In the last week, the expansion draft has been a looming concern for all MLS teams. For a Sounders team that is the best in the league and has a significant amount of depth, the likelihood that the Sounders lose 1 or 2 players is highly likely. The most sought after players for any expansion side are going to be those at the fringes of the starting lineup - payers who are either on the cusp of first team contributions or those who can fill out a roster. On a team with the depth of the Seattle Sounders, there are a multitude of these players -- Andy Rose, Michael Azira, Kenny Cooper, and Chad Barrett being the obvious examples.
When the Seattle Sounders released their protected lists on Monday, the inclusion of Andy Rose was a notable distinction on a list of almost otherwise unsurprising choices -- Chad Barrett not withstanding. When Sounder at Heart rolled out the Protectionator Mark II several weeks ago, the respondents voted 60-40 in favor of Any Rose being protected over his other midfield depth counterpart in Michael Azira. It was notably a point of contention and a fiercely debated topic and it will probably remain so if Azira is selected in the expansion draft.
Despite that split, it's not an apples to apples comparison in that each player brings something different to the table in their skillset. Michael Azira is a more tactically mobile component, coupling a strong possession game with a good defensive acumen. Andy Rose on the other hand is the more attacking of the two as a box-to-box midfielder. While his passing ability isn't as good, his ability to move the ball forward, challenge opposition players, and participate in the attacking third uniquely sets him apart from his Sounders teammates.
And that's the crux of the reason why protecting Andy Rose was the right move from the Sounders. He is a potent box-to-box force that's unlike any other players on the Sounders. After a breakout 2012 season (followed by a disappointing 2013) this year was the year we saw just how much the Seattle Sounders could get out of Andy Rose. While injuries limited his involvement at times, those appearances he did make showed a dynamic workhorse for the Sounders in midfield. Given the Seattle Sounders quality in transition play with the likes of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, having a secondary attacking influence making second runs gave Andy Rose copious opportunities when he did play.
Beyond the attacking thrusts and secondary runs from deep, the component Andy Rose brings in the air makes the Sounders far more deadly both from run-of-play and from set pieces. With set piece ability of Marco Pappa and a plethora of other deadly aerial threats, adding one more into the mix gives the Sounders a massive edge on set pieces or from flank play.
Beyond the impact Andy Rose had when he did play comes the tactical benefits of having this kind of tool in your arsenal are immensely important. An all-around-solid attacking box-to-box midfielder isn't a common player and it's a style of player that's extremely useful, often necessary, in a transition based side. The examples of that skillset are evident in some of the best transition based teams in the world: Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern Munich, Frank Lampard (in his later years) at Chelsea. Andy Rose brings that same type of ability to the Seattle Sounders and while the skill level may be dramatically different, the tactical considerations are identical.
All added up, Andy Rose is a potent offensive asset that could be a massive part of the Sounders future with the versatile transition-based attack Adrian Hanauer and company have assembled. An asset the Sounders rightly decided to ensure they didn't lose.