Deeper, more talented Whitecaps know they stand to lose a player or two in MLS expansion draft
The addition of Costa Rican centre-back Kendall Waston to the Whitecaps roster will have a knock-on effect four months from now.
Waston, who is expected to arrive in Vancouver by week’s end, will surely be one of the 11 players protected ahead of December’s MLS expansion draft, which means someone else will not.
It’s a date too far in the distance for players to fret about.
There’s a big game on Sunday, at home to Kansas City. And there’s a playoff race that seems destined to go down to the wire.
But somewhere in the coaches’ offices there’s surely a white board or notepad with names scrawled and a demarcation line, and a healthy debate about players on the protection bubble.
The Caps are a deeper, more talented bunch this year, which will make it all the more agonizing and intriguing when MLS’s incoming franchises — New York City and Orlando City — make their expansion picks for 2015.
Current MLS teams can lose two players, with homegrown players and Generation adidas signings automatically protected (see chart below).
“I’ve got more than 11 that I want to protect,” said Caps’ coach Carl Robinson. “It’s a tricky one. There’s players out of contract. There’s players on option years. These are all the decisions me and the coaches have got to decide.
“I’ve got a lot of young players and I don’t want to lose them. But obviously, then, there might be a risk of losing some senior players. So it’s not an easy decision. It’s one that will be well thought out.”
There’s an element of mind-reading, an art, to these lists. It’s not just about who you want to keep, but who you think the other team might want based on positional needs, salary structure, and style.
There’s also plenty of backroom dealing to come, closer to the draft.
When the Whitecaps joined MLS in 2011, they made 10 expansion picks and only kept five. They traded the rest for international spots, allocation money and a couple of draft picks.
The following year, when the Montreal Impact joined the league, the Caps lost right-back Jeb Brovsky, who’s since been traded to New York City.
A look down the Caps’ current roster suggests they’ll lose a bigger name, or two, this time around.
If Robinson and the Caps want to keep the majority of their young talent — and why wouldn’t they? — veterans such as goalkeeper David Ousted or fullback Jordan Harvey could be left exposed in the 10-round, 20-player draft.
It’s also hard to see how 2011 first-overall SuperDraft pick Omar Salgado fits into the protected list. Surely he’ll be an attractive pickup, so maybe that gives the Caps some leverage in a pre-draft trade.
The fact that Ousted is the second-highest-paid goalkeeper in MLS at $266,000 perhaps offers protection enough against him being scooped up. He’s headed into a club option year and in talks with the Caps.
New York City is in negotiations with former Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and they’ve already signed shot-stopper Josh Saunders, so Robinson will of course wait to see how the rosters take shape at NYCFC and Orlando before forming a final strategy.
Offering some relief: Once a team loses one player in the expansion draft, they can add one more to their protected list.
Said Ousted: “I’m just thinking about this season and doing what I’m supposed to do, but it is a little bit weird not knowing what’s coming next year.
“I’ve said all along, I like the security here for my family and I like it here in Vancouver.”
Harvey, a mainstay at left-back for the Caps, said he hadn’t thought about the expansion draft until he was asked about it Wednesday.
It hasn’t been a topic for players, he said, and he laughed when it was suggested that some of the guys who are new to the league probably didn’t even know it exists, let alone understand how it works.
The 30-year-old has been on both sides before. He was picked by Philadelphia in the 2010 expansion draft when Colorado left him exposed. The Caps protected him after the 2011 season.
“There’s going to be some tough decisions and some guys who feel they should be protected who aren’t,” he said, “but a lot of things go into the decision, like contracts.
“I know there’ll be guys picked from our team, for sure. Obviously Robbo has some decisions to make, and you just have to live with it.”
Protected by rule
* Homegrown player
** Generation adidas signing
Province predicted protects
*** Fernandez is on a one-year loan from Uruguayan side Boston River with an option to transfer; Laba was acquired from Toronto for future considerations, believed to be a hefty fee.
**** Manneh is currently a Generation adidas signing but is expected to graduate after this season, meaning he wouldn’t automatically be protected.
Province predicted exposed
***** Salgado is currently a Generation adidas signing, but is expected to graduate after this season, meaning he wouldn’t automatically be protected.
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