THE DARK SIDE: To Protect or Not to Protect

The Dark Side an inaugural column exclusive to the Rapids' website today will be addressing tomorrow’s public release of the long-expected lists of protected and unprotected players for the 2005 Expansion Draft. This column which will cover different topics regarding everything Rapids will appear about once a week only on ColoradoRapids.com.

THE DARK SIDE by Arturo Rivers
This Week's Topic: To Protect or Not to Protect

Who's it going to be in the MLS Expansion Draft this Friday? How many players will the Rapids lose and who will they be? Everone is nervously anticipating this draft myself included.

I'm going to break down the Draft's rules talk about how they will impact the Rapids directly and then finally give my picks for the Rapids' list of protected and unprotected players. The Rapids and MLS will unveil their official lists this Wednesday and then the actual draft takes place on Friday.

So without any further delay let’s jump into the intrinsic rules and regulations that compose the 2005 MLS Expansion Draft.

2005 Expansion Draft
1) The 2005 Expansion draft will be 10 rounds

2) Current MLS teams may protect 12 players on their Senior Roster (consisting of players on a team's senior roster at the end of the season and newly graduated Project-40 players)

3) No more than one senior international player is allowed to go unprotected by any current team (players who become senior internationals in 2005 are also considered senior internationals for this draft)

4) Players on the developmental roster of current teams will not be part of the Expansion Draft; Players indicated as retiring players by current teams will not be part of the Expansion Draft

5) An MLS team may lose no more than three (3) players during the Expansion Draft

6) Current teams can only lose a maximum of three players in the Expansion Draft. Also once a player has been claimed from a current team's non-protected roster that same team may move a player from its non-protected roster to its protected roster. The rights to unprotected players who are not selected by Real Salt Lake or CD Chivas USA in the Expansion Draft will be retained by their original clubs.

Rule Number One: The 2005 Expansion draft will be 10 rounds

There is not too much to read into this one. The "Herd" or as they are called in Mexico "El Rebaño" will pick first as Jorge Vergara’s newest venture CD Chivas USA won the coin toss for this honor at half time of MLS Cup. Meanwhile Real Salt Lake will be second. They will pick one by one until each one has recruited 10 players from the existing MLS Teams to begin the REAL work of managing an MLS franchise.

Rule Number Tw Each MLS team shall be allowed to protect 12 Senior Roster players

Before we can go on and analyze this one we should visit some of the other rules. TRUST me at the end of the column it will ALL make sense.

Rule Number Three: Each MLS team may leave unprotected only one Senior International

Looking at the current Rapids roster the players that will fit into this category are:
-Cuban international Alberto Delgado (Started in nine games playing a total of 742 minutes netting one goal and three assists)

-Cuban international Rey Ángel Martinez (Started in three games recording one assist)

-The Jamaican international Darryl Powell (Started in 12 games no goals no assists)

- The Liberian international Zizi Roberts (Started in four games scored one goal)

- And the former captain and Scottish international John Spencer (Started in 19 games scored four goals and recorded one assist)

With the league explaining that retiring players will not be part of the draft and knowing that Spencer has been talking about retirement for the last three months the team will have to protect three senior internationals leave one unprotected and expect that the league will have a special category for the retiring players.

All these leaves us going back to rule number two knowing that the team only has nine spots to protect players that they want to keep but before we go back there let’s visit rule number four.

Rule Number Four:
Players on the developmental roster of current teams will not be part of the Expansion Draft; Players indicated as retiring players by current teams will not be part of the Expansion Draft

By taking a look at this rule and at the Rapids roster the players that the team doesn’t have to worry about protecting are:
- Ricky Lewis (Project-40)
-Jordan Cila (Developmental Player)
-Gary Sullivan (Developmental Player)
-Michael Erush (Developmental Player)
-Byron Foss (Senior Developmental).

This leaves the current Rapids roster of players that have not fallen into any of the categories at fifteen. With that in mind we can go back and revisit Rule Number Two.

Rule Number Tw Each MLS team shall be allowed to protect 12 Senior Roster players…which after rule number three (3) only leaves nine (9) spots to protect. Let’s look at it by positions:

You know that you have to protect your Goalkeeper of the Year so that position along with Byron Foss being roster protected would leave Scott Vallow as someone that could potentially be on the unprotected list.

On the defense you have guys like Nat Borchers Matt Crawford Ritchie Kotschau Antonio de la Torre Gary Sullivan and Ricky Lewis that ALL stepped up to the plate to make the Rapids defense the league's most vaunted in 2004. The only other defender on the Rapids roster is Jeff Stewart who has been out of action since June 2003 so I think that there is not too much to think along these lines.

Let’s visit the heart and soul of the team the midfield: Pablo Mastroeni the recently appointed captain of the team will surely continue to be the anchor of the middle of the park. Few teams can boast one winger let along two that have the skill speed guile and experience of Chris Henderson and Mark Chung. With so many young players on the verge of breaking through these two veterans will prove to be more important to the future success of the black and blue then their statistical numbers indicate. Five midfielders remain in the Rapids roster: Kyle Beckerman Seth Trembly Joey DiGiamarino Mickael Erush and Jordan Cila the last two roster protected.

Taking in consideration that Jean Philippe Peguero is the only "American" forward on the roster as well as the team’s leading scorer and the list is already at 12 the midfield seems to be the place that could potentially provide the most players to the unprotected list.

Having said that here are the Dark Side’s picks for the 2005 Expansion Draft Rapids list:

Protected:
GK- Joe Cannon
D- Nat Borchers
D- Matt Crawford
D- Ritchie Kotschau
D- Antonio de la Torre
M- Pablo Mastroeni
M- Chris Henderson
M- Mark Chung
FW- Jean Philippe Peguero

F- Alberto Delgado (SI)
M- Darryl Powell (SI)
F- Rey Angel Martinez (SI)

Roster Protected:
GK- Byron Foss
D- Ricky Lewis
D- Gary Sullivan
M- Jordan Cila
M- Michael Erush

Unprotected:
GK- Scott Vallow
D- Jeff Stewart
M- Seth Trembly
M- Kyle Beckerman
M- Joey DiGiamarino
F- Zizi Roberts (SI)

If my vision is not really blurred from looking out from the Dark Side and I actually have some of these selections right a maximum of three players can be taken from the Rapids (according to rules number five and six). We'll see what happens when the list is unveiled on Wednesday and the draft takes place on Friday!

Arturo Rivers' The Dark Side column will run once a week starting today on ColoradoRapids.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and not necessarily those of the Colorado Rapids or ColoradoRapids.com. Send any questions and comments to Arturo Rivers at thedark_side1@yahoo.com.