FC Cincinnati is set to be the lone player in this year’s MLS Expansion Draft. This is a timely advantage for the club as they are the only eligible team to make picks this year.
The expansion draft allows FC Cincinnati to select five players overall from a pool of 18 teams that released their lists of unprotected (draftable) players this afternoon.
The 18 teams are : Atlanta United, Colorado Rapids, Chicago Fire, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Los Angeles FC, Minnesota United FC, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Columbus Crew SC, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City, and Toronto FC are all exempt from this years Expansion Draft as they lost players to LAFC last season.
The 18 teams have apparently been reduced to 16 - as FCC has reached some type of agreement to not select players from Portland or Vancouver for their dealings in the Fanendo Adi and Spencer Richey transactions, respectively.
Both would be great pools to pick from though, as Portland claimed the Eastern Conference Championship this season, and Cincinnati’s Head Coach Alan Koch was previously Vancouver’s USL coach - and that comes with some extra intel that he has apparently opted to pass on for Richey.
So with those two off the table, there are still plenty of options for FC Cincinnati to take a gander at, and begin forming the 2019 MLS campaign with.
A few roster construction items to note if you’re new to MLS:
The club cannot take more than one player per team.
FCC has already retained several players from the 2018 USL roster. Only two of whom are perceived as bonafide starters, Fanendo Adi and Fatai Alashe - as they both have significant MLS experience, and were brought in specifically to be MLS quality ready. The remaining roster as of now, will likely be for depth, fringe start, or platoon capacity.
The MLS allows up to eight international player spots, however - this doesn’t necessarily mean that any non-American player takes up one of these spots though. The stipulations can be found here .
The key item to note with this - is that FCC has already filled three of these spots, and the expansion draft is not the final talent pool for them to choose from.
The orange and blue will also be snagging some talent in the MLS Re-Entry Draft - December 21st, the MLS Super Draft - January 19th, and if need be, the team would be willing participants in the International Transfer Window when it opens for North America in February.
With these International spots being so precious, FCC will likely not over commit to anyone here until they’ve done their due diligence. It is unclear how long the team will have to reach contract terms with each selection, and the club will likely take as much time as possible with respect to the uncertainty of who else may fall into their grasp.
Unprotected Free Agents will be made available once more in the Re-Entry Draft.
Fanendo Adi takes up one Designated Player position, and the team only gets three. FCC would be wise to lay off of the available qualified designated players in this pool as the DP spots are financially weighted heavily, and as a first year team - having options is infinitely more powerful than star power.
So with that said - one attacker, and one midfield position are spoken for. Let’s rip:
1- Jeff Larentowicz, Atlanta United - Midfield
This is not a spicy pick. Larentowicz is 35, and would obviously not be someone to look at as a mainstay for years to come in the midfield - but this MLS veteran has won two MLS Cups, four Conference Championships, a North American SuperLiga Cup, and a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
A young team needs to take something from the incumbent champions - and of the players made available by ATLUD, Larentowicz clearly has the most experience to offer if the team wants to have the influence of a player who knows how to win things. If he’s able to develop relationships and carve a post playing career in Cincinnati, all the better.
2 - Florian Velot, New York Red Bulls - Midfield
This is a spicy pick - Velot in 2018 had a whopping three goals and five assists in just 14 games this season after being called up from the USL. He has had to fight for his role in the MLS squad and the 25 year old Frenchman has all the upside in the world. Prior to having an ACL tear in July - he unequivocally proved that he’s able to sustain MLS level quality.
3 - Joel Bendik - Orlando City SC - Goalkeeper
Bendik makes sense because he’s 29, not a hit on DP or International spots, and consistently is in the top half of the league by metrics. He’s been pushed out of the starting role in Orlando for tactical purposes, and the fact that the club left him exposed shows that they are proceeding in favor of Earl Edwards, Jr.
By metrics, he’s the best goalkeeper available - while it has been rumored that there’s a potential international GK signing in the works, but if that’s just a rumor and you’re in charge - this is a sensible shoes pick that you can easily turn into resources if you can manage to do better in coming weeks.
4- FC Dallas - Roland Lamah - Left Mid/Wing
Still not taking any defenders deemed available by their current team:
Lamah’s 2018 has been good for eight goals and six assists coming primarily out of the midfield. He’s top five in all offensive metrics for Dallas, and has made appearances in the Left Wing position as well. You need to score goals to win, and of all available players, the 30 year old Belgian is the most versatile-but-still-dangerous option on the market.
5 - Rodney Wallace - NYCFC - Midfield
Sneaky pick here - only because FC Cincinnati has bought into Fanendo Adi so much, it’s worth noting that Wallace and Adi were co-workers during Portland’s 2015 MLS Cup run. There is clearly some type chemistry as they were both able to score goals in this season, and Adi was the hitman for three of Wallace's seven assists in 2015.
The Costa Rican international was reduced to only 18 appearances because of injury this season. It’s an interesting thought to pair Adi with a proven partner - and with this being an absolute no-risk pick, FCC just might want to explore this unique opportunity.
There it is. No wild superstars, no breaking of verbal agreements, and no bad defenders. If FC Cincinnati wants to get risky, there is still plenty of time but these are five great options to build the incoming team around.
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