Atlanta United and Minnesota United will make their picks — five each, ten total — in the MLS Expansion Draft Tuesday. The 20 other MLS clubs are able to protect 11 players, with homegrown and Generation Adidas players automatically protected, and every club revealed their list on Monday. You can find them here.
Today, I’ll rank the top five players available to the two expansion teams. I will not include older players like Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba, and Landon Donovan, who are likely to either retire (for good this time) or move overseas. These are some of the players to watch:
- Harry Shipp (Montreal Impact)
Originally traded from his hometown Chicago Fire to Montreal last February, Shipp’s playing time gradually decreased as the MLS season wore on. He ultimately made 27 total appearances (20 of them starts), but he started just four times in the second half of the season and failed to go 90 minutes once. He also played just 18 total minutes in the Impact’s six-game playoff run.
Why his minutes were so low, it’s hard to really know. Mauro Biello liked his trio of Patrice Bernier, Hernan Bernadello, and Marco Donadel, so he stuck with it. Shipp must not have done enough.
The fact remains, though, that he is a perfectly serviceable creative midfielder. A domestic former Homegrown player seems like the kind of player Minnesota would go for.
- Gideon Baah (New York Red Bulls)
Baah, a Ghanaian MLS newcomer this year who is currently recovering from a long-term leg injury, made just six starts for the Red Bulls in 2016. Injured on July 10th, he had also missed a month and a half earlier in the season, so his sample size is not exactly large. But the center back’s performances in the few minutes he did play were promising.
He is an above-average distributor and is athletic, physical, and willing to win the ball off of anybody. Both Minnesota and Atlanta have acquired center backs — Joseph Greenspan to MNUFC, Michael Parkhurst to Atlanta — but Baah would certainly be valuable signing.
- Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC)
Another 2016 MLS newcomer, Ricketts entered midseason for TFC and became an integral part of the roster not long after he arrived. The Canadian international was the ultimate super-sub for Greg Vanney and the MLS Cup losers, often entering later in games and playing next Jozy Altidore up top. He picked up three regular season goals and two postseason goals.
A speedy striker with a knack for finding loose balls in the box, Ricketts is probably not a regular starter in this league. But imagine him coming off the bench and playing next to Kenwyne Jones in Atlanta. That’s a pretty scary thought for other MLS clubs, isn’t it?
- Quincy Amarikwa (San Jose Earthquakes)
It was a surprise to many that Amarikwa was left unprotected by the general manager-less Earthquakes, and perhaps a sign of intent from San Jose that they are on the hunt for a DP No. 9. Never mind how the Quakes felt about him, Amarikwa is a solid MLS center forward who could be a nice pickup for Minnesota.
Atlanta have Kenwyne Jones, so they won’t be looking at any other No. 9s, but don’t be surprised if Adrian Heath and MNUFC spring for Amarikwa. They need a goal-scorer, and he could very well be it.
- Steven Beitashour (Toronto FC)
The most notable casualty of TFC’s lack of available protection slots — along with Ricketts and starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin — Beitashour should be a top contender to be selected. He is one of the few players in MLS who can crack it as a wing-back, making him an attractive option to Atlanta manager Tata Martino if he wants to go three-in-the-back, and he has been one of the best right backs in the league over the last two seasons.
Look for the Iran international to be one of the top picks. The only concern could be his salary, which, at $230,000 a year, shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Toronto will be hesitant to lose him, but this is a great opportunity for both expansion clubs to pick up a quality starter at right back.
Here are a ton of other players who I think are the best of the crop that was left unprotected, sorted by position:
GK: Clint Irwin, Andrew Dykstra, Steve Clark, Bobby Shuttleworth, Josh Saunders, Travis Worra, Chris Seitz, Dan Kennedy, Jeff Attinella
DEF: Zach Loyd, Waylon Francis, Gaston Sauro, Marc Burch, Mekeil Williams, Marvell Wynne, Ethan White, Jefferson Mena, Jared Watts, Jason Hernandez, Jack Barmby, Atiba Harris, David Horst, Sean Franklin, Tyrone Mears, Bobby Burling, Seth Sinovic, Raymon Gaddis, Jordan Smith, Clarence Goodson, Ken Tribbett, Kofi Opare, Dave Romney, Donny Toia, JeVaughn Watson, Karl Ouimette, Chris Wingert, David Edgar
MID: Michael Stephens, Khaly Thiam, Sebastian Le Toux, Marco Pappa, Mohammed Saeid, Cristian Maidana, Baggio Husidic, Lucas Ontivero, Marc Pelosi, Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg, Jacob Peterson, Justin Mapp, Connor Hallisey, Mikey Lopez, Benoit Cheyrou, Will Johnson, Servando Carrasco, Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu, Tranquillo Barnetta, Ben Zemanski, Javier Morales, Alberto Quintero, Andreas Ivanschitz, Pedro Morales, Jeff Larentowicz
FW: Nelson Valdez, Oalex Anderson, Masato Kudo, Mo Babouli, Olmes Garcia, Jack McInerney, Charlie Davies, Hadji Barry, Anatole Abang, Alan Gordon, Dominic Oduro, Tony Taylor, Kennedy Igboananike, Henok Goitom, Chad Barrett, Giles Barnes