Editorial — Now that the Seattle Sounders have won MLS Cup, LAFC have set their sights on the 2020 season. After a quiet trade window, they must prepare for the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft, set for Tuesday evening. Part of that preparation is submitting a list of 12 players to be protected from selection during the draft.
This morning, LAFC announced their protected list and while many names were expected, there are a few surprises.
LAFC Announce Protected List Ahead of 2019 MLS Expansion Draft
The list of players LAFC has selected to be protected from Tuesday’s Expansion Draft, is as follows:
- GK Pablo Sisniega
- DEF Tristan Blackmon
- DEF Diego Palacios
- DEF Eddie Segura
- DEF Walker Zimmerman
- MID Latif Blessing
- MID Mark-Anthony Kaye
- MID Eduard Atuesta
- FWD Adama Diomande
- FWD Brian Rodriguez
- FWD Diego Rossi
- FWD Carlos Vela
It wasn’t long after the announcement, many noticed a name thought to be cemented on the list: midfielder Lee Nguyen. While at first glance, the reaction of “what the heck” is expected. However, take a longer look at those protected and it’s hard to find a player to swap out. This speaks to how much talent LAFC has. Luckily, a team can only have one player from the unprotected pool selected in the draft.
The decision shows a balance of weighing the risk of losing a player, against how much their loss will hurt. While Lee Nguyen is a fan favorite, and does a lot of good things on the attacking front, would losing him be as bad as losing Latif Blessing? The pace, and youth, that Blessing has would make him immediately attractive to a team looking to build. The same is true of relative newcomer Fito Zelaya. He has flashed an eye for goal.
However, almost everyone would agree, losing Vela or Diomande would be worse.
One not-so-surprising player who could see himself drafted Tuesday is goalkeeper Tyler Miller. The fall from grace that Miller experienced was truly of biblical proportions. Firmly cemented as the number one, as well as beginning to make a case for best in the league at the start of the season. However, his descent within the club can be pinpointed to his summer call-up to the USMNT squad.
Not only did his selection open up an opportunity for the young Mexican Pablo Sisniega to show his ability, but it stifled his form as well. In addition, Miller played zero minutes while with the USMNT squad. Once he returned to LAFC, he never did regain his early season form, as Sisniega continued to shine. As the season ended, it was clear Miller would be one of those who would see themselves elsewhere come next season. Whether it be by draft, or a transaction at a later time, the chances Tyler Miller plays for LAFC next season are slim.
What It All Means
As previously stated, LAFC can only lose one player to the Expansion Draft, meaning a most, if not all, of the unprotected players will remain on the squad. However, LAFC, like the rest of the league, have made it clear which players they value above all — and who they would possibly be open to losing. Regardless of who, if anyone, form LAFC is drafted, it can certainly be presumed that teams around the league will be calling Los Angeles for possible transactions.
Players like Rodolfo Zelaya, Miller and Nguyen will garner attention, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of them move on before the start of next season. In addition, Diego Rossi, who is protected from the Expansion Draft, could still see himself on another team next year as well. Having been rumored with a move to Europe since the summer, Rossi could be a target for teams come the worldwide January transfer window.
Thoughts on today’s protected list announcement? Leave a comment below! For more LAFC notes and commentary, follow and discuss with me on twitter!