With the excitement of MLS Cup fading away (though captured in amazing detail and in slow-mo in this field-level video), the offseason has begun in earnest as the league conducted Stage One of its Re-Entry Draft earlier today. A mechanism of player movement within MLS born from the last round of Collective Bargaining between the Players' Union and the league, the annual two-stage draft saw five players move to three new teams.
2013 Western Conference regular season table-topping Portland Timbers turned heads by selecting former Seattle Sounder midfielder Steve Zakuani. On the opposite end of the table, D.C. United drafted two players, Bobby Boswell of Houston and Sean Franklin of the LA Galaxy. In between, the Philadelphia Union picked Corben Bone and the Colorado Rapids chose Marc Burch.
In the four years MLS has run the Re-Entry Draft, the five players selected earlier today was the most taken in the first stage of the draft since the league first conducted the process back in 2010.
The San Jose Earthquakes passed on their first selection and were not part of today's draft moving forward. In addition, the four Earthquakes players that were available to be drafted -- Mehdi Ballouchy, Nana Attakora, Dan Gargan, and Evan Newton -- went unselected. Stage Two of the Re-Entry Draft will be held on Wednesday, December 18, with any unselected players becoming free agents that can negotiate with any team, including the Earthquakes, within MLS.
Of the four Earthquakes players available in Stage Two, only Ballouchy is out of contract. The other three players had their contact options denied by the Quakes back in November, and if selected in next Wednesday's stage would require a bona fide offer by the selecting team. In the first three years of the Re-Entry Draft, only 43 players were selected. The only participation by San Jose in that time occurred in 2012 when the Earthquakes picked Gargan and Ty Harden in Stage Two.
One player that may not wait for his fate to be determined by the MLS Re-Entry Draft is the Earthquakes #3 goalkeeper in 2013, Newton. The Virginia Beach native packed up his Bay Area home and moved back across the country last month after he was dropped from the team. Newton, a Supplemental Draft pick of the Houston Dynamo in 2011, told his hometown newspaper the Virginian-Pilot that he might look outside of MLS for playing opportunities.
After being cut by the Dynamo following his rookie season, Newton was introduced to the Earthquakes by current #1 goalkeeper Jon Busch's older brother Matt. However, in two seasons with San Jose, Newton never saw first-team action and only played in competitive games in the Reserve League. No stranger to working hard to prove his worth, Newton now views the second-division NASL as a possible destination to continue his professional career.
At only 25 years of age, Newton still has time to make an impression, but he needs the right situation in which to advance his role, perhaps back to MLS at some point in the future. If he does go unselected next Wednesday, the aspiring 'keeper will immediately begin his search for a new club where that goal can be realized.