All MLS teams today announced their 11 protected players ahead of tomorrow's expansion draft where Minnesota United and Atlanta United will each select five players to help make up their roster. Sporting can only lose one player of those that they have made available, if any player from KC is selected, no other player can be taken from Kansas City.
Starting with who Sporting KC protected, you can take a look at my thoughts originally on who KC should protect and why, because I got KC's 11 100% correct there. Kansas City protected: Saad Abdul-Salaam, Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Jimmy Medranda, Tim Melia, Soni Mustivar, Ike Opara, Diego Rubio, and Graham Zusi. The club will also be automatically protecting their four homegrown players: Kevin Ellis, Jon Kempin, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Daniel Salloi. So KC will have 15 players protected from being taken tomorrow, a group that is the core of the team at this moment.
With those players protected, there are 14 players available to be taken from Kansas City in tomorrow's draft: Ever Alvarado, Emmanuel Appiah, Nuno Coelho, Brad Davis, Connor Hallisey, Benji Joya, Alec Kann, Justin Mapp, Chance Myers, Paulo Nagamura, Lawrence Olum, Jacob Peterson, Cameron Porter, and Seth Sinovic. Of those players, four have contracts currently with MLS in 2017, Joya, Olum, Porter, and Sinovic, while the rest of the group is out of contract or had options declined.
What are the chances that a KC player could be taken tomorrow? I think the chances are kind of low, while there are players from KC that could be taken, I think there is other talent available in the draft that will see 10 players taken before a KC player goes. Here's a look at my thoughts on the players available and their chances to be taken.
This is the easy one, Brad Davis and the newly retired Paulo Nagamura aren't going to be taken tomorrow, and both have announced their retirement from professional soccer, Davis to work with his brother, Nagamura to take a job as an assistant coach with the Swope Park Rangers. Neither of those two are being selected.
The free agents
KC has three free agents on the roster after removing the previously mentioned retiring Nagamura: Justin Mapp, Chance Myers, and Jacob Peterson. Originally I wanted to say that there wasn't a chance that Atlanta and Minnesota would select a player eligible for free agency within MLS, when they could just sign with any club later in the day when teams can start negotiating with free agents. But as was pointed out to me, having initial bargaining rights to a player means that if you do sign them they don't count against the two free agents MLS teams are allowed to sign each offseason. Also working in the favor of drafting a free agent would be $50,000 in allocation money if you don't end up signing the player that KC would lose if any of the three are taken.
While that makes me re-think it a little bit it still doesn't make me change my mind though. With only five picks each in this year's draft I don't think either team will be that interested in taking a flyer on a player who may leave hours later or they'll get nothing for him. If either team were to select one of KC's free agents, it would have to be Myers or Peterson. Mapp showed nothing this year that would make a team want to use a spot on him, making just six appearances. Myers would be a good candidate to start at an outside back position for an expansion team and Peterson would be good as a guy that will give 100% each time he steps on the field. Both things that would help out expansion teams. But with only five spots and the lack of a guarantee of keeping him, it doesn't make sense to me for either team to risk taking one of KC's free agents.
Kansas City had to protect at least three of their five internationals that were available for the draft, Sporting protected the minimum choosing to protect Jimmy Medranda, Soni Mustivar, and Diego Rubio, leaving Honduran Ever Alvarado and Portuguese center back Nuno Coelho available. While Alvarado may seem like an appealing option, his lack of play at the MLS level would certainly be something that would cause pause, especially with players like Chris Duvall and Michael Harrington available for selection that can both play outside back. With Coelho, his big drawback would be his salary and his injury history, which was on display this season. The other thing that may cause pause for both teams is the international roster spot both players would take up. Atlanta has just two spots left after trading for one yesterday, and while Minnesota hasn't used one they may be more inclined to find their own.
Those already under contract
Four of the players that Kansas City exposed are actually already under contract for the 2017 season: Benji Joya, Lawrence Olum, Cameron Porter, and Seth Sinovic. If there's an area that I could see Atlanta or Minnesota taking a player from it is probably here. At the same time though I'm still not sure that any of these players are taken. First you have Joya and Porter who are both cheap options, but are both likely on the reserve roster at this time. Expansion draft rules state that if a player selected is on a team's reserve roster they have to be offered a senior roster spot by the team that drafted them. While Joya showed flashes in the final CCL game and Porter has scored twice in the CCL, neither has shown enough in my opinion over their playing career to warrant grabbing them and giving them a senior roster spot.
The other two though is where things could get interesting. You have Olum, who was injured in the latter half of 2016, he still made 19 appearance and started half of KC's league games this year. He also scored two goals and can play both center back and defensive midfielder. Olum also has a history in Minnesota, playing for the Minnesota Thunder in the USL in 2009. A return back to Minnesota is certainly something that could be possible, especially with a salary of only $105,000, although his age (32) is certainly something both Minnesota and Atlanta would question.
Sinovic on the surface would seem like a prime candidate to be taken because while he turns 30 in January, he's still proven to be a regular starter for Kansas City. And like Olum, he's only making $105,000. The down side though is that he's already once threatened to retire when taken in an expansion draft, back in 2011 when Montreal selected him. KC ended up traded Davy Arnaud to the Impact to get Sinovic back. Would Kansas City do something similar this time around if Sinovic is taken? He seems to be the best left back to work with Matt Besler, but he has never seemed to be the same since the concussion issues he had last year.
That leaves just three other players that could be available to be taken in the draft, Emmanuel Appiah, Connor Hallisey, and Alec Kann. Like with Joya and Porter above, Appiah is technically on the reserve roster and would have to jump to the senior roster if they're selected. Appiah didn't show a whole lot in his minimal appearances to think he'd be worth the jump to the senior roster. As for Kann, while he showed some flashes in net for Kansas City, I'm not sure it's an area of concern for KC that he'll be taken. Atlanta already has one goalkeeper and is reported set to get Brad Guzan, so their likelihood of taking Kann seems low. For Minnesota, if they're wanting a starting goalkeeper, there are players available for selection, like Clint Irwin, Steven Clark, and Chris Seitz, three goalkeepers who were regular starters for their clubs this past season, with Irwin especially not being extremely expensive I'd expect one of them to go before Kann. I'd also expect that Minnesota wouldn't take two goalkeepers in their five picks, meaning that Kann is likely safe as well. That leaves Hallisey, who is still young at just 23, but will be 24 before the next season starts. He at times looked like he was just about ready to really put things together, but then minutes later would look like a player that had no business being on the field at this level. He's probably the only one from this list that really seems like one who could be chosen. He could be one of those players who just isn't going to work out in Vermes' system and could become a solid squad player in a different system.
When it comes down to it, I think there are two, maybe three, players that you could really look at for selection by Minnesota or Atlanta tomorrow, and that'd be Olum, Sinovic, and Hallisey. Both Olum and Sinovic are under contract for the 2017 season and have shown themselves quite capable in the league. Both are getting a little older, but would provide some veteran presence for an expansion team if they were selected. With Hallisey you have a player who is still relatively young player who is not going to take a lot of cap space. A player that shows some flashes and has experience in the league. I'm still not sure any of those three or anyone from KC for that matter are taken, but those in my mind seem the three most likely.