I was scouring the internet earlier today looking for some MLS content, and I stumbled upon an article that mentioned the arrival of the Montreal Impact as a new expansion team starting in 2012. I had actually forgotten all about the addition of a new team to MLS until I came across the article, and it got me wondering about the upcoming Expansion Draft that will be held for Montreal, and how it may affect our very own, Sporting Kansas City.
Of course, every time MLS has an expansion draft the rules can change. So for the sake of argument, let’s just use the rules that were in place for the latest expansion draft, which was held November 24, 2010, and included the Portland Timbers, and the Vancouver Whitecaps. I realize that any of these rules are subject to some sort of change, but for now, they’ll have to do.
A quick run down of the expansion rules that were in place for the 2010 Expansion Draft, brought to you by none other than MLSsoccer.com;
2010 MLS Expansion Draft Rules;
- Each MLS club can lose up to a maximum of two players from their current roster, and then they are removed from the expansion draft. If a team has one player selected, they can adjust their protected roster to add an additional player to be kept before additional selections are made.
- Existing MLS teams can protect 11 current players from their senior and development teams, plus they can also reserve any players currently listed as Home Grown Players (players that live or train in an MLS team’s territory for at least one season) or players that have not graduated from the Generation Adidas program yet. All teams must submit their complete listing of exempted players by 11 AM on November 22, and it will be released to the public later that day.
- Clubs are restricted in the number of international players that they may make available. Depending on how many international players that is currently under contract, they may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three. For purposes of this expansion process, U.S. based clubs would consider any player that does not hold U.S. Citizenship or Residency as an International, while Toronto FC would note any player that does not hold Canadian OR U.S. Citizenship or Residency as an International.
- Current MLS Designated players are NOT automatically protected, so teams must choose whether to keep their existing designated players. If such player is not protected, he will be available for selection in the Expansion Draft. However, if the Designated Player has a no-trade clause in his contract, then his MLS club must protect him and he will count as one of the 11 players who may be protected.
- Vancouver and Portland will have the right to renegotiate a drafted player’s salary amount (either up or down) without having to place such player on waivers or giving his previous club a right of first refusal. This clause adds some financial flexibility without causing potential monetary hurdles in the process of setting a salary budget.
- On the first day of the Discovery/Allocation Period, each of Vancouver and Portland will have priority over players on its USL roster and one additional player in the USL not on its roster, subject to another MLS club’s right of first refusal. This gives each club the ability to talk with their current USSF D2 rosters initially in order to possibly sign them, unless their rights belong to another club.
So let’s review some of the more interesting bits of the expansion draft rules as they pertain to Sporting Kansas City.
All 18 teams currently in MLS are allowed to protect 11 of their players. Montreal will be unable to draft any of the 11 protected players during the 10 round Expansion draft. Montreal can select a maximum of two players from any MLS team, excluding the eleven protected players.
Designated players are fair game, so in the case of Sporting, they would have to protect their two designated players (Omar Bravo, and Jeferson), or risk losing them to Montreal. Let’s assume neither player has a no trade clause. Protecting both players would mean that Kansas City would only have nine remaining players they could protect.
For the sake of simplicity I’m throwing out the developmental player rules, as I don’t think they’ll really apply. The kind of players Montreal will in all likelihood want will be players that are already established in MLS, and ready to contribute right away. Taking that in to consideration, Sporting Kansas City will still have some tough decisions to make on which 11 players they are willing to protect. The harsh reality is that Sporting will have to leave a few players unprotected that are currently playing vital roles for the team.
So, I’m putting on my general manager cap as we speak. What am I looking for in regards to the 11 players I’ll be protecting? There are numerous factors to take into account, but here are a couple of the big ones for me;
1. Age- Ideally, I’d like to keep any player on our squad that is young and currently contributing to the success the team’s had this year. Older players are going to take a hit here, because even if they are contributing this year, they won’t be down the road, and thus their impact on the team is probably short term.
2. Impact on the team as of today- I want to protect as many of the players that are the core players on the squad. Core players are the players that Sporting absolutely has to have. If they are a vital key to the team’s success I want to do everything I can to keep that player in Kansas City. Unfortunately, age does factor into this equation though.
3. Impact on the team down the road- I’m also looking for players that perhaps aren’t quite there yet, but players that are still young, and that have a good amount of potential. Players that I think can be very, very good down the road. This ensures that not only are we competitive now, but in the future as well.
With all of that said, who are the eleven players I’d protect if I was Sporting Kansas City? In no particular order;
1. Omar Bravo- I understand I’m already breaking one of my rules. Rule #1. Bravo is already 31 years old, which means his physical abilities will be heading south at any time now. In fact, they’ve probably already started to decline to a degree. But I can’t deny the impact that Omar has made on this team, and I would guess that he still has a couple of years left in the tank. In a way, Bravo is the true face of the Sporting Kansas City franchise.
