Wednesday, December 3, 2014

FC Dallas expansion draft options

With the moves FC Dallas made yesterday, they really simplified the analysis of who they should protect in the upcoming Expansion Draft.

In this article, I will go through the background and landscape of the draft - what goes into it, what factors to consider, what to look for. Especially if you haven't been through the Expansion Draft process before, there is a lot of good detail. If you want to skip directly to the individual player evaluations, you can go HERE.

The rules of the draft - many are exempt (homegrown players, Generation adidas players, etc.); 11 have to be exposed, including a certain number of internationals; once a player is taken, the team can protect one more; if/after a second player is taken, the rest of the players are protected.

But here is the fun part. After you take out the list of exempt players - a total of 8 for FC Dallas - that leaves 14 players for FC Dallas to have to chose from.

Exempt list: Jesse Gonzalez, Moises Hernandez, Victor Ulloa, Kellyn Acosta, Coy Craft, Danny Garcia, Alejandro Zendejas, Walker Zimmerman. Four of those players played key first team minutes for the club well enough to be able to count on them again in 2015, and all have the potential to make a real impact, some sooner than later.

That leaves the following players: Mauro Diaz, Blas Perez, Tesho Akindele, Fabian Castillo, Dan Kennedy, Chris Seitz, Matt Hedges, Ryan Hollingshead, Stephen Keel, Michel, Brian "Cobi" Span, JeVaughn Watson, Zach Loyd and David Texiera.

Many of those are simply no brainers - players who are both good value and produced a lot for the team in 2014, without any real questions. Players like Diaz, Akindele, Castillo, Hedges and Loyd. You can throw Kennedy in as well even though he didn't play for FCD in 2014, he certainly proved his worth for Chivas USA. These players played major roles for the team and are absolute certainties to be taken if left unprotected.

That leaves a handful of players who have a range of production v. questions. Bear in mind, there are a lot of variables that need to be considered in situations like this. What is their cap number? What is their projected production in 2015 and possibly beyond? Health, age, international call ups and other things play into that last question. Additionally, what is their value within the league, and outside the league, although the decision not to retain Fernandez makes me think that the latter factor might not be as big a player for individual teams when it is MLS that ultimately owns their rights.

But the ultimate lens is this - will one of the two expansion teams take one of these players. For example, if George John had been retained, I think it unlikely that one of those two teams would have taken a player on John's salary cap number considering his injury history. It would be a huge risk to take him considering there is no way to know how he will respond to the various surgeries he had this year. It is very unfortunate for the player, to be sure, but that is how the teams will have to look at situations like his, especially in a league where the salary cap is so tight.

Bear in mind, also, that if a non-expansion team likes an exposed player, don't be surprised to see an expansion team grab and trade a player. So really, you have to look at every player through the main lens of how the expansion teams see them, but also does one of the expansion teams think they can take and trade a player?

In some occasions, an MLS club has played a little poker and been called - leaving a player like Jason Kreis, etc., exposed, thinking that age and salary cap value will make them unpalatable to an expansion team trying to save money for bigger signings, and that player is taken, and the original MLS club is stuck because they don't or can't trade to get him back.

Oh, and that doesn't touch other variables such as a player's plan to continue in MLS, or perceived value in the league - things that are usually private and not publicly known. Best example was Clarence Goodson, who told FC Dallas that he was getting legitimate offer from Europe and that he was not going to re-sign with them or anyone else in MLS. FC Dallas left him exposed in the  Expansion Draft for the 2008 San Jose Earthquakes. San Jose took him and had his rights, but Goodson went and played over five years in Europe before returning. He did eventually sign with San Jose, but that certainly wasn't the plan the Earthquakes had in mind when they originally drafted him. Short version - there are certain things that we may never know, and a lot we may not know before the draft itself.

Short version, to quote the Tenth Doctor, from the seminal episode Blink, "It's complicated. Really complicated."  Complicated enough that I am having a little word-swim with the length of this article, and if *I* am having word swim... I can only imagine what you, my dear readers, are feeling. So consider this post the background, and look for a separate post soon with the discussion of the individual players.

Here is the individual analyses.

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