Update: Well today is the day that teams around Major League Soccer will give the league their list of protected (and thus un protected players) that impact Wednesday's MLS Expansion draft. The Montreal Impact will select 10 players from the lists of unprotected players in a move that will either build their roster or allow them to make other moves to build their roster as them make the jump to MLS next year.
As I think about my original list, and the reason I provide below there is one possible change to make. Without knowing the status of Paulo Jr.'s loan agreement I am thinking I might protect Chris Wingert instead. This is the hardest part of my lists, Paulo Jr offers great potential up top at a lower price than most back up strikers in the league, we saw how important strikers can be last night during MLS Cup, so if the loan deal would allow us to keep him for under 70,000 a year without having to pay Miami FC any transfer fee, then I would keep him on my list but any other deals would probably see me move Wingert to the protected list in that final spot that Paulo Jr. currently occupies.
It is a rough day for fans as the lists come out later tonight, but remember RSL has made it through the last 3 expansion draft without suffering too much damage.
So it took me just minutes to think about who I would protect as GM of Real Salt Lake for the upcoming MLS Expansion draft, yes it is just 8 days away and while it will be lost in the hustle and bustle of MLS Cup, for 17 teams it is just as important as the result of Sunday's match. For Montreal it is the foundation upon which they will build a good part of their 2012 roster.
For Real Salt Lake it seems like most of the decisions are fairly easy ones, but in MLS with the league owning all contracts, they mysteries of allocation money and a salary cap that often makes it hard to reward players for doing well, there are plenty of factors that go into making a list. One of the unique things about Salt Lake is that as a small market team there seems to be a more personal connection between the fans and the players, so leaving anyone unprotected is likely to raise the ire of more than just a few people.
For me my list is made not by looking at who we can't lose, but rather if we lose them would the team be able to continue as a top team in MLS. So I am going to start by looking at the guys I didn't protect, I will start with my bubble guys:
Chris Wingert - This is one of my two high risk guys that I didn't protect, but with a fairly high salary $135,000 I am doubting that a new team will pick the 29 yr old defender. He is one of the most solid outside backs on defense but I just don't see Montreal taking him
Ned Grabavoy - A versatile player who can fill a multitude of midfield spots and is able to provide both an offensive and defensive spark. At 28 years old Ned is a guy who makes $118,000 a year, he has played over 1,500 minutes each of the last two years. Ned is a bit small at just 5' 7" which might be something Montreal considers in their decision making.
Collen Warner - This is a guy that I think is in real danger on the 23rd, he is young (23 yrs old), he has a lower salary guy($55K), and this year he got over 1,000 minutes of first team action and was able notch 5 assists. I know that some RSL fans expected more from Collen this year but I think he is on pace to become a regular contributor if he isn't one of the 10 players selected by Montreal.
Arturo Alvarez - I doubt that unless his deal is reworked that RSL will keep Arturo this off-season, his $200K plus salary is simply too high. I doubt that the Impact will come looking his way.
the rest of my unprotected players, and my protected list after the jump:
Andy Williams - at 34 years old I doubt that Montreal would take Andy, but if they have watched tape this year they might not think that he actually is 34 as Andy played much younger this year. Have to believe if he was picked that RSL would work a deal to get him back.
Nelson Gonzalez - A injury plagued year has left Nelson with an unknown status with RSL, he is perhaps the biggest mystery on the roster as he shows well in matches but has been limited in the number of chances he has gotten. He could be a player that Montreal takes a chance on, but I doubt that they know enough about him to show a lot of interest.
Robbie Russell - A mixed year for Robbie Russell who at times was stellar and counted that with just average performances, at 32 yrs old and $132k a year I don't expect that Montreal will be interested.
Kyle Reynish - Kyle could be a player that Montreal looks at, they did sign their keeper from this year but at the price Kyle could be a real steal either as a back up or to challenge for the starting position, he has done well the last couple years in his limited minutes.
Jean Alexandre - While I doubt that Montreal will express much interest in our multi-purpose player, one only has to look at the success Atiba Harris had early this year for Vancouver to know that a tough, physical player might be attractive to a new team.
Tim Melia - The lesser known of RSL's back up keepers, I doubt anyone at Montreal knows much about him and I doubt they would go for a 3rd string keeper in their expansion draft were they only get 10 choices.
Cody Arnoux - Cody has fought dealing with injury issues since RSL won his rights in an allocation lottery earlier this year, while there is a ton of potential upside, the unknowns make it unlikely that Montreal will risk one of their picks on Arnoux.
Blake Wagner - a late season addition who saw little time with RSL, at 23 he has bounced around a number of MLS sides but hasn't stuck anywhere, I doubt that Montreal would take him.
Rauwshan McKenzie - Chris Schuler stole a lot of the backup defender limelight this year for RSL but McKenzie showed himself able to play well when give a chance. I think the lack of first team minutes will probably keep the Impact from looking at Rauwshan too closely.
Chris Agorsor - Cast off by the Philadelphia Union, at just 21 years old he has nothing but upside. His speed is incredible and he is fearless at going to goal. While I doubt that Montreal will look twice at him, I do see the potential for him to be a big factor if given time to develop and grow.
Yordany Alvarez - I was tempted to protect Yordany as I think he could be the future for RSL in the defensive roles of the midfield, he did well with little time to adjust to the team. I know RSL has the option to purchase his contract from Orlando City, so without that issue resolved I couldn't add him to my protected list. Not sure if his immigration status would pose any issues for Montreal or not, but they did keep him from going to the match in Vancouver.
So there is the list of the guys I didn't protect or didn't need protecting as of today. Again while I hope we can escape without losing any players (8 teams won't lose anyone), I believe that RSL would continue their progress and not have their current performance level hit too hard if they were to lose one player from the list above.
There are 3 players who RSL won't lose:
Luis Gil - the 17 yr old is currently covered by the Generation Adidas program and is not eligible for selection in the draft, there is a very small chance that he might be graduated from the program before the draft and in that case he replaces Paulo Jr. on my protected list.
Donny Toia and Nico Muñiz - are both Homegrown players who don't need to be protected in the draft.
Then comes my list of players that I am choosing to protect, these shouldn't need much explanation:
My Protected list:
Nick Rimando - Best keeper in MLS over the last 3 years, if you are building a team around a keeper then Nick is the kind of guy you build around.
Nat Borchers - Consistency is the name of the game, two years running he is one of the 3 finalists for MLS defender of the year. He is a role model to many on the team and a huge part of the spine of the RSL lineup.
Jamison Olave - I have been amazed for the last 18 months that we have been able to keep Jamison, I think perhaps his knee issues and lack of National team duty are the only things keeping him from playing in Europe. He is simply one of the very best defenders in MLS.
Tony Beltran - There are few defenders who can simply take Landon Donovan out of plays on a regular basis, I have seen Tony do that several times over the last couple of years. He may be a bit small but you saw in the 2nd leg at Seattle how big he plays.
Chris Schuler - Young, Raw, and yet he has been able to step in this year and fill in for both Olave and Borchers in big matches. He will be one of the top center backs in MLS before his career is over.
Kyle Beckerman - He has become the face of the franchise, one of the best d-mids in the league and now a regular fixture on the USMNT.
Will Johnson - I think Will is the future of RSL, he is a player who will do whatever the staff asks him to do if it will keep him on the pitch. He is a guy who gives 100% effort, 100% of the time.
Javier Morales - He is the creative engine for RSL, and when healthy he is one of the top guys in the league. There is no way we let anyone have a crack at him.
Fabian Espindola - I expect that the number one priority for RSL this offseason is signing Fabi to a new deal, his current pay rate of 75K a year is a bargain for a forward who works so hard on both sides of the ball.
Alvaro Saborio - While he had a up and down year, I think RSL fans at the end of the year saw him starting to look like the player we saw in 2010. I expect the off season will provide him time to get back to 100% health and have him ready for a huge 2012.
Paulo Jr. - Hampered all year by a hamstring injury, he only saw limited minutes but everyone who has seen him play when healthy knows that he has a huge potential to be a top goal scorer in MLS, at just 22 years old I expect that we will do our best to protect him. He is my bubble player.
Well there you go, the complete list of who and why some players made my protected list, while others didn't. My hope is that if we lose a player that we try to limit the impact on the team both for 2012 and into the future. I do believe that there are a couple of players that we will make available that Montreal will have to really consider taking, while we have escaped fairly unscathed the last couple years, not sure that it will be the case this time around.
OFF MY SOAPBOX