Expansion Draft: Best Available Players from Top MLS Teams

In recent years, many of the expansion draft picks have come from (not surprisingly) the top teams in MLS. In 2017, for example, LAFC selected all five of its players from playoff squads. So we reached out to experts in six 2018 playoff markets and captured their reaction to their team’s protected player list. We asked the following question.

“What is your reaction to the players your team protected, and who are the best 1 or 2 players left unprotected?”

The answers can give us some insights into who FC Cincinnati will target on December 11th.

Atlanta United

Information for Atlanta United is provided by Jason Longshore, Atlanta United commentator on 92.9 the Game and host of Soccer Down Here.

“No major surprises on the Atlanta United unprotected list in my opinion. Jeff Larentowicz is the biggest gamble on Atlanta’s part, but I would expect that Cincinnati would be looking to go younger in this draft. Mikey Ambrose would be a very useful pick and could be a potential starter at LB. He has performed very well when called upon in Atlanta, scrappy defender and is good going forward. Brandon Vasquez and Romario Williams are also strong options. However, I think they are less valuable to Cincinnati due to position. With Fanendo Adi in place, a striker might not be prioritized in this draft.”

D.C. United

The information for D.C. United is provided by Steven Goff, soccer writer for the Washington Post.

Per Orange & Blue Press’ communications with Steve, FC Cincinnati may have the most interest in goalkeeper David Ousted. D.C. United might not mind if FCC took Ousted off their books with Bill Hamid back in town as the starter. They also might take a good look at central defenders Federic Brillant, Kofi Opare, or outside midfielder Nick DeLeon

Los Angeles FC

The information for LAFC is provided by Alicia Rodriguez, managing editor of Angels on Parade, and contributing editor of mlssoccer.com.

“There were no surprises at all. I think defender Steven Beitashour is LAFC’s best option for selection, but I don’t know if FC Cincinnati will do that with Justin Hoyte being signed. They serve similar roles on the field and in the squad.”

Outside of Beitashour, Alicia Rodriguez believes the best available options from LAFC are young defender/fullback Tristan Blackmon and winger Josh Pérez.

New York Red Bulls

Information for New York Red Bulls is provided by Joe Goldstein, the managing editor of Red Bulls News Network and co-host of the Seeing Red Podcast.

“There are not many surprises from the Red Bulls unprotected players. They mostly range from players not returning for 2019 (Collin, Escobar, Kutler, Redding, Rivas, Rzatkowski), or young cheap depth players (Bezecourt, Duncan, Valot, Abang, White). Rounding out the list, Andreas Ivan has yet to make an impact in NY.

The biggest surprise for me, and the best player available is Florian Valot. Valot locked down a starting role before suffering a major injury setback. He is dynamic at a number of positions in the midfield and a proven goal scorer. His first goal for NYRBII came against FCC.”

New York City FC

The information for New York City FC was provided by Michael Anderer, the producer and host of Blue City Radio, and Chris Magalee, co-host of the NYCFC Nation podcast.

“We both think the best pick for FC Cincinnati from NYCFC would be goalkeeper Brad Stuver. Tommy McNamara is also an intriguing choice because he can be a special player, but he struggled in the NYCFC system. He was drafted under a different coach. Winger / forward Rodney Wallace is a recent World Cup veteran. But ultimately I do think that Stuver is a quality keeper that could be a number one for a club.”

Portland Timbers

NOTE: Speculation exists that there is an agreement that FC Cincinnati will not select from Portland as part of the terms of the Fanendo Adi transfer completed in July.

Information for the Portland Timbers is provided by Jeff Bull, author of Portland Timbers blog Conifers and Citrus, and new Orange & Blue Press writer, based in Portland.

“The Portland Timbers’ list of protected players includes household names (e.g., goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and left back Jorge Villafana), or, in some cases, household gods (e.g., Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, and Diego Chara, all of them midfielders). 

With allowance for personal confusion/disinterest (e.g., read the arcane rules on protecting “international” players), Portland’s biggest risk came with leaving, like, a lot of its defense exposed – e.g., Julio Cascante, Liam Ridgewell, Lawrence Olum, and Alvas Powell. Those players contributed, some of them a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean FC Cincinnati should trip over themselves to pick one of them up.

Of all the defenders exposed, I’d consider the one I haven’t yet named: young New Zealand international Bill Tuiloma, not least because, when Larrys Mabiala went down in the playoffs, that’s who the team called up to serve (and he served serviceably). If FC Cincy really wanted to take a flier, they could pick up Tomas Conechny, a very young (20) Argentine midfielder who arrived with a fair amount of hype (only to have it fizzle, honestly; the guy rarely made the field all season and didn’t do much when he did).”

Bonus: New England Revolution

Orange & Blue Press writer Geoff Tebbetts is a Massachusetts native and a recovering New England Revolution fan. So, even though they weren’t a playoff team, we’re also including a contribution on the Revolution’s unprotected list from Seth Macomber of the Bent Musket.

“The only major surprise was that Juan Agudelo was protected, since he’s out of contract and has a high salary number. It’s possible that the Revs keep him around with the hope that he’ll produce more than the three goals and four assists he contributed in 2018. Another possibility is that he’s definitely heading outside the league and the Revs made an offer to retain his MLS rights.

FCC might be interested in Jalil Anibaba, an MLS journeyman that performed pretty well as a center back. His experience and low cap number are enough to at least garner some consideration.

The Revs also left two decent goalkeeping options unprotected. Brad Knighton is a proven MLS backup that can step in and do a job. Cody Cropper was once considered a USMNT prospect but didn’t see a single minute under new coach Brad Friedel.”


The five teams LAFC chose from during the 2017 expansion draft are off-limits for FC Cincinnati. Those include the Seattle Sounders, San Jose Earthquakes, Sporting Kansas City, Columbus Crew SC, and Toronto FC. 

Of course, Alan Koch may choose to select from outside of the league’s more successful teams. There are 18 possible teams to choose from, and the goal is to find the best players that complement what FC Cincinnati has on their roster, or can secure from the transfer market.

Be sure to check out our discussion forum and tell us who you want to see FC Cincinnati choose on Tuesday. 

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for our coverage of FC Cincinnati’s Expansion Draft.

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