With the expansion draft looming for new MLS clubs Minnesota United and Atlanta United, we've spent a great deal of time thinking about who Sporting Kansas City may protect and who they may expose. Our first piece on this had us arguing over who to protect. Though we couldn't come to a consensus, a protected list was submitted.
As a refresher, there are lots of complicated rules about who has to be protected. If you're club has more than three internationals (like SKC), they must protect at least three of them. Designated Players don't have to be protected but players who have a no trade clause do. For example, Matt Besler, who is no longer a DP due to TAM or GAM or some other secret mechanism, still has to be protected because it's been reported he has a no trade clause. There could be other no trade clauses out there that we simply aren't aware of.
There are other rules, which you can find in full here, but these are some of the basic ones. When speaking with a team official for Sporting KC, they indicated the protected lists may come out as early as next Monday, after the MLS Cup (which is also just one day before the draft). Also new in this version of the expansion draft, Minnesota and Atlanta will only get five picks each (as opposed to 10 last time for NYCFC and Orlando City).
Atlanta got to pick first and they took Gonzalo Veron from the New York Red Bulls (their full results are here). Then with the second pick in the draft, and the first for Minnesota United, they took Graham Zusi (see Minnesota's full draft here). Now, there is lots to discuss, but lets take it bit by bit. The most important thing at this point is, that's the only player from SKC that can be taken as teams can't lose more than one player in this years version of the draft.
Leaving Graham Zusi unprotected is definitely a point of contention but I'll tell you why many of us, including myself, came to that conclusion. First, he's taking up a Designated Player spot. He accounts for north of $700,000 in salary and against the cap for the maximum hit that is approaching $500,000 of cap space in 2017. For all that salary space Zusi has only scored two goals each year over the last two years. As if that's not bad enough, he's been said to have a cultured right foot to serve in balls for assists yet he only has nine combined over the last two seasons. Compare that to 2014, where he went away for the World Cup, and still put in five goals and eight assists in a single season. Add to all that and you'll see he's been relatively unhealthy over that stretch as well and it's arguable that he's playing out of position on the wing.
But Chad, you and those idiots at the Blue Testament are giving him away for nothing. Surely someone will trade for him.
I understand what you are saying voice in my head (that is oddly mean to me) but would you trade much for a suddenly injury prone winger, on a DP salary with very un-DP production? If I were a technical director or a general manager, I wouldn't touch Zusi with a 39 and a half foot pole.
Then why would the team at E Pluribus Loonum (the SB Nation MNUFC site) draft Zusi? Well they said it themselves that it's a controversial pick. What it seems to come down to for them is name recognition. He has a spot on the USMNT (or he did under Klinsmann) and he immediately brings some national enthusiasm to a brand new MLS club. I get that logic and maybe Zusi is the poor mans Kaka.
You just hate Zusi, you can't be trusted to be unbiased.
While it's true that I have been accused of being a Zusi hater by many (including my wife), I'm not.
But what about this piece where you find a bunch of players you'd rather have than Graham?
With Zusi, what it comes down to is money. I genuinely like the guy, he's just getting paid too much for his production. If he made $200,000 or so, I could probably swallow that pill for the excitement and just generally due to loyalty. A Designated Player contract on the other hand is like a giant horse pill that I just can't choke down.
Another point worth making is that Zusi probably won't be taken (or for that matter left unprotected). Many people have theorized that Minnesota United have Bernardo Anor on loan and SKC are likely to make that loan permanent for no transfer fee. Then that lack of a fee would be a sort of "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, don't draft any Sporting KC players" message to MNUFC. If Peter Vermes has managed to convince Minnesota to take Anor, a player who made north of $100,000 the last two years who has no production and injury problems, in exchange for their commitment not to draft our players, then he deserves a medal. Just getting them to take Anor off our hands and freeing up that cap space is a coup.
When everything actually shakes out next Tuesday (December 13, 2016) we can put all this discussion to rest. Until then, it's fun to pretend. If you were drafting for Atlanta or Minnesota, as people that know the Sporting KC roster, who would you take (considering who we left unprotected)? Let us know in the comments.