Behind the Decision-Making in FC Dallas' Protected List ahead of 2016 MLS Expansion Draft

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It’s not an enviable decision making an Expansion Draft protected list.

Each MLS club was allowed just an eleven-man list of players to protect including at least three international players, while with their Homegrown and Generation adidas players still on supplemental/reserve rosters receive automatic exemption. Everyone else is open for selection by either Atlanta United FC or Minnesota United FC.

For Fernando Clavijo and FC Dallas, it all came down to numbers.

First of all, although Homegrowns are exempt for the most part, Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa are considered by MLS standards part of the Senior Roster, and must occupy spots on the protected list to stay. Nine spots remain.

Although he won’t be available for the first part of the season, the club cannot lose midfielder Mauro Diaz, one of the most dynamic players in the league at his peak, for next-to nothing. Eight spots left.

Now, you’ve got a minimum mandate of three international players to be included on the list. Of the heavy contributors to the 2016 squad, Dallas has the bare minimum of three international players under contract through next year: Michael Barrios, Maynor Figueroa and Carlos Gruezo. Diaz and Maxi Urruti both hold their green cards and are not international players for MLS roster purposes. Five spots.

Remember your 2016 MLS Defender of the Year who you just signed to a four-year extension? What about his emerging center back partner who finished as highest-performing defender statistically in the Audi Player Index? Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman aren’t going anywhere. Three left.

You’ve got your defense, but now somebody has to score goals, and for FCD that comes down to Maxi Urruti and Tesho Akindele (along with the previously-protected Barrios). Dallas never lost a game in 2016 in which Urruti scored or assisted on a goal and Akindele fell one goal short of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign with 200 fewer minutes played. Even though the club is looking to add even more goals up top, you cannot leave these two available because they will be gone. One.

Of your three biggest contributors in 2016 that are left, two are under contract for next year:

  • Ryan Hollingshead is the definition of a utility player, seeing time at quite literally every position over the last two seasons and continually improves at each and every one.
  • Chris Seitz backstopped the team on their historical run, but Atlanta United is rumored to have a USMNTer coming in to play in goal and you’ve got a trusty keeper already exempt in Jesse Gonzalez – even though losing Seitz would be tough to stomach.
  • Atiba Harris was your consistent runner up and down the right side, and definitely has the veteran experience an expansion team would want (look no further than his selection away from FCD in the 2010 Expansion Draft). However, he’s out of contract at the moment – tough to take a contracted player out for the rights to another (which is what the Re-Entry Draft is for Friday)

Clavijo and Dallas took that last spot and kept the man bun-less Hollingshead, while hoping that the other two – Seitz and Harris – survive. It’s never an easy choice, but one that came down to depth and trying to predict what is needed from the newest MLS members.

We’ll see tomorrow if it paid off for Clavijo and FCD.

NOTE: Also unprotected are some of the younger prospects in Colin Bonner and Timo Pitter, a Homegrown in Moises Hernandez and out-of-contract players in Aubrey David, Ryan Herman, Getterson, Carlos Lizarazo, Zach Loyd, Juan Ortiz, Norberto Paparatto, Mauro Rosales and Carlos Ruiz.