You all have clamored for it, and now we give the people what they want. As we all know, the MLS Expansion Draft is coming up in a few short weeks, where Orlando City SC and New York City FC will get to plunder the rosters of the rest of the league to start themselves up. And so, this is our first crack at wondering who D.C. United will protect in that upcoming draft.
Here are a few operating assumptions for this exercise. First, we are operating under the assumption that MLS will come to its senses and allow players like Bill Hamid and Diego Fagundez to be automatically protected as homegrown players. I will cling to this note from the MLS Roster Rules as to a reason why MLS could easily do so:
The terms Homegrown and Generation adidas are used to describe mechanisms by which players are acquired. They are not roster designations. All players’ roster slots are determined by their compensation and/or age as outlined above.
We will also assume that Eddie Johnson does not have a no-trade clause in his contract. If he does, the team will be forced to spend one of the 11 spots on him. Finally, unless the rules are changed, someone got a green card recently, or the team moves a player before the draft, D.C. United can only make one international player available and must protect the other three. With all that said, here are who I think D.C. United should protect, plus my one sentence thoughts about why or why not.
The team's homegrown players are automatically protected: Bill Hamid, Collin Martin, Jalen Robinson, Conor Shanosky, and Michael Seaton. That takes us down to 25 players competing for 11 protected slots.
No chance of being protected
There are a number of players who have no realistic chance of being on the protected roster.
- Jeff Parke: A good player at the beginning of the season, but age and injuries will prevent anyone from taking him.
- Kyle Porter: He fell so far off the radar that he will get the distinction of being the only International player left exposed by D.C. United.
- Alex Caskey: A useful player, but there is no way he has any chance of being protected.
- Conor Doyle: Injuries plus the fact that Orlando City and NYCFC are signing big name talent at striker.
- Andrew Dykstra: Injury concerns will keep him from being protected, plus goalkeeper does not seem to be a worry of these two teams.
That gets us down to 20 players for 11 protected slots.
Locks to be protected
- Fabian Espindola: Despite his below average end of the season, he was one of the best players on the team all season and had a magical few months with Luis Silva. Speaking of which...
- Luis Silva: Young and exciting, and has really found his place as a forward.
- Samuel Inkoom: The team won't give up on a midseason signing so quickly, plus they have to factor in the international players rule.
- Nana Attakora: Stupid international players rule.
- Nick DeLeon: Asked to play a different role this year, and by the time the playoffs came around, he was back to being one of the best players on the team.
- Steve Birnbaum: Young, talented center back who will hopefully only grow from here.
- Bobby Boswell: You don't leave the captain unprotected.
- Perry Kitchen: The key to the midfield, hopefully for years to come.
That leaves 3 spots for 13 players.
- David Estrada: A solid player acquired midseason, but not good enough to warrant a protected roster spot.
- Sean Franklin: An all-star at right back and an underrated key to D.C. United's defensive turnaround.
- Kofi Opare: A player with a ton of potential, but limited playing time.
- Eddie Johnson: The designated player who was expected to be the focus of D.C. United's attack, but ended up becoming a super sub.
- Davy Arnaud: The other half of the midfield partnership, but at age 34 is he actually at risk of being taken?
- Chris Pontius: D.C. United's longest tenured player, but he has a history of injuries.
- Chris Rolfe: The magic headbanded one had a career year after leaving Chicago.
- Chris Korb: Injuries and better players bounced the Korb in and out of the lineup throughout the year.
- Lewis Neal: A key figure in two of D.C. United's biggest recent moments, but he seems to be on the decline.
- Jared Jeffrey: Another young American without a lot of playing time this year.
- Joe Willis: A good keeper, but I doubt that anyone is going to be taking a backup in the expansion draft.
- Taylor Kemp: Blossomed into a good MLS player in the second half of the season.
My final list
From that bubble list, I am going to take Taylor Kemp, Chris Rolfe, and Sean Franklin. They would join Fabian Espindola, Samuel Inkoom, Nana Attakora, Luis Silva, Steve Birnbaum, Nick DeLeon, Bobby Boswell, and Perry Kitchen as the players that I would protect in the upcoming expansion draft. With this list, I could see D.C. United losing one player, but I don't find losing two to be a very likely proposition.
What do you think of this list? How wrong am I? And I know that other writers will have their analysis on the expansion draft coming up in the next weeks.