Rules of the Road
Goff outlined the draft rules...
Philadelphia will select 10 players; current clubs must submit their 11-man protected list by Monday afternoon; no club will lose more than one player, which means five teams won't lose anyone; Generation Adidas and home-grown players (for D.C. United, that means Rodney Wallace and Bill Hamid) need not be protected; developmental players claimed must be offered a senior contract; clubs must protect designated players that have no-trade clauses.
But I look at that and still have three questions that I'd need to know the answers to before compiling a definitive list (not that it'll stop me from trying):
- I'm assuming Wallace, having started or played in nearly every match for us this year, will be graduated from the Generation Adidas program. Last year those graduations took place before the draft, requiring teams to protect their graduated players.
- Does Emilio have a no-trade clause in his contract? If he does, we have to put him on the list.
- Are there any rules about the number of international players that can be left exposed? Last year you were only allowed to expose the total number on the roster minus three. So we'd have to protect three international players if that rules holds.
Sorting the Hand
So let's break the roster down into three groups: the must-protect, the bubble, and the exposed. I'm going to proceed on the assumption that Goff's info about not needing to protect Hamid (I'm sure this is true) and Wallace (not so sure) is correct, but I'll take a look at what I'd do if we needed to protect Wallace in the conclusion section as well. Also, given that Shipalane and Cronin are on loan, I don't think they factor into this sorting process.
Must-Protect: Jakovic, Namoff, Szetela, Pontius, Quaranta, Simms
Bubble: Wicks, Habarugira, James, Vaughn, Burch, McTavish, Fred, Jacobson, Olsen, Khumalo, Moreno, N'Silu
Exposed: Kocic, John, Janicki, DiRaimondo, Allen, Barklage, Gomez, Emilio
So that's six of the eleven spots accounted for and five spots left that twelve guys could make a case for. Of course, not all such cases are created equal. We've also only protected one international (Jakovic) thus far. Of those on the "exposed" list, I'm sure I might get questions about why Gomez and Emilio are not at least "bubble"-worthy (hint: it's the salaries) and why Barklage doesn't merit consideration (coming off a serious injury, and PU would have to upgrade him from Dev Dollars to senior roster). But let's tackle that bubble, shall we?
Bursting the Bubble
Right off the bat, I'm going to drop Wicks from contention. I'm not convinced he's the long-term solution for us in the net, and Philadelphia's not going to waste a pick on a keeper that won't be ready for opening day. Likewise, I'm going to drop Habarugira and N'Silu because they really didn't do much in their limited minutes to create any real demand for their services. On the flip side, I think James is our #2/#3 center back for next year and realistically part of the core we're building around, so I'm going to promote him to the protected list. Since he's an international as well, that means we still need one more international to be protected (assuming the rules haven't changed).
So that leaves us with eight guys vying for four spots. If we're proceeding under the assumption that we need to have three internationals on the list, that means we can split the pot as well, since one of the two remaining internationals, Fred and Boyzzz, have to be on the list. Tough call, but I'm going to side with Fred. Despite all of the disappointment of the last two years, Fred is still a more talented player than Khumalo and a proven MLS quantity. Yes, he also carries a heavier wage hit, but Fred has trade/resale value that Boyzzz doesn't. Also, I can't see Nowak picking up a 29-year old #3/#4 forward without a proven goal-scoring record who uses up an international spot on his roster, can you?
Now we're down to six guys looking for three spots. Considering all six (Vaughn, Burch, McTavish, Jacobson, Olsen, and Moreno) will probably be squad players and not automatic starters next year, I think you've got to protect quality and leadership, no matter how old or fragile the bodies may be getting. Moreno and Olsen are shielded.
So that leaves a four-way contest for one spot. Dramatic, eh? The tough part about this choice is that Nowak will probably grab one of these guys when we leave them exposed. So who gets the nod? I'm leaning towards McTavish and Jacobson, given that Vaughn would probably see very few minutes as Namoff's backup, and I've never been thrilled about Burch. McTavish's value lies in his versatility, but he's not that great at any one position. Jacobson, on the other hand, has some potentially interesting tools, but never seemed to put it all together last year.
Jacobson by a hair. But I should also note that Vaughn would get the nod if there are any doubts whatsoever about Namoff's noggin. Prior to his injuries, Vaughn had a pretty bright future in this league, and I wouldn't be at all shocked if he's the one PU grab (assuming the FO leaves him exposed).
So my final list is: Jakovic, Namoff, James, Fred, Olsen, Szetela, Simms, Jacobson, Quaranta, Moreno, Pontius. Adding Wallace and Hamid to the picture means we could line up a 4-4-2 of Hamid in net; Wallace, Jakovic, James, and Namoff across the back; Fred and Quaranta on the flanks; Simms and Szetela in the middle; Pontius and Moreno up top; and Olsen and Jacobson on the bench. That still leaves major gaps, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Part V will address needs; let's get back to the protected list...
I do have some reservations about picking Jacobson over Vaughn, particularly given the number of central midfielders already on the list. Of course, if Wallace graduates from Generation Adidas or we have to protect Emilio, Jacobson is the first to get sacrificed. Remember that Emilio got his green card and doesn't count as an international, thus making Fred's spot safe even if Emilio were to be added...assuming that the international condition still exists in the draft rules.
But what if we have to protect both Wallace and Emilio? Again, assuming we have to keep three internationals, I think you're looking at having to leave one of Moreno or Olsen exposed. Ouch. That's a pretty miserable dilemma. Much as it pains me, I think Moreno's production and talent probably count for slightly more than Olsen's effort and desire, though I'd hate to have to make that decision.
Update: It's official. We DO have to protect at least three internationals, and that worrying language about GenAd graduates is still in there. I can't see Wallace not graduating, so I'm afraid we might need to protect him, meaning Jacobson gets exposed.