Major League Soccer never stops, even right after the MLS Cup final. The Expansion Draft will take place Tuesday, Dec. 14th and free agency opens Wednesday, Dec. 15th.
No matter how you feel about general manager Gavin Wilkinson and owner Merritt Paulson, they have a lot of important decisions to make in the coming weeks.
Jorge Gonzalez, Ismaila Jome, Manny Perez, and Renzo Zambrano are all not re-signing. We know they’re gone. Gonzalez and Perez never saw action for the first team and Jome barely did. All four of these guys are unprotected for Charlotte FC’s expansion draft.
Portland left 10 of its 21 players on the current roster (so, not including the four names above) unprotected. The 11 protected players which Portland will definitely have next season are:
- Goalkeepers – Hunter Sulte
- Defenders – Dario Župarić, Bill Tuiloma, Claudio Bravo
- Midfielders – Blake Bodily, Diego Chará, Yimmi Chará, Marvin Loría, Santiago Moreno, Cristhian Paredes, Eryk Williamson, Dairon Asprilla
- Forwards – Felipe Mora, Jarosław Niezgoda
Who’s in limbo?
The ones we don’t know about yet:
- Goalkeepers – Steve Clark, Jeff Attinella, Aljaz Ivacic
- Defenders – Larrys Mabiala, Zac McGraw, Josecarlos Van Rankin, Pablo Bonilla
- Midfielders – Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Andy Polo, George Fochive
- Forwards – N/A
The Timbers are looking to re-sign Sebastian Blanco, Steve Clark, Aljaz Ivacic, and Josecarlos Van Rankin. I’d be shocked if Blanco didn’t re-sign. Not so sure about the other three. Briefly, here’s why:
- Van Rankin was on loan from Chivas Guadalajara this season. There have been rumors of him both re-signing in Portland and re-joining Chivas. I could see this one going either way.
- Clark is 35. He’s had some great moments for Portland, but he’s certainly more replaceable because of his age.
- Ivacic has barely played for the Timbers. He conceded 12 goals in four starts this season and is clearly the third-best Portland ‘keeper when healthy. The Timbers also have both Hunter Sulte and Jeff Attinella still under contract. I’d say Ivacic re-signing is unlikely.
What should the priorities be?
Priority #1 for Gavin Wilkinson has to be to re-sign Sebastián Blanco. This should be obvious. Getting him on a non-Designated Player deal (like Valeri signed a few years ago) would be ideal, but might not be feasible. Either way, keep him in the club.
Diego Valeri’s future might not affect the team on the field much, but it’s crucial for fan buy-in (which has obviously been waning lately).
Beyond that, decisions on Van Rankin and Clark will be most important. If those two are gone, that’s two starting spots to fill. I doubt Charlotte takes anyone from Portland tomorrow.
Portland are not one of the top-five spenders in MLS, but they are consistently near the top. The front office has showed its willingness to spend in the right places and take full advantage of MLS’ wonky roster rules (using the U-22 initiative to sign Moreno, for example).
We’ll see how they approach a pivotal offseason.