They left who unprotected?
That seems to be the question on everybody’s lips this time of year – specifically the days immediately following MLS Cup – when clubs submit their 11-man protected lists ahead of the MLS Expansion Draft. Every year since 2006 (plus in 2004 and 1997) the league has conducted an expansion draft for clubs entering the league, and every year, without fail, fans and experts alike have been left puzzled by some of the names on the list of available players.
A quick glance through the news clippings this morning shows Freddy Adu, Omar Bravo, Brian Ching, Bobby Convey, Julian de Guzman and Andres Mendoza as some of the “big” names drawing attention because of their availability. Meanwhile, I’ve had questions from Revolution fans regarding the absences of Darrius Barnes, Milton Caraglio, Franco Coria, Ryan Guy and Kenny Mansally from New England’s protected list. All valid questions, for sure.
The first thing to remember is that teams can only protect 11 players. Clubs are going to lose players they don’t want to lose, players who contributed to their success in the past and would likely contribute to their success in the future. It’s frustrating, but the point of the Expansion Draft is to allow new clubs – in this case, the Montreal Impact – to build a base of quality players so they can compete from year one. Leaving a player unprotected doesn’t necessarily mean the team doesn’t want that player, but they can’t protect everybody. It’s simply a concession the existing 18 clubs make, whether they want to or not.
With that being the case, clubs are left with incredibly difficult decisions, and a wide variety of factors go into every single one of those decisions. It’s not simply, “Who are our best 11 players?” Instead it’s, how much money does a player make? What is that player’s contract status? How old is that player? Do we think other clubs would be interested in that player based on all those factors?
Taking all that into account, clubs must then decide whether to protect a player. A phrase I’ve seen a million times last night and this morning is “calculated risk” or “calculated gamble.” Sometimes teams leave certain players exposed simply because they don’t think other teams will be interested, so they use their protected spot on somebody else. Is it taking a chance? Absolutely. But my point is that every one of these decisions is made through a painstaking thought process.
There are other factors at play here, too, some of which we may never know about. The chances that Montreal simply takes 10 players it likes and adds them to the roster is slim. Montreal’s technical staff will field plenty of phone calls today and tomorrow with trade offers – teams who’ll offer up something from their club in exchange for a player left unprotected by someone else, provided Montreal selects that player and then trades them. Last year, Vancouver selected Sanna Nyassi, Nathan Sturgis, Alan Gordon, O’Brian White and Alejandro Moreno, only to trade them all in the following days.
My point is that much more goes into these decisions than simply “Who do we want on our roster?” Everyone has a different thought process. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And everyone’s entitled to their opinion (which makes it fun).
We’ll see what happens on Wednesday.