Major League Soccer’s Expansion Draft is set to happen next Tuesday with Los Angeles FC picking five players from current MLS squads to add to its roster for the club’s inaugural season in 2018.
Each MLS club has the right of protecting 11 of its players from being selected. Note: Players like Tommy Redding and Mason Stajduhar (Homegrown Players currently listed on the club’s reserve roster) and Richie Laryea (Generation Adidas) do not need to be protected.
Last year, when Atlanta United and Minnesota United both entered MLS, the Lions lost fullback Mikey Ambrose, who was picked by the Georgians, in the process. Earlier this week, our Dave Rohe listed five players that he thought Orlando City should leave exposed for selection this year.
Now, I present the players I believe the Lions should protect:
Joe Bendik — Bendik was one of the most effective goalkeepers in MLS last season and is settled on a reasonable contract with Orlando. If the club were to lose him, it would have to immediately hit the market for a replacement, which would probably be most costly.
Scott Sutter — The Swiss fullback was an integral part of Orlando’s starting lineup, amassing 30 starts in 32 matches since his arrival. His first season with the club was solid and there is no reason for risking losing him for nothing.
Donny Toia — Consistency was Toia’s trademark in 2017. If he was not spectacular, the former Montreal Impact defender was very reliable and rightfully owned Orlando’s left back spot. In a league where left backs are commodities, it wouldn’t be wise not protecting yours.
Jonathan Spector — Orlando has not had a center back as good as Spector since the team jumped to MLS. The veteran defender is a solid building block for the Lions’ back line for years to come and losing him now would be a huge step back.
Cristian Higuita — I wasn’t locked on Higuita making the list at first, but I decided to include him for three reasons: age, salary, and potential. With Antonio Nocerino gone, he is likely to have another shot at his preferred defensive midfielder position and with the progress he showed on the disciplinary aspect of his game in 2017, Orlando would be well served with him there.
Will Johnson - The Canadian veteran quickly proved to be a valuable asset for Orlando City in his first weeks with the club. He had some off-the-field issues during the year, but assuming they are in the past now, his versatility and leadership could definitely be used in 2018.
Yoshimar Yotun — Yoshi was signed just a few months ago and there is no way Orlando will let him walk for free. Nor should it. The Peruvian left a very good impression in his first half-season with the Lions and will definitely be a key piece moving forward.
Pierre Da Silva — The 19-year-old midfielder is arguably the most intriguing young talent on Orlando’s roster. He only saw the field in MLS for one minute against the Philadelphia Union, but he’s expected to be used more in 2018.
Dom Dwyer — Not many explanations needed here, right? Orlando invested a huge amount of Allocation Money to sign Dwyer from Sporting Kansas City and letting him be taken is absolutely off the table.
Cyle Larin — Larin is one of the most effective young players in the league and he’s not playing for any other MLS club anytime soon unless someone forks over a lot of GAM, TAM, or both. The most likely way the Lions part ways with the Canadian is if he’s sold to a European club.
Rafael Ramos — The oft-injured Portuguese has been unable to break into the starting lineup when healthy but he has potential and may be someone who can bring a positive return in the trade market. He recently posted a goodbye to Orlando on social media, so there may already be plans in the works for Ramos.
Those are my selections. Which 11 would you protect? Let us know in the comments section below.