In Part 1 of Offseason Plans, Frank Klopas and Javier Leon spoke about offseason changes to the Fire roster and what the technical staff has been doing to prepare for 2011... Today the two talk about filling out the roster, Designated Players and goals for 2011.
Filling out the Roster
Along with the announced roster expansion during MLS Cup weekend, came the edict that teams could sign an unlimited amount of Home Grown players to their roster beginning in 2011. With plenty of space to fill out in, one obvious way to obtain players would be to sign more from the Academy, which became the first MLS Academy to win a USSFDA National Championship this past July, when the U16s defeated Cal Odyssey on penalties at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA
Just a month later, the club signed its first Home Grown player, Victor Pineda, from the victorious U16 side.
“We’re only going to sign a home grown player if the player really deserves to be there and has the quality,” said Klopas. Even with Victor Pineda, the guy is a quality player. You will probably see him on the field contributing with the first team next season. The quality has to be there because we want to put the player in the highest environment possible and have him be able to play – that’s what we’ve done with Victor.”
“Player development is an area that we have a lot of internal support from Andrew Hauptman,” continued Leon. “He sees the value in the future and he enjoys personally seeing the successes [Hauptman was at the U16 Academy’s National Championship win in July]. I think Frank has done a great job of making sure that the player development and first team programs are one in the same. There is a unity there, which I think is incredibly important with Mike [Jeffries] as well as John Dorn and Larry Sunderland who have put great energy in that program. The proof is going to be in the players that we sign and what they contribute, but we’re not going to rush just because others are doing it – the situation has to be right for the club and the player.”
Aside from just pulling up an Academy player or bringing in foreign talent, there are still the trades that can happen, January’s SuperDraft and the newest league mechanism for player acquisition, the Re-Entry draft.
Part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March between the league and MLS Players Union, the Re-Entry draft is the first step toward player free agency in the league’s 15 year history. The rules are somewhat complicated, but it allows players that have hit certain ages and MLS experience levels, whose teams do not want to exercise options or match the previous year’s salary, entry into a draft where they can be selected without compensation having to be paid to their former team.
Did you get all that?
It’s a process that, while good for the players, serves to confuse the more casual fan and even those from outside the U.S. with some interest in Major League Soccer, according to Leon.
“Right now we’re getting ready to go through the Re-Entry Draft. A lot of people will ask what that even means. You have two rounds – one is a certain way, the second is another way. We were talking before about the expansion draft, which is great – it means the league is growing, but in other countries they don’t have that.
As an example, it was reported that Nery Castillo was not protected in Mexico - as if we were trying to trade him. So now people are calling all the teams in Mexico and asking if they’re interested in him because he wasn’t protected by the Fire. It’s important to educate our fans and the rest of the world about the rules in our league. I think a lot of people may look at it and think it’s like trying to learn Chinese.”