There is an expansion draft coming up and with less than a week until the end of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, we will know soon who the Portland Timbers — and the rest of Major League Soccer — are protecting. However, with eleven players to be protected it is still far from clear who the Timbers will take off the table, so let’s take a look at the roster and see just who might be on Gavin Wilkinson’s list to be spared from the reach of Minnesota United and Atlanta United.
The Homegrown Player
Marco Farfan: The Timbers get Farfan for free here, so there is no downside to the team signing him late last season rather than waiting until early next year.
The Sure Things
The core of the Timbers’ team, these players are known contributors and should be expected to be central to the team in 2017.
1-3. Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe: the big three players in the Timbers midfield, any of whom would be snapped up immediately if they were on offer. Even those who do not like the game of these guys — certainly the vocal minority — have to respect the fact that they would command a hefty trade or transfer fee if the Timbers were to offload them.
4. Fanendo Adi: the Timbers striker is an odd proposition in some ways as Timbers fans spent much of the early offseason assuming that he would be on his way out the door. Now, however, the rumors that surrounded Adi over the course of the last year seem to have cooled and hope remains that he could remain with the side for another season. However, even if Adi were set to be transferred abroad, the Timbers could make a hefty profit off his sale and would rake in a significant number of allocation dollars as well as actual cash with which to go after his replacement, rather than taking whatever pittance is offered in exchange for players in the expansion draft.
5. Jake Gleeson: Gleeson is a great shot stopper and a good value, a combination that saw the Timbers give him the starting spot at keeper for the side back in 2016. The only reason that he is not in the first list up is his poor decision making early in the offseason when he was arrested for a DUI. It seems unlikely that the Timbers would give up on their new No. 1, but it is at least worth a furrowed brow when reading Gleeson’s name.
6. Vytas: left back was the obvious problem in the Timbers’ lineup for much of 2016, but after Vytas’s arrival it was clear that the Lithuanian had made the spot his own. It was even more clear that he needed some time to adjust to the league and by the time that the season had wound down, Vytas was regularly competing for a spot in the team of the week.
7. Alvas Powell: 2016 was a strange year for Powell as the still-only-22-year-old full back found himself in a series of precarious positions all year, dealing with the regular collapse of the Timbers’ myriad of center back pairings, the constant search for effective players to work with on the wings, and a handful of injuries that saw him miss several key games. Still, Powell was one of the Timbers’ best defenders on the year and the side would be foolish to give him up so cheaply.
8. Liam Ridgewell: the Timbers’ captain was infuriating at times this season and has proven to be increasingly injury prone as his career continues. What cannot be ignored, however, is just how much better the Timbers are with Ridgewell on the field.
That leaves three more players to be protected with nobody else who made a clearcut case for themselves in 2016.
Looking down the Timbers’ roster there are a number of players who fulfill a role for the side, either backing up one of the players above or showing some hint of promise that they one-day might be worthy of a regular starting spot. It is difficult, however, to determine which ones the Timbers will actually deem worth holding on to.
Gbenga Arokoyo: between his late in the year arrival and the immediate injuries that he suffered, Arokoyo remains a mystery to Timbers fans in terms of his play. Arokoyo might be one for the future, but without knowing what the second year of his contract looks like it is hard to say just how committed the Timber are to the young Nigerian.
Darren Mattocks: we know that the Timbers are shopping for a pair of starting quality wingers, meaning that they don’t see Mattocks as the answer out wide. Of course, the Timbers may well look to hold onto Mattocks as a versatile attacking piece who could be a regular game changer if he can stay healthy.
Lucas Melano: It might sound crazy to spend a slot on Melano, who many Timbers fans have given up on after a very disappointing 2016, but there must be some trade or transfer value to the young Argentine. So, while Melano may never suit up for the Timbers again, it is not impossible that the Timbers would look to hang on to him until January at least.
Jack Barmby: the Timbers’ English winger showed flashes throughout 2016, seeing regular late-game minutes as the season wore on and occasionally making something happen out on the wing. Still, the contributions were not enough to see Barmby fight his way into contention for a starting spot and he remains one for the future at only 22 years old.
Jack McInerney: goals are hard to come by and a player with a knack for scoring them even more so. For his part, McInerney was a streaky player in 2016 who never quite made it clear how he fit in to the Timbers’ line up but still managed to tally five goals (making him one of only four Timbers to score more than once on the season).
Zarek Valentin: a competent young player capable of being deployed all across the back line, it is not so much that the Timbers would be crippled by Valentin’s loss, but that his sort of versatility could be very tempting for an expansion side.
Ben Zemanski: the injury-prone midfielder has the quality and the price tag to be a solid back up for Diego Chara and in a salary cap league, value is important. However, if your back up is not available and you don’t have Jack Jewsbury around to bail you out then you have got an issue.
Who are your picks for the Timbers’ eleven-man protected list? Think some of the sure things are not-so-sure? Let us know in the comments below.