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Six Degrees: We Won It First

MLS: MLS Cup Final-Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

1) 2015 is before 2016. We won it first. Fuck Seattle.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

2) The latest expansion draft is on November 19th, also known as next Tuesday.

We’ve gone through five of these drafts already – 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018 – and the rules haven’t changed significantly. A team can protect 12 players from being drafted and can lose a maximum of one player. Also, homegrown players cannot be picked. Our homegrowns are Marco Farfan, Eryk Williamson, and Foster Langsdorf.

You can read the full rules here.

So, which 12 players do you think we’re gonna protect?

Remember, we don’t necessarily have to protect our 12 best players. If one of our 12 best players is a little older or a little too expensive, Nashville and Miami might not take him. The Timbers can risk leaving him unprotected. But it’s a genuine risk. If the Timbers think Diego Chara’s a little too old to get picked, so they leave him off the protected list, and then he is picked, Timbers fans will burn this city to the ground.

And then there’s the situation of Diego Valeri. Will that be resolved by next Tuesday? Will the team put Valeri on the protected list, even though there’s a chance he won’t be here next year? I kinda think they have to, for the same reason as Chara. We can’t risk him being taken.

3) Here’s my guess at which 12 players we protect, from back to front.

Steve Clark, Larrys Mabiala, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Moreira, Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco, Jeremy Ebobisse, Brian Fernandez, Tomas Conechny, and Marvin Loria.

I left Renzo Zambrano unprotected because he’s two years older than Loria and three years older than Conechny. Jorge Villafana’s another tough guy to leave out, but at his age and salary, I think it’s worth risking that he won’t get picked. Julio Cascante and Zarek Valentin are also tough to leave out, but probably won’t get picked, and if they are picked, are probably replaceable.

What do you think of my list? How would you change it?

4) Last week, I mentioned how Jeremy Ebobisse was in the USMNT’s pre-camp, and if he did well there, maybe he’d make the full squad playing in the Nations League. Turns out, that didn’t happen, but Jebo did make the U-23 squad. So that’s pretty cool.

Jebo’s not the only Timber playing for his country right now. Four other guys got called up.

When your club gets a whole lot of players called up to international duty, this is partially because you’ve got some good young talent, but it’s also influenced by which countries you’re drawing from. A Timber from Peru is a lot more likely to get called up to the national team than a Timber from Brazil.

5) This raises an interesting question: if you were a GM and were building a team, what would be your player acquisition strategy? Grab the top-tier players from lower ranked nations (like, say, New Zealand or Peru), or grab the 2nd-tier players from higher ranked nations (like, say, Argentina or France).

In other words, would you sign Andy Polo, with all his Peruvian caps, or Sebastian Blanco, with his almost complete lack of Argentine caps?

It seems obvious that the 100th best player from France is going to be better than the very best player from Cuba. But what about the best player from Paraguay? That’s Miguel Almiron, right? What about the best player from Venezuela, Josef Martinez? Would you rather have those guys than the 100th best player from France? How about the 50th best player from France? The 25th best?

We’ll call this game “Put Yourself in Gavin Wilkinson’s Shoes.” If you were Gavin, and it was your job to build the Timbers, what countries would you be flying to every winter?

6) Last item: one of the all-time great Timbers is on the move again. Darlington Nagbe has been traded from Atlanta to Columbus, where he’ll be playing for his former Portland coach and former college coach, Caleb Porter.

The Darlington Nagbe saga fascinates me. Nags grew up in Cleveland, played college in Akron, and now is going to be a pro in Columbus. He’s essentially Mr. Ohio. And now he’s reuniting with the coach who sat on his living room sofa, recruiting him when he was still in high school.

Is this Nagbe’s final stop? Will Porter be with him until he retires?

Follow-up question: is Columbus also going to sign Fanendo Adi this offseason? Alvas Powell? Liam Ridgewell? Rodney Freaking Wallace?

And – oh my God, this just occurred to me, but it could totally happen – what if they signed Diego Valeri? That would be weeeeeeeeeeird.

Actually, would that be a best-case scenario for Valeri? Worst-case would clearly be Seattle. Would best-case be Columbus? Playing next to Nagbe?

I think it is. I think seeing Valeri and Nagbe together again might ease a little of my pain if Valeri leaves. At least he’d be among friends.