Preparing for the MLS expansion draft seems simple enough for the non-expansion teams. You pick 11 players on your roster who you want to protect and send the list into the league office. If a player gets picked, you add another one to your protected list.
According to Columbus Crew SC sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter, it is not as easy as it appears. Selecting the 11 players to protect isn't as simple as selecting the ideal starting lineup. Berhalter and his staff had to take the salary cap into consideration and how a player would affect that in the coming year.
Once that list is established, Berhalter had players of value he was forced to leave unprotected. He knew these players would likely go in the draft, but felt his club could get more than the $50,000 in allocation money each team receives when a player is selected.
"We felt that we weren't going to be able to keep them, we had to move them," Berhalter said of Josh Williams and Bernardo Anor who were both traded on Monday.
"We had to get value for that. And then some other guys that had greater value than what we were being offered in the expansion draft. We tried to proactively move them if we weren't going to protect them as well to get maximum [value]."
Berhalter said there were several players Crew SC didn't want lose, but due to the league rules it would be nearly impossible. Because of that, Berhalter wanted to maximize the value he could get for players.
"In terms of the expansion draft, we made some guys available that we wanted to keep next year," Berhalter explained.
"We knew that there was little bit of a chance and we weighed that risk and decided to put those names out there."
Once the draft began, it was wait and see for the Black and Gold's staff, but that doesn't mean their job was over. As soon as Jairo Arrieta was drafted, Berhalter had a decision to make. According to draft rules, once a player is selected from a team, that team can protect an additional player; Berhalter and company had to decide whom to protect.
"To be honest, Ben was one of the last guys that we were deciding on, whether we were going to protect him or not," Berhalter said of midfielder Ben Speas who they elected to add to the protection list once Arrieta was taken.
"The decision at the time, when Orlando picked Jairo, we had to pull someone back and he's a guy that we certainly want around next year. We wanted to make sure he stayed."
Most would agree with Berhalter when he says they are happy with the results of the draft. Yes, they lost one midfielder, two defenders, and a forward but two of the players were not under contract with the club and the other two brought a higher return than if they remained available through the draft.
They say preparation leads to success and Berhalter and the Crew SC staff was prepared for this draft. In their eyes, that led to success.