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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Expanding on the horizon: Eyeing the Union's expansion draft plan

What do the futures of Brian Carroll, center, and Warren Creavalle, right,
with the Union look like? The MLS Expansion Draft could provide hints. (AP)
It’s the first week of November, and the stage is ready to discuss how the Philadelphia Union should guard against losses in an upcoming expansion draft. As some things change, others stay the same.

The Expansion Draft to boost the rosters of incoming Atlanta United and Minnesota United will take place Dec. 13. Unlike the last such draft in 2014 to populate New York City FC and Orlando City’s rosters (aside: Do paired expansion teams have to have identical naming structures?), Atlanta and Minnesota will each pick five players from MLS rosters, as opposed to 10 each last time. That lessens the risk of loss for current clubs. There’s also a limit of one players picked per team, as opposed to two last time.

All the rules briefings are here, and I’m not the first to share thoughts on how the Union should approach the expansion draft.

Here’s the list of who I would protect, in no exact order:

1. Alejandro Bedoya
2. Keegan Rosenberry
3. CJ Sapong
4. Chris Pontius
5. Richie Marquez
6. Ilsinho
7. Roland Alberg
8. Warren Creavalle
9. Ray Gaddis
10. Andre Blake
11. Eric Ayuk

Exempt from protection: Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro (both Generation Adidas), Auston Trusty, Derrick Jones (Homegrowns)

Not protected: Matt Jones, Anderson, Tranquillo Barnetta, Taylor Washington, Cole Missimo, Maurice Edu, Kevin Kratz, John McCarthy, Ken Tribbett, Walter Restrepo, Leo Fernandes, Brian Carroll, Fabinho, Charlie Davies.

That’s all 29 players on the Union roster. Here’s the logic behind it, with players broken up into categories.

No-brainer protects: Bedoya, Rosenberry, Pontius, Marquez, Blake.

That’s a DP, two potential award winners plus a central defender and goalkeeper still earning less than they’re worth. The latter is a tough pill to swallow with Blake graduating GA, but he’s established himself as an unquestioned starter (and a goalie of the year candidate), so he must be protected. Even if a move, as mooted, is forthcoming, it wouldn’t be finalized before the draft.

Decide on your terms: Sapong, Ilsinho, Alberg.

Despite his struggles late in the season, Sapong should have a future in some capacity with the Union. If European teams are looking at him as has been reported, then the Union want to protect him. Ilsinho and Alberg are pieces that you hope will build on debut MLS seasons. You make sure you still have the option to do that.

Trade value preservation: Creavalle, Gaddis.

These are two guys with value on the field, but also to be dealt in MLS, which can recoup allocation money for moves outside of the league. That’s worth retaining. You could shuffle Davies in here, too, but that depends on how the Union value them relatively. (For the record, I had Davies on the protected list prior to news of Blake’s GA graduation. I think Davies, because of his apparent limitations this year and his age, is the one you have the best chances of retaining should he dangled.)

Transfer fee alert: Ayuk.

Any team that gets Ayuk, who is still just 19, cashes in on his future transfers abroad. The Union have invested two years in him, which is too much to risk losing.

That leaves the list of non-protectees:

Gone: M.Jones, Anderson, Barnetta.

Two loanees who played one game each and Barnetta, who has a deal waiting in Switzerland.

The ‘who knows’: Washington, Missimo, Kratz.

Washington impressed with Bethlehem Steel, but he’s a second-round draft pick. Expansion teams can get their own of those, unless they’re remarkably enamored of him. Ditto Missimo. As for Kratz, it’s never been clear what kind of guarantees he has for next year. He also trialed with Minnesota and they passed on him, so no reason to think that mindset has changed.

Injury: Edu.

No one is going to take a 30-year-old midfielder entering (what is believed to be) the last year of his contract with a twice-broken leg facing months of recovery.

The risks: McCarthy, Tribbett, Restrepo, Fernandes, Carroll, Fabinho, Davies.

You’d hate to lose McCarthy, a great face for the club and a young guy who could yet grow into a job. But look around the league at which goalies will presumably be available – Zac MacMath, either Bobby Shuttleworth or Brad Knighton, Travis Worra, probably Steve Clark with Zack Steffen the goalie of the future in Columbus, Alec Kann – and McCarthy is safe to float. After the playoff game, no one’s taking a flyer on Tribbett. Restrepo and Fernandes are borderline MLS players but decent reserves. At 36, who knows what Carroll’s future holds?

That leaves Fabinho, whom many heavily criticized the Union for protecting last time around. The Brazilian is in an interesting position. He’s not young (turns 32 in March). But he had a strong season. The Union declined an option on him last December, then re-signed him on SuperDraft day to a deal of undisclosed length, which has become code for a one-year deal. That leaves him out-of-contract. Maybe he’s worth keeping around, as a locker-room buffer for Ilsinho and any other Brazilians they try to acquire. But maybe not worth protecting assuming no one will bite if he’s dangled in the market. That said, you could totally protect him and not Gaddis and the world would go on.

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