The Fire released their list of the 11 players they've chosen to protect from Orlando City FC and NYCFC in Wednesday's Expansion Draft. Fire supporters responded with their usual mix of nuance and calm:
WHY THE F%*$ IS ALEX ON THE PROTECTED LIST!?!?! GET RID OF THAT SACK OF CRAP! #cf97
— Braulio Antonio Díaz (@braulioadiaz) December 8, 2014
Alex is protected. *desk flip* #cf97
— Breaking Rank (@DFBJeff) December 8, 2014
What's the logic behind protecting Anongono? #CF97 must think there's some transfer value there still.
— OG2 (@OwenGoal) December 8, 2014
Suffice to say there are some surprises here. Juan Luis Anangono, the transfer-fee DP striker who was shuffled off to LDU Quito on loan after a pair of disappointing half-seasons, is on there. So is Alex, a Brazilian midfield all-rounder who some feel is more of a midfield not-quite-er, and Robert Earnshaw, the Welsh short-termer who showed well when he wasn't supine. Greg Cochrane is not, despite the fact the club picked up his contract option after the season.
Here's the actual list of protected players: Quincy Amarikwa, Juan Luis Anangono, Razvan Cocis, Robert Earnshaw, Sean Johnson, Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee, Alex, Patrick Nyarko, Lovel Palmer, and Matt Watson. Homegrown players Harrison Shipp, Chris Ritter and Victor Pineda were automatically protected by their roster status. Left unprotected were Patrick Ianni, Benji Joya, Steven Kinney, Sanna Nyassi, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, Kyle Reynish, Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare, Greg Cochrane, Matt Fondy, Marco Franco, Hunter Jumper, Alec Kann, Grant Ward.
Hot (Time) take: The surprises
Alex - Mr. Doesn't-Float got a look as a left back late in the season, and didn't shame himself, certainly. The criticism is that he's neither fish nor fowl; he doesn't tackle and mark like a defensive midfielder, and he doesn't explode into space, or keep the ball on a string, or magically understand the motions around him to an unerring degree like an attacking midfielder. I assume his inclusion means that contract negotiations are going extremely well, and that his relative youth, durability and dependability are seen as the valuable depth options they are.
Juan Luis Anangono - There is this thing some call the psychology of previous investment; it says that it's very difficult to see large or long-term investments with a clear eye, because the investment itself distorts our perceptions of the investment. It's tempting to think that our 'seven-figure transfer fee' DP is on the list merely because of, well, seven figures.
But Anangono did show glimmers in his time with Chicago, and he's producing the goods now that he's back home - in 23 appearances with Quito, el Serpiente has nine goals and four assists. Even if he never returns to MLS, he's putting up numbers that will provoke someone, somewhere to make a creditable offer for him; when that happens, thanks to this cover, the upside will accrue to the Fire in the form of sweet, delicious allocation funds.
Robert Earnshaw - In perhaps another sign that contract negotiations are going very well, Earnshaw's on the list despite having his option declined. He certainly looked the part in his very few appearances; his injection of pace and directness frequently reinvigorated the Fire attack late in games. The questions revolve around health and age - the Welshman will turn 34 next spring and has struggled with the kind of leg injuries that can drag any player down. That said, his goalscoring was not entirely a product of pace. Earnshaw was astute and aggressive, taking up good positions and making good runs and finishing the chances that came his way.
Greg Cochrane - Maybe this is just me, but I'm surprised to see Cochrane not listed just because the Fire picked up his option; if they're that confident no one's interested, maybe I need to go back and re-watch those starts of his. I mean, left footed. He's left footed! He prefers to play with his left foot! I swear it's true. And that, and his youth, his affordability and the fact that he's already under contract for 2015 make him an attractive late-round swipe, traditionally. We'll see.
The future is a maelstrom
This is not a traditional Expansion Draft. This is the difference between playing Magic: The Gathering with your 12-year-old cousin and playing the two-time defending World Champion. The Fire's crack at expansion, that was the former; this is the latter. NYCFC just traded for the right to trade somebody, and then traded imaginary money for an extra foreigner on the roster. They're shorting derivatives based upon the faults they programmed into the algorithm; it's all chrome and mirrors and success there. And Orlando City is getting by on more old-fashioned forms of wheeling and dealing, more familiar from the hustling, chaotic world of the Brazilian state-league football.
And then there's two rounds of Re-Entry Draft. And then there's the SuperDraft. And then there's the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, which could wipe out or entirely recontextualize everything that's happened since the end of MLS Cup. Good times.