MLS will release Saturday the list of players available for the expansion draft, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Who will Atlanta United protect? Of more importance, who will the team make available to be selected by either Nashville or Inter Miami. Once a team loses a player, it can lose no more, per the rules.
Other rules of note: Each team can protect as many as 12 players. Players who are Homegrown or Generation Adidas are protected. Designated Players are not protected. Players whose contracts expire at the end of the year are considered part of the current roster and can either be protected or left exposed.
Here is Atlanta United’s roster:
Ezequiel Barco, Franco Escobar, Jon Gallagher, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Julian Gressel, Brad Guzan, Emerson Hyndman, Alec Kann, Kevin Kratz, Jeff Larentowicz, Pity Martinez, Josef Martinez, Justin Meram, Michael Parkhurst, Flo Pogba, Eric Remedi, Brek Shea, Brandon Vazquez, Hector Villalba.
Mo Adams, Mikey Ambrose, Brendan Moore, Miles Robinson.
George Bello, Andrew Carleton, Luiz Nascimento, Dion Pereira, Chris Goslin, Lagos Kunga.
Jose Hernandez, Patrick Okonkwo.
Here are the 12 players that I think Atlanta United will protect:
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez
Here are the players that are automatically protected:
Mo Adams (GA)
George Bello (HG)
Andrew Carleton (HG)
Chris Goslin (HG)
Lagos Kunga (HG)
Patrick Okonkwo (HG)
Miles Robinson (GA)
(George Campbell’s HG contract doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020).
Here are the players that I think the team will leave unprotected, with 2019 guaranteed compensation in parenthesis:
Mikey Ambrose ($72,351.60)
Jon Gallagher ($70,250.04)
Jose Hernandez ($140,004)
Alec Kann ($100,008)
Kevin Kratz ($222,750)
Jeff Larentowicz ($210,000)
Justin Meram ($678,754)
Brendan Moore ($70,250.04)
Luiz Nascimento ($56,250)
Flo Pogba ($324,000)
Brek Shea ($225,000)
Because Parkhurst is retiring, he doesn’t have to be protected or left exposed.
My choices for who will remain unprotected, in some cases, have nothing to do with the player’s quality. I think many on the list are solid players and some very good. In some cases the choices come down to salary, future plans, and/or who they think the other teams may not want.
The wild card in this is “If a player has a no-trade clause in his contract, his MLS club must protect him, and he will count as one of the 12 players who may be protected.” I don’t know which players have no-trade clauses. While Meram was traded to Atlanta United, he may have waived that clause in that particular instance.
Of the players on this list, which would be the most likely to be selected?
Well, doing this by elimination, I don’t think Meram, Pogba or Kratz will be selected because of salaries. I think Atlanta United likely would want to keep Meram and Pogba. Though, Kratz’s contract expires at end of 2019.
Shea is coming off a knee injury. His contract expires at the end of the season.
Larentowicz likely won’t be selected because of his age (36) and salary, though he is a free agent. If either teams wants him, they can try to sign him as a free agent. There’s no sense in wasting a pick in the draft.
Gallagher is succeeding while on loan at Aberdeen. It seems likely that Atlanta United will sell him to the club when the window opens in January 2020. I would suspect that there may be some sort of deal in place that Gallagher won’t be selected by either expansion team in exchange for a small amount of Allocation Money. That’s common in expansion drafts.
Hernandez never showed the quality to be considered even a bench player in MLS.
Neither Moore nor Nascimento have had the chance to yet show their qualities in MLS, so I don’t think a team will take a chance on either.
So, that leaves Ambrose and Kann.
Ambrose has shown he can be a solid player in MLS. Ambrose, 26, made 13 league starts for Atlanta United and usually performed well as either a fullback or wingback. At his salary, he would be a good player for either expansion team.
Kann made 19 starts for Atlanta United in league play, and a few in tournaments and typically performed very well. He’s improved with his feet and distribution. Like Ambrose, he’s a good locker room guy and could step in and start for either club.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com