Orlando City's Expansion Draft selections were...surprising, to say the least. Popular predictions like Corey Ashe, Eddie Johnson, and Michael Azira were passed over for younger project-types and aging veterans.
One can only imagine that Coach Adrian Heath, General Manager Paul McDonough and President Phil Rawlins have a few more tricks up their sleeves in the coming months to fill out the remainder or the roster.
Let's take a look at the selections from Wednesday's draft, and give the team a grade for each:
Donovan Ricketts, GK, Portland Timbers
Grade - C: Sure, Donovan Ricketts was definitely one of the best keepers available, but is he worth the cost for Orlando? His current salary is $250K, and while Orlando may be able to negotiate that, it will still be a much bigger hit than some of the other keepers available. Coach Heath made it clear in the post-draft press conference that Tally Hall is the future, so perhaps Orlando will be able to deal Ricketts once Hall returns. Further, at 37, is Ricketts really talented enough to justify the cost and draft pick? I believe that Ricketts will handle the job well for two or three months, but I would have preferred a less expensive option, or perhaps a loaned keeper from Europe.
Tony Cascio, MF, Colorado Rapids (loaned in 2014 to Houston Dynamo)
Grade - A: This is one of the more exciting picks of the draft for Orlando. Cascio is a player who, if healthy, could be a long-term contributor for the Lions. He missed the majority of the 2014 season with an ACL injury, but prior to that the UConn product was a promising young midfielder for Colorado. He's got good size and strength for a midfielder, and at 24 his best years are likely still ahead of him. Still, did Orlando really need another project who has dealt with serious knee issues and is yet to start a full season as a professional?
Jalil Anibaba, D, Seattle Sounders
Grade - N/A: Anibaba has been traded to Sporting KC as part of the Aurelien Collin trade.
Pedro Ribeiro, MF, Philadelphia Union
Grade - B: Ribeiro is certainly a player with potential, but as of now we literally don't even know what position he will play. He played defense in the USL this year for Harrisburg, some striker for the Union, and he's listed as a midfielder. He was the 15th pick up the 2014 MLS Superdraft, so no one's doubting his talent.
Of the three potential target strikers selected, Ribeiro clearly has the highest ceiling. He could also back up Kaka in the No. 10 role, and who better to learn from? Like Cascio, I'm impressed by his potential, but I'm concerned by his lack of experience.
Lewis Neal, D, D.C. United
Grade - B: Speaking of veteran midfielders, enter Lewis Neal. The 33-year-old veteran and former Orlando City player became expendable at D.C. United this year with the emergence of Taylor Kemp at left back and the strong play of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud in the midfield. It's hard to dislike this pick, as "veteran utility defender/midfielder" is certainly a need for Orlando City. That said, it's hard to see the aging Neal starting many matches, and we passed on players like Ned Grabavoy and Jack Jewsbury.
Jairo Arrieta, F, Columbus Crew
Grade - C-: I'll admit to not really understanding this pick. To me, Arrieta looks like a striker who has lost a step. He's scored eight goals in his last 51 games, and was more or less discarded by the Columbus Crew after this season, with coach Gregg Berhalter saying, "In the end it just was a little short of what we were looking for."
Our own Michael Citro had a chance to speak with the Massive Report about Arrieta, and they had some very nice things to say about his personality and leadership qualities. Still, when you're aiming to play with just one pure striker on the pitch as Orlando is, he needs to be able to score goals.
Heath Pearce, D, Montreal Impact
Grade - B-: The value in the Pearce pick comes primarily from the veteran experience he brings to the back line. Before injuries derailed his promising career, Pearce amassed 35 caps for the USMNT. That experience should be absolutely invaluable to current U.S. U-20s Tommy Redding and Tyler Turner, not to mention Portuguese U-20 Rafael Ramos.
Let's get back to the injury part though. Pearce has clearly lost a step at age 30, and he may be another injury or two away from retirement. Further, Collin is not the fastest center back in the world, and would really pair better with a younger player who can cover more ground. I certainly appreciate the intangibles, but I'm not exactly comfortable heading into the season with Pearce as the starting CB.
Danny Mwanga, F, Colorado Rapids
Grade - C-: Remember when Danny Mwanga was an MLS Rookie of the Year finalist? It was 2010, when Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" was the only song on the radio and Taylor Swift was still country. Good times. Can Coach Adrian Heath to work his magic here? Maybe. There's certainly still the size and raw talent. Still, why did we pass on New England's Patrick Mullins, or for that matter, the much maligned Eddie Johnson?
Mark Sherrod, F, Houston Dynamo
Grade - N/A: Sherrod was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes for their second round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft
Eric Gehrig, D, Columbus Crew
Grade - N/A: Gehrig was traded to the Chicago Fire for their second round pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft
Overall Draft Grade - C+
It's hard to see what direction Orlando was going with many of their selections. Orlando managed to bring in some veteran leadership, along with some youth and potential, but it's hard to envision many of these players being long-term starters for Orlando.