With the Expansion Draft upcoming, Massive Report was asked to submit our protected list of the Columbus Crew SC roster for Orlando SC and New York City FC to pick over. After a good season with minimal cuts to the roster, there are tough decisions that are only made slightly easier with several homegrown players on the roster and several signings due to join in 2015 that are exempt from the process. Ultimately, in SBNation's version of the draft Crew SC nearly came through unscathed. Eric Gehrig was picked up by Orlando City.
Protected Draft Ineligible - As per the rules released by MLS, there are several players that are excluded from the Expansion Draft process. These are Homegrown players on the team's Supplemental Roster and Generation adidas players who have not been graduated at the end of 2014. Three Crew SC homegrowns match that description, Wil Trapp, Chad Barson, and Matt Lampson. Likewise Mohammed Saeid and Ben Swanson won't go through the draft as they aren't on the roster until January 1st, 2015. As noted by Adam Jardy, Kai Kamara will be draft eligible.
- Wil Trapp
- Chad Barson
- Matt Lampson
- Mohammed Saeid
- Ben Swanson
Protected - Now to the meat - as Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter has stressed, the team will protect the core and that's where we started. There are seven players that are seen as keys to Crew SC's success in 2015.
- Steve Clark played every minute of every game and was named as a finalist for the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award. There is no rational reason not to protect him.
- Michael Parkhurst may not have been MLS Defender of the Year like his Crew SC predecessor like Chad Marshall, but he's likely a better fit for Berhalter's active backline. He's a leader on and off the field.
- Waylon Francis was a revelation at left back, a spot where many in the league would love to upgrade. He's the perfect Berhalter wingback.
- Ethan Finlay just sealed a new contract and was a pivotal part of the 2014 resurgence. He'd start on two thirds of the teams in MLS.
- Tony Tchani turned into an upper tier MLS midfielder after struggling on three different teams. He's not on the same plane, but he's similar to Jermaine Jones, a physical all-action midfielder that can pass.
- Federico Higuain, when healthy, is one of the league's top offensive threats. The Crew SC offense currently runs through the Argentine.
- Kei Kamara is a special case. The Sierra Leonean striker won't be officially on the roster until 2015, but the team used an allocation during the 2014 season to sign him so he must be protected.
Protected (with debate) - Four more players are borderline options for various reasons. Three of the four played key roles during the 2014 and another is a valued prospect for the future. We'll break down the reasons they were put on the list and why they might have been omitted.
- Emanuel Pogatetz is very likely to be protected by Crew SC. He was a big name signing, but he didn't play much down the stretch. He had two appearances in a sub role, but couldn't displace Tyson Wahl in the lineup. He's likely beat out Wahl heading into 2015. Protecting him ensures Crew SC keep the physical defender as a keystone to the back line. His cap charge is high, so there is a thought to leaving him exposed with the expectation that his weighty contract will New York or Orlando from picking him. It's a risk given the team would turn back to Wahl who struggled at times in 2014.
- Justin Meram just signed a new contract. He earned it after a very good season where he locked down the starting left winger spot. Meram can fade out of games at times, but his movement and intelligence is improved and he has bought fully into Berhalter's system.
- Hector Jimenez was another player who came out of nowhere to become a key part of Berhalter's plans. Jimenez beat out Dominic Oduro for the right wing spot. He then dropped back to right back when he was needed. He also popped up on the left side and even slotted into Higuain's role during the playoffs. He may be the incumbent right back in 2015. Jimenez's contract is very affordable and he's too versatile to risk losing.
- Romain Gall only made three appearances, but that was more than was expected when Crew SC acquired him in a weighted. Seen as a prospect for the future, he showed some game breaking moves. He has a high ceiling and is already featuring with the U.S. U-20's. He's on a very affordable contract and either Orlando of New York would grab him quickly. Crew SC will have to protect him for the future.
Unprotected - With competition very high, some key contributors are being left unprotected. The team will be forced to leave some valuable players unprotected. The decision likely comes down to a combination of factors, including the player contracts, positional depth, and individual performance. The team will likely lose some quality next week.
- Bernardo Anor was protected in the first draft of this article and was part of the list sent in to for the SB Nation mock draft, but he gets bumped by Kei Kamara. Anor is an intriguing player. He shows flashes of brilliance and his soccer intelligence is high. He had six goals and can play both left wing and left back. However, he also has shown poor judgment as his temper has gotten the better of him with two red cards this year. This is a tough decision as he's a valuable rotational player for the team, but it's harder to leave off any of the other players.
- Eric Gehrig is the only player left out of contract. He's an inexpensive and versatile player who took over at right back after Williams and Jimenez were injured. While he's not the most technical defender, his heart and determination are unquestioned. He's also an exemplary locker room influence. It's just not enough to bump Pogatetz or Jimenez off the protected list. Orlando City picked him in SB Nation's mock expansion draft.
- Aaron Schoenfeld scored three goals after his sojurn to Dayton. He's on a very affordable contract, but his skills are raw and he's a rotational player at best with the addition of Kamara. He's a valuable player for the team, but he still sits below other players like Meram or Gall who have better production or higher ceilings.
- Tyson Wahl is the epitome of a veteran MLS defender. He's played left back, but has settled into a reserve center back role with the team. His contract is fairly inexpensive and he put in good performances after Giancarlo Gonzalez's transfer, but his limitations showed several times throughout the season, most readily against New England in the playoffs.
- Josh Williams earned a big raise after the 2013 season and was the incumbent right back before getting hurt. He had an assist in 14 games for Crew SC before suffering an ultimately season ending blood clot that required removal of a rib. There is no doubting his athletic ability, but his offensive skills are below other options like Jimenez.
- Ben Speas is the lone homegrown player on the senior roster. Backing up Higuain is a tough job, but he still started 8 games for Crew SC, scoring one and assisting on three more. Unfortunately there isn't a place for a supersub on the protected list. Also telling is how fell down the pecking order by the playoffs as he lost out to Jimenez to replace Higuain in the second leg.
- Adam Bedell, Ben Sweat, Brad Stuver, and Kevan George are also exposed. Only George and Bedell made appearances for the senior team in league play. There is far too much competition for these players to make the protected list.
Homegrown: Wil Trapp, Chad Barson, and Matt Lampson
Protected: Steve Clark, Romain Gall, Ethan Finlay, Waylon Francis, Tony Tchani, Michael Parkhurst, Federico Higuain, Emanuel Pogatetz, Hector Jimenez, Justin Meram,
Exposed: Josh Williams, Adam Bedell, Ben Speas, Ben Sweat, Brad Stuver, Aaron Schoenfeld, Kevan George, Eric Gehrig, Bernardo Anor, and Tyson Wahl
Non Rostered (Ineligible): Mohammed Saeid, Ben Swanson
We've had our say on who we'd protect in the upcoming Expansion Draft, so now have yours. Fire away at the mock braintrust below.