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Predicting the Crew’s 2022 MLS expansion draft protected list

We take a look at the Black & Gold’s current roster and who the team might protect ahead of Friday’s expansion draft.

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, St. Louis City SC will take part in this year’s expansion draft before taking the field as Major League Soccer’s 29th next season. St. Louis will have the ability to select five total players from any MLS team that did not have a player selected in Charlotte FC’s expansion draft in 2021. (Austin FC, Atlanta United FC, D.C. United, LAFC, and New York City FC are exempted from Friday’s draft).

The Columbus Crew was in the unfortunate position of having a player drafted in every expansion draft that a Black & Gold player was available in (Columbus was exempted from the draft in 2018 and 2020 due to having a player drafted in the prior season) but that streak was broken when no player was selected by Charlotte.

Prior to Friday’s draft, the Crew will have the opportunity to protect 12 players from its current roster from being selected by St. Louis. The full rules for the expansion draft can be found here, but let’s first focus on who is available to be selected.

The full roster for the expansion draft includes all Black & Gold players whose contract expires at the end of the 2022 season. This includes names like Pedro Santos and Erik Hurtado, who the team has already expressed a likelihood of moving on from, as well as Derrick Etienne Jr. who is still listed on the team’s roster despite an expiring contract.

Below is the full roster of Columbus players who would be considered on the roster for the expansion draft. Players with an * beside their names are out of contract. Players whose names are in bold are automatically protected.

Columbus Crew 2022 Expansion Draft Eligible Roster

Name Position Designation
Name Position Designation
*Jalil Anibaba D
Artur M
Evan Bush GK
Milos Degenek D International
Luis Diaz M International
*Derrick Etienne M Homegrown
Mohamed Farsi D International
*Marlon Hairston D
Cucho Hernandez F DP/International
*Erik Hurtado F
*James Igbekeme M International
Alex Matan M U22/International
Jonathan Mensah D
Kevin Molino F
Steven Moreira D
Aidan Morris M Homegrown
Jake Morris M
Darlington Nagbe M DP
Isaiah Parente M Homegrown
Eloy Room GK International
Jacen Russell-Rowe F Homegrown
Will Sands D Homegrown
*Pedro Santos M/D
Patrick Schulte GK Generation Adidas
Brady Scott GK
Josh Williams D
Yaw Yeboah F International
Sean Zawadzki M Homegrown
Lucas Zelarayan M DP/International

MLS’s rules for the expansion draft provide some automatic protections for players that do not count against the team’s 12 available protected slots. Generation Adidas players and Homegrown players (who are 25 years-old or younger in the year in which the draft takes place) are automatically protected. This removes goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, midfielders Sean Zawadzki, Aidan Morris and Isaiah Parente, fullback Will Sands, forward Jacen Russell-Rowe and potential free-agent Etienne from the expansion draft list. Multiple players here would have been tough protection decisions so their removal gives the Crew the opportunity to shift those protections onto other players.

Designated Players are not automatically protected, so any player the team fears may get drafted must occupy one of the 12 protected slots. Additionally, players who have a no-trade clause are required to be protected and will count as one of the 12 protected slots. Teams with more than four international players (this includes the Black & Gold) are required to protect a minimum of three international players.

Based on the team’s roster and the automatic protections, there are 18 contracted players available for selection. Assuming the team protects the available 12 players, only six Columbus players will be available for selection in Friday’s expansion draft.

Here is Massive Report’s prediction for the Crew’s protected and available list:

Predicted Columbus Crew 2022 Expansion Draft Protections List 

Name Position Designation Status
Name Position Designation Status
*Jalil Anibaba D Available
Artur M Protected
Evan Bush GK Available
Milos Degenek D International Protected
Luis Diaz M International Protected
Mohamed Farsi D International Protected
*Marlon Hairston D Available
Cucho Hernandez F DP/International Protected
*Erik Hurtado F Available
*James Igbekeme M International Available
Alex Matan M U22/International Available
Jonathan Mensah D Protected
Kevin Molino F Available
Steven Moreira D Protected
Jake Morris M Protected
Darlington Nagbe M DP Protected
Eloy Room GK International Available
*Pedro Santos M/D Available
Brady Scott GK Available
Josh Williams D Protected
Yaw Yeboah F International Available
Lucas Zelarayan M DP/International Protected

A few high-contract players are protected at the expense of protecting players on cheaper contracts. Specifically, wingers Kevin Molino, Alex Matan and Yaw Yeboah. These three are all on higher contracts and haven’t yet produced at the level that would be expected of someone with their contract in a salary-capped league.

Additionally, all available goalkeepers have been left unprotected. St. Louis has already signed Roman Burki to the biggest goalkeeper deal in the league, so it’s unlikely that the team uses an expansion slot on another high-paid goalkeeper (Eloy Room) or on a backup.

This leaves a few surprise protections that become possible due to St. Louis City’s current roster makeup (multiple international slots are already occupied). Jake Morris did not feature for the Crew in the 2022 season but could be protected if the front office is high on his potential. Additionally, Crew 2 standout Mohamed Farsi can be protected if the front office sees him as a valuable outside defender to retain for the future.

The Black & Gold’s current roster construction makes most of the protection decisions uncomplicated. St. Louis may see some value in the above list of potentially unprotected players, but the team’s roster construction strategy should see them look to other teams for non-international selection options. Santos could be an intriguing grab at the right price, but his designation as an international player may repel City’s interest. We’ll know who Columbus submits for protection on Thursday, but the Crew is in the best position for protection Friday’s expansion draft that supporters could hope for.