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Predicting Atlanta United’s list of protected players from MLS Expansion draft

Which players will be left out to dry?

MLS: Atlanta United FC-Press Conference Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the MLS season is over and the trade window has closed, Atlanta United is preparing for the 2019 Expansion Draft (Nov. 19, 5:00 p.m. ET).

Last year, Atlanta United traded left back Greg Garza to expansion side FC Cincinnati and avoided losing a player in the draft. However, 2020 will see the introduction of two teams, Nashville SC and Inter Miami, effectively doubling the chances that Atlanta United loses a player in the draft.

Below are some rules that apply to how and which players Atlanta United will choose to protect.

If you are unfamiliar with the draft rules and process or want to take a look at the full list of rules, click here.

  • D.C. United, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, and New York Red Bulls will all be exempt from the draft as they lost players to FC Cincinnati in last year’s draft.
  • Both expansion sides will choose five players each and once a team loses a player, players from that team are no longer eligible to be drafted.
  • Each team is required to protect 12 players on its roster. This includes players on the Senior, Supplemental and Reserve rosters.
  • Players on Homegrown or Generation Adidas contracts are automatically protected and do not occupy a spot on a team’s protected list.
  • Designated Players are not automatically protected.

Now, let’s get to the players that I think will be protected in the expansion draft.

Protected List Prediction

Name Position Status
Name Position Status
Josef Martinez F
Franco Escobar D International
Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez D
Julian Gressel M
Brad Guzan G
Florentin Pogba M
Pity Martinez F International
Tito Villalba F
Eric Remedi M
Miles Robinson D
Dion Pereira D International
Ezequiel Barco M International
Mo Adams M Generation Adidas
Andrew Carleton M Homegrown
George Bello D Homegrown
Chris Goslin M Homegrown
Lagos Kunga F Homegrown

Notable Exposed Players Prediction

Justin Meram

While Justin Meram became an important player during the latter stages of 2019, he wouldn’t be a huge loss for Atlanta United. The Iraqi international is 30 years old and has mostly played in the left wing back role for Atlanta. Meram is supposedly making nearly $700,000 (!) per year, so losing him to the draft wouldn’t be the worst thing considering Atlanta might want to lock down Julian Gressel and Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez to new contracts. I’d see Dion Pereira finding himself on the protected list over Meram due to Pereria’s age (19) and his ability to play as a left wing back or a left winger. The front office sees the young Englishman as an investment for the future and I doubt that the club would be willing to potentially lose a young talent like Pereira to the draft.

Emerson Hyndman

Hyndman is currently on loan at Atlanta United from Premier League club A.F.C. Bournemouth. Even though he was brought in to be a potential replacement for Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta doesn’t need to protect Hyndman because the player is technically a Bournemouth player. The club has an option to buy Hyndman, but it would be a smart move to keep him on loan and complete a permanent transfer after the draft if the club wants to keep him in Atlanta. It’s unclear as to if he can even be drafted, but if he were eligible to be drafted, the drafting club would probably have to negotiate with Bournemouth to complete the transfer.

Jeff Larentowicz

Larentowicz is reportedly out of contract for the 2020 season and the midfield veteran will qualify for MLS Free Agency once his contract officially expires. Of course, Atlanta and Larentowicz could enter contract negations either before or after his current deal expires, but his future with Atlanta is currently up in the air. Larentowicz has been an important player for Atlanta United over the past three years and has said that he wants to play for the Five Stripes next season, but many teams around the league could find value in his vast MLS and locker room experience and could snatch him up from Atlanta.

Brandon Vazquez

The 21-year-old contributed immensely to Atlanta United’s 2019 Open Cup run having scored four goals on the way to the final. Unfortunately, that more than likely won’t be enough to see him protected from the draft. Vasquez has been a solid bench player during his time in Atlanta and has shown his potential on many occasions, but he wouldn’t be a huge loss to Frank de Boer’s squad considering how much longer Josef Martinez will be in Atlanta.

Brek Shea

Shea, a polarizing figure among Atlanta United supporters, missed a large chunk of 2019 due to a season ending knee injury. Teams around the league may see him as a risky addition to their rosters due to his age (29) and his recent injury. Atlanta wouldn’t miss him too much, especially if George Bello can earn some first team minutes in 2020.

Alec Kann

Kann only made two cup appearances for the first team in 2019. While he is a solid backup goal keeper, it wouldn’t make sense for Kann to occupy a spot and it wouldn’t be difficult to find another capable back up goal keeper.

Kevin Kratz

Kratz only made one appearance in MLS... for a single minute. It’s safe to say that the 32-year-old German midfielder shouldn’t expect to see himself on the protected list.