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Houston Dynamo’s Most Valuable Expansion Draft Protectees

Mauro Manotas celebrates a goal vs Portland Timbers. Photo by Nigel Brooks

Mauro Manotas celebrates a goal vs Portland Timbers. Photo by Nigel Brooks

The Houston Dynamo are set to announce who they are protecting in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft later on today.

While fans await to see who the coaching staff deems to be worthy of protection, and whether the team’s list matches their own, it’s important for everyone to put Houston’s list into context. More precisely, it almost doesn’t matter who Dynamo Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera protects.

For this Expansion Draft, Minnesota and Atlanta United will only have 5 picks apiece, which is down from the normal 10 each. This means that half of the teams in the league will lose no one. To be kind, the Dynamo roster isn’t chock full of valuable talent that must be hoarded. In fact, there are only a handful that must be protected for one reason or another and that is who we will look at today.

One note before jumping into the real protected list: the nature of the rebuild going on this winter determines who exactly is protected. If Cabrera carries out General Manager Matt Jordan and President Chris Canetti’s belief that the team is only a few players away from success, the list will be rather predictable.

If, instead, a full rebuild is in the works, like the Colorado Rapids did after the 2014 season, than many of the high-salaried players would be left unprotected. Keep that in mind when the list is released.

So here we go with the absolutely must-protected players.

Mauro Manotas

It should be obvious why the young Colombian must be protected but just in case let’s go over the particulars. First off, every team must protect a certain number of international players, based on the total number of internationals in the squad. So if we must protect some, there is no better to do that with than Mauro.

After spending all of 2015 adjusting to the team, Manotas finally got his chance last season and his performances in the second half of the season was incredible. He’s not perfect by any means but more playing time will only make him better.

Tyler Deric

There are few goalkeepers who are worth more for their price than Deric. As this past weekend’s MLS Cup shows, a quality keeper can make all the difference.

Last season was unfortunately full of injuries for the homegrown player. An off season to recover and get whatever medical help needed will do the Texan a world of good. It will also give him time to get back into shape for when training camp opens in February.

It has been said by Matt Jordan that Deric is automatically protected as a homegrown, which is confusing as that status, simply put, stays on players during their first contract only. Deric is a senior player now. We’ll assume that he must be protected for simplicity.

Joe Willis proved to be a capable replacement but it was also clear that several of the goals that were allowed could have been saved by a fully healthy Deric. Finding a replacement for equal or lesser hit on the salary cap would be very difficult. Too difficult for what ails this team.

Will Bruin

Before the comments section, or Twitter, blows up, hear me out. Right now there are rumors swirling that Minnesota is interested in bringing the extremely controversial striker up north. If those rumors are to be believed, it makes zero sense to leave him unprotected. Why would the team let him leave for nothing?

Bruin missed his chance. Credit: Ray Escamilla

Bruin missed his chance. Credit: Ray Escamilla

It’s unclear exactly what Minnesota is offering in trade but the most likely offerings are cash and/or draft picks. There’s two types of cash options that can be traded and we won’t go into the intricate details of each. Suffice to say there is the type used on high-salary players and cash used only lower-salaried players. Expansion teams are given over a million dollars to help make them competitive right out of the gate. Frequently they use the money in trade to acquire veteran MLS players.

While Atlanta appears to be a high-spending team, Minnesota is being more conservative with their money. Bringing in a league-proven goal-scorer who appears to need a change of scenery makes sense. And they have the money that the Dynamo need to improve their roster. For this reason alone Bruin is worth protecting.

Whether he is worth protecting as a striker on this team is an argument that fans and media have been having for years.

Ricardo Clark

Ever since his return from Germany, Clark has been one of the best players on the roster. He seems to defy the effects of age on his performance. Truly the energizer bunny. Ricardo has given everything to this team and will go down as one of the absolute greats.

But let’s also be serious here. He is getting up there in age and time will catch up to him eventually. His experience and leadership are incredibly valuable as the team gets younger. Yet he may want to return to his hometown and retire at some point, now that they have a team. There haven’t been any rumors about a move to Atlanta yet, but like Bruin it doesn’t make sense to give Clark away for free.

It would be incredible for Clark to retire here but it behooves the team to protect their player and make sure that something is given if a move is going to happen. Unlike Bruin, Clark has kept in top form and there isn’t anyone on the roster who can replace him.

So who is likely to be taken? Probably no one. The Expansion Draft has proven to be a less-than-stellar way to stock a roster which is one of the reasons it has been reduced to just 10 picks. Still, any of these four players would be worth taking and are far too valuable to be let go. Everyone else on the roster is varying degrees of replaceable.

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