Edit: As a Homegrown Player on the Reserve Roster, James Sands is actually automatically protected. He is replaced on our protected list by Jack Harrison, who was inadvertently excluded.
Original story: It’s that time of the year again. With the 2017 MLS Expansion Draft falling next Tuesday, Dec. 12, all 22 current teams will be forced to protect 11 players from potentially being drafted by 2018 newcomers, Los Angeles FC.
Imagine that — you spend a full season, if not multiple seasons, building a team to compete for MLS Cup, only for a brand new team to come in and say: “Nice players you have there. Would be a shame if someone were to...draft one of them.”
So, before the official list of players eligible for selection is released on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET., let’s take a look at who New York City FC should protect from the new team in the City of Angels.
Believe it or not, Designated Players — those guys you pay an arm and a leg for — aren’t automatically protected from the Expansion Draft. Therefore, David Villa is a shoe-in for being spared from LAFC.
Again, Designated Players must be protected. Maxi won’t be going anywhere.
After bursting onto the scene in his rookie year, the Generation Adidas graduate took a step back in year two, experiencing some struggles in the second half of the year. While NYCFC certainly wouldn’t want Jack in the hands of a potential MLS rival, perhaps even more importantly, the team will want to hold onto the Brit should they decide to sell him to an interested team in the Premier League.
Apparently, players that don’t even technically belong to you have to be protected as well. Yangel Herrera — currently on a two-year loan from sister club Manchester City — will have to be shielded if NYC wishes to continue bringing in quality, young talent from Man City’s state-of-the-art academy system in the future. Or, they can just screw all that up and let future Premier League stars get passed around to other teams in MLS. Either way, it’s in both New York and Manchester City’s best interests to make sure that Herrera does not leave the South Bronx.
While Alex Ring was mistakenly left unprotected for the purposes of Angels on Parade’s mock expansion draft — where he was promptly selected with the first pick — there is no way that NYCFC would let that happen in the actual draft. Ever since he singed with the club prior to the 2016 season, Ring has emerged as one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. To lose him would only spell disaster for the Boys in Blue moving forward.
While his season may not have finished in the way that he or the team would have wanted, there's no denying that Alex Callens became a defensive revelation for NYCFC following two years of relative incompetence. They should lock him up while they can.
Maxime Chanot proved his worth in 2017, despite his injury-laden second half. In June, he was ranked as the best defender and fourth best player overall in MLS according to the Audi Index. That’s not the kind of talent you just let go. Chanot has one more year left on his current contract with New York City, and has even expressed interest in signing another one should the opportunity arise. Make it happen, Reyna!
Whether it is his incendiary speed or his great vision when joining the attack, left back Ronald Matarrita has become one of the hottest commodities in the league. An injury-shortened season may have set the Costa Rican back just a bit in 2017, but logic points to another electric season in 2018. Protecting Mata is a no-brainer.
What winger Jonathan Lewis lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in raw talent. We didn’t see too much of Lewis in 2017, but what we did see of him was very promising to say the least. NYCFC traded up with the Chicago Fire to grab him with the third pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, hoping for a star in the making. And that plan may very well kick into overdrive in 2018.
While goalkeeper might not be the first position that comes to mind as it pertains to must-have players, Sean Johnson is the exception. Throughout the team’s first two seasons of existence, NYC fans had to suffer the inconsistency of Josh Saunders in net. Then prior to 2017, City gave Saunders the boot and brought in Johnson from Chicago. Almost immediately, the Georgia native shined under the bright lights of the Big Apple, and New York City is all the better for it. There’s more value in making sure he’s protected than leaving him exposed.
While Rodney Wallace’s 2017 season may have been mired with inconsistency, there is little reason to believe that he still won’t play a big part in Patrick Vieira’s future plans. In all fairness, Wallace was without Matarrita — his fellow Tico — behind him at left back for most of the season, which definitely could have contributed to his hot-and-cold performances. Regardless of anything, Rodney should be protected moving forward.
Do you agree with our list? What would yours look like? Let us know in the comments below!