The expansion draft for the newest MLS franchise, the Montreal Impact, will be held soon after the MLS Cup at Noon on November 23rd via telephone conference call. The rules have changed a fair bit from last year's fiasco when there were two teams picking the players and they were able to ravage almost as many players as they wanted from everyone available.
The rules this season will give Montreal a total of 10 players from the pool, only allowing them to pick a single player from each team. This is probably good news for the Colorado Rapids, who probably won't have one of the top 10 best players in the draft pool considering their atrocious depth past their starting XI. Still, the question is begged: which 11 players should the Rapids protect?
The Rapids will automatically have two players out of the draft pool in Davy Armstrong and Josh Janierre. Homegrown players and GA players are automatically exempt from being selected, not that the Rapids were likely to be wiping their brows in fear that Armstrong would be scooped up by Montreal. Designated players have a special protection rule as well but naturally that won't be a problem for Colorado either since nobody on the roster fits that category.
Join us after the jump for Burgundy Wave's suggestion of protected XI and reasoning, along with a list of players you might be surprised didn't make the cut.
Conor Casey - The entire offense runs through the highest scorer in Rapids history, his being gone almost all season pretty much proved that. Some may suggest that Casey wouldn't get picked up by the Impact since he's got the Achilles tear, but if there's one player on this team that we can't take that chance with it's our only true offensive juggernaut.
Omar Cummings - Omar was completely terrible in 2011 after being an MVP candidate in 2010. It's hard to tell which one is the real Omar; he seemed to be missing Casey's presence beside him immensely. Either way, he's still shown a lot of growth in years prior so we have to assume that 2011 was the exception to the rule. Plus, I'm sure we could all guarantee that if he's unprotected, he'll be chosen.
Brian Mullan - Mullan might be getting old but he's still got some magic touch to his game as he showed in his better performances of the season. He's the rarely injured veteran presence that carried Colorado to an MLS Cup, after all. That plus the fact that he's a Colorado boy makes him rather important to keep around until he wants to retire in my eyes.
Pablo Mastroeni - This one might not be popular because of Pablo's old age, and I'm still of the idea that Pablo might retire anyway during this offseason, but it's still not hard to figure out that the only true legend in Rapids history should always be on a list like this. Age or not.
Jeff Larentowicz - Another no-brainer, as he's the guy who will take over Pablo's spot when the inevitable finally does occur. Plus he's really freakin' good.
Sanna Nyassi - Nyassi was the only Rapid to make MLS's top 50 young player rankings and for good reason, he's starting to show his potential as a pure attacking footballer in MLS. He's got a ways to go, but the Rapids are really short on young offensive potential right now.
Eddie Ababio - This is the 'wild card' of my picks. I picked Ababio simply because I feel he has the most to contribute to the Rapids in the future. Andre Akpan was really close to getting this protected spot, but I don't feel that other teams know about him any more than Ababio and so I picked the guy at the position that has the least amount of depth of the two.
Kosuke Kimura - Kosuke didn't have a career year, but he's still a great starting right back and he very clearly loves playing for Colorado. It'd be one of the most boneheaded moves in Rapids history to let the fan favorite starting RB go. Then again, this front office is becoming known for boneheaded moves.
Drew Moor - Protecting the best player on the team is a pretty obvious one.
Marvell Wynne - Wynne is fantastic when paired with Drew Moor, he hasn't been all that amazing otherwise in his MLS career. Keep the two that work together well... well, together.
Anthony Wallace - After almost losing Wallace last season, I doubt the Rapids will make the same mistake again. He's still the best LB on the team though Comminges did play well in his stead.
The most glaring omissions from this list are obviously Matt Pickens and Jamie Smith. The only other players that I would assume are under consideration for the spots would be Ross LaBeaux and Andre Akpan, but I doubt either are in real danger of being snatched up. Miguel Comminges is also an option, but he might not have been in MLS long enough last season to give any real impressions.
I left Smith off mainly because of the 'three internationals' rule which were taken up by Nyassi, Kimura and Cummings. Smith being injured for a chunk of next season and at an advanced age means he's probably in the least amount of danger to get selected of that group. Pickens was left off simply because of the horror of a season he had. I'd much rather keep that XI up there and have Steward Ceus in goal than risk one of our few talented players being stolen away because Pickens was hogging up a spot.
What say you, guys? Give me your best protected XI's down in the comments.