All has been quiet on the San Jose Earthquakes front of late, save the news of the a naming rights partner for the club's gleaming new stadium -- Hello, Avaya Stadium! With an announcement still forthcoming on which contract options general manager John Doyle and head coach Dominic Kinnear elected to exercise and which they did not, figuring out the team's plans for the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft have been speculative at best.
The 2014 MLS Expansion Draft, scheduled for December 10, will give the league's two new expansion sides