On December 10th, Orlando City FC and New York FC will take part in the expansion draft. While MLS has outlined the protection rules for teams, they are anything but clear. With this in mind, we will try to help tease out the rules and provide you with an idea of who the Whitecaps will protect and who they will not.
First, let us start with the rules for protecting players
So, with that out of the way, let’s have a look at the Whitecaps roster.
Homegrown: Sam Adekugbe, Marco Carducci, Caleb Clarke, Kianz Froese, Ethen Sampson, and Russell Teibert.
Generation Adidas: Christian Dean.
**Kekuta Manneh and Omar Salgado both graduated this year.
Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Kendall Waston, David Ousted, Kekuta Manneh, Gershon Koffie, Steven Beitashour, and Erik Hurtado.
Paolo Tornaghi, Mehdi Ballouchy, Mamadou Diouf, Andrew Lewis, Omar Salgado
With 8 obvious protects, that leaves 3 remaining slots. Here is a look at the remaining 6 players fighting for those final few spots.
1) Andy O’Brien: In my opinion, Andy O’Brien will not be protected. He is currently out of contract and there is a belief that he would not report/sign with NY or Orlando, electing instead to retire or return to Europe. While NY or Orlando could take the risk, it could easily be a waste of a pick, for a player that will be limited and there for one year. Probably not a good selection choice and a safe risk to take for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
2) Mauro Rosales: Similar to Andy, Mauro is an older player who is out of contract and carries a rather hefty price tag. While his skill, hard work, and dedication is not in question, and his chemistry with Morales was clearly evident (imagine a full season with both of those guys!), it is unlikely that the Whitecaps would select to keep Rosales over some of their younger players.
3) Jordan Harvey: It is possible that he is left unprotected because of the young guys on the Whitecaps looking for extra playing time. However, I see that as a big mistake. Despite the hot and cold feeling of fans towards Harvey, he is a solid player that Robbo can rely on to play almost every game and provide a bit of offensive ability. With the formation of the ThunderCaps and CONCACAF play it would make sense to give Adekugbe and Sampson one more year without full time playing expectations.
4) Johnny Leveron: Sure, he has not been everything that was initially expected and maybe I am a bit bias as I have always been a fan, but I suspect Leveron will be protected. With Mitchell being released, O’Brien possibly on his way out, risking the loss of Leveron could prove detrimental. Without Leveron, the Whitecaps have Waston. Sure, he played well but he cannot play both positions for all league, CONCACAF, and Canadian Championship games. He needs a partner and Dean is not that guy…yet. Therefore, Leveron is protected.
5) Nicolas Mezquida: As much as it would be nice to keep this young lad, I think he is someone who will be unprotected. I have come to this conclusion for several reasons. First, provided that Morales is healthy next season, Mezquida will not get a lot of playing time. Second, there are several young, recently graduated, academy players that can fill his role if needed. Third, because of Morales, Mezquida did not play much and thus little is known about him. Therefore, it seems unlikely that NY or Orlando would take a risk on an unproven young player with little MLS experience. While attractive, even if left available, I think Mezquida will remain unselected.
6) Sebastian Fernandez: Like Mezquida, I expect Fernandez to remain unprotected. There are two key reasons for this and they might be surprising. First, he is currently on loan from Boston River and it is unclear whether his loan will be renewed. The delay in making that announcement may be posturing because of the expansion draft. Because of the loan situation being unclear and because neither NY nor Orlando have connections (presumably) with Boston River, they would be taking a major chance on the loan being renewed. If the loan is not renewed OR Boston River does not want him playing in NY or Orlando then it will be a wasted pick. Second, his suspension situation might actually be a blessing in disguise. Coupled with the loan situation, knowing you will not have this player for the first four games of the season AND knowing his on-field behaviour ‘issues’ Fernandez might not be a very appealing selection.
7) Darren Mattocks: The final bubble player is Darren Mattocks. Counting who I have selected thus far, it is clear that I expect Mattocks to be protected. While I have been a fan/support of his throughout his bad times and believed in his abilities, I must admit, even I am waning in his ability to contribute to the team. Nevertheless, the Whitecaps are almost obliged to keep Mattocks because they cannot receive nothing for him (except allocation money). Furthermore, he is still, in my opinion, the best choice of the current strikers; no matter how sad that sounds. I can hear some people argue that he has no value/useless and the Whitecaps would be better off with the salary cap space and the allocation money. While all of that may be true, unless the Whitecaps have plans to bring in several high-priced strikers, Mattocks will still need to be counted on given the additional games the Whitecaps will play this upcoming season. However, if he tanks it this season, I highly expect he will not return for 2016. Finally, while interest may be low from NY or Orlando they might be willing to take the risk on a young player with natural skills, believing that he was misused in Vancouver. They may also look at his recent run with the Jamaican national team as evidence of his skill if used properly. Certainly worth a chance to a new team. Mattocks is protected.
So there you have it. It is my opinion that the Whitecaps will protect: Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Kendall Waston, David Ousted, Kekuta Manneh, Gershon Koffie, Steven Beitashour, Erik Hurtado, Johnny Leveron, Jordan Harvey, and Darren Mattocks.
Should a Vancouver Whitecap be selected, Nicolas Mezquida or Sebastian Fernandez will be the additionally protected player.
In the end, let us hope that we do not lose any of our key players and the Whitecaps are able to build on this season and compete across several competitions next.
Now we want to hear from you, the fans. Who are your protected 11?