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November 18, 2011 at 8:45 AM

A guess at Seattle’s protected list for the expansion draft

protect.jpgPhoto credit: Geoff Howe, AP

I know my guarantees don’t carry much weight, but here’s one: Seattle is going to lose someone in the MLS Expansion Draft next week. They have too much quality depth for the Montreal Impact not to take an unprotected Sounder, either for themselves or to trade to someone else.

OK, that was the easy part. Coming up with a protected list isn’t, mainly because there are so many factors in play. Say the team is targeting a couple forwards in the transfer window or in a trade, maybe that changes the list — and that’s just one example of what makes these judgements so difficult from the outside. As coach Sigi Schmid mentioned in a sit-down interview last week, there are also other things to consider like injuries and who Montreal might be targeting.

Anyways, you get the point. Let’s get to it. Here’s a reminder of the expansion draft rules and the players’ 2011 guaranteed compensations from the last update, which could have changed.

* * *

1. Osvaldo Alonso ($140,000)

Let’s start with the easier picks. I voted for him as a Best XI candidate and I think the stalwart midfielder is the most indispensable Sounder. Scoring six goals in all competitions is quite the bonus for the best ball-winner in the league. He won team MVP in 2010. The fans call him The Honey Badger. The lists goes on and on.

2. Mauro Rosales ($42,000, big raise coming)

Another no-brainer as he quickly established himself as one of the best playmakers in MLS. He’s really come to love everything about playing in Seattle and, likewise, Sounders fans have come to love everything about him. There’s no reason to think he can’t be a top league MVP candidate in 2012.

3. Fredy Montero ($656,000)

With Kasey Keller gone, he could certainly step in and be the leading face of the franchise. Ended the year on a tear and is the team’s all-time leader in tons of offensive categories (goals, assists, shots, etc.). Has really settled in nicely in Seattle and it appears he’s more comfortable here all the time. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s back for a fourth season.

4. Alvaro Fernandez ($366,666)

Maybe a little overshadowed as the third offensive option behind Montero and Rosales, but he had an incredible year. It was unfortunate that he wasn’t able to follow through on those Uruguay call-ups with the injuries, but there should be more to come. Like the others listed above, he seems comfortable with the Sounders even though he’s surely on the radar of top clubs around the world.

5. Steve Zakuani ($188,000)

Sure, the injury is always a concern, but there’s no way he’s not protected. While progress has been slower than expected — we didn’t know about the compartment syndrome for much of the year — there’s certainly a chance he’ll be ready to go by the start of the season. Boasts a lot more qualities than just speed, which means he could have an impact even before the jets come all the way back.

6. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado ($136,000)

The 27-year-old Colombian center back a solid season coming back from the ACL injury, but I expect him to take a step further next year. A healthy offseason will allow him to come into camp in full fitness and confidence. Remember, he was almost unanimously deemed one of the best defenders in the league in 2009.

7. Jeff Parke ($136,500)

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him named team defender of the year once those postseason awards are announced. Finished the year very consistently and was hard to get off the field during a busy stretch in the summer. Vertical leap helps him win a lot of balls defensively and also on offensive set pieces (e.g. the winner against Sporting KC and setting up the go-ahead goal in the Open Cup final).

8. Lamar Neagle ($32,604)

The hometown kid from Federal Way was a revelation this season coming back to the Sounders. I could tell in training camp that he was going to make the team, but I’m not sure I expected this kind of impact. Consistency and some refinement will be the next steps for him, but he’s definitely worked his way onto the list in my opinion.

9. Erik Friberg ($110,000)

Here’s the language from the league when it comes to protecting international players in the expansion draft: “Clubs may make available a number of international players equal to their total number of international players minus three, provided that if a Club has three or fewer international players it may make available not more than one.”

Clear as mud, right? Seattle has a handful of internationals, so I’m under the impression that the Sounders have to protect three, which certainly strengthens the Swede’s case. GM Adrian Hanauer also indicated not long ago that the midfielder’s option will be picked up, which is an example of how the team values him.

10. Brad Evans ($134,750)

This makes seven midfielders, I understand that. Evans is a polarizing figure with some Sounders fans, I understand that, too. Regardless, I don’t think he’s a player you give away for free. He’s a good locker-room presence and could assume more of a leadership role next season (he was team captain for the big win in Monterrey and other CCL games). If, by some chance, his future isn’t in Seattle, then I think you need to get something in return.

11. Sammy Ochoa ($44,500)

For me, this is close to a coin flip with Mike Fucito. While Ochoa struggled in the first leg of the playoffs against Jamison Olave (many MLS forwards do), it’s hard to argue the production he had in a short amount of time. He had goals against San Jose and Chivas USA, and was robbed a couple others due to crossbars, goal posts and incredible saves.

Exempt: Michael Tetteh ($77,663)

The UCSB product is a member of Generation adidas, so he’s automatically protected. I mentioned the rules of international players earlier (Friberg explanation) and I’m not sure how his status affects that. Didn’t really have an impact beyond the reserve league, so he’ll likely keep his GA status next year.

Unprotected list (alphabetical)

Terry Boss ($44,500)

Servando Carrasco ($42,000)

David Estrada ($32,604)

Josh Ford ($32,604)

Mike Fucito ($42,000)

Leonardo Gonzalez ($110,000)

Taylor Graham ($60,638)

Patrick Ianni ($85,050)

Nate Jaqua ($140,004)

Roger Levesque ($44,000)

Bryan Meredith (not available, signed after update, likely off-budget at $42,000 or less)

Miguel Montano ($32,604, finished the season on loan with Montreal)

Pat Noonan ($48,000)

James Riley ($97,962)

Amadou Sanyang ($32,604)

Zach Scott ($44,109)

Mike Seamon ($42,000)

Tyson Wahl ($54,770)

O’Brian White ($100,000)

NOTES

Certainly there are a couple tough choices to make in the end. As mentioned earlier, Fucito was my last man off and you’d think his combination of talent and salary makes him an attraction possibility for Montreal or others.

Riley is another regular I have unprotected. It’s not because I don’t think he’d be an important player in 2012, but perhaps that salary makes him a little more likely to sneak through.

Guys like Wahl and Ianni saw a lot of first-team time this season and one would think they’re also options to be taken by the Impact.

Personally, I think White is safe to leave off the list as he recovers from injury and has a significant salary.

Lastly, I know I said at the beginning of this post that my guarantees don’t carry much weight, but I’m tempted to make another one on how my protected list won’t be the same as the Sounders. Either way, it should be interested to follow.

I’m sure you’ve had time to think about your own lists. So what do you think?

Which 11 players would you protect and what are your main issues/concerns?

COMMENTS

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