Atlanta FC and Minnesota United have been wheeling and dealing today in the MLS Expansion Draft. Before the Impact lost Donny Toia to Atlanta FC, Minnesota traded away its first pick, former Red Bull defender Chris Duvall, to Montreal in exchange for midfielder Johan Venegas.
Although Venegas has shown some promise, his lack of playing time under Frank Klopas and increased production of Dominic Oduro under Biello meant he never got a real shot to show his full potential. That being said, even with the time allotted to him, Mauro Biello’s counter system didn’t seem to work well for Venegas’ style of play.
It seems like just yesterday that we were watching the flashy and hardworking Tico cut up the Impact in the Champions League with Alajuelense. Those performances put him on top of the list for De Santis and Braz, and the team acquired him within a few months. His time here in Montreal may not have been ideal, but he has continued to produce at a high rate for Costa Rica, keeping his value high which made him an important asset to be dealt in the event of an offer.
Duvall, on the other hand, helps fill out our back line with a young, regular starting fullback. Interestingly enough, like when Venegas was acquired, the Impact management just got a good look of Duvall during the Eastern Conference Semi-Final. At 5-foot-10, 165-pounds, 4th year professional Duvall started 52 of 59 regular season matches for the New York Red Bulls. Though it doesn’t look like the Impact wanted to also lose defender Donny Toia, as they claim they would’ve traded for Duvall anyhow, his acquisition does help alleviate the loss in defensive depth.
D'ailleurs, #IMFC serait allé chercher Duvall même si Donny Toia n'avait pas été sélectionné par Atlanta.— Nicolas A Martineau (@nikmartineauTVA) December 13, 2016
“We are very pleased to add Chris to our team,” Impact technical director Adam Braz said in a statement. “He has proven to be a versatile and reliable defender in his three seasons with the Red Bulls. This is a fullback profile that our coaching staff is looking for, and we are happy to acquire him. We want to thank Johan for his services and wish him the best of luck with his new team.”
This move, along with the presence of Ambroise Oyongo, should be evidence the team is looking for two-way defenders able to transition with speed, and be reliable on the back end. It’s too soon to tell, but the move seems to show management knows its weaknesses and is using its assets to acquire solutions. That is a good sign from a team whose squad will look significantly different after this offseason due to the end of several important contracts.
Duvall, from a distance, does seem to be a step up from Toia and (hot take!) Camara. That being said, it’s worth asking why the New York Red Bulls didn’t protect him. The good thing is both Biello and Braz wanted him, and they just had two matches of huge importance to see him up close.
See Johan Venegas’ farewell message below.