In most years, the first stage of Major League Soccer’s Re-Entry Draft passes without much fanfare.
Not this time.
Five players were selected Thursday afternoon, including one move by the Union. They picked up Chicago Fire midfielder Corben Bone. He has been in MLS since 2010, when the Fire took him with the 13th overall pick in the SuperDraft.
"We like what Corben can offer to our team going forward,” Union manager John Hackworth said in a statement issued by the team. “Our staff believes he has a lot of potential to contribute and we are happy to have the opportunity to add him to our squad as we continue to look to improve our roster this offseason."
Bone has made just 18 league appearances since then, with eight starts. The most he has played in any one year is 534 minutes over 10 games in 2011.
The key stat, though,is Bone’s salary. He made just $49,000 guaranteed last year, and his 2014 option was declined.
Players acquired in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft are guaranteed the value of their option year salary if there is one, or must be made a bona fide offer of a contract if they are out of contract. Since Bone had an option year on the table, the Union decided to pick it up.
Of the other four moves, the biggest by far was Portland snatching Steve Zakuani from the rival Seattle Sounders. Zakuani is close with Timbers coach Caleb Porter, who was in charge at Akron when Zakuani played college soccer there.
Zakuani was out of contract when the Timbers picked him up. He made $233,000 guaranteed last year. Though the Timbers don't have to match that salary, it's a safe bet he won’t be taking too much of a pay cut.
Portland also had to make a trade to move up the Re-Entry Draft order, which is set by reverse order of finish during the season. They jumped up to No. 2 by sending defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste and their No. 17 selection Thursday to Chivas USA, who sent the higher pick and midfielder Jorge Villafaña in return.
Zakuani has had a lot of injuries to deal with in recent years. But if Porter can get the best out of him, he’ll have a three-man front line of Zakuani, Max Urruti and Darlington Nagbe (another Akron product), with star playmaker Diego Valeri behind them. That will be one of the most feared attacks in MLS next year.
(Having Villafaña won’t hurt either, as he’ll bring depth and versatility to the midfield. The Anaheim native also has some experience with the U.S. Under-20 national team.)
One of the Union’s biggest rivals also made moves Thursday. D.C. United drafted right back Sean Franklin from Los Angeles, then picked up Houston central defender Bobby Boswell. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Boswell, whose pro career started with D.C. from 2005 to 2007.
D.C. will be on the hook for a lot of money with these deals. he made $248,333.33 guaranteed last year, and had his 2014 option declined. Boswell made $220,000 and was out of contract, but by the terms of the CBA, United must offer him a five percent raise on his 2013 salary because of his service time in MLS. So he'll get $231,000 in 2014.
With all that said, both players will provide a big upgrade to United’s backline, which was really poor in 2013.
Finally, the Colorado Rapids drafted Seattle Sounders defender Marc Burch, whose guaranteed salary last year was $70,000. The Sounders declined his 2014 option. Burch can play left back or central defense, and was a player I had highlighted as a potential pickup for the Union.
The list of players eligible for the second stage of the Re-Entry Draft is here.