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Here’s who we think Sounders will protect in the MLS Expansion Draft

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Readers and Sounder at Heart staff mostly agreed, with one notable exception.

Jordy Delem could be a very attractive target in the MLS Expansion Draft.
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

There might not be a thing we look forward to less than facing the prospect of another MLS Expansion Draft. In their 11 MLS seasons, this will be the seventh time the Seattle Sounders will have had to go through the process (they were exempted last year). In those seven Expansion Drafts, the Sounders have lost at least one player in five of them and they lost two players following the 2010 season.

As painful as it may be, we still find the process of selecting who we think should be protected to be an interesting one. This year, we’re separating the results by staff and readers.

In the end, it didn’t really matter. Our 15 voting staffers and about 1,400 readers only differed on one of the 12 spots, even if they got there in slightly different ways. Here’s how it broke down:

(As a reminder, the team’s five Homegrown Players are not exposed to this draft and didn’t have to be protected.)

We totally agreed

Stefan Frei (100 percent from SaH staff; 99.8 percent of readers): This was an easy one. Frei has been one of the top goalkeepers in the league almost ever since he got to Seattle way back in 2014 (he’s the only player on the current roster not acquired by Garth Lagerwey). He’s also relatively young by goalkeeper standards and is still a massive bargain.

Raúl Ruidíaz (100%; 99.5%): Another very easy selection. Ruidíaz is coming off a playoff campaign in which he either scored or assisted on a goal in all four games, logging four goals and four assists. He’s now got seven goals in six career playoff games to go along with 21 goals in 33 regular-season starts.

Nicolas Lodeiro (100%, 99.4%): Probably the Sounders’ MVP in each of his four seasons, yet somehow under-appreciated outside of Seattle. He’s everything the Sounders could have possibly hoped for when they signed him in 2016, and he now has two MLS Cups to show for it.

Cristian Roldan (100%; 99.1%): Signed a big extension last offseason, but continued to be a great value. Roldan is still just 24 and is now a USMNT regular. Assuming he doesn’t get snatched up by some European team, he could be patrolling the Sounders midfield for another decade.

Gustav Svensson (100%; 97.8%): There was some speculation that this might be the Goose’s final year in Seattle, but he’s apparently already signed an extension. He turned in a starring performance in MLS Cup and was the key element in the Sounders’ defensive structure during the whole playoff run.

Xavier Arreaga (100%; 89.1%): The Ecuador international didn’t start in MLS Cup, but he’s clearly a building block for the future. The 25-year-old centerback showed himself to have some serious class once he settled in and has the look of a potentially elite MLS defender.

We thought it was obvious, you weren’t quite so sure

Victor Rodriguez (100%; 69.8%): It’s entirely possible our staff was a bit swayed by Rodriguez’s MLS Cup MVP performance, but we all agreed he’s too valuable to risk losing for free. You weren’t quite as sure. I suspect there’s some game-theory going on here, as our readers are likely calculating that no expansion team would risk picking a player who might just be looking for an excuse to go back to Spain.

Nouhou (100%; 69.1%): Look, MLSsoccer.com thinks Nouhou is the player we’re destined to lose and maybe we were just pushing back against that nightmare scenario, whereas our readers probably see a player who started a career-low nine games this year.

In the end, we agreed

Kelvin Leerdam (93.3%; 90.5%): If I asked you to name the Sounders’ top 5 players in minutes played this year, how many of you would have guessed Leerdam would be in that group? That might say more about how much rotating the Sounders needed to do, but Leerdam sneakily had a very productive year, with six goals and two assists to go along with 33 appearances (including playoffs). Not many teams can count on that kind of consistency from a right back.

Kim Kee-hee (86.7%; 78.7%): There’s a lot of thinking that Kim is as good as gone with rumored interest from the Middle East, but if the Sounders think they can bring him back then protecting him is probably the first logical step. The Kim-Arreaga partnership showed some real potential.

Emmanuel Cecchini (80%; 56.9%): Our suspicion is that Cecchini has a no-trade clause as part of his loan from Malaga, so this is as much an acknowledgement of that as it is any sort of statement of belief. That said, I think Cecchini will get a shot at earning more minutes in 2020 and has some intriguing potential.

We said protect him, you said ‘nah’

Will Bruin (53.3%; 19.9%): Our group was basically split, but erred on the safe side of not wanting to risk losing a proven goal-scorer who might be attractive to an expansion team. Our readers are likely gambling that expansion teams will be scared off by an ACL injury that likely won’t yet be fully healed when training camps open.

You said protect him, we said ‘nah’

Joevin Jones (6.7%; 58.1%): There wasn’t much concern about losing Jones among our writers, mainly because he’s due nearly $600,000 next year and didn’t show much in the way of offensive production while being used primarily as a midfielder. I suspect our readers think other teams will see a 27-year-old potentially game-breaking left back whose price tag won’t be as much of a concern in the new CBA.

Close calls

Harry Shipp (33.3%; 19.9%): No one seemed to notice, but Shipp had one of the most productive seasons of his career, with five goals and three assists in less than 1,400 minutes. At no point was Shipp an automatic starter for the Sounders — and only appeared in two of the last nine games — but he still played more minutes this year than in either of his two previous seasons. Not hard at all to imagine a team like Nashville SC taking him.

Brad Smith (6.7%; 54.6%): Smith just missed the cutoff for making the list with readers — and he’s clearly got loads of talent — but all signs point to him trying to make a go of it in England. With his loan up at the end of the year, it’s hard to imagine an expansion team using a pick on such an uncertain situation.

Roman Torres (20%; 45.9%): No defender was steadier down the stretch than Torres, but he’s going to be 34 at the start of next season, had another uneven year and has options if he wants to back to Colombia. Even if the Sounders want to bring him back, they can probably afford to expose him.

Jordy Delem (13.3%; 45.5%): If I had to make a guess, I think Delem is the player the Sounders are most likely to lose. He’s not quite as young as you might think — he’ll turn 27 shortly after the season starts — but he’s super cheap and is a solid role-player. He’s exactly the kind of player expansion teams should be targeting in this type of draft.

Expansion Draft protected percentages

Player SaH staff SaH readers
Player SaH staff SaH readers
Stefan Frei 100 99.8
Raul Ruidiaz 100 99.5
Nicolas Lodeiro 100 99.4
Cristian Roldan 100 99.1
Gustav Svensson 100 97.8
Xavier Arreaga 100 89.1
Victor Rodriguez 100 69.8
Nouhou 100 69.2
Kelvin Leerdam 93.3 90.5
Kim Kee-hee 86.7 78.7
Emmanuel Cecchini 80 56.9
Will Bruin 53.3 19.9
Harry Shipp 33.3 11.9
Roman Torres 20 45.9
Jordy Delem 13.3 43.5
Joevin Jones 6.7 58.1
Brad Smith 6.7 54.6
Saad Abdul-Salaam 6.7 4.7
Alex Roldan 0 4.2
Bryan Meredith 0 2.9
Luis Silva 0 2.5
Jonathan Campbell 0 1.1
Justin Dhillon 0 0.9