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Who should the Philadelphia Union protect in the 2017 Expansion Draft?

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The Union have some tough choices to make regarding the roster. The expansion draft is just the first.

Photo Gallery // Philadelphia Union vs Seattle Sounders Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

Draft season is almost upon us, and the Philadelphia Union will need to navigate these next three months with a deft touch and savvy. The first draft coming up is your favorite and mine, the Expansion Draft on December 12.

With Los Angeles FC coming into the league next season, MLS is holding an expansion draft to help them stock their roster. The rules are fairly straightforward - by MLS standards, anyway. All teams in the league provides a list of unprotected players, and LAFC gets to choose five of those players. Once a team has had a player selected, they can’t lose any more players. This is a pretty good mechanism and will allow LAFC to at minimum pick up some guys who could fill some bench options for them.

The Union will be able to protect eleven players, and there are some rules around who is protected. Generation adidas players and players signed via the Homegrown Player mechanism are automatically protected. This means Fabian Herbers (still technically on the roster), Josh Yaro, Derrick Jones, Adam Najem, and Auston Trusty are automatically protected and don’t count toward the eleven. The Union also have to protect players with a no-trade clause in their contract, so if there’s someone protected who perhaps under most circumstances wouldn’t or shouldn’t be, that could be the reason why.

All things being equal, the Union should definitely protect Andre Blake, Alejandro Bedoya, CJ Sapong, Haris Medunjanin, and Fafa Picault as these players form the nucleus of the group that the Union should look to build around. I don’t think there are many who would argue against these five being protected.

Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry, and Marcus Epps are players the Union probably should protect, but to me aren’t locks. Elliott had a decent rookie season, although faltered some without the veteran presence of Oguchi Onyewu. Keegan Rosenberry was largely absent from the 2017 campaign, however there’s still enough political capital from his 2016 rookie year to overlook the regression last season. And Marcus Epps had a solid rookie season, although he may need some more seasoning if he’s going to take over on the right wing. All three players have bright futures and should be at least in consideration for protection.

The three remaining spots could really be occupied by anyone, although for me I’d look to hang on to Warren Creavalle, Richie Marquez, and Ray Gaddis. These three provide a veteran presence at their positions, and Creavalle and Gaddis are versatile players - which in and of itself is a valuable skill in MLS.

This leaves a few players exposed for LAFC to grab. Some aren’t going to be here anyway so there’s no reason to protect Roland Alberg, Brian Carroll, Charlie Davies, Maurice Edu, Fabinho, Aaron Jones, Oguchi Onyewu, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius, Ken Tribbett, or Giliano Wijnaldum. This would leave Eric Ayuk, John McCarthy, and Jay Simpson exposed. I don’t see LAFC going after Ayuk, who has mostly been a bench option while on loan with Jönköpings Södra IF in Sweden. I also don’t see them going after Jay Simpson, as his $465,000 base salary certainly doesn’t match his 2016 production (one goal in 472 minutes). John McCarthy could be a target, however LA will probably have other players on the list in their sights.

So who would are the eleven players you’d keep if you were Earnie Stewart? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments section below.