Each time a team enters the league, the get the change to poach players from other teams. Last year, as in this year’s edition, there will only be one team taking part. Two years ago when the Loons and Atlanta United were taking part, they had to fight each other for players and pick strategically. Having only one team involved means the Loons have less of a chance of losing a player, but will be compensated with allocation money if they do. This year’s draft, in keeping with MLS tradition for the Expansion draft, grants reprieves for the teams that lost players last year. That narrows the pool of teams from 23 to 18, with Seattle, Sporting KC, San Jose, Columbus, and Toronto getting to watch gleefully from the sidelines, their starting lineups left untouched.
The Loons will effectively have 14 players protected n the draft, three players are homegrowns or Generation Adidas(Toye, Danladi, and Martin) and the club gets to pick 11 more to save. Lets take a look with who’s staying, and who could be left exposed.
Brent Kallman: The club just committed Kallman to a brand new contract. On average, he has been the most consistent centerback the team has had over the past two years, despite starting both season on the bench. He is performing well above his paycheck and cheap, reliable defensive talent is a commodity the Loons can’t afford to give up.
Eric Miller: Miller falls under the same heading as Kallman, minus the new contract. Miller is fairly reliable and versatile, and while he may not on anyone’s list for MLS Best XI, he is better than the alternatives and the Loons may be losing multiple outside backs through other means this offseason.
Darwin Quintero: First Loons hat trick, first Loon with 10 goals and 10 assists in a season, other impressive stats, also, this:
Darwin Quintero might have scored the best hat-trick of all time. pic.twitter.com/7zvsm1Ywwp— Dylan Walsh (@dylanwalsh_) July 5, 2018
Miguel Ibarra: Ibarra had his breakout year and was dangerous this season in multiple positions and with multiple offensive partners rotating around him the entire season. After the injuries to Finlay and Molino, the arrival of Darwin, and the sale of Ramirez, Ibarra still was at his best. Even with Finlay, Molino, Romario, and Darwin all healthy and present, Miggy will still be a valuable part of this team.
Romario Ibarra: Ibarra the Second was slowly worked into the team towards the end of the season and even though he appeared in nine games before and after his injury, he only racked up 270 minutes. He always looked dangerous when he got on the ball and offered something to the attack the Loons had been missing, depth.
Kevin Molino and Ethan Finlay: Finlay and Molino are in a similar boat coming off horrific injuries that were picked up at the beginning of last year. With a year to recover and time to rest and heal properly both players should be close to their pre-injury best. Knees are a fickle beast, however, and with all the new additions to the team, one of these players may be left unprotected to tempt Cincy.
Francisco Calvo: Calvo had a very chaotic 2018. He had some relatively indifferent performances leading up to the World Cup, where he made two appearances. He followed that up with an appearance in the MLS All Star game and finished the season at left back, a move many had been clamoring for all season. If he can return to his 2017 form the Loons back line will be much improved, if not, Calvo is still and extremely talented player that someone will pay good money for.
Inside the Bubble:
Angelo Rodriguez: While he may not be a fan favorite yet, he seems to be in Heath’s future plans and he’s only been here for half a season. If he is going to be a big part of the plans going forward, Adrian and Co. may not want to take the risk of losing him. The only reason he wouldn’t be taken is because FC Cincinnati have already signed Fanendo Adi and having another high priced forward on the bench wouldn’t suit anyone.
Michael Boxall: Boxall hasn’t been great, but he also hasn’t been bad either. Replacing Boxall would likely be expensive and with the Loons history of scouting high priced centerbacks(see: Demidov experiment) may represent a risk as well. Boxall may be demoted to the bench if more defensive cover is brought in, but if not, his experience and dependability may be invaluable.
Rasmus Schuller: Schuller may not be flashy or play with much flair, but he was a stable part of the Loons’ midfield last year, especially after the introduction of a true defensive midfielder in Fernando Bob. FC Cincinnati have already signed defensive midfielder Fatai Alashe. Schuller’s defensive statistics last year where impressive, if somewhat unsurprising for a team constantly under pressure, but with a true defensive midfielder behind him, his passing can flourish.
Outside the Bubble:
Bobby Shuttleworth and Matt Lampson: Have one starting goalkeeper is good, having two is a selection issue. Both Lampson and Shuttleworth could be starting goalkeepers and the Loons only need one. With Alex Kapp behind them both and needing minutes, at least one of the two other goalkeepers may become expendable.
Collen Warner: Warner, a two-time expansion draft veteran, has put in some valuable work for the Loons over the last two years. That work, while valuable was somewhat unimpressive. Warner shaped himself into a #6 when the Loons really needed one, but lost his spot to Bob late in the season. If Warner does stay, he likely remain a depth player off the bench.
Johan Venegas: Venegas spent the 2018 season on loan with Saprissa in Costa Rica after being signed following in an Expansion Draft trade in 2017. Schuller had a respectable season after a loan stint in his native country, and there’s a chance Venegas could do the same. The Loons could use a spot and protect him set up a trade with FC Cincinnati to get another player that would be more valuable, or leave him exposed and let that matter sort itself out.
Alex Kapp, Jerome Thiesson, Marc Burch, Wyatt Omsberg, Carter Manley, Bertrand Owundi Eko’o, Fernando Bob, Sam Cronin, Ibson and Frantz Pangop.
The rest of the players are either just coming off their rookie seasons or first seasons in MLS, on loan, have had injury problems, or haven’t played enough to show they they can form the core of a new MLS franchise.
Each team will have to submit their roster before the draft next month. The final roster will have the list of protected players as well as homegrowns and GA players. Players the Loons signed on loan aren’t available to be taken, but everyone else is, including Fernando Bob as contracts generally will run through the end of the calendar year.