In 2018 Major League Soccer will expand to 23 teams, welcoming a second Los Angeles franchise in LAFC. One of the first official roster steps for new teams is the expansion draft. For LAFC, this will occur on Tuesday, December 12th, at 11 am. They will be able to select a total of five players from the list of unprotected players of the existing 22 MLS clubs, with no club being able to lose more than one player.
Each club will be able to protect 11 players from being selected by LAFC. In addition, all Generation Adidas and off-budget Homegrown players will be automatically protected. While the Vancouver Whitecaps do not have any GA players, they do have four HG players in Sam Adekugbe, Alphonso Davies, Brett Levis, and newly signed David Norman Jr.
(Edit: Brett Levis is not a Homegrown player, as he does not meet the criterion of at least one year in a Whitecaps youth program/academy. Therefore, he will need to be protected)
With a current roster of 21 players (including the four HG players), the Whitecaps will have to leave six players exposed, and possibly have one of them taken by LAFC.
We asked our writers to provide a list of the 11 players they would protect. There were eight who were unanimous selections: Anthony Blondell, Stefan Marinovic, Aly Ghazal, Yordy Reyna Christian Techera, Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, and Kendall Waston. However, we disagreed on who the final three selections should be.
(Edit: While signed, Anthony Blondell is not officially a Whitecaps player yet, as the MLS transfer window does not open until February 7th; Venezuela's is January 8th).
- Tony Tchani: I wanted to dislike Tchani all season! Often I felt Tchani was the weak point on the field. Then he would go and do something to win a game or setup a win/draw. Regardless of my feelings about his play, you can’t argue his results.
- Nicolas Mezquida: Nico has never seemed to be in-favor with Carl Robinson, and I was actually surprised to see him resign last year. However, I feel that Nicolas is important for depth and change-of-pace.
- Erik Hurtado: E-Money is certainly a polarizing player amongst fans, however, I think he is very valuable. He is dependable and hardworking, and is a solid backup striker. Do I feel LAFC would want to acquire him? Probably not, but I think he is an important depth player (i.e., late sub) for the Caps and he would actually be difficult to replace.
On the Bubble: Shea is on too big of a contract to be taken, while Marcel de Jong counts as an international since he is Canadian. I feel like LAFC would view using an international spot on de Jong as a waste, so the chances of losing him are very low.
- Marcel de Jong: Great full backs do not grow on trees in MLS and de Jong is at least a serviceable option, making him potentially vulnerable in the expansion draft process.
- Bernie Ibini: Ibini is an intriguing option at winger and I am dubious that Vancouver could find someone with his combination of speed and size in a pinch.
- Nicolas Mezquida: Mezquida is a solid depth option who knows Carl Robinson's system and has utility as an attacking midfielder (something Vancouver is a bit short on at the moment). His $120,000 salary is not inordinately expensive either.
I think de Jong, Ibini, and Mezquida have a skill set that could potentially fit the Caps' style very well and would be difficult to replicate on the open market.
- Nicolas Mezquida: Reyna’s arrival has affected Nico’s playing time and development. However, he excels at pressing high and either linking up in the final third, or pouncing at an opportune moment. More recently, the tactics Robbo employed, and the few minutes Mezquida has received have reduce his game to just high pressure and chasing opponents, however, he provides a skillset that can be useful in the CAM position.
- Tony Tchani: Not because I love him in the lineup. In fact, I hope the resigning of Nosa Igiebor reduces Tchani’s role on the team. But, he is a presence in front of the defense, with the ability to move forward. He also fills the lanes and clogs up the middle to stymie opponents. I would like to see him moving forward more, as I have the impression that he has the tools to get involved in the attack.
- Marcel de Jong: de Jong has shown his value to the team, but as a Canadian and a left back, is he likely to be picked up by LAFC? However, he is the one experienced full back on the roster currently, and his play since the Gold Cup made Harvey expendable.
On the Bubble: Ibini would be another good choice, but has he shown enough to be chose by LAFC over other forwards? I would be surprised if Shea made the list because of what he can do, even if he doesn’t always do it every game. Robbo has been high on him in past interviews. However, would LAFC be willing to take the cap hit?
- Spencer Richey: He’s a goalkeeper that’s ready for a bigger challenge. Exactly the sort of thing an expansion team would be after so let’s make sure the development we’ve done doesn’t go to waste.
- Marcel de Jong: It wouldn’t be a disaster to lose him, but he’s only just established himself as a starter and it’s always nice to have first XI quality Canadians. Plus, his experience might make him tempting to teams.
- Bernie Ibini: Hasn’t been with the team that long so it would be a shame to lose him now. He’s a fringe starter and fringe starters are the types of guys expansion teams pick. Tchani also could have taken this spot but he’s 29 and I think he’s pretty replaceable by re-signing Nosa, signing a DP in that position, or just giving that spot to David Norman Jr.
Let us know which four of the following players you would add to the protected list, and why:
Marcel de Jong, Deybi Flores, Erik Hurtado, Bernie Ibini, Brett Levis, Aaron Maund, Nicolas Mezquida, Spencer Richey, Brek Shea, Tony Tchani