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2012 MLS Expansion Draft: Which San Jose Earthquakes international players need be protected?

Chris Wondolowski spends some quality time with a trio of San Jose Earthquakes international players.

In less than a week’s time, as the confetti from the MLS Cup Final postgame celebration will still be littered over the field at The Home Depot Center, General Managers from around the league will be submitting their expansion draft protected lists to the league office in preparation for the Montreal Impact’s Thanksgiving Eve player grab. For the San Jose Earthquakes, who are coming off a rather uninspiring season, the choice of whom to protect must seem rather straightforward. However, with one simple rule in the proceedings, some questions do arise for the Earthquakes as to what players may need to be protected regardless of how they fit into the team’s future plans.

"Clubs are restricted in the number of international player(s) that they may make available.  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." — 2012 MLS Expansion Draft Rules

For the Earthquakes, the current international players on their roster are the following: Andre Luiz Moreira (Brazil), Nana Attakora (Canada), Rafael Baca (Mexico), Simon Dawkins (England), Scott Sealy (Trinidad & Tobago), Khari Stephenson (Jamaica). There is some confusion as to whether Andre Luiz counts as an international player or not due to him being listed as Brazilian on the team roster. Whether he counts and the Earthquakes can make no more than three international players available in the draft, or he doesn’t and the team can make no more than two available, Andre Luiz is destined to be left unprotected on the list San Jose submits to MLS.

Looking at the remainder of the list, it is safe to say that Sealy is not in the team’s plans moving forward, and will be left unprotected. That leaves four internationals on the roster whose fates have yet to be decided. By virtue of the expansion draft rules, no fewer than three of the four must be protected. The question becomes: do the Earthquakes protect all four, or do they take a chance and leave one of the four unprotected?

To answer the question, consideration of the remainder of the San Jose roster needs to be taken into account. If all four international players are worth protecting, then only seven of the remaining eligible domestic players can be saved from being selected by the Montreal Impact. That is no easy question, as the Earthquakes pledged to clean house during the offseason, and formulating the expansion list is the first step in that process.

Obvious players like Chris Wondolowski, Sam Cronin, Brad Ring, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, and Justin Morrow need to be included. Aging veterans should not be protected, even at the expense of hurting their egos, especially at the risk of losing one of the young regulars. San Jose doesn’t want to repeat the error of 2009, when dynamic midfielder Shea Salinas was erroneously left vulnerable and the Philadelphia Union swooped in to select him. Possible veterans in the "protect" category are Jon Busch, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen, and Jacob Peterson.

Two players the Earthquakes don’t need to protect are Generation adidas exemptions David Bingham and Ike Opara. The former has an outside chance of assuming more playing time next season, even if the club moves forward with Busch in goal. The latter will be carefully tended to so that his injury problems do not resurface for a third straight year, and he can help anchor the Quakes defensive back four.

So back to the question — protect three or four international players from selection by the Impact. Are all four no-brainers, or does one perhaps stand out as relatively safe from being drafted — as a loanee from Tottenham, Dawkins seems to fit that mold. Perhaps one of the four should not even be considered for the 2012 Earthquakes, and they can be left unprotected without worry. What are your thoughts on which direction the San Jose Earthquakes should go when it comes to building their expansion draft protected list?

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