Colorado Rapids MLS Expansion Draft Preview: Axel Sjoberg at risk

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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Axel Sjoberg of Colorado Rapids during the MLS match between DC United and Colorado Rapids at Audi Field on July 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)

Editorial (December 10, 2018) – Earlier today, Major League Soccer announced the players available to FC Cincinnati in tomorrow’s MLS Expansion Draft. The Colorado Rapids have 13 players from their final 2018 roster available for the taking.

Colorado Rapids MLS Expansion Draft Preview: Axel Sjoberg at risk

First off, for the full list of expansion draft rules, click here. Now, here’s how the Rapids roster broke down:

Automatically protected (Homegrowns not a part of senior roster): Kortne Ford, Sam Vines, and Cole Bassett.

Players Colorado chose to protect: Tim Howard, Marlon Hairston, Tommy Smith, Deklan Wynne, Kellyn Acosta, Nana Boateng, Sam Nicholson, Jack Price, Dillon Serna, Nicolas Mezquida, and Niki Jackson.

Players left unprotected (players under contract with Colorado are in bold: Giles Barnes, Johan Blomberg, Yannick Boli, Caleb Calvert, Edgar Castillo, Kip Colvey, Mike da Fonte, Andrew Dykstra, Shkelzen Gashi, Sam Hamilton, Enzo Martinez, Axel Sjoberg, and Danny Wilson.

What statement is the Rapids front office making?

In truth, most of these decision were simple. The statements were already made when the club chose not to pick up several 2019 options. They cut several young players, Homegrowns, and most of those cuts were inexpensive players. The club already decided who they didn’t think was worth giving another year of development with a new USL affiliation coming in 2018.

That left the club with 18 players under contract. With three Homegrowns automatically protected, they had to leave just four of 15 other contracted players exposed. The Rapids won’t care if FC Cincy takes a player who’s contract they didn’t pick up. They’ve already parted ways. If Cincinnati wants them, they can have them.

Whether you agree with the Rapids decision to cut certain players is a separate argument.

As for the four players the Rapids planned to bring back, but left exposed: They fit into three categories. The three foreign veterans all have contracts that make them undesirable. Gashi made almost $1.7 million in 2018. Blomberg made $240k and Wilson made $540k.

Gashi couldn’t stay healthy. Wilson struggled and the highlights weren’t flattering. Blomberg also had injury issues and looked just ok. If Cincinnati wants veteran contributors, there are healthier, better, and cheaper options that don’t cost an international roster spot.

So who’s likely to get taken?

And then there’s Axel Sjoberg. The 6’7″ center back is just two years removed from being a finalist for the MLS Defender of the Year. He made just $200k this year and signed a new contract at the end of last year.

He has two years left with a team option for the 2021 season. With TAM and a larger salary budget these days, Sjoberg is a high value player. He’s an inexpensive bench option or a good value as a starter at that salary.

At his height, he’ll lock down almost any aerial attack in the Eastern Conference. He could easily walk into Cincinnati as a starting center back in almost any formation. If the Rapids are losing anyone, it’s Sjoberg.

There are a few other players the Rapids cut who Cincinnati might take a look at but again, there are better options for just as cheap around the league.

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