Go West Young Men!
Forty million dollars gives Portland and Vancouver, the two newest expansion clubs in Major League Soccer, among other things the chance to pick from the scraps of MLS rosters to partially fill out their new squads for next season in the upcoming Expansion Draft on November 24th.
And if either Earl Cochrane is in charge or the new TFC management team (insert name here) is in place by then, they have the chance to add by subtraction. I will get to what I mean later. Now before you pooh pooh the importance of this event entirely for the new teams just remember that for every Johann Smith selected (remember him TFC fans?) there is a Sebastien Le Toux perhaps out there.
First here are the provisional rules.
- TFC and all other MLS clubs get to protect eleven players
- Each expansion club picks 10 players each
- Neither TFC or any other club can lose more than two players
- When a club loses a player they get to add one more player to their protected list
- A designated player with a no-trade clause must be protected. If a DP does not have a no trade clause in his deal he can theoretically be left exposed if the club chooses to do so
- Protecting a player does not obligate a team to exercise a contract option, contracts can be renegotiated irrespective of if the player is protected or not
- Generation Adidas and homegrown players are exempt from the draft
- Each club has to protect a minimum of three international players. For TFC that means players born outside of North America. American players are not considered internationals for TFC
So in the coming weeks TFC will be submitting to the league their list of eleven players that they do not want to leave exposed to selection by Portland and/or Vancouver. And I have a few thoughts as to who the team can leave unprotected. If TFC does this right they can perhaps get out from under two onerous deals from the Mo Johnston era that may very well speed up the rebuilding of the club in 2011.
As we all know well by now Mo Johnston had in his tenure here with Toronto FC the tendency to often grossly overpay players in comparison to what they were actually worth. And there are a number of those individuals still on the current roster. As well, getting out from some of these deals could perhaps force TFC to eat portions of the players salaries that of course could count against the salary cap, making the rebuilding process that much more difficult. Having them picked off the TFC roster takes their contract and salary cap hit with them. So the logic of picking the eleven to protect is of course both based on the quality of the player you wish to keep but also on their contractual status/cap hit.
Here is the eleven I would keep if the call was mine to make (in no particular order):
- Stefan Frei
- Nana Attakora
- Dwayne De Rosario
- Adrian Cann
- Dan Gargan
- Chad Barrett
- Ty Harden
- Maicon Santos
- Nick LaBrocca
- Amadou Sanyang
- Emmanual Gomez
- Milos Kocic (I chose a 12th player in case TFC loses one player in the first round. If so then they can slide Milos onto the protected list as well)
I chose not to protect Julian de Guzman on my list simply because I think a combination of his somewhat disappointing performances this season coupled to an onerous designated player contract would make either Portland or Vancouver shy away from picking him. And with the exceptions of DeRo, Frei and Barrett just about everyone else on my protected list is a relatively affordable player by MLS standards. Protecting good cheap players wherever possible is of course the logical thing to do.
Now Portland and Vancouver are going to try and get some serviceable pieces out of this process that they might be able to leverage for a season or two as they build their respective clubs or flip onto other teams in the form of trades. And they will not be looking to do any favours for anyone else. They will want bargains. They will want good guys with good characters. And they will want pieces that they can use for a year or two to fill holes until they get their individual clubs more established. What I think would be the ideal for TFC is if two players that are relatively overpaid by MLS standards by the Reds are still attractive enough for the newcomers to choose.
For those of you thinking Nick Garcia, Fuad Ibrahim or O’Brien White are leaving through the Expansion Draft I think you can forget it. Garcia is out of contract anyways and is likely to in my estimation either hang ’em up or sign somewhere else for a lot less than the $198,750 that he pocketed this year. If on the small chance he comes back to Toronto it will be for nothing much above the league minimum. Ibby is coming off a Generation Adidas contract this season and in limited time on the pitch in 2010 I think he has done next to nothing to make him an attractive prospect to the Caps or the Timbers. O’Brien White is on $182,000 and his two goals along with a contract that does not expire until the end of 2011 is no bargain for anyone here or elsewhere.
Here are the three that I think are the most likely prospects to be chosen from the current TFC roster if any end up going through the draft. And with due respect to these three I think TFC can get along fine without them. Neither of them is irreplaceable, especially at their prices.
- Jacob Peterson – Fair to say that Toronto FC never got their money’s worth from this guy. Between injury and relatively poor performances he has been a definite disappointment to me and to many others. And his guaranteed wage of $143,000 is simply way too much for what he brings. And the emergence of Nicholas Lindsay as a prospect makes him even more expendable. To his credit he did have a few flashes of quality late in the season that might very well make him an attractive prospect to head out west. Wingers, even disappointing ones, are a rare commodity in this sport.
- Maxim Usanov – A little over $100,000 for a total of 14 games at fullback with nothing to show for it other than perhaps a few good appearances in the Champions League. He is experienced and has grit that may make him attractive as a depth player in either Vancouver or Portland. Unlike fellow defender Raivis Hscanovics (who is on an even crazier contract and contributed even less) Usanov is definitely the more attractive of the pair relatively speaking.
- Martin Saric – Nothing against him as a player at all, just again in my eyes it comes down to numbers. In his time in Toronto he played the role he was brought into play quite well. He is a defensive midfielder who tackles hard and plays his game with a certain edge. If Vancouver or Portland are to win in 2011 they will win many of their points ugly. Martin Saric is the kind of player that an expansion club can benefit from having in those close one goal games. At $90,000 I think TFC could perhaps with good scouting get better value for money committed to a player like Saric from someone else.
So let the speculation begin. We will know in the next couple of weeks who TFC chooses to protect and in about three and a half weeks some of these guys may be heading out west. I would love to hear what you think. Please feel free to either comment on my choices or post your own thoughts on who TFC should protect and who they can afford to lose.
Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.