What the Galaxy accomplished with its protected list for Wednesday's Major League Soccer expansion draft?
1. Protected their stars: Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Edson Buddle are, of course, on the list.
2. Protected their future: There's a lot of outstanding young talent on L.A.'s roster, and the best of it -- defenders Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and A.J. DeLaGarza, and midfielders Juninho and Michael Stephens -- aren't being dangled for the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
3. Protected their veteran guard: goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, 33, and defender Todd Dunivant, who will turn 30 the day after Christmas, likely are gone if left exposed. Their other over-30 leader, defender Gregg Berhalter, isn't going to be taken, so no need to protect him.
4. Protected one of their holding midfielders: And keeping 26-year-old Englishman Chris Birchall rather than 33-year-old Ukrainian Dema Kovalenko is the right choice. It's all about that seven-year difference.
The Galaxy's list has not one surprise on it. Not one.
The Timbers and Whitecaps, who are steping into MLS next season from the second-tier USSF D2 Pro League, may each draft 10 players Wednesday. Each of the 16 existing clubs may protect 11 players, and another can be added to the protected list if one of their players is taken. No more than two players can be taken from any existing club.
Here's L.A.'s list:
Protected: M David Beckham, M Chris Birchall, F Edson Buddle, D A.J. DeLaGarza, F Landon Donovan, D Todd Dunivant, D Sean Franklin, D Omar Gonzalez, M Juninho, G Donovan Ricketts, M Michael Stephens
Unprotected: D Gregg Berhalter, M Alex Cazumba, F Bryan Jordan, M Jovan Kirovski, M Chris Klein, M Dema Kovalenko, D Leonardo, M Eddie Lewis, F Mike Magee, D Yohance Marshall, G Brian Perk, G Josh Saunders
Ineligible for expansion draft: F Tristan Bowen (Generation adidas)
And here are our thoughts on the list:
PERFECT POSITIONING: Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and staff could not have devised a better list. They protected every starter under 32 except the expendable Mike Magee, and the only important players they've made available are a 37-year-old defender considering retirement (Berhalter) and a well-traveled, 33-year-old defensive midfielder (Kovalenko). Their ages likely will repel the Timbers and Whitecaps.
WHO WILL PLAY?: Any Galaxy player taken on Wednesday, defender Yohance Marshall aside, might be doing nothing but sightseeing in Australia.
L.A. left Tuesday for its game this weekend against the Newcastle Jets, and everyone on the current Galaxy roster except Marshall (with Trinidad & Tobago's national team) and forward Tristan Bowen (with the U.S. under-20 team, protected as a Generation adidas player) made the trip.
Players taken in the draft, of course, are under contract to the club that selected them, so the Galaxy can't use them in a game -- unless that club grants permission.
JUST SEMANTICS: The Galaxy included retiring wingers Eddie Lewis and Chris Klein on their unprotected list because their contracts, officially, run through the rest of the year. (And they're both available for the game in Australia.) MLS did not include them on its list of available players.
LIKELY TO BE TAKEN: Magee appears most likely to go. He's versatile, and his performance in the loss to FC Dallas in the Western Conference final attests to his quality. Kovalenko might only have a couple of years left, but his defensive approach and competitive fire are difficult to match. Backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders could be a starter elsewhere. Only age (34) will scare teams off of reserve forward/midfielder Jovan Kirovski.