2. Matt Besler- He’s simply too young, and too good for me not to protect. Besler meets all three requirements I have. Throw in the fact that he’s a local hero, and Besler makes the final 11.
3. C.J. Sapong- Not only has C.J. met the expectations that were placed on him when he was drafted in the first round of the MLS Superdraft, he has exceeded them. C.J. will very likely be a force up top for Sporting Kansas City in the years to come.
4. Graham Zusi- Anyone who has read my Sporting Kansas City/ LA Galaxy match review knows just how highly I value Graham. He’s only 25, and should be a vital cog in the Sporting midfield for years to come.
5. Aurelien Collin- I love everything about Collin’s game. He’s been very good for the team at the centerback position, and he provides an aerial threat on set pieces. He meets all three requirements.
6. Chance Myers- Chance has finally had a break out campaign this year. The early stages of his career were mired with injuries, but he’s finally living up to his status as a #1 overall draft pick. I bank on Myers age, and the idea that he will continually progress as a player as my reasoning for protecting him. I also cross my fingers that he doesn’t spend the next few years on the medical table.
He might not be a star right now, but Teal Bunbury has too much potential to let go.
7. Teal Bunbury- He may not be the true face of the franchise yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t eventually become that. Simply put, this is a pick based on age and potential. I can’t take the chance of letting Teal go. I know he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations most Sporting fans have placed on him, but the kid is only 21. He still has tons to grow, not only mentally, but physically as well.
8. Kei Kamara- Kei has been Sporting Kansas City’s most consistent offensive threat this season. He’s also only 27, which means he still has a good number of years to be at the peak of abilities. There’s no way I leave Kei unprotected.
9. Seth Sinovic- I realize that I just named off most of the Sporting Kansas City defense, but Sinovic has been a gem this season. I’m guessing both New England, and Real Salt Lake wish they wouldn’t have let Sinovic walk. He’s 24, and a local kid. Seth makes the cut.
10. Roger Espinoza- I love Roger’s aggressiveness, and his non stop motor. True, Roger has to become a smarter player. He has to learn to pick and choose his spots instead of going 100 miles an hour at all times, but he’s still young, and I’m a firm believer that he’ll mature over time.
11. Soony Saad- This is strictly a rule #3 pick on my part. We haven’t seen much of Soony thus far with the log jam at the forward position, but the few times he has played he’s shown potential. He’s only 19 years old. He holds the record for most goals scored in high school history in the state of Michigan (172 goals) , as well as most goals scored ever by a Michigan University freshmen (19 goals). Realistically this is the decision most up for debate. I could definitely see placing Jimmy Nielsen here. At the end of the day youth and potential weighed heavily in my decision making.
So there you have the eleven players I’d protect for the MLS expansion draft. Obviously there are a few players that didn’t make the cut that are important players on our team. Here’s a few of those players, and my reasoning for why I chose not to include them in the eleven;
1. Jeferson- It was hard not protecting one of my designated players, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel like Jeferson’s value was up there with the other 11 players I chose, for one reason or the other. One reason being that Jeferson is only here on loan. There’s a chance that even if he does turn out to be the play maker Sporting Kansas City envisions, his Brazilian club Vasco de Gama could decide to keep him after his loan deal with Sporting is over.
2. Davy Arnaud- Man, this was tough. Davy has meant so much to the organization through the years. Honestly, it was between him and Omar Bravo for me. Obviously, both of their ages (they’re 31) played a big part. I suppose I just feel like Bravo is more important to the club right now. To any Sporting Kansas City fans reading this; please don’t burn down my house. I honestly did struggle with the pick.
3. Julio Cesar- Two factors here. A) Age; Julio is 32, and B) the log jam at the CB position. Cesar’s been a very, very good player for us once he grew accustomed to the style of play in MLS, but having already protected Collin and Besler (who are both a lot younger, and play the same position), I just couldn’t justify locking up another spot on Julio.
If there’s one thing we know it’s that Father Time catches up to all of us. Even One Eyed Jimmy.
4. Jimmy Nielsen- Well, if you didn’t hate me after leaving Arnaud unprotected, then you surely hate me now. This was one of the toughest decisions to make. Jimmy has been so good for us, and he’s clearly a fan favorite. How could he not be? Honestly, age is the only thing that kept Jimmy off the list. He’s 34. I kept trying to find a way to justify protecting him, but at the end of the day I went with youth. Sporting Kansas City would no doubt take a hit with Jimmy gone, but I’d leave it up to my back four (Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic- all part of the eleven) to protect whichever goalkeeper might try to fill Jimmy’s large shoes.
So now that you’ve seen the eleven players I would protect for the Expansion Draft if I were Sporting Kansas City, who makes your list? Feel free to leave a comment below with your eleven, and whether you agree with mine or not.