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Expansion Draft Wish List: The Big Board

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Who are the top targets likely to be available on December 13?

MLS: SuperDraft Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta and Minnesota will have roughly 24 hours to put together their Big Board once the protected lists are made available on December 12. Right now, they are in the same boat as us, taking some guesses as to who might be available and setting their priorities.

Now that our Wish List series is complete, we wanted to go back through them and post our top ten potential selections for Atlanta United. We’ll revisit this once the actual protected lists become available and see if we’re even close on the options.

Here we go...


Jason:

  1. Gonzalo Veron, New York Red Bulls
  2. Harry Shipp, Montreal Impact
  3. Cristian Techera, Vancouver Whitecaps
  4. Jack McInerney, Portland Timbers
  5. Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire
  6. Michael Parkhurst, Columbus Crew
  7. Mark Bloom, Toronto FC
  8. Michael Stephens, Chicago Fire
  9. Kofi Sarkodie, San Jose Earthquakes
  10. Zac MacMath, Colorado Rapids

This is not just a list of the top 10 players that I think will be available, this is more of a priority list as to who I would draft in the Expansion Draft. The attacking options are better than the defensive ones in the potential pool of players available, but Atlanta United will need to come out of this with some defenders who can play in 2017.

That said, some of the attacking talent is too good to pass up. Gonzalo Veron is one of those types of players. Connecting him with Tito Villalba again, along with a manager who will utilize him in the best way, could be exactly what Veron needs. He has the ability to be a top player in this league, and you cannot pass that up in an Expansion Draft.

Harry Shipp and Cristian Techera are two players that might not be available in the Expansion Draft. It could be wishful thinking on our part that they would be left unprotected. If Shipp is available, I would take him in a heartbeat and play him as the #10 that he should be. I would take Techera if for some reason Veron is unavailable. I would not take both Veron and Techera.

With a small pool of strong attacking players likely available, Jack McInerney would be next on my list. He is a player that has produced in this league with limited opportunities, he can play as a partner for Kenwyne Jones or as a replacement, and it would make for a popular homecoming.

Chicago picked up Sean Johnson’s option year on his contract. That said, he still could be left unprotected in the Expansion Draft because the Fire also picked up Matt Lampson’s option. If Johnson is available, he should be prioritized over most available players. Reuniting Johnson with goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde, who left the Fire after 2015, could get him back to being a top goalkeeper in MLS. If I could not get Sean Johnson, Zac MacMath would be my next choice at goalkeeper. I would take the risk though and try to get MacMath with my last pick as there will be plenty of goalkeeper options available through other means.

Michael Parkhurst would need to be signed to a new contract, but he has a pedigree that no other available center back could match in this draft. He is not the player he once was, but he can still be a vital leader in defense for United. There are a few options at outside back, but I like Bloom’s versatility more than the rest of the crowd. Sarkodie is a player that I think has failed to reach his potential, he could flourish in Martino’s system. Unless I just do not like the other options available in the draft, I likely would not take both Bloom and Sarkodie.

Michael Stephens is a versatile central midfielder that could pair with Chris McCann, play in front of him, or play out wide. That versatility is important when building a team from scratch and you do not know the full roster.

If things go south and I have to reach further down my priority list, the next few players would be Nick Hagglund or Chris Schuler at center back, Raymon Gaddis or Seth Sinovic at outside back, Eric Alexander in midfield, or Teal Bunbury at forward.

My priorities going into the Expansion Draft would be to take the 2-3 best players available and get 1-2 defenders who can start.


Rob:

  1. Gonzalo Veron, New York Red Bulls
  2. Harry Shipp, Montreal Impact
  3. Cristian Techera, Vancouver Whitecaps
  4. Mix Diskerud, New York City FC
  5. Jack McInerney, Portland Timbers
  6. Zac MacMath, Colorado Rapids
  7. Marco Pappa, Colorado Rapids
  8. Andres Romero, Montreal Impact
  9. Javier Morales, Real Salt Lake
  10. Zach Loyd, FC Dallas

Veron is a severely under-utilized talent in his current situation, Veron could use a change of scenery in the worst way. What better change than to come to a manager who knows everything there is to know about you? The Argentinian connection is strong with Tata and Tito. If Veron is to have MLS success, Atlanta seems like the one place to make that happen. If he’s available like we predict, he’s a no-brainer.

I forgot all about Shipp until I saw him on my milk carton one day. Hopefully Darren Eales got the same dairy shipment (pun not intended) as I did. Shipp was one of the most talked about young players just a few years ago with a terrible Chicago Fire team. The talent is there. He just needs someone to believe in him and an opportunity to show off his skills. An expansion team could be his saving grace.

Techera is in the same boat but maybe not as extreme. He’s a relatively young player with tons of talent. Hard to pass on that.

Those that know me know I’m a Mix fanboy, I’ll openly admit that I am. Behind all the memes and exaggerations, I do believe there is a talented soccer player there. I do not think Mix is worth his $750,000 salary. If the club can find a way to negotiate that down to around $300,000 then it’s worth it to try and resurrect his career.

JackMac scores goals. Atlanta United will need goals. Thus, Atlanta United should get JackMac.

Tim Howard’s injury puts MacMath’s availability in question. If he’s out there, I can’t see Atlanta or Minnesota not taking him. At 25, he’s just entering the prime of his career and needs the chance to be the No. 1 of a team who has faith in him. Of all the possible available keepers in the Expansion Draft, he’s the best, for me.

My Top 10 was very attack-minded because the defensive options are extremely lacking. Pappa, Romero, and Morales all have their risks and upside. I love Marco Pappa’s style. He’s cool and calm with the ball and deadly on set-pieces.

I finished with Zach Loyd because I needed a defender of some sort. He’s the best fit out there because of his versatility and his lack of AARP eligibility. He can play in the center or outside and do well in either spot. The rest of the options leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully the club can trade for or sign some defenders.