2016 MLS Expansion Draft: The Rapids Should Leave Jones Unprotected And Other Thoughts

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(Editorial) – For those of you living under a rock, Major League Soccer announced the rules for the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft this week. You can view the full break down of the rules here. With this information out, what does it mean for the Colorado Rapids? Who should they protect? Who are they likely to lose to Atlanta United FC or Minnesota United FC? Let’s break it down.

2016 MLS Expansion Draft: The Rapids Should Leave Jones Unprotected And Other Thoughts

First, let’s break down the basic rules of engagement:

– Atlanta and Minnesota will get to pick five unprotected players each. Once an existing MLS team has a player chosen in the draft, the rest of their squad is ineligible for selection. Note that this is different from the 2014 draft. The number of players selected is cut in half AND teams will only lose one player at most.

Generation Adidas players who do not graduate at the end of the 2016 season will be automatically protected. Homegrown Players on the team’s Supplemental and Reserve roster will also automatically be protected.

– From the remaining roster players, teams can protect up to 11 players. Designated Players are NOT automatically protected.

– There’s also a slightly confusing rule for International Players: “Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) that they may make available. Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three, provided that if a Club has three or fewer international players it may not make more than one such player available.” The Rapids currently have seven international players, so they can make as many as four of those players available.

Now let’s take a look at the Rapid’s current roster. Homegrowns, DPs, GAs, and Internationals are called out in parenthesis.

Goalkeepers (2): Tim Howard (DP), Zac MacMath
Defenders (10): Marc Burch, Bobby Burling, Dennis Castillo (INT’L), Joseph Greenspan, Marlon Hairston (GA), Eric Miller, Axel Sjoberg (INT’L), Sean St. Ledger (INT’L), Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams (INT’L)
Midfielders (7): Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin, Jermaine Jones (DP), Marco Pappa, Zach Pfeffer (HG), Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna (HG)
Forwards (6): Dominique Badji (INT’L), Caleb Calvert (HG), Conor Doyle, Kevin Doyle (INT’L), Shkelzen Gashi (DP, INT’L), Sebastien Le Toux

John Berner (goalkeeper) and Juan Ramirez (DP, INT’L, midfielder) are not listed on the active roster due to being on loan.

Who’s Automatically Protected:

Serna, Calvert, and Pfeffer are listed as Homegrowns. As none of them have played much this year and they don’t make that much. They’re probably all automatically protected, pending Because MLS ridiculousness. It is curious that Pfeffer is listed as a Homegrown as a Rapids player even though he was an academy product of the Philadelphia Union.

The Rapids have two 2014 Generation Adidas graduates in Hairston and Miller. Miller however isn’t listed as GA, so he must have already graduated from the program. It’s unclear if Hairston will graduate at the end of this season because MLS. To be conservative, let’s assume Hairston won’t be automatically protected.

Who They Should Protect

Here’s my list: Tim Howard, Kevin Doyle, Shklenzen Gashi, Bobby Burling, Michael Azira, Sam Cronin, Marco Pappa, Axel Sjoberg, Michael Hairston, Dominique Badji, and Dillon Powers.

All three DPs are pretty self explanatory. Burling, Azira, and Cronin are the veteran core on the defensive side of the ball. Cronin is the oldest, and he’s only turning 30-years-old this December. Pappa is still the best chance creator and passer on this team if you ask me.

Sjoberg, Hairston, Badji, and Powers are the future of this team. They’re the ‘Rapkids’ (if that nickname is still in use?) along with Serna.

Two things to notice with my list. There aren’t any full backs. There’s also no Jermaine Jones. Remember, each MLS team is losing at most one player. Burch, Miller, and Williams are all serviceable. None of them are spectacular though. Plus this team still has Dennis Castillo, who’s had some good moments as a rookie this year.

The Rapids have a surplus here where they don’t have a surplus here where they don’t have elsewhere (center back, holding midfield, etc.). The 11 players listed above hands down could walk into an MLS Expansion team and win a spot in the game day roster. Most of them would be expected to start.

Williams and Miller are still finding their way a bit. Burch is also 32-years-old. Atlanta and Minnesota might overlook them for available players at other positions. And if they lose one of the four, they’ll automatically get to keep the other three.

So Why Leave Jones Unprotected?

Jones has only played in eight games this season. While he’s been dynamite in those matches, he hasn’t been healthy for two MLS seasons now (albeit with national team tournaments during the summer). I’m not convinced he’s going to be available for a full MLS regular season. He’ll be 35-years-old in November. Because of his name and glory with the national team, he’ll still demand a TAM level salary. I’m not sure he’s worth that anymore.

There’s one more thing though. Jermaine Jones is a family guy through and through. He loves being around his five kids. When he made the move to MLS in 2014, his family relocated to Los Angeles, and he visited them often during the season, flying back and forth from LA to Boston.

It’s a 2.5 hour flight from Denver to LAX. From the Twin Cities, it’s about 4 hours non-stop and 5 hours from Atlanta. Part of what made Jones happy to join the Rapids was getting a chance to be closer in distance and time zones to his family. He could spend more time with them and not as much time traveling to visit them.

If you’re Minnesota or Atlanta, do you want to deal with the potential headache of having to appease a player who wants to do so much non-team business related travel? Especially when he’s going to be logging so many miles and hours on his 35-year-old body. There’s a chance that even leaving him unprotected that the expansion teams won’t bite due to the age, salary, and complications that come with having Jones on their team.

Who’s Likely To Be Lost?

Zac MacMath. The writing has been on the wall since Howard got signed. MacMath is clearly the back up keeper. That isn’t going to chance until Howard retires probably. He’s only making $140,000 this season and he’s 25-years-old. He’s one of the best back up keepers in the league. He’s probably looking to get out of Colorado anyways so he can play regularly. He and either expansion team could be a great fit.

If not MacMath, one of the aforementioned full backs could be selected. Burch would be the veteran option. Eric Miller is the cheaper of the options between him and Williams. If an expansion team wants a veteran midfielder and can get him to take a play cut, Le Toux could also be an interesting choice.

Think I’m crazy for saying Jones should be left unprotected? Who would you protect if you where the Rapids? Let us know in the comments below.

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