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Monday, November 22, 2010
MLS: Chivas leaves some stars unprotected

By Scott French

Rodolfo Espinoza and Mariano Trujillo could be on their way out at Chivas USA. Zach Thornton and Ante Jazic are going nowhere.

There were a few surprises on the list of protected players the Goats submitted Monday in advance of Wednesday's Major League Soccer expansion draft, but that was hardly shocking. Club management, primarily director of soccer opertations Stephen Hamilton, had some difficult choices to make.


Such as? Whether to expose inconsistent Colombian center back Yamith Cuesta, who is only 21 and could have a huge upside? What to do about the over-30 set? Is it better to leave older foreign players available and protect youngsters with potential?

The answers: No, protect some and not others, and yes.

The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, who must remake their rosters as they step into MLS next season from the second-tier USSF D2 Pro League, may each draft 10 players Wednesday. Each club 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.

The Galaxy also was to turn its protected list into the league Monday, but the club would not release the names on the list. It did make a trade, sending an international roster spot for 2011 and 2012 to the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money.

Might these funds be used to bring in Brazilian attacker Ronaldinho? La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy reports that the AC Milan star has reached an agreement, believed to be for four years and $38 million. Unsure whether he would arrive in the January transfer window or not until next summer.

L.A.'s list shouldn't be as complicated as Chivas'. The Goats had to sort through a lot of young players and make decisions based on roles and draft expectations more so than whether one player was superior to another or might provide more on-field value next season.

And without a head coach -- Hamilton is still vetting candidates -- there was at least one significant voice missing from the process.

Here's Chivas' list:

Protected: F Justin Braun, D Yamith Cuesta, D Dario Delgado, M Jorge Flores, F Ante Jazic, M Michael Lahoud, M Paulo Nagamura, G Zach Thornton, D Michael Umaņa, M Ben Zemanski
Unprotected: M/D Carlos Borja, D Jonathan Bornstein, F Chukwudi Chijindu, M Rodolfo Espinoza, F Maykel Galindo, F Alan Gordon, G Dan Kennedy, F Eduardo Lillingston, F Giancarlo Maldonado, M Gerson Mayen, F/M Jesus Padilla, M Osael Romero, M Marcelo Saragosa, D Mariano Trujillo, D Alex Zotinca
Ineligible for expansion draft: M Bryan de la Fuente (Homegrown), M Blair Gavin (Generation adidas), M Cesar Zamora (Homegrown)

And here are our thoughts on the list:

CURIOUS CHOICES: The Goats protected starting goalkeeper Thornton, who has been valuable -- but he's 37 years old. Yes, keepers can play into their late 30s, even into their 40s, but was Vancouver or Portland really going to bite?

And what about Jazic, who is 34? There are likely to be better defenders available -- including 33-year-old Trujillo, Chivas' starting right back and vice-captain, who was left available.

Most curious of all: Leaving Mexican winger Rodolfo Espinoza unprotected. He quickly made an impact with the Goats and, with forward Justin Braun, midfielders Paulo Nagamura and Blair Gavin, and defender Michael  Umaņa -- all of them protected -- was part of the club's primary quintet.

ROLE OF YOUTH: Keeping Cuesta says Chivas believes he's going to be good. We'll see. Protecting rookie midfielder Ben Zemanski was a no-brainer -- fellow rookie Gavin didn't have to be protected; as a Generation adidas player, he can't be taken. Second-year midfielder Michael Lahoud is on the protected list, of course, and 21-year-old winger Jorge Flores is there, too.

But useful reserve midfielder/forward Jesus Padilla, only 23, wasn't protected. Neither was 21-year-old midfielder Gerson Mayen.

LIKELY TO BE TAKEN: Holding midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, who became superfluous with Nagamura's summer return to Chivas, would be a valuable pickup for either club. Forward Alan Gordon might be a target for the Timbers -- he played for them in 2004 after starring at Oregon State. Espinoza might be attractive if either team wants to use a foreign slot on him.