With both the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps set to join Major League Soccer next year, it's time to play everyone's favorite MLS-parlor game: Who should the Wizards protect from the impending expansion draft?
The Kansas City Star
The two expansion clubs will select a total of 10 current players each to be added to their rosters, alternating after each player is selected. MLS clubs may protect 11 players from their roster and any Generation adidas players that will not graduate after the 2010 season. Home-grown players are also protected from the draft and don't count toward the 11. The date for the draft hasn't been announced, but should be after the MLS Cup and before the SuperDraft in January.
My count? There are 8 locks: Stephane Auvray, Kei Kamara, Ryan Smith, Craig Rocastle, Davy Arnaud, Jimmy Nielsen, Roger Espinoza* and Michael Harrington.
*I'm assuming Roger graduates to senior-player status.
Teal Bunbury (should be GA for one more year at least), Chance Myers (ditto) and Jon Kempin (home-grown player) should be exempt. I'm assuming that Omar Bravo will be as well, since he hasn't even joined the team officially yet.
That leaves 15 players to fill three spots.
F Sunil Chhetri, F Zoltan Hercegfalvi, D Nikos Kounenakis, MF Graham Zusi, D Matt Besler, D Shavar Thomas, D Jimmy Conrad, D/M Korede Aiyegbusi, M Jamar Beasly, F Birahim Diop, D Aaron Hohlbein, M Jack Jewsbury, GK Eric Kronberg, D Jonathan Leathers and F Josh Wolff.
Because the team will more than likely protect one (if not two) central defensive players, I expect some combination of Conrad-Thomas-Besler-Kounenakis to be protected.* I wouldn't be surprised if Conrad (remember the trade rumors swirling last year at the SuperDraft).
*The team has invested a lot of time/effort/resources into Chhetri as well and I wouldn't be surprised if they protect him ahead of the a second central defender.
I don't expect Wolff to be a Wizard next year, so they shouldn't waste a spot on him. Same goes for Beasley ... I assume.* Zoltan's knee injury, at the very least, would give the expansion teams pause.
*Of course, the theory they are just training him for the impending Comets season seems to still be in play.
The rest, I think, are fair game.
The interesting two for me are Zusi and Jewsbury. Zusi's a skilled player who is developing nicely for this team. Given a year or two, he could vie for a starting spot. Jewsbury is a utility-knife player and a fan favorite. If you keep two centerbacks, you can't keep both of them though.
I'd like to see the team protect my eight locks, plus Thomas, Besler and Zusi. (Then I'd wish Jewsbury well in the Pacific Northwest and cross my fingers that Conrad's high salary and increasing years scares Portland and Vancouver away so he can retire in KC.)
But I'm interested: What 11 players would you protect? What would your strategy be? Would you protect Chhetri? Should they protect Chhetri?