On Tuesday, December 15th, Austin FC will be participating in the MLS Expansion Draft. Every year that a new team enters the league, an expansion draft is held to give the new side an opportunity to select a handful of players from the league for their inaugural roster.
With the Colorado Rapids making the playoffs with a core of young and very talented players, they are in a position where they need to take a long hard look at the team to determine who should be protected and who might be vulnerable.
The rules are pretty much the same as they have been the last few years:
- Austin FC will be allowed to select five players from five different teams during the draft. No team can have two players taken.
- Should a player be taken, the team will receive $50,000 in GAM and not be responsible for any part of the departing player’s salary.
- All teams are allowed to protect 12 players.
- All homegrown players 25 years old or younger are automatically protected and don’t count towards the 12-player protection limit.
- The clubs that Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF chose players from in last year’s expansion draft are exempt from selection this year. Those teams are New York City FC, FC Cincinnati, Los Angeles Football Club, Columbus Crew SC, Seattle Sounders FC, Minnesota United FC, Portland Timbers, New England Revolution, Atlanta United, and Sporting Kansas City. There are 16 teams who will have available players, so statistically there is around a one in three chance the Rapids will have a player taken.
For the Rapids, the following players should be automatically protected under the homegrown rule:
- Kellyn Acosta*
- Seb Anderson
- Cole Bassett
- Matt Hundley
- Sam Vines
- Will Vint
- Kortne Ford
- Abe Rodriguez
*Acosta is considered a homegrown despite coming from Dallas. He’s not listed as such on the club website or MLSSoccer.com roster, but he was listed as a Homegrown and automatically protected in the 2019 Expansion Draft.
So already, Colorado have a lot of players that are automatically protected. I would be stunned if they didn’t plan to protect Acosta, Bassett, and Vines, collectively three of our most important players, but we don’t have to worry about that since they qualify as Homegrowns. So with those eight automatically protected, the Rapids are then allowed to protect an additional 12.
Here are my suggestions along with some reasoning for why, though if you follow the team these are probably pretty darn easy choices.
- Lalas Abubakar: Our starting CB and the best defender once again. Easy choice.
- Nicolas Benezet: I think he still could be a solid player for us if he gets some regular minutes, be it as a starter or an off-the-bench substitute.
- Braian Galvan: We signed him on what was clearly a low-price, high-resale option and he could be a major player for us going forward.
- Jonathan Lewis: One of our core of young wingers who has proven himself time and time again. He’s graduated from the Generation Adidas program so will require a protection slot.
- Nicolas Mezquida: Probably the player I’m the softest on protecting, he’s been an injection of energy on the offense when he subs in, but he does have some rough edges around him. But downing an energy drink will help you power through an assignment, even if you get a bit aggressive towards your coworkers.
- Younes Namli: Our new DP and the second-best player on the field last year. Would be ridiculous if they left him unprotected.
- Jack Price: Our captain, our setpiece deliverer, and the butt of many a Captain Price joke. Jacko has been part of the midfield core for a while and should stay there for a while.
- Keegan Rosenberry: Our right back has quietly been a very good player and has that right back position on lockdown. 2019’s Iron Man should be an easy choice to protect.
- Diego Rubio: The only proper striker on our roster, Rubio might not have the goals per minute of a lot of other strikers in the league but he’s still a solid MLS-caliber striker.
- Andre Shinyashiki: He’s still a young striker/winger who has been playing regularly and consistently the last two years.
- Auston Trusty*: We spent big to get him and while he hasn’t earned a starting spot yet, it would be a massive misfire if we left him exposed. Shows promise for the 2021 season. *Editor’s Note: We just found out that Trusty is still on his Homegrown contract and is auto-protected.
- William Yarbrough: If he is, as I suspect, our starting keeper going forward, we need to protect him... even if he’s in a bit of a contract limbo with us.
Which leaves the following unprotected:
- Steven Beitashour: We signed him as a backup for Vines, but he didn’t get any minutes. Not a big loss at all.
- Clint Irwin: He’s out of contract with us and if Yarbrough is our keeper going forward, I don’t think he is worth protecting. We could easily make a case for re-negotiating a contract with him, but I would much rather protect the players above over him.
- Niki Jackson: He’s failed to make a case for us protecting him and is coming off of a season-long injury. He might bounce back for 2021, but he still seems like he would be out on loan if anything.
- Jeremy Kelly: Rosenberry’s backup RB, he is fine as a cheap domestic player but not worth protecting.
- Drew Moor: I love Moor dearly, but I find it hard to protect him. We have other CBs that are more important, and his minutes going forward are probably going to be limited.
- Andre Rawls: We’ve got Rodriguez, our homegrown keeper, Yarbrough, and could probably get Irwin back on a new contract. He’s a third- or fourth-string keeper who hasn’t made a first-team case yet.
- Abdul Rwatubaye: Hasn’t made any minutes for the Rapids and has been on loan with the Switchbacks. Auston and Lalas are both better than him.
- Collen Warner: Signed as a backup midfielder who didn’t solidly impress. Probably won’t be on contract for 2021.
- Danny Wilson: Expensive and an international player. I personally think we should cut Wilson, so no reason to protect him. If a team does choose him, that frees up a lot of space for us. Probably the player we would benefit the most from having selected.
- Deklan Wynne: He’s not had any minutes with the team in over a year, and though he’s made a few bench appearances he’s certainly not worth protecting.
So there you have it. Of the non-protected players, Irwin, Kelly, and Moor are about the only three that I think are somewhat risky not protecting but the others on the roster are more important than them. I also think that Moor is likely to be offered a new contract eventually, but maybe not as a player. Having Moor be a member of the coaching staff would be awesome. He clearly loves Colorado, we love having him, and he seems like a perfect fit for being a coach some day. When the team was dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, he was already tapped for being a player-coach. Pushing him more into that role would be wonderful for all parties involved.
The list of players eligible for selection will be released by MLS Communications at 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14. The draft then starts the next day at some as of yet unannounced time. Keep an eye out for the Rapids to announce their choices and leave your own protected list down below!