The Union made three selections in today's MLS Supplemental Draft. All three players have some kind of tie to the region, either having grown up in the area or attended college in the area.
With their first pick, the fifth overall, the Union selected La Salle midfielder Ryan Richter. The Southampton, Pa., native and was the Atlantic 10's offensive player of the year in 2010. Richter's 14 goals last season was tops in the conference.
“We are all very happy and excited for Ryan,” Explorers head coach Pat Farrell told me. “He has positioned himself through hard work and discipline to have an opportunity to play professional soccer."
In a conference call with reporters after the draft, Union assistant coach John Hackworth said Richter was the club's top target today.
"He just started scoring goals like crazy, and continued to do so all year long," Hackworth said. "He's definitely got more soccer in him than people give him credit for. In the end I was happy he didn't get to the combine, because I think if he would have been down there, he would have turned a few heads."
With their second pick, the 23rd overall, the Union selected Princeton defender Josh Walburn. The St. Louis native scored six goals and dished out five assists last season. He played centrally and out wide on the back line, and has also played some in midfiel and even at forward.
"Josh has the tools to be successful at the next level," Tigers coach Jim Barlow told me. "He is big, strong, fast, good in the air, has good feet, and is versatile. He was a big part of our success over the past few seasons."
That success included back-to-back NCAA College Cup appearances the last two years. In 2010, Princeton lost in the first round to Union SuperDraft pick Levi Houapeu's UMBC Retrievers. Houapeu scored the tying goal and set up the winner in that game.
Hackworth described Walburn as "a good athlete with good size, and a really good soccer player."
With their third pick, the 41st overall, the Union selected Providence midfielder Matthew Marcin. The Wilmington, Del., native scored 10 goals last season, and led the Friars to the championship game of the Big East Tournament.
Hackworth admitted that Marcin's performance that week caught the Union's coach staff by surprise
"I'd never heard of Matt going into that tournament - no one had ever said anything to us, but he was excellent," Hackworth said. "He was a traditional 'number 10,' a total playmaker. Everything that Providence did went through him."
You can read a full recap of how the Supplemental Draft unfolded at the bottom of this post.
Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, Major League Soccer has sent us all scurrying back to to our computers. Today, MLS conducts its fifth player draft of this offseason.
Yes, really. After the Expansion Draft, two different Re-Entry Drafts and the SuperDraft, today MLS conducts its Supplemental Draft. It is basically a continuation of the SuperDraft, as clubs are able to pick college players who were not claimed at the big show in Baltimore last week.
The Supplemental Draft is a new thing in MLS. It was conducted in each of the league's first four seasons as a separate entity from the college draft, then was merged with the college draft in 2000 to create what is now known as the SuperDraft.
The Supplemental Draft made a one-year comeback in 2003, serving as a second chance for players who were not taken in the SuperDraft. In 2004, though, it was deemed surplus to requirements.
A year later, in 2005, MLS created its first ever reserve league. That made the Supplemental Draft useful again. But financial constraints put the reserve league on hiatus after the 2008 season, and the Supplemental Draft went away once again.
Now both entities are back, and perhaps this time their marriage will last longer. MLS has expanded its clubs' rosters to 30 players, and having a reserve league will give lots of back-bench players a chance to get out on the field.
Zac MacMath, the Union's top SuperDraft pick, is a perfect example of the kind of player who will benefit from the reserve league's existence. With Faryd Mondragon and Brad Knighton at the top of Philadelphia's depth chart, MacMath will get experience playing reserve league games that he would not have otherwise.
Michael Farfan and Levi Houapeu, the Union's other two draft picks, are also likely to see a lot of reserve team action.
Having reserve teams helps MLS clubs in one other way. Whereas baseball and hockey teams can easily move players to and from their minor league affiliates, Major League Soccer's single-entity structure makes it more difficult.
It's certainly not impossible, and the Union have been a great example of that by loaning players to Harrisburg and Reading. But with a reserve league in place, MLS clubs can keep everything in-house.
So there's your explanation of the past. Now for the present, and the future. You can follow the Supplemental Draft in real time below, with updates from the league and beat writers across the country. I'll be chiming in throughout the afternoon to answer your questions and provide my own commentary.
The theoretical order of picks in each round is the same as it was in the SuperDraft: the two expansion clubs first, then the existing clubs in reverse order of overall finish. But as with the SuperDraft, there were a few trades of Supplemental Draft picks. You can see which picks were swapped here.
Here's how it all went down. If you're on a mobile device, click here to continue reading.