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Orlando City Releases Protected List for 2022 MLS Expansion Draft

There were no major surprises on the Lions’ protected or unprotected lists.

MLS: Montreal CF-Press Conference Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Teams around Major League Soccer released their protected and unprotectes players lists today in preparation for tomorrow’s MLS Expansion Draft. Orlando City had fairly unsurprising lists of protected and unprotected players when the club made its announcement today. As the Lions officially terminated Junior Urso’s contract by mutual consent this morning, his name was not among those on the lists.

Teams were permitted to select 12 players on the roster to protect against selection. The following players are protected from selection by St. Louis City SC on Friday in the Expansion Draft (players with an asterisk beside their names are automatically protected as Homegrown Players).

  • Antonio Carlos
  • Iván Angulo
  • César Araújo
  • Pedro Gallese
  • Gastón González
  • Robin Jansson
  • Ercan Kara
  • Andrés Perea
  • Mauricio Pereyra
  • Ruan
  • Rodrigo Schlegel
  • Facundo Torres
  • Alex Freeman*
  • Michael Halliday*
  • Benji Michel*
  • Luca Petrasso*
  • Wilfredo Rivera*
  • Mason Stajduhar*
  • Thomas Williams*

On the other hand, those players not protected, and are therefore subject to selection, include:

  • Tesho Akindele
  • Wilder Cartagena
  • Joey DeZart
  • Nicholas Gioacchini
  • Adam Grinwis
  • Jack Lynn
  • Joao Moutinho
  • Jake Mulraney
  • Alexandre Pato
  • Kyle Smith

What It Means for Orlando City

Not everyone can be protected, so each team will have to risk someone it doesn’t want to lose.

DeZart and Grinwis are out of contract and have barely made a team sheet in league games over the last couple of seasons. Mulraney is a pricey player who did very little in his time on the pitch with Orlando after his arrival in 2022. Jack Lynn scored a decent number of goals with OCB but still disappeared at stretches at that level. His loan spell at the end of the year with San Antonio hasn’t resulted in his emergence at a higher level. The Lions hold option years on his contract but he didn’t do quite enough this year to make Orlando City feel a need to protect him.

The names that stick out on the unprotected list are Akindele, Cartagena, Gioacchini, Moutinho, Pato, and Smith.

Moutinho, the starting left back, has been linked with a move back to Europe since the summer transfer window. He’s out of contract and is likely going to jump back across the pond to test himself against European competition.

Pato is 33 years old and coming off a severe knee injury in addition to being out of contract. It is likely that the Lions were moving on from Pato anyway and he too has been linked with moves elsewhere since the summer.

Cartagena is on loan to Orlando City through the middle of next season. There is a club option to extend the loan through the end of the 2023 campaign but nothing beyond that is certain.

Orlando City holds a contract option year on Akindele, but as the club hasn’t released roster decisions yet, it is unclear whether the Canadian is in the Lions’ plans for 2023. Even if he is, it would seem unlikely for Akindele to be selected after scoring just nine league goals in 76 games across the past three seasons, considering some of the other options available around the league.

The two players the club would most likely prefer to see slip through the MLS Expansion Draft are Gioacchini and Smith.

At just 22 years old, Gioacchini still has a ton of upside and, even though he didn’t quite work his way into the regular rotation last season after his acquisition, he has value. That said, perhaps this Expansion Draft is exactly why he was signed. Niko was born in Kansas City. If he is selected, it will be interesting to see if there are any future deals between St. Louis and Orlando that seem to fall in the Lions’ favor.

The player the Lions can least afford to lose is probably Smith. He’s a versatile player who can fill in at either fullback spot, in the midfield, or even at center back in a pinch. He’s affordable and plugs a lot of holes, and he’s a terrific team player. Every club needs a cost-effective role player with a great attitude and Oscar Pareja has his in Smith.

I’ll be watching tomorrow to see if Orlando can work a deal that is similar to what Montreal used to effectively pluck Kamal Miller off the OCSC roster via Nashville’s Expansion Draft. There are unprotected players around MLS that I think would fit in well in Orlando — I’m thinking Gustavo Bou, Alejandro Pozuelo, Patryk Klimala, Jackson Ragen, Lucas Esteves, or even Tyler Miller if the club can’t come to terms with Pedro Gallese — so if St. Louis City selected them and then dealt them to Orlando, it could be an interesting Friday evening.

We’ll find out at 7 p.m. tomorrow night if the Lions are losing anyone to the league’s newest team (or to a team with which St. Louis worked a deal).