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Predicting the Timbers’ Expansion Draft protected list

MLS, much like the universe, is once again expanding!

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2022 MLS Expansion Draft coming up this Friday, Nov. 11, the crew here at Stumptown Footy wanted to take a crack at who they think the Portland Timbers should protect from 2023 newcomers St. Louis CITY SC.

(Yes, the official team name has CITY in all caps. MLS needs to be stopped).

But before we get down to it, here are a few rules about the expansion draft process that fans should know that are pertinent to the Timbers:

  • Protected lists for MLS clubs will be released by the league on Thursday, Nov. 10, before the draft takes place the following day.
  • St. Louis has the ability to select five unprotected players in total, but are only allowed to select one player from any one club. So if they selected a player from the Timbers, that player would be the only one they would be allowed to pry from Portland.
  • If St. Louis does select a Timbers player, the Timbers would receive $50k in General Allocation Money (GAM).
  • The Timbers can protect 12 players from their senior and supplemental rosters, with generation Adidas players (who have not yet graduated from that designation) and homegrown players under 25 years old being automatically protected from selection. This means that the Timbers don’t have to include Eryk Williamson, Hunter Sulte, or Tega Ikoba on their list of 12 protected players.

Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, here’s who Stumptown would protect:

Alex’s protected list: Aljaz Ivacic, Claudio Bravo, Zac McGraw, Dario Zuparic, Juan David Mosquera, David Ayala, Diego Chara, Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes, Dairon Asprilla, Felipe Mora, Marvin Loria.

Unprotected list: David Bingham, Pablo Bonilla, Larrys Mabiala, Justin Rasmussen, Bill Tuiloma, Sebastian Blanco, Yimmi Chara, Diego Gutierrez, Nathan Fogaça, Jaroslaw Niezgoda.

I have to be honest, this list was pretty straightforward to create for me after I realized that Eryk Williamson was exempt from selection (curse you convoluted MLS rules).

I decided to leave all three of the Timbers’ current designated players unprotected in order to a) retain players that would be more appealing to St. Louis, and b) hope that St. Louis would willing to overlook cost and contribution to grab one of Yimmi Chara, Sebastian Blanco, or Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Is this a realistic hope? Absolutely not. Would it help the Timbers clear some cap space and expedite the roster overhaul they’re looking to accomplish this offseason? Yes, yes it would.

What would also help expedite that process would be if St. Louis selected either Bill Tuiloma or Larrys Mabiala with one of their five picks, due to their notable salaries ($304.4k for Tuiloma and $460k for Mabiala) and the Timbers’ reported desire to add another centerback to their ranks this offseason.

Aside from those players, I could potentially see St. Louis take a backup goalkeeper like David Bingham, or fullback depth like Bonilla or Rasmussen, but none of those would be catastrophic losses for the Timbers.

Sam’s protected list: Aljaz Ivacic, Claudio Bravo, Zac McGraw, Juan David Mosquera, Bill Tuiloma, Dario Zuparic, David Ayala, Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes, Diego Chara, Marvin Loría, Dairon Asprilla.

Unprotected list: David Bingham, Pablo Bonilla, Larrys Mabiala, Justin Rasmussen, Sebastián Blanco, Yimmi Chara, Diego Gutierrez, Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda.

Similar to Alex, this was pretty straightforward for me. And because of that my list is, well, similar to Alex’s.

The only key difference is I chose to protect Bill Tuiloma over Felipe Mora. I know Tuiloma has had an up and down Timbers tenure and wasn’t exactly the model of defensive discipline in the stretch run, and that Portland is eyeing more defensive options regardless.

But hear me out: Tuiloma had his best year ever in 2022. Both in how he buoyed the defense in the early days of 2022 and also in the contributions he made in scoring goals on set pieces. That of course means he could be on an upward trajectory for next season, but also (and more importantly) means that he is an attractive expansion draft pick. Every team needs centerbacks, and every new MLS team needs MLS experience. Bill is both of those things. His value for the Timbers is still high, and so I think they would get more out of keeping him than by getting $50K of Garber-bucks.

I don’t think Felipe Mora gets picked due to his injury rehab and large salary, hence why I think the Timbers are alright leaving him unprotected (feel free to roast me on Twitter if this blows up in my face). I also agree with Alex’s rationale for leaving Yimmi and Niezgoda unprotected, and share his skepticism that either will get picked.

Lastly, I find it interesting that neither of us protected Blanco. I don’t think Seba’s time in Portland is fully done, but it says a lot that both of us don’t think he’s worth fully securing in the expansion draft. I do think that he needs to recapture some of that energy and fire that made him so impactful in 2021 in order to justify his spot and salary.

And what better way to do that than to make him mad by leaving him unprotected? You know that Blanco will take that as a personal slight (he does that a lot), and hopefully it will light a fire under him to come out blazing in 2023.

You can read the full rules and procedures about the expansion draft here, following along at on Friday, and watch Stumptown Footy for our coverage as well.

What are your thoughts? Think we’re idiots and/or geniuses? Who would you protect (and why)? Let us know in the comments!