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2016 MLS Expansion Draft: Who Might Orlando City Protect and Leave Exposed?

It’s never too soon to start thinking about the Expansion Draft this December. Who would Orlando City protect and leave exposed if the draft were happening tomorrow? We take a shot.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After months of speculation and rumors that Major League Soccer might be considering dropping the Expansion Draft this winter with Atlanta United and Minnesota United entering the league next season, both sides have confirmed over the past week that the league will, in fact, hold the 10-round draft in December.

As we know, Orlando City fans are no strangers to the expansion draft, experiencing the process in 2014 when the club was making the jump from USL to MLS.

So with the just draft a little over three months away, it’s worth looking at who Orlando City might protect and leave exposed if the draft were to happen tomorrow.

First a quick rundown of the rules, based off of the same rules Orlando City faced in 2014:

  • MLS clubs may protect 11 players between their Senior Roster and their Supplemental Roster. If the player’s contract expires at the end of 2014, he will still be considered part of the club’s roster.
  • Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of the 2014 MLS season and Homegrown Players on a club’s Supplemental Roster at the end of the 2014 MLS season are automatically protected, meaning clubs don’t have to use one of their 11 protected spots on them.
  • Designated Players are NOT automatically protected, unless that player has a no-trade clause in his contract, in which the club must protect him and he would count as one of the 11 protected.
  • If two players are selected from a team’s exposed roster, then the team is excluded from the rest of the draft.

Okay, so let’s get down to business now.

Automatically Protected (HGPs and GAs)

  1. Tommy Redding
  2. Harrison Heath
  3. Tyler Turner
  4. Conor Donovan
  5. Mason Stajduhar
  6. Richie Laryea
  7. Cyle Larin*

*Still listed as a GA player on the OCSC website despite reports as early as November of 2015 that he was graduating from the program. We'll go with GA but even if he's not, he'd be protected.

Protected 11 List

  1. Joe Bendik
  2. Rafael Ramos
  3. Cristian Higuita
  4. Kevin Molino
  5. Kaka
  6. Matias Perez Garcia
  7. Jose Aja
  8. Mikey Ambrose
  9. Tony Rocha
  10. Servando Carrasco
  11. Hadji Barry

Bendik, Kaká, Larin, and Molino are obvious choices. Ramos is young, on a new contract, and still has plenty of upside; I see no reason to leave him exposed and risk losing him. Higuita hasn’t seen much time on the field since Jason Kreis arrived — and that’s mostly because of injury — but either expansion side would love to have a player with his kind of talent, and so would some big clubs in Europe. Orlando City wouldn’t risk losing that transfer fee income and see him go to either Atlanta or Minnesota for nothing.

Perez Garcia is in the final year of his DP contract, and I think there was intent to keep him past this season when the Lions acquired him from San Jose. He’s looked really good in his short time with Orlando, and coupling him with Molino and Kaká midfield creates a very dangerous trio underneath Larin.

Kreis didn’t have to sign Ambrose and Rocha to MLS contracts, but I think doing so this late into the season sends a message that he sees the potential in those two with an eye towards the future. I think they get protected, along with Carrasco, who Kreis has also shown to like as a fit for his system, and he's been an efficient MLS player with the Lions this season.

Aja is new and just finally getting a chance to show what he can do for Kreis, and I still think he and Tommy Redding can be the duo to anchor down the back line for years to come. Barry is a raw prospect with blazing speed and lots of upside.

Exposed players

  1. Antonio Nocerino
  2. Brek Shea
  3. David Mateos
  4. Julio Baptista
  5. Luke Boden
  6. Kevin Alston
  7. Seb Hines
  8. Bryan Rochez
  9. Carlos Rivas
  10. Earl Edwards Jr
  11. Pedro Ribeiro
  12. Devron Garcia

The first three players all have something in common: very high salaries, and that would make it very easy for clubs to pass on. Kreis has shown a lot of faith in Nocerino, who is also playing much better of late, and I just don’t see either Atlanta or Minnesota picking up his salary regardless of form. Shea and Mateos both command high salaries, as well, and neither has played well enough to warrant them. I could easily see Atlanta taking a shot at Shea with former Orlando City GM Paul McDonough at the club.

Boden and Alston are both quality backups in this league, but both are easily expendable and not huge losses should either club decide to take one. Minnesota could be an attractive option for Boden, especially if a certain ex-Orlando City boss winds up coaching there (wink wink).

Baptista is very cheap and has been effective for Orlando off the bench this season, but I don’t see either expansion side grabbing him. The Lions are much better of using that protection spot on someone with much value to the club moving forward.

Then of course, there’s your two other DPs: Rivas and Rochez -- the latter is currently on loan in Honduras. Neither has enjoyed success with Orlando City, and without getting too much into detail, neither is showing that they want to have successful careers here, either. I couldn’t see either team touching them, leaving Orlando City to continue to deal with those two contracts.

So there you have it. That’s my protected list. What you do think? Who would you protect and expose? Comment below!