The late, great Wilt Chamberlain once remarked that expansion teams are like new restaurants that tell their customers, "Well, sure, the food is lousy now, but in five years it should be pretty good!"
(I'd apologize for butchering the quote, but my Google-fu failed so badly that I couldn't track down that anyone ever said that, let alone the Stilt.)
Major League Soccer, to its credit, does make an effort to have its new restaurants serve something besides inedible slop. The Fire and the Sounders stand out, of course. But you could make the case that when MLS expansion teams flop, it's because of their own mistakes, as opposed to the repression caused by the violence inherent in the system. There was nothing preventing Toronto, for example, from choosing players who weren't hilariously terrible.
Same with Vancouver and Portland. It's not as if there isn't a world full of soccer players out there.
Yes, you heard correctly! The Supplemental Draft is back! And it's pretty much exactly the same as ever!
Gee, that's reassuring. Knight earned his promotion to MLS by...staying with a team that bought their way in. Well, the Galaxy won the Supporters Shield, and they couldn't beat Puerto Rico, either.
It's not unheard of for second division players to flourish one story above - Sebastien Le Toux is a story that warms our sub-cockle region. But the Sounders added a crapload of MLS veterans along with Le Toux and Levesque back when MLS 2.0 started, and haven't looked back. For every Le Toux, there's something like five Josh Wickses. There's a reason a lot of these guys were in The Artists Formerly Known As The USL. Maybe it's because they were unrecognized geniuses, but not often.
Fine, so it's not unheard of for the Supplemental Draft to produce useful players. I'm not just talking about the 90's, where you could get guys like Ezra Hendrickson, Chris Armas and Carlos Llamosa. The Quakes picked Brian Ching in 2003, and Chris Wondolowski in 2005. The Fire got Dasan Robinson in 2006. The Rapids picked up Kimura in the 2007 Supplemental Draft, and apparently he's not the massive liability that I've been saying he is. The Revolution picked Jeff Larentowicz in 2005, and Kheli Dube and Chris Tierney in 2008. The Red Bulls got Danleigh Borman that year, too. He's okay. Right? Sort of?
But everyone else got the kind of player that falls into the Supplemental Draft, which is why this week's Supplemental Draft will be the first one since 2008. It's possible to find a good player in the Supplemental Draft - I mean, it's panning for gold in your bathtub, sure, but it's not totally unheard of.
So, if the Whitecaps are phenomenally lucky, they might get a Tierney or a Larentowicz - and if they do, Tom Soehn will be elected King of British Columbia.
I don't think it's very likely that Vancouver, or Portland or anyone else, will find a player who contributes significantly. What's going to make or break the Whitecaps, though, will be the bigger name players they bring in, now that they have MLS money to spend. Even if the Supplemental Draft pans out, odds are the Whiteys won't see a return until years down the road. What they need is to follow Seattle's lead, and bring in players that can start in March.
Which is entirely possible. I mean, as long as they're not considering a sociopathic hack in his mid to late 30's whose already minimal skills have utterly eroded beyond recognition, they should be...oh, dear. What, Dema Kovalenko's passport isn't up to date?