United Autopsy 2009 | Part IV: The List is Life

Rolling right along with our grisly task, it's now time to figure out who to protect from the expansion draft. "What part does this play in an autopsy?" I hear you ask. Well, the guys you protect are those valuable players at the core of the team you're looking to build around, right? So...

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):
  1. 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.
  2. Does Emilio have a no-trade clause in his contract? If he does, we have to put him on the list.
  3. 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.


  1. You knock Vaughn off the bubble because he's Namoff's backup and thus would likely see little playing time; but that argument presumes that we'll even have Namoff next year. He got his bell rung pretty hard. Unless you're convinced that McTavish can play RB as well as Vaughn (and I'm sure not), you have to protect Vaughn, because you can't have no credible backup for a player who may retire two days into pre-season camp.

  2. Does Emilio still count as an international?

    Didn't he get a green card last year?

    If not, would that change the total number of internationals required to be protected to 2?

    Of course, if he has the no trade clause, the point is moot.

  3. Sheesh, I know this was a long post, so I guess I'll forgive you guys for not reading the whole thing...

    RE: Bootsy on Vaughn's bubble bump
    "But I should also note that Vaughn would get the nod if there are any doubts whatsoever about Namoff's noggin."
    - In fact, my first instinct was to take him over Jacobson, but if (and it's a big if, I'll grant you) Namoff is healthy, history says his backup will get very few looks at the field, whereas Jacobson would probably see more time. Now, if Vaughn can do double duty as a center back or d-mid (both of which he has played in the past, though I can't say I remember how well), that changes the equation...

    RE: Jeremy on Emilio's green card
    "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"
    - Also, the rules state that you can only expose the total number of internationals minus 3 with a minimum of 1. Given that we have more than 4 internationals, we must have three on the protected list.

  4. Funny, I was thinking it might be worth an expensive flyer to see what a different coach could do with Fred.

    Hell, the thought of a not-Soehn makes me stop and reconsider what I think about all the players.

    Jacobson had multiple auditions last year and dyachenkoed the majority, especially late. No biggee.