Union make moves on draft day, scare the hell out of their starting goalkeeper

Union make moves on draft day, scare the hell out of their starting goalkeeper

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College soccer is not like football or basketball. Only the nerdiest soccer-heads have seen most of these guys play, so evaluating how a Major League Soccer team does on draft day is damn near impossible.

Andre Blake walks on stage after being selected by the Philadelphia Union Thursday.

I'm no expert on that front, so I listen to a few people who are. One of them is Ives Garlacep, who posted his final "Big Board" yesterday before Thursday's MLS Superdraft (held in Philadelphia).

The Philadelphia Union entered the draft with the No. 2 pick and No. 6 pick in the first round, and two second-round picks. By day's end, the Union left with three of Garlacep's top nine players, and (I can only assume) more allocation money they they started with.

They also have a very frightened and/or motivated starting goalkeeper (more in a minute).

The Union sent some allocation money to D.C. United to jump into the No. 1 spot. There they took UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake. The Jamaican international actually joined his national team for a few World Cup qualifiers in 2013 (didn't play) and, according to all the experts, was far and away the most talented, pro-ready player in the draft. Garlacep had high praise:

"Best talent in the draft. Considered the best goalkeeping prospect in a decade."

Many fans were confused by two things:

  • Why pay money to jump up a spot when D.C. United made it pretty clear they had no interest in taking Blake? Why not just take him second?
  • Don't the Union already have a starting goalkeeper in Zac MacMath?

Answer No. 1: It seems that Vancouver was pushing hard to trade into the top spot to take Blake. So D.C. United had leverage, even if it was never going to take Blake.

Answer No. 2 is more complex. Yes, the Union have MacMath, who had a strong season in 2013 after a slowish start. MacMath seemed confused by the pick as well, and apparently let his agent know it at the Convention Center.

But, a few things to remember: It is NEVER a bad draft strategy to simply take the most talented player in the draft, regardless of need. And by all accounts, Blake was far and away the best player in an otherwise "eh" draft class.

Two, Blake is a Generation adidas player. This means the league agreed to terms with him before the draft, and his salary does not count toward the Union's salary cap. Players "graduate" from the program after a year or two, but it could be longer if Blake doesn't play right away.

Three, the Union have no backup goalkeeper right now, and MacMath's play improved last year after the team brought in a proven backup. And, if Blake proves as strong as people say, maybe he earns the job and MacMath is a valuable trade piece.

To move up and get Blake, the Union sent the always ambiguous "allocation money" to D.C. United. In its simplest terms, allocation money is just money going from one team to another, except that it originally came from a league-funded pool of cash. We don't get to know exactly how much money the Union paid (at least not yet), but the team then turned around and traded down from No. 6 to No. 10, and then from No. 10 to No. 15. In both of those deals, they got allocation money back. I can only assume they either broke even or made a net gain in the wallet.

At No. 15, the team drafted Brazilian Pedro Ribeiro, a huge (6-foot-4) midfielder from Coastal Carolina University. Ribeiro was the No. 6 player on Garlacep's "Big Board:"

"The tall Brazilian playmaker is impressive on the ball, and can pass as well as anyone in this draft, but conerns about his ability to be a 90-minute player in the pros"

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In the second round, the Union filled two big needs by taking midfielder Kevin Cope out of Michigan State and left back Robbie Derschang from Akron.

Also Thursday:

  • Union brass indicated that talks are still ongoing with Maurice Edu, and that the rumor that the league "blocked" the move was untrue. John Hackworth is optimistic, saying to ESPN, "I think something very good is going to come out of it."
  • The Union claim they were in hard on Michael Bradley, who signed with Toronto.
  • The team announced the signing of Argentine midfielder Cristian Maidana as a designated player, who has spent the last day responding to tweets welcoming him to Philadelphia (he doesn't speak much, if any, English). It's a promising move in my opinion, as the team resisted the urge to sign a "name" designated player just to appease people. And at just 26 years old, Maidana is definitely in his "prime."

The rest of the draft wraps up next Tuesday, and the Union are slated to pick four more times.

Nerlens Noel to undergo minor surgery on left knee

Nerlens Noel to undergo minor surgery on left knee

The Sixers on Friday announced that center Nerlens Noel will undergo a minor surgical procedure on his left knee to address an inflamed plica. 

Noel appeared in the Sixers' first preaseason game, but has been sidelined since Oct. 6 because of a left groin strain. 

While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

Noel's status for the season opener on Oct. 26 was already in question, and knee surgery should officially rule him out. There is no timetable for his return.

No surgery for Bayless
The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless' left wrist ligament injury will not require surgery.

Bayless, who has been a limited participant in training camp, will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel among Bovada's favorites to be traded this season

Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel among Bovada's favorites to be traded this season

The logam at the center position has dominated talk surrounding the Sixers as they approach the start of the 2016-17 season.

While a trade has yet to be made, Bovada believes there's a good chance two of the team's three young centers won't be in Philadelphia by season's end. 

Bovada released their NBA player props for the upcoming NBA season Tuesday, listing Nerlens Noel (5/7) and Jahlil Okafor (8/5) as two of the league's favorites to be dealt before February's trade deadline. On the other hand, Noel's odds to not be dealt are even, while Okafor's odds to remain a Sixer past this season are 4/9.

Kings swingman Rudy Gay was between Noel and Okafor with the second-best odds to be traded at 5/9. Gay's teammate DeMarcus Cousins had the fourth-best odds at 3/1. 

Bovada's over/under player props featured bets involving six different Sixers. Joel Embiid's rookie stat line was set at 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. In five preseason games, Embiid has averaged 11.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in just 14.4 minutes of action. If his limited preseason action is any indication, Embiid could certainly reach Bovada's averages once his minutes restriction comes off. 

Here are the rest of the Sixers' over/under prop bets: 

  • Jahlil Okafor: 15 points, 6.5 rebounds
  • Nerlens Noel: 9.5 points, 7.5 rebounds
  • Gerald Henderson: 10.5 points
  • Robert Covington: 12.5 points
  • Dario Saric: 5.0 rebounds