For the second year in a row, Major League Soccer is adding a new team for the upcoming season…
Last year, two expansion teams entered the league, the Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps. For 2012 the Montreal Impact will join MLS and populate their new squad with players from existing teams through an expansion draft. However they can take a maximum of one player off any given team. Current MLS teams can protect 11 players. So Sporting Kansas City had some tough decisions to make, and there were a few surprises to say the least.
Here is who Sporting KC decided to protect, along with a justification from Sporting’s PR department:
Davy Arnaud– Sporting KC’s captain for the last two seasons, Arnaud became the club’s all-time leader in regular season appearances in 2011.
Matt Besler- 2011 team leader in minutes, he was selected to appear in his first MLS All-Star game this year.
Teal Bunbury– Bunbury notched 11 MLS goals in 2011 and was twice selected for USMNT camps under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
Julio Cesar– Julio Cesar started 25 matches for Sporting, scoring two goals and contributing two assists during the regular season.
Aurelien Collin– Started 21 matches at centerback and scored three goals in debut season. Also ranked fifth in this year’s MLS Castrol Index rating system.
Roger Espinoza– A key cog in the SKC midfield during the 2011 season after strong performance in Honduras’ run to semifinal of CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Kei Kamara– Sporting Kansas City’s leader in points for 2011, Kamara scored nine goals and contributed four assists in 30 appearances.
Chance Myers– Myers enjoyed a breakout season, setting career records for appearances, starts and minutes.
Jimmy Nielsen- Continuing his strong play in goal from the 2010 season, Nielsen was voted team MVP in 2011 by media, coaches and teammates.
C.J. Sapong– The 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year, Sapong led all rookies in points, scoring five goals and adding five assists during the MLS regular season.
Graham Zusi– The team leader in assists for 2011, Zusi cemented himself as one of the League’s most prolific attacking midfielders this season.
SKC does not have to protect Jon Kempin or Kevin Ellis because they are Home Grown Players and cannot be selected in the draft.
Immediately, a few questions emerged:
Why isn’t Sporting’s leading goal scorer from last year, Omar Bravo, protected?
He stormed off the field quickly after the Houston loss, in which he saw only a few minutes of playing time, then later dished to some Spanish speaking news outlets that he and SKC coach Peter Vermes may not have seen eye to eye. But after Sporting went to so much effort to get the Mexican superstar, and after he delivered a solid season, what gives with leaving him exposed for Montreal to snatch if they so desire?
Some other local media have speculated that Bravo’s high price tag might dissuade Montreal from selecting him. But to me, that’s a huge gamble if Sporting still wants him on their roster, and daring another team to call your bluff is not how you treat a guy you can’t live without.
Why is Davy Arnaud protected? OK, here’s the deal: Vermes loves Davy’s grit, his fire, and his loyalty. But the fact is that he is one of the older players on the roster, has a fairly high salary, and did not contribute all that much to the 2011 season. Granted, he was out for a good stretch after undergoing sports hernia surgery. But right when he went out is when Sporting started playing better, getting results, and turning the season around. Not to mention that his absence opened up more space for stud Graham Zusi to operate, and the team just looked better.
I wouldn’t have protected Davy, I would’ve protected either Seth Sinovic or Michael Harrington.
Harrington had a great 2010 season, signed a big off-season contract prior to the 2011 season, and then promptly lost his starting defender job when he got a little injured. He never quite got back into form and played sparingly, but I believe he can re-gain his 2010 form.
Taking his spot was Seth Sinovic, who ended up starting nearly every game of the 2011 season. Sinovic proved to be a hard-nosed defender that was comfortable going forward, which is important in Vermes’ system. His biggest drawback to me was his lack of pace that saw him get beat down the flank by some of the speedier wingers at times.
Perhaps Vermes’ thinking was Sinovic and Harrington are basically the same player, so if one goes, the other stays.
The other guy that jumps out a little is the other Designated Player, the Brazilian Jeferson. He arrived in KC midway through the season, looked good at first, then kind of fizzled out. Toward the end of the season he saw the field very little and looked out of sync. Personally, I like Jeferson and think he could be valuable if given a whole season to gel with his teammates.
It just seems odd that both of KC’s Designated Players are left unprotected.
The Expansion Draft is Wednesday, November 23rd.