Photo: Earl Gardner
Not to sound too surprised, but when the Union released their Protected List for Wednesday’s Expansion Draft, I joined in the shouts of delight that reverberated around the greater Philadelphia area. The Union got this list exactly right. All of the veterans who helped lead this team are safe. So is the entire young nucleus of this team. Even fan favorites (and top performers) like Roger Torres and Keon Daniel made the cut, implying, at least in the short term, that they are still in the team’s plans.
News that both Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney retained their Generation Adidas status certainly made the assembling of this list easier, but do not let that diminish a rare moment when the fan base, front office and coaching staff are all on the same page regarding personnel decisions.
Let’s run down the list and look at who made the list and who was left unprotected for Montreal:
The Usual Suspects
Sebastien Le Toux – No brainer. Don’t leave home without him.
Danny Califf – The heart and soul of the Union. Had a sterling 2011 season.
Carlos Valdes – Makes Danny Califf and the rest of the Union back line better. Also, don’t forget that Valdes is only 26, very young for a centerback of his maturity and influence.
Danny Mwanga – Graduated Generation adidas. Despite having a rough second campaign, Mwanga still has all the tools to be an elite forward and the Union wouldn’t think of letting him depart.
Sheanon Williams – 21-year-old fullbacks with the combination of blinding speed and aggressive, offensive aspirations don’t grow on trees. Besides, the Union will make a MINT selling half Union-half USMNT scarves when the Sheanomenon makes the 2012 Olympic team.
Michael Farfan – Slipped to the second round of the 2011 draft and responded by putting in a strong challenge for the Rookie of the Year race. Marfan and Sheanon Williams. That’s a scary right side of the pitch, now, isn’t it?
Brian Carroll – Teams don’t take shots on the Union. If you don’t give Brian Carroll as much credit for that fact as the members of the backline, you’re wrong. At holding midfield, 30-years-old means he has many productive years left. Had he been unprotected, Montreal would have jumped at the opportunity.
Faryd Mondragon – Many people, myself included, thought Mondragon might have been left unprotected, given his age. However, with Montreal looking for a veteran goalkeeper to mentor Evan Bush and pick up some of the early minutes, Mondragon was correctly welcomed under the umbrella of protection. Regardless, you’ve gotta protect your captain, right?
Will they or won’t they?
Roger Torres – The signing of Freddy Adu created doubt about RoTo’s position within the Union. But it was Torres’ play following the Adu signing that proved his quality. By protecting him, the Union will continue to benefit from the two years of development they have already banked on the ever-improving midfielder.
Gabriel Farfan – This one was a bit of a surprise, in my opinion. Yes, Gabe Farfan has done well for the Union deputizing at left back when Jordan Harvey was sent packing. But what real value would he have on the open market? He is a converted midfielder who, admittedly, had some major struggles at fullback. It would be hard to see Montreal selecting him as a fullback and his body of work as a midfielder is fairly small. Not that I don’t want to keep him, I just don’t necessarily see Montreal clamoring for his services. If the Union can sign a left fullback in the offseason, he will get the chance to fight for the left midfield role against…
Keon Daniel – Why go out and trade or draft size when you already have it on your roster? While many believed that Keon’s days with the Union were a thing of the past, his protection proves that the Union are committed to getting Daniel back into the team (and the country) come 2012. HOORAY!!!
Amobi Okugo and Jack McInerney – Failing to graduate isn’t so bad when it means that the Union get to keep the number 6 and 7 picks in the 2010 SuperDraft around without using up spots on the protected list. Not that they would have let either player sit unprotected, but the retention of their Generation adidas status probably paved the way for Gabe Farfan and Keon Daniel to be kept in safety. After playing 811 and 558 minutes in 2011, respectively, many thought that one, or both, would graduate from GA, but it turns out to be one of the rare instances where the league’s backdoor, unwritten policies benefit the Union.
Zac MacMath – Was always going to be protected under the Generation Adidas rules following his first professional season, in which he played 675 minutes.
Zach Pfeffer – We grew him in our own backyard, so we get to keep him. HANDS OFF!!!
Freddy Adu – His big price tag and meager return on investment thus far should be more than enough to keep Montreal away from Adu. And besides, if they chose to take his $600k salary off of our books, would that be the worst thing in the world? That money could buy a handful of quality players. Doesn’t matter though, it won’t happen. Adu will be back in 2012.
Justin Mapp – Mapp just may be the odd man out for the Union. When the Union acquired Mapp from Chicago, it was to give the midfielder a fresh start after his career had stagnated with the Fire. And while Peter Nowak gave him every opportunity, Mapp failed to assert himself as a consistent and irreplaceable piece in the Union’s puzzle. Jesse Marsch played alongside Mapp for three of his best seasons in Chicago and if the Montreal manager is hunting for a direct, attacking option, Mapp could be his guy.
Veljko Paunovic – He’s a 34-year-old striker who was used out of position as a creative/possession midfielder. Yes, he has an excellent touch on the ball, but his legs are clearly not what they used to be. While he endeared himself to the Philadelphia faithful as the Union’s sole aerial threat in attack (once Keon couldn’t get back into the country), Montreal will have no use for him. If the Union want him back next season, they will have that option.
Kyle Nakazawa – There simply is not a place for Kyle Nakazawa in the Union midfield at the moment. He isn’t fast enough to play on the wing and has fallen down the depth chart at either central midfield role. Still, he’s cheap, has shown sparks of quality and intensity, not too mention his ability to whip in a dangerous free kick. Montreal may have a look or two at Nakazawa if Jesse Marsch believes he fits into his system.