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MLS Announces Expansion Draft Date: Who Should the Dynamo Protect?

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Who Should the Houston Dynamo protect from expansion side LAFC in the upcoming Expansion Draft?

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo
Definitely keep this guy from LAFC
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer announced today the date of the Expansion Draft for MLS newcomer Los Angeles FC. The draft will take place at 1 PM CT December 12th. LAFC will be the 23rd team in the league and will have its choice of five players from any of the 22 other clubs with some caveats. For starters, they may only select one player from any one club and the other clubs have some rules for protecting its players from being drafted.

Clubs may choose 11 players that will be exempt from being draft eligible. Players that are Generation Adidas or off-budget Homegrown Products are also automatically protected.

While MLS roster rules are hardly clear, it looks like only Memo Rodriguez and Christian Lucatero will be protected by the off-budget Homegrown Product exemption for the Houston Dynamo. Tyler Deric is also a HGP and was exempt last season, but it is likely he is an on the budget HGP.

That leaves a lot of Dynamo players left on a team that is currently in the Western Conference Finals so a lot of thought must go into who the Front Office decides to protect.

Currently here are the players not exempt:

GK: Tyler Deric, Joe Willis, Calle Brown

DEF: Jalil Anibaba, Adolfo Machado, Philippe Senderos, DaMarcus Beasley, Dylan Remick, Kevin Garcia, A. J. DeLaGarza, George Malki, Leonardo, Taylor Hunter

MID: Juan David Cabezas, Eric Alexander, Joe Holland, Andrew Wenger (really a FW), Ricardo Clark, Alex, Jose Escalante, Tomas Martinez (DP), Oscar Boniek Garcia, Charlie Ward

FW: Erick Torres (DP), Vicente Sanchez, Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis (DP), Mauro Manotas

No team wants their players selected so front offices try to find ways to maximize their selections by leaving certain players exposed. Those players might be designated players who will occupy one of the designated player slots and may command a higher salary, older players at the end of their career, international players who will take up an international roster slot, or young players that are still raw with their talent.

The Dynamo have had several players selected in previous expansion drafts. In last year’s draft with both Atlanta United FC and Minnessota United FC, Collen Warner was selected by MNUFC. Warner wasn’t a huge loss especially considering the sweeping changes made in the offseason.

In 2014’s draft with Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City FC, up-and-coming forward Mark Sherrod was selected by OCSC before being traded to the San Jose Earthquakes.

2011’s draft for the Montreal Impact will be one Dynamo fans still remember as Head Coach Jesse Marsch called the Dynamo’s bluff and drafted the exposed Brian Ching. Ching was later traded back to Houston in exchange for a first round draft pick in the 2013 MLS Superdraft, but even with Ching back in orange, it was a moment that will serve as a reminder about players left exposed.

The Dynamo survived the 2010 draft for the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps along with 2009’s draft for the Philadelphia Union although Nate Jaqua was taken as the Seattle Sounder’s first pick in 2008’s Expansion Draft and Ryan Cochran was also the first pick in 2007’s draft for the San Jose Earthquakes.

So the real questions are who do the Dynamo want to protect from LAFC’s picks and who do they want to expose? Both Tyler Deric and Joe Willis have plenty of value and Deric’s current legal status could impact who gets protected. I would think that it is too risky a move to leave Deric or Willis exposed. Deric is a top MLS goalkeeper and his current dilemma is troubling, but it may not keep LAFC at bay. Essentially, leave Willis exposed and protect Deric and we could be left with a suspended goalkeeper. Protect Willis and leave Deric exposed and our #1 GK could be plucked from us. It’s best to play it safe and protect both.

Defensively, I think DaMarcus Beasley is left exposed. His age and steady decline in production makes him less intriguing to LA and with Dylan Remick’s rise, I think Remick is who gets to stay. Adolfo Machado is another must be protected and I think the other guy to be protected is A. J. DeLaGarza. Machado has become the anchor along the back line and right back is our most vulnerable position with a lack of depth so AJ, even with his injury, needs to be protected.

In midfield, I went on and off with some of these choices, but the two players that absolutely must be protected are Juan David Cabezas and Tomas Martinez. Cabezas is the unsung hero this season and Martinez represents the future. I went back and forth between protecting Alex over Eric Alexander, but ultimately I think we protect Alex. I don’t think Alex is in the future plans of the club, but given his versatility and that his trade value is at an all-time high, we keep him away from La La Land.

Up top is where the Dynamo have succeeded the most so I think we protect a lot of players there. Alberth Elis must be protected. Mauro Manotas and Cubo Torres will also likely be protected. This is because of their connection with Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera, but also their trade value. They’re not players we would want to lose for nothing. I would really like to protect Romell Quioto, but of the players on this list, I think he may be the most expendable. An argument could be made to protect him over DeLaGarza, but I think AJ is just too valuable – even injured.

So to recap, my choices for the Houston Dynamo to protect are:

GK: Tyler Deric, Joe Willis

DEF: Dylan Remick, Adolfo Machado, A. J. DeLaGarza

MID: Juan David Cabezas, Alex Lima, Tomas Martinez

FW: Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas, Cubo Torres

My Honorable Mentions: Romell Quioto, Eric Alexander, Leonardo, Ricardo Clark, Andrew Wenger.

Alexander has really come into his own lately and Leonardo is someone I wouldn’t like to lose - at least from a depth perspective.

Clark falls into the “Ching” category. He’s past his prime, but certainly can be productive. He’s almost never injured and is one of the fittest players on the squad, but I just don’t think he’s worth protecting over some of these other guys. Sorry Rico. Let’s hope LAFC don’t pull a Jesse Marsch.

Wenger’s versatility and defensive mentality give the Dynamo tremendous value off the bench, but is he a starter on this squad? Not anymore.

So who do you think the Dynamo should protect? Let us know below!