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Fire Tue Dec 09 2014

Chicago Fire: Expansion Draft Uncertainty Comes To Bridgeview

Chicago FireThere is something subtly nefarious about Major League Soccer's Expansion Draft, an uneasy air that hangs like the smothering silence, perfuming the moments directly following a fight. Are these apologies sincere? Will things ever be the same? This rankness occurs because the Expansion Draft necessitates that each MLS team specify the players on their roster they wish to protect and those whom they will leave vulnerable, potentially allowing them to be snatched away at random.

These moves are part of the business, surely, as players in the professional sports are a uniquely liquid asset when contract situations do not interfere. But for the soccer players in MLS, the Expansion Draft has a potent psychological effect, essentially placing them into one camp, valuable, or the other, expendable. That there can be only 11 protected from draft consideration means that several key players find themselves momentarily separated from their home side.

For those players, it must feel akin to the scene from Jurassic Park, when young children Tim and Lex are abandoned by all the adults just as a T-Rex attacks their Ford Explorer, and all they can do is scream out, "He left us!"


But this is what comes with building a league that places parity on a pedestal, the sort of paces through which all teams must be put. There are drawbacks, for sure, but in order to be a fan of domestic league soccer one must learn to take the good with the bad and press on. Just as, say, the second generation of interstellar colonists will likely spend much time laboring and tinkering and suffering before their new planet resembles a recognizable world, so too is MLS a place where longsighted ideals ultimately cause present-day issues.

So, then, who on the Fire are on which list?

It should come as no surprise that Mike Magee and Sean Johnson are both part of the protected 11, as is team captain Jeff Larentowicz. The remainder of the list is made up mostly of players who are either currently under contract or who had just re-signed contracts with the team. The lone exception to this being Robert Earnshaw, who was placed on the protected list despite having his contract option declined. This is a good sign, as Earnshaw showed flashes of quality coming off the bench, most notably in his having scored three goals in just five appearances in 2014. The total list of players protected by the Fire are as follows: Quincy Amarikwa, Juan Luis Anangono, Razvan Cocis, Robert Earnshaw, Sean Johnson, Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee, Alex, Patrick Nyarko, Lovel Palmer and Matt Watson. As I had stated yesterday, the homegrown players are automatically protected, therefore you can add Victor Pineda, Chris Ritter and Harrison Shipp to that list as well.

Of all the players protected, only Lovel Palmer is a defender. Of course there will be new Fire signing Joevin Jones to slot in, and the Fire defense has not proven itself to be something for which an up-and-coming side like Orlando or New York would likely spend a pick. In fact, when the dust settles the roster may even make it out untouched. This is not a comment against the talent on offer from Chicago, more that there are other bigger ticket players like Tim Cahill from the Red Bulls or Eddie Johnson from DC United who have not been protected. Jason Kreis, the inaugural head coach of NYCFC, may take the opportunity to raid the roster of his former team Real Salt Lake, perhaps eyeing Ned Grabavoy, Robbie Findley or Carlos Salcedo. Orlando City's head coach Adrian Heath is a bit less well known, so his picks still have the power to surprise.

One thing is for sure though, the Expansion Draft will be loaded with more potential energy than a roller coaster cresting its initial ascent. We could see something underhanded like when Montreal took Houston Dynamo legend Brian Ching simply to ransom him back to the Dynamo for his final season. Or perhaps, since this is a league on the rise, this draft will help each team go out and bring in better quality players in the absence of those they have lost. Only tomorrow really knows for sure.

Fire players not protected: Patrick Ianni, Benji Joya, Steven Kinney, Sanna Nyassi, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Kyle Reynish, Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare, Greg Cochrane, Matthew Fondy, Marco Franco, Hunter Jumper, Alec Kann, Grant Ward.

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