Bumped to the FrontPage as it seems every week there is more and more expansion draft talk. Trust me, we'll hit you with a ton, but let's start the discussion now.
Anytime Fucito plays well, which apparently is just about every time he graces the pitch commenters on the interwebs express their fears and woes of him getting stolen in the expansion draft. I reckon it has something to do with the fresh wound that is Le Toux's success at Philadelphia this season, but he is undeniably leaving a mark in the hearts of Sounders fans. If you had it your way who would you protect for the expansion draft? Does the unique draft rules of having 2 teams picking players make a big difference? And aren't you dying to know my opinion?
What's Different About This Expansion Draft
This draft will be somewhat unique from my understanding. Before it was simple: existing clubs protect 11 players from their roster, the expansion club writes up a well planned list of 11 available players they want (no more than one from any team of course), and BAM! you have 11 roster slots filled. This year is different with two teams taking part in the draft. Not only does that mean a club can lose 2 players this year, is also means an expansion team no longer gets the advantage of picking the 11 players that best complement each other right off he bat. Instead they take turns and hope the other doesn't foil their individual plans. Not only can an expansion team miss out on a player they might want by the other selecting him first, but once a player gets selected from a team the team that lost the player gets to protect an additional player if I'm not mistaken. If Portland decides to shop at Seattle first then Vancouver loses not one, but two available players to select from. Not only do we get the benefit of picking a second player based on value to the team, but we will also get to see what positions have been filled already on both Portland and Vancouver's roster up to the point we are chosen. We can see what their roster looks like and say "Hey, Portland took Fucito, Vancouver has 2 CM's already and no defenders, let's protect Riley instead of Evans." I am sure there is some rational choice model to compare this to, but turning the Expansion Draft into a game with multiple players this year might work to our advantage and change how we protect our players.
Fucito has been an issue amongst fans and whether or not he is worth a protected slot. A month or two ago I'd say let him go unprotected. He hasn't had much time to prove he is a good consistent player and because he is basically in his Freshman season why would Portland and Vancouver take him when they are getting early Super Draft picks from current college students? For me the issue would be protecting him over Nyassi and I look at Nyassi as a much more proven threat. Or at least that was the case a month ago. My tune is starting to change on that and Fucito is someone I'd probably want to protect.
The other issue I am unclear about is Kasey Keller. Do we need to protect him? If memory serves me right his contract expires at the end of the season. Aside from being old and close to retirement, a big part of the reason why he is playing in Seattle is because he is from the area and wants to finish out his career at home. If this is the case do we need to protect him when he can send a clear message that he'll opt to not renew his contract and retire if Vancouver or Portland try to pick him up? I don't think Portland would be petty enough simply hate draft him so he can't play for us and not gain a player that can fill a roster slot or be traded. If I am wrong please correct me.
Taking things into account here's the 11 I protect and a brief explanation of why:
1. Hurtado (one of the best CB in MLS)
2. Ianni (High quality back up, can be 3rd CB in 5-3-2, and in a pinch a CDM)
3. Parke (Second best CB on the team)
4. Alonso (The rock upon which we stand)
5. Fernandez (Clearly is talented. Can play RM or CM)
6. Montero (League MVP and worst case scenario we can sell him for tons of cash)
7. Nkufo (We win when he plays)
8. Zakuani (Gets better and better and we love our speedy flanks)
9. Gonzalez (Solid LB)
10. Fucito (Growing star? And what if we can't keep Montero?)
11. Jaqua (USOC player of the tournament IMHO. You want him for USOC, CCL, and when Nkufo gets tired/injured)
So who does that leave unprotected that is obvious? Riley, Sturgis, Evans, Nyassi
The way I see it Alonso is the rock in center mid and Flaco will also be able to play in that spot. Why protect Evans and Sturgis? If one gets stolen just protect the other and we'll have 3 solid CMs with Seamon still an option and Vagenas if you wish. I would be nervous about leaving Riley open, but I am thinking Sturgis and Evans are more attractive than Riley. However if Riley gets stolen I'd rather be shopping for RB than a CM. Plus we could always try that Bradley experiment again and plug Evans in at RB.
However the really glaring pick is Nyassi. Why I left him exposed? Well there's that distant hopeful belief that because he played 5 games for the USL Sounders Portland's hubris won't take him. But the reality is I have faith in Flaco. He won't be a speedy winger, but I think he'll have quality on the wing if we need. Also I am putting a little bit of faith in our youngsters. Perhaps Fucito can play out on the right and add some speed. The other option is Miguel Montano who is still pretty young. It would be nice to play with two inverted wingers who can swap sides to provide better crosses with their strong foot. And the reality is Nyassi, up until this month hasn't really impressed me. Yes, it works having him on the right, but I don't think he is nearly as strong or consistent as our other attackers, his skill isn't too far ahead of subs and reserves in my opinion, and, if this season taught us one thing, protect the spine of your team with a little bit of depth.
Who would you protect and, more importantly, expose?