PREVIEW – The 2020 MLS Expansion Draft is upon us. MLS has released the list of all protected and available players. This coming Tuesday, expansion side Austin FC will get to select five players from the list of players available. Let’s take a look at the Vancouver Whitecaps expansion draft prospects and what it could mean for their 2021 season.
Vancouver Whitecaps Expansion Draft Preview
For a better idea of who has been protected and who is available for poaching, consult the list below.
Forwards (3) Lucas Cavallini, Christian Dajome, Tossaint ricketts
Midfielders. (3) Janio Bikel, Russell Teibert, Leonard Owusu
Defenders (5) Ali Adnan, Ranko Veselinovic, Erik Godoy, Christian Gutierrez, Jake Nerwinski
Goalkeepers (1) Max Crepeau
Automatically Protected Players: (Homegrown players, 2021 option not exercised, Generation Adidas)
Forwards (2) Theo Bair, Ryan Raposo
Midfielders (4) Michael Baldisimo, Patrick Metcalfe, Damiano Pecile, Simon Colyn
Defenders (2) Gianfranco Facchineri, Georges Mukumbilwa
Goalkeepers (2) Thomas Hasal, Isaac Boehmer
Leaving the following six players available for Austin to “steal”:
Forwards (2) Freddy Montero, David Milinkovic
Defenders (3) Andy Rose, Derek Cornelius, Jasser Khmiri
Goalkeepers (1) Bryan Meredith
With the announcement a couple weeks back that Andy Rose and Freddy Montero both didn’t have new contracts in place for 2021, it seemed inevitable that these two would make it to this point. Montero, Vancouver’s most impactful player of the second half of the season, and Rose, one of the more consistent defenders to don a Whitecaps kit in 2020. A pair of starters that fans will be sad to see go, but realistically realize neither have a long term place in the squad (or at least the starting 11).
David Milinkovic, who’s loan expired at the end of this season, is also available for Austin’s picking and could be quite an attractive option for a play making, versatile midfielder who still has some good years left.
Bryan Meredith and Jasser Khmiri only really made this list because they didn’t fall under the automatic protection group, or were too far down the pecking order, so not surprised to see either of them here. Meredith does factor in partially with Vancouver’s goalkeeper situation. With Evan Bush being shipped off to Columbus, and Thomas Hasal guaranteed a starting position (just not necessarily with the team), it leaves open an interesting story line. If Meredith does get selected (most likely for a backup role), then all of a sudden it leaves just Max Crepeau and Hasal left.
One of two situations can go on to happen from there, either Hasal stays in Vancouver and the Whitecaps have a highly talented backup in Crepeau, or Hasal leaves the team, leaving just Crepeau and youngster Isaac Boehmer. People underestimate how impactful a back up keeper can be, and Vancouver learned that lesson this year. Meredith could be an attractive option, however with only five picks a lotted to them, I doubt Austin will use one on a back up keeper.
So realistically, who could leave?
I touched on Milinkovic being an option, with Montero and Rose having potential as well, but there was one player left out of the last section… Derek Cornelius.
Being so young (23) and possessing so much MLS experience (30 games over two years), it was definitely a surprise to see Vancouver leave Cornelius unprotected. Putting in strong showings at MLS is back and one of the few bright spots of an otherwise poor team showing in the Canadian stretch of games, Cornelius is the most likely of the Whitecaps list to be poached on Tuesday.
The return of Erik Godoy to the lineup meant the young Canadian’s time as a starter was up. While centre back was a position Vancouver boasted some depth at (Rose, Veselinovic, Godoy, Cornelius), losing both Rose and Cornelius in the offseason could be detrimental to the club. With only one DP spot left, and the club never really implying of using a Young DP spot on a central defender, it appears no replacement would be lined up.
There are some good looking options out there for Austin besides Cornelius, with Uri Rosell, David Bingham and Will Trapp also on the board. But for Vancouver and Marc Dos Santos, it would be an unfortunate loss if they pick up Cornelius.