FRISCO - The ball is rolling as the 2018 season approaches and next up on the MLS offseason calendar is the Expansion Draft for LAFC on Tuesday.
Each club is allowed to protect eleven (11) players from their roster, while Homegrown players and Generation adidas players on the Supplemental Roster are automatically protected from selection. Non-Homegrown players out of contract are not protected regardless of roster designation. In FC Dallas' case, that leaves eleven players available to be taken by the newcomers.
After the trade of Walker Zimmerman to the very LAFC side that will be selecting on Tuesday, Dallas is forced to leave two 2018 contracted players, Anibal Chala and Roland Lamah, unprotected. The other nine either had their option declined at the end of the year or are out of contract.
Looking at the Senior Roster, the need to protect Homegrowns on their second contracts (Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa) once again occupies two spots, as was the case in last year's expansion draft. The requirement to protect three international players also remains, but unlike last year when FCD had just three contracted internationals and therefore had to protect all three, they have five to pick from this time around if they'd like to expose one or two (Michael Barrios, Chala, Cristian Colman, Carlos Gruezo and Lamah).
Here's my take on how FC Dallas got here.
There is no science in picking who to protect and who to expose. Instead, it's a game of who is likely to get taken if left available and who isn't.
Maxi Urruti was your leading scorer in each of the last two years. Tesho Akindele continues to be a threat off the bench and has a hugh upside as a 25 year old that can play up top or on the wing. Barrios and Mauro Diaz led the assist race, with the latter still not reaching full form after a grueling Achilles' injury recovery. Anyone that thinks the club wants to part with defensive-stalwart Gruezo is off their rocker. For as much flack as Colman takes, he's a DP that carried a rumored $2 million price tag a year ago and cannot walk for nearly nothing. Matt Hedges is the anchor of the back line and your only center back on the roster at the moment. Ryan Hollingshead finished the season as your starter at left back and with the versatility to play anywhere is someone to keep around. Jacori Hayes is a promising young midfielder who saw 90 minutes across three matches in 2017 and carries a very low cap hit - something that plays into the decision making momentarily.
Of the 13 eligible contracted players, two remain.
Chala, a Young DP, has come on strong during his loan stint in Ecuador after preseason hernia surgery, but Fernando Clavijo has expressed some disappointment with how things played out with the defender in 2017.
Lamah was the second leading scorer in 2017, but is the second highest paid player on the roster, according to the MLS Players' Union's annual salary list. When you look at the roster LAFC is building and the high-priced players rumored to be joining the newcomers, there is a lot of money being spent already. In a salary capped league with a finite number of DP spots and only so much Targeted Allocation Money to bring in other high-priced players - $250K of which was just sent Dallas' way - LAFC being able to afford the price tag Lamah brings isn't guaranteed. Being able to afford a lower-hit player is much more likely.
It might be a gamble, but it's one that has lower odds than if you left a Jacori Hayes, Victor Ulloa or otherwise available. We'll have to wait and see how the cards are dealt.
The 2018 MLS Expansion Draft will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 1PM CT. LAFC will make five selections from the list of unprotected players from the 22 current MLS clubs.
BOLD = Senior Roster players, ITALICS = Auto-protected players, ** = Out of Contract players
|Kellyn Acosta (HG)|
|Michael Barrios (INT)|
|Cristian Colman (INT, Young DP)|
|Carlos Gruezo (INT, Young DP)|
|Victor Ulloa (HG)|
|Reggie Cannon (HG)|
|Jesus Ferreira (HG)|
|Jesse Gonzalez (HG)|
|Paxton Pomykal (HG)|
|Adonijah Reid (GA)|
|Bryan Reynolds (HG)|
|**Coy Craft (HG, option declined)|
|**Aaron Guillen (HG, option declined)|
|Anibal Chala (INT, Young DP)|
|Roland Lamah (INT)|
|**Carlos Cermeno (option declined)|
|**Eduardo Cortes (option declined)|
|**Maynor Figueroa (option declined)|
|**Hernan Grana (option declined)|
|**Atiba Harris (option declined)|
|**Walker Hume (option declined)|
|**Javier Morales (option declined)|
|**Chris Seitz (out of contract)|
|**Luis Gonzalez (option declined)|