Union make it through MLS Expansion Draft unscathed

The Philadelphia Union’s roster remains intact after Major League Soccer’s newest franchise, Los Angeles FC, did not pluck any players from the Union’s roster during their Expansion Draft Tuesday night.

Players who are still have Generation Adidas status and those designated as Homegrown Players were automatically shielded from the Expansion Draft. MLS clubs were also allowed to protect 11 additional players on their Senior, Supplemental and Reserve rosters. Note that this applies even to those players whose contract would expire at the end of the calendar year, as they are still officially on the roster for now. The club’s choices for protection can give us a little insight into what the Union’s plans might be going into the 2018 season.

The Union have the following Homegrown Players:  Anthony Fontana, Derrick Jones, Adam Najem, and Auston Trusty. They have one Generation Adidas player in Joshua Yaro.

Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and his staff then had to decide who would be protected amongst the remaining players on the roster. They submitted this list:

  • Alejandro Bedoya
  • Andre Blake
  • Jack Elliott
  • Marcus Epps
  • Fabinho
  • Fabian Herbers
  • Ilsinho
  • Haris Medunjanin
  • Fafa Picault
  • Keegan Rosenberry
  • C.J. Sapong

Most of these were no-brainers, but there are a few surprises on this list. The club had already announced that they were not going to pick up the options on the contracts of Fabian Herbers and Ilsinho. Fabinho’s contract is set to run out at the end of the year. By using three of the protected slots on them, the club is signaling that they would like to attempt retaining these players (though they’d all probably have to agree on a pay cut).

They could have used those slots to protect John McCarthy, Warren Creavalle, Richie Marquez, or Raymon Gaddis instead. Any of these guys could be a good addition to an expansion club. Evidently the Union considered leaving these players unprotected a risk worth taking.

The Union have depth at the defensive midfielder positions and with the ascent of Jones, Creavalle could be considered as expendable. Creavalle brings a nice mix of talent and experience to a club, but he is not going to see a ton of minutes with the U.

Gaddis got quite a bit of playing time in 2017 with Rosenberry riding the bench for most of season after a slow start. The Union brass clearly hopes that Rosenberry will return to the form that made him a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016, and we should expect to see him back as a regular in starting XI. Gaddis is a nice depth option, but nothing more than that.

Richie Marquez had an up-and-down season when he got the chance to play. Elliott is secure in one of the starting centerback positions, but other is a question mark right now, with Yaro and Marquez both in consideration. Since both players are of MLS starting caliber and with Yaro automatically protected, the Union must have felt comfortable with taking a chance on losing Marquez. It’s possible that Stewart may bring in other players to compete for that centerback position, and they also have Trusty waiting to get his chance.

John McCarthy filled in admirably when Blake was unavailable and has proven himself to be a legitimate MLS goalkeeper. Since Blake sees regular duty with the Jamaican national team, backup GK is an important position for the Union, but with no Gold Cup or World Cup for Jamaica this year the risk wasn’t as great.

Leaving Jay Simpson unprotected was an easy decision. With his $500,000 contract and inability to score in MLS, there was no chance LAFC would have been interested in him.

Another unprotected player, Eric Ayuk, saw his option picked up as soon as the draft was over. The Union could be looking to put the speedy Ayuk on one of the wings opposite Picault.

The risk-taking paid off for the U as the Expansion Draft had no impact on the club. A fan could look at this two ways: It’s good that the team did not lose anybody with getting nothing in return, but it’s kind of depressing to think that the Union’s roster is not deep enough to leave any players unprotected that would be worth going to an expansion club.

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