12 January 2012

Draft Day Diary

I’ve spent the last three SuperDrafts in the convention center, wearing a suit, and trying desperately to figure out if my team would make a trade. This year I’m on my couch, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and trying desperately to keep my beagle from needing a bathroom break during the event itself. Slightly different experience. That said, following along via ESPN3 and various MLS personalities on Twitter could be a better way to experience this day of madness. Let’s find out:

11:39 – Wow. Red Bulls trade for Kenny Cooper. Thought MLS would have waited and announced it on ESPN’s broadcast, but that’s a stunner. However, everybody knew Portland was looking to move him last year, and that’s a huge cash swing for the Timbers: They dump Cooper’s salary AND pick up a large allocation from New York. If we’ve learned one thing from Gavin Wilkinson and John Spencer, it’s that they value allocation money.

11:56 – I have to admit, thinking of the ESPN opening for the draft, I always think of Rob Stone doing the voiceover. Always.

12 noon – Oh, good, they got Rob Stone in the intro anyway, with a patented, “Yeahhhh.”

12:05 – Jesse Marsch mugshot flashed on screen – from his Chivas playing days! Somebody take a picture of him in a suit and spread it around.

12:06 – “Speed is like catnip” says Alexi Lalas. Crazy, but funny, and that’s why he’s good on TV.

12:07 – Andrew Wenger at No. 1, AND it’s announced in French by commissioner Don Garber, who clearly did some serious practice to prepare for that. Wenger gets handed a hideously striped scarf on his way to the stage – last year’s scarves were good, but not so much in 2012.

12:08 – Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman immediately start arguing about what position Wenger will play, which reminds me that TV viewers don’t get to hear the players’ speeches. It’s too bad – I always enjoyed seeing which players thanked girlfriends, thanked God, and of course in one case thanked the wrong team for being selected.

12:15 – Andrew Wenger joins ESPN crew on set and immediately asks, “What’sat?” after not hearing a question. That doesn’t really translate into French, does it? "Qu'est-ce que tu as dit?" is a little more formal. Awkward, disjointed interview to say the least, including on-air handshakes.

12:20 – How can the first three picks take 20 minutes? These coaches could have sorted this much out on the plane yesterday. Ah, pomp and circumstance. At least Toronto didn’t take up all of its time before taking Luis Silva at No. 4.

12:21 – Did Adrian Healey just say FC Toronto?

12:31 – Alexi Lalas somehow works a Sam Garza-Cat Stevens connection onto the broadcast after Garza goes to San Jose at No. 6. Lalas should have warned the production crew at the convention center; they could have played some in the background.

12:35 – Wow, that might be the biggest surprise of the draft so far, as D.C. United picks Nick DeLeon (and his Kevin Alston-esque) hair. Clearly Ben Olsen sees him as an impact midfielder, but you have to think he’s got his eye elsewhere for 100-percent starters.

12:42 – Lalas and Twellman make fun of MLS trend of technical directors (in this case, Frank Klopas) becoming first interim head coach, then full-time head coach. “What’s the interview process like? Do you interview yourself?” Twellman asks. Good question.

12:44 – As Taylor Twellman quotes Klopas as saying his No. 9 pick, Austin Berry, doesn’t make any mistakes, Berry almost trips going up the stairs to the dais.

12:49 – Ethan Finlay from Creighton gets taken at No. 10 by Columbus, and ESPN actually spells his name right! The last name has been spelled about eight different ways in various projections and mock drafts, but Finlay it is.

12:55 – Everybody in the room becomes a Toronto FC fan when they use less than half their time to select Aaron Maund at No. 12. Keeping the draft moving will endear Aron Winter to just about everybody. Even at two rounds, the draft takes forever until your team is on the clock.

1:00 – Talking about the Philadelphia Union, Adrian Healey says that only the Los Angeles Galaxy had a better home record last year. This is a pet peeve of mine – Philadelphia had second fewest losses at home, but its 7-1-9 mark left a lot to be desired and ranked in the middle of the pack in points per game, which is what you’re judged on. Houston and Real Salt Lake, at 10-3-4, actually tied for 2nd in MLS in home record. Philadelphia was part of a four-way tie for seventh!

1:11 – Love Sporting KC president Robb Heinemann. He tweets: “You use bounce sheets in the ____” to tell fans, minutes before selection is announced, that their team is taking Generation adidas forward Dom Dwyer. Great tease, and a good fit as a fourth KC forward with great speed.

1:21 – Announcers’ names flash on screen, followed by Twitter handles. Amazing how ingrained in culture that has become over past few years.

1:39 – Love seeing Kansas City’s No. 1 pick, Dom Dwyer, signing autographs for local fans at the convention center. Of course, he can’t sign with a number just yet, so hopefully you don’t have a fan at home in three months saying, “Now who’s this guy with a ‘D’ in his name who signed by scarf?”

1:41 – Video quality on my ESPN3 feed just went from one bar (out of five) to five, so I may maximize the video for the first time today.

1:50 – ESPN broadcasters refer to Tyler Polak as if his last name is pronounced “Pollock.” Then MLS Sr. VP Todd Durbin, who has a history of butchering names, says “Poe-lack” like he’s from Poland, and Adrian Healey follows suit. Probably should have had a meeting to clear this up ahead of time, given he’s a Generation adidas player.

2:00 – ESPN announcers close out ESPN2 broadcast, tell us excitedly that their coverage is not ending and will continue on ESPN3. Only it doesn’t. ESPN3 kindly informs us that the event has ended. Whoops.

2:05 – ESPN3 graphic switches from ‘Your event has ended.’ to ‘Commercial break. We’ll be right back.’ A good sign?

2:07 – ESPN broadcast resumes, having only missed one pick – Jacob Hustedt of Washington, a guy who wasn’t at the combine and who I’ve barely heard of. Kind of appropriate, then, that ESPN missed his selection.

2:11 – Great TV as Alexi Lalas asks Montreal coach Jesse Marsch, point-blank, “Why [Wenger] over Mattocks?” and Marsch freezes for about three seconds. He then does a decent job of explaining that he sees Wenger as the best overall player. Then a little grilling of Marsch about Brian Ching, which is interesting to see. Uncomfortable laughter: always fun.

2:14 – Lalas misreads his notes, tries to claim Brendan King as being from Michigan. He and Twellman collapse into embarrassed laughter when Healey points it out. I am enjoying these three.

2:23 – Despite varying pronunciations of his name, Kevan George (I think KEY-vonn is right, but I’m not sure) brings more levity to the proceedings with his background in cricket, as Lalas asks Healey what a medium-pace bowler is.

2:26 – Kansas City’s selection of Cyprian Hedrick from Coastal Carolina takes the announcers completely by surprise, and they admit it. Turns out he’s from Clear Brook High School in the Houston area and played at San Jacinto Junior College before going to Coastal Carolina.

2:29 – Another surprise, as somebody uses a draft pick on a goalkeeper. I had expected them all to fall to the supplemental draft, but New York takes 6-foot-4 Fordham keeper Ryan Meara.

2:34 – Dominic Kinnear from Houston comes on set and, very quickly, gets questions about Brian Ching. Surprise, surprise. Says “shame on us” for leaving Brian Ching available and confirms dialogue with Montreal. Kinnear then adds to an earlier Lalas point by saying, “We’ve had our share of hockey players,” referencing the selection of Colin Rolfe by a team which has boasted Brian Mullan, Danny Cruz, and Andre Hainault.

2:44 – Alexi Lalas actually turned around and waved at the Seattle table. Wow. The announcers know they’re only on the internet at this point.

2:48 – One of those great draft moments, where a late pick is in the building. In this case, it’s Ray Gaddis from West Virginia, who wasn’t invited to the combine yet made the trip to Kansas City and is rewarded by Philadelphia Union. It’s no Richard Jata moment from 2009, but it’s pretty cool.

2:50 – Twellman and Lalas criticize MLS for its vague home-grown player policy, and you have to appreciate Twellman crediting Goal.com’s Kyle McCarthy for story on the policy, rather than claiming all talking points as his own. ESPN has taken a lot of heat over the last few months for its reporters not crediting other outlets. This isn’t breaking news, but it’s the professional way to do things.

2:52 – Stunned silence after Real Salt Lake take Sebastian Velasquez from Spartanburg Methodist Junior College. Adrian Healey has no idea that Spartanburg is in South Carolina. Velasquez led the country in junior college scoring. Healey says ‘Spartansburg’ with a plural ‘Spartans’ in the middle. Awesome.

2:57 – One of my favorite players from watching the combine on TV gets taken by my old team with the draft’s penultimate pick: Warren Creavalle from Central Florida goes to Houston. Nice combo there.

2:58 – Todd Durbin announces Louisville midfielder Kenney Walker as the LA Galaxy’s pick at No. 38, ending the draft.

3:05 – A little surprised the ESPN guys are still talking, but you know they’ll be talking MLS all night, so why not?

3:06 – The ESPN guys say "goodbye for now" from Kansas City. A very, very entertaining draft with a lot of talking points for the season ahead, and I thought the trio of broadcasters did a good job of mixing banter with analysis. A fun afternoon.

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