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Nguyen waived: Whitecaps waste their lottery pick

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The Vancouver Whitecaps took a gamble, and were burned.

On Thursday, as a footnote to a press release announcing that English midfielder Matt Watson now has a U.S. green card, the Whitecaps announced that the club had waived midfielder Lee Nguyen, the American who spent the last three years playing in Vietnam.

As Thursday is MLS roster compliance day, Nguyen is eligible to be picked up through a waiver draft to be held Friday.

Vancouver acquired Nguyen through a weighted lottery. As the last-place team in the league in 2011, Vancouver had the best odds to get him. But coach Martin Rennie and the rest of the team brass understood that, if they won the rights to Nguyen, they would not be able to participate in another weighted lottery in 2012. Once you get a guy, you are out.

Prospects like Luis Gil, Soony Saad and Sal Zizzo have come through MLS through this process over the last three seasons, so it’s not like the weighted lottery is ultra rate.

Lee Nguyen in his PSV days.
So, now Vancouver is out of the lottery process and has nothing to show for it. So, if another top prospect declares his intent to join MLS in 2012, the Whitecaps — who would have had the best odds to get that prospect had they decided to opt out of the Nguyen sweepstakes — can’t get in on the action.

Most MLS teams took a pass on the Nguyen lottery. After all, why get excited over a player who put up great numbers in the Vietnamese circuit, which is better known for rigged matches than it is for being anything close to even a decent Asian league? Why get involved when there’s a chance a better player is going to come down the pipeline? For sure, Nguyen’s name didn’t have the same kind of buzz attached to it as a Gill or a Saad.

So, the Whitecaps should have hung on to see if another Gil or Saad was going to materialize. Why? Getting a top lottery pick — even if it’s a player you don’t need — is a chip for a GM. Even if the Whitecaps were to get another striker — and they would need that like a hole in the head — that player can be traded for something of value. Kansas City dealt Gil, because the American teen had said he only wanted to play for either RSL or Seattle. Still, the then-named Wizards got something back.

But, the Whitecaps cheated themselves out of their position as the top dogs in the lottery process — all for a player who’s now up for grabs. Somebody else in MLS may very well grab Nguyen — but that GM won’t have had to pay any price for him. The Whitecaps took care of that.


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