a winning combination.
Nicolas Hasler, Sporting Kansas City
Only 780 minutes for a poor SKC defense, and making $168k.
Jose Rafael Hernandez, Atlanta United
Making $140k and played almost exclusively for ATL UTD 2 this year. At 22, the future is bright for the Venezuelan, but that may not justify a pick in the Draft.
Hector Jimenez, Columbus Crew
$200k for a 31-year old who didn’t hit 1800 minutes is not a value pick.
Jimmy Medranda, Sporting Kansas City
Couldn’t see time for a poor SKC defense, even though he’s making over $155k.
Ashtone Morgan, Toronto FC
Canadian international barely got time for TFC.
Alvas Powell, FC Cincinnati
He’s young, and getting away from the stink of the FCC front office could help him out, but $235k is steep for a guy who barely cracked 1000 minutes on whatever… that… was.
Brek Shea, Atlanta United
Shea performed quite a bit better when Atlanta tried to give him the LB/LWB role, but the onetime USMNT forward largely looks like an MLS bust since returning from an ill-fated transfer to England.
Seth Sinovic, Sporting Kansas City
32 years old, played for a poor SKC defense. He did get over 2000 minutes, and $135k is not the steepest, but there are better value picks.
Rodney Wallace, Sporting Kansas City
Speaking of “SKC defenders provide poor value,” here’s a guy who’s almost as old, and making more than twice as much money… and didn’t even play this year.
Not enough data
There’s some promise in these guys because they’re available on the cheap, but they didn’t play enough to get a picture of how good they actually are:
Abdi Mohamed, New York City FC – reserve-roster eligible for two more seasons.
RJ Allen, Philadelphia Union
Carter Manley, Minnesota United – reserve-roster eligible for two more seasons
Paul Marie, San Jose Earthquakes – reserve-roster eligible in 2020
Olivier Mbaizo, Philadelphia Union
Ryan Telfer, Toronto FC
Tony Beltran, Real Salt Lake (retired)
Fabinho Alves, Philadelphia Union
Not super-expensive, but 34 already.
Rod Fanni, Montreal Impact
Will be 38 next month.
Jordan Harvey, LAFC
Played a decent amount for LAFC, but turning 36 before next season begins, and at $165k is not a value pick, unless he can be renegotiated.
Jimmy McLaughlin, FC Cincinnati
Failed to see the field for one of the worst defenses in MLS history. Like they didn’t even toss him out there to give it a go. Heck, they barely played him in 2018 and inexplicably signed him to move up a level. FCC: Not even once.
Wilfried Moimbe, Minnesota United
31 and on over $250k in compensation. The math just doesn’t work out to make this a smart pick.
Bacary Sagna, Montreal Impact
37-year old DP. That’s a “no” for me.
Jorgen Skjelvik, LA Galaxy
1800 minutes on a million-dollar salary is not great return, especially when it means he contributes to the Galaxy’s weak defense.