(Editorial) – Earlier this week, Major League Soccer announced the 2016 Expansion Draft rules. In short, Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC will each get to select five players from other MLS teams. That’s down from ten players in 2014. No team will lose more than one player. The draft will take place three days after MLS Cup on December 13, 2016.
The 20 existing MLS will get to protect 11 players from selection. Generation Adidas players who did not graduate at the end of the 2016 season will be automatically protected. Homegrown Players on the team’s Supplemental and Reserve roster will also automatically be protected. Who then should the LA Galaxy protect? Who are they likely to lose? Let’s break it down.
2016 MLS Expansion Draft: Who The LA Galaxy Should Protect
First, you can find a full list of the MLS Expansion Draft Rules here. Now, let’s take a look at the Galaxy’s full roster (age and height in parentheses):
Goalkeepers (3): Clement Diop (22, 6’1″), Dan Kennedy (34, 6’1″), Brian Rowe (27, 6’1″)
Defenders (7): Ashley Cole (35, 5’9″), A.J. DeLaGarza (28, 5’9″), Leonardo (28, 6’2″), Dave Romney (23, 6’2″), Oscar Sorto (22, 5’8″), Daniel Steres (25, 6’0″), Jelle Van Damme (32, 6’3″)
Midfielders (7): Rafael Garcia (27, 5’6″), Steven Gerrard (36, 6’0″), Baggio Husidic (29, 6’1″), Jeff Larentowicz (33, 6’1″), Sebastian Lletget (24, 5’10”), Mike Magee (32, 5’10”), Robbie Rogers (29, 5’10”)
Forwards (11): Emmanuel Boateng (22, 5’6″), Landon Donovan (34, 5’8″), Giovani dos Santos (27, 5’10”), Alan Gordon (34, 6’1″), Bradford Jamieson IV (19, 6’1″), Robbie Keane (36, 5’9″), Ariel Lassiter (21, 5’10”), Jack McBean (21, 6’0″), Raul Mendiola (22, 5’8″), Jose Villarreal (23, 5’8″), Gyasi Zardes (25, 6’2″)
The Automatically Protected Players:
Fortunately for the Galaxy, they have a number of talented young players who qualify for automatic protection as Homegrown players. Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Oscar Sorto, and Jose Villarreal should all be safe. Gyasi Zardes is listed as a Homegrown, but he signed a new contract this past off season. As such, he’s no longer on his Homegrown contract. With his new deal, he’s no longer on the Supplemental Roster. The Galaxy will need to use one of their 11 spots to protect him.
Dinosaurs They Probably Don’t Have To Worry About:
So the Galaxy have some old players, several of whom might/are retiring. There are others that the Galaxy probably don’t want to keep for next year anyways. First off, Steven Gerrard is most likely retiring. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be out of contract for 2017. If Atlanta or the Loons want to pick him, his old body, and the salary that comes with it, more power to them.
Ashley Cole and Alan Gordon could also retire due to age. Gordon hasn’t been healthy this year. Then of course, there’s Landon Donovan. Let’s assume Donovan ends his comeback at the end of the year and that Gordon doesn’t retire. With all the drama around Robbie Keane’s contract situation, let’s make the conservative assumption the Galaxy protect him.
Let’s also assume Cole retires or is not protected. Cole has been good this year and much better than many expected (#ColeMiner). That said, the Galaxy are pretty stacked at full back with DeLaGarza, Rogers, and Sorto all on cheaper contracts than Cole.
So Who Should The Galaxy Protect:
As stated above, I’m assuming the Galaxy protect Keane and don’t protect Cole. So here’s my list: Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Jelle Van Damme, Sebastian Lletget, Emmanuel Boateng, A.J. DeLaGarza, Robbie Rogers, Daniel Steres, Brian Rowe, and Jeff Larentowicz.
Dos Santos, Zardes, and Van Damme are locks. They’re part of the core of this team, no question. Lletget and Boateng are regular starters. They’re both under 25 and aren’t huge cap hits ($110,00 and $100,000 respectively).
Similarly DeLaGarza and Rogers are starting quality full backs in this league. Both are under 30. In a vacuum, Cole is a better player. Because he makes more than them and is much older, I chose them over Cole. Steres and Rowe are imperfect, but both are cheap and still have plenty of room to grow.
This is where it gets tough. In terms of the seasoned veterans who are left, an argument could be made for Leonardo, Husidic, Larentowicz, Magee, and Gordon. If Leonardo wasn’t hurt to start the year, would Steres have even started over him? Husidic and Magee are good utility players. Larentowicz is the only holding mid on the roster right now. And Gordon’s the most clutch No. 9 in league history.
Leonardo is great, but Steres is the future if you ask me. The Brazilian didn’t even make the bench in last weekend’s game. Gordon and Magee are loved by the fan base, but neither has been healthy this year. Husidic is a valuable utility player. My problem with his is that he’s decent at several positions, but not great at any one.
Larentowicz is the only holding mid on the roster. The Galaxy will likely go with a midfielder with their next DP signing. They won’t be signing a forward even if Keane leaves with the chance to unite Zardes and Dos Santos up top. They’ll need a holding mid to go with a possible box-to-box DP.
Who They’re Likely To Lose:
Atlanta and Minnesota only have five picks each. Any player they choose must be considered part of their Senior Roster. So they’ll probably be looking for veterans who could make the 18 but might not be starters on other teams. They could also look for younger talent they are high on.
Gordon, Leonard, Husidic, and Magee all fit that first category. I could see any of them walking into an expansion side and winning a spot on the game day roster. The same could be said for Cole. Clement Diop, Ariel Lassiter, and Dave Romney could be interesting as well. Diop could be a back up and possibly challenge to start on a new team. Lassiter and Romney have gotten plenty of reps in USL and could be able to make a jump to the next level on a new team.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say it’s Leonardo or Gordon. Both make around $150,000 a year. Leonardo was the Defender of the Year for the Galaxy two years ago and is a really good as a second best center back on a team. While Gordon isn’t what he once was, Atlanta or Minnesota could pick him thinking they’re getting 2012 Gordon.