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What Stands Out Among Orlando City’s Expansion Draft List Choices

A dive into the Lions’ protected and unprotected player lists for the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft.

MLS: Orlando City SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Next Wednesday the 2019 MLS Expansion Draft will help stock new clubs Nashville SC and Inter Miami with a few roster players for the 2020 MLS season. Today Orlando City announced the club’s protected list of players who are not eligible for selection in that process, with Generation Adidas and Homegrown Players being automatically protected.

Here are the players who we know cannot be swept up by either of the league’s two new teams:

  • Danilo Acosta*
  • Tesho Akindele
  • Josué Colmán
  • Dom Dwyer
  • Robin Jansson
  • Cam Lindley*
  • Sebastián Méndez
  • Benji Michel*
  • João Moutinho^
  • Chris Mueller
  • Nani
  • Mauricio Pereya
  • Uri Rosell
  • Mason Stajduhar*
  • Ruan Teixeira
  • Santiago Patiño
  • Kamal Miller

*Homegrown Player

^Generation adidas Player

Here are the players who are eligible to be selected by Nashville or Miami next Wednesday:

  • Carlos Ascues
  • Alex De John
  • Adam Grinwis
  • Cristian Higuita
  • Will Johnson
  • Sacha Kljestan
  • Shane O’Neill
  • Dillon Powers
  • Greg Ranjitsingh
  • Robinho
  • Brian Rowe
  • Lamine Sane
  • Kyle Smith

There aren’t too many surprises on either list. Among the types of players typically left unprotected, it’s common to expose goalkeepers — because the new teams will unlikely pick up more than one each — players with higher end salaries (especially those who require an international slot), and fringe players that general managers believe can be easily replaced.

So, what can we learn from Orlando’s lists?

It’s not too surprising to see Grinwis and Ranjitsingh on the unprotected list, but it’s a bit surprising to me to see Rowe left exposed. Clubs generally protect their starting keepers and Rowe doesn’t command a particularly high salary. One may gather that the Lions are either gambling that the two new teams won’t snap up Rowe and that if either new side does select him Luiz Muzzi is confident he can replace the veteran netminder without too much trouble.

Almost all of Orlando’s higher priced midfielders are exposed. Rosell is protected. That might indicate the team has plans for the Spaniard next season or it might just indicate that Muzzi feels that since Higuita, Ascues, and Johnson can’t all be selected, they are viewed about equally in terms of value and none of them possess the field switching prowess of Rosell. As Dave and I both surmised on this week’s episode of The Mane Land PawedCast, it doesn’t seem likely for the oft-injured Higuita or international Ascues to return anyway in 2020, so their inclusion is unsurprising. Johnson showed well in 2019 but costs a lot of money for an older player.

Sané’s inclusion is unsurprising because he’s an international player who costs a whole lot of money. I’d personally love to see him back in purple next year after a standout (and healthy, finally) 2019 season but I’d understand if the club tries to shave salary with a suitable replacement. He’s unlikely to be selected given the price tag on top of the international slot requirement, but it’s still a gamble.

Likewise, Kljestan is expensive and an older player. I don’t think anyone expects him back in purple next season if he’s not selected in the Expansion Draft, so this isn’t a gamble of any kind by the club.

All the remaining unprotected players are backups and fringe players — De John, O’Neill, Powers, Robinho, and Smith. Robinho is a bit costly mainly due to his age and potential. The others are unlikely to be picked up and could likely be replaced at about the same cost.

The protected list raises a few questions and has a few more interesting choices than the unprotected list. Most of them are no-brainers. Obviously the team would protect guys like Nani, Pereyra, Ruan, Mendez, Mueller, and others. But many fans likely expected Dwyer to be left unprotected due to his production drop in 2019 and a high salary (requiring a Designated Player slot). The decision to protect him could mean that he has a no-trade clause in his contract, or that Muzzi has some hope of either getting something for him or at least is willing to have him play out his contract in Orlando rather than let him go for nothing in return.

Likewise, Josué Colmán’s inclusion is a bit eye raising. The Young Designated Player went on loan in 2019 after failing to find the field. Does Muzzi know his next coach wants to see the 21-year-old Paraguayan? Is he being protected to provide coverage of a permanent transfer later? Does his contract stipulate he must be protected? Again, not all DPs have to be protected. Those with no-trade clauses in their contract, however, must be. We do expect Pereyra to be bought down to a TAM-level player in 2020, which would allow Colmán to return without having to do anything else with the three DP slots but the Paraguayan could also be bought down to free up a slot. This is one of the more interesting decisions and it will bear watching, but it could just boil down to a no-trade clause requiring the club to include him.

Everyone else on the protected list makes a bit of sense. Many of them are automatically protected or are young players with a lot of upside (Mendez, Ruan, Patiño, Miller), will be counted on heavily in 2020 (Jansson, Pereyra, Nani), or both.

We’ll find out Wednesday whether anyone gets selected and leaves the club. As far as off-season happenings go, this one will be pretty interesting.