I know what you're thinking. It's way too early to be talking about this, isn't it? It's barely September, how can we possibly wrap our heads around the expansion draft?! If you're like me, looking to an inevitable end of this season rather than focusing on the disheartening present is slightly more uplifting. Also, there's only so many ways this writer can pontificate on how the Colorado Rapids can improve. I've said my piece(s). Instead, let's talk expansion daft.
Because it's been a while since the last expansion draft, let's go over the basics for those new or unfamiliar with what the expansion draft is and how it works. The purpose of the expansion draft is to allow new "expansion teams" (hence the name) to fill their roster with MLS-level talent. After all, it would be difficult to build a roster with only rookies from the SuperDraft and international signings. In 2015, the two clubs participating in the draft will be New York City FC and Orlando City SC. These two teams will (if the format remains the same as previous expansion drafts) have 10 rounds to select players from each of the existing 19 MLS teams.
For you first-timers that are worried about another team snatching away a prized player like Dillon Powers, fret not. Each team is allowed to select 11 players to protect from being drafted. Promising young talents like Dillon Serna and Shane O'Neill will be protected, too, as homegrown players cannot be selected nor do they count towards the total 11 protected players. (For a full list of the rules used in previous expansion drafts, click HERE.)
With all this in mind, let us now take a look at who the potential 11 protected players could be for the Rapids. There are five players that come to mind who are virtual locks:
Despite not being consistent starters when everyone's healthy, I think it's safe to say Marlon Hairston and Jared Watts will probably be on that list as well. They're both young players the Rapids have invested in and will certainly want to reap their benefits next season and beyond.
With seven names on the tentative list, this is where things become interesting. Has Jose Mari been essential enough this season to be protected? What about Nick Labrocca? In his old age, should Vicente Sanchez be one of the 11? These are the questions Pablo & Co. will have to answer come season's end. That means the players on the Rapids' roster have eight more games to prove themselves, lest they risk being shipped off to one of two really cool clubs. Wait, that was supposed to sound bad...
So, Burgundy Wave community, what players do you believe still have a chance to snag those final four spots? Or, perhaps you disagree with the seven already mentioned? Post what players you think need to work their tails off to remain a Rapid in the comments section below. Don't forget, homegrown players like Serna and O'Neill are already protected. And, unless he has a no-trade clause (which I highly doubt he does), Gaby Torres is fair game. Have at it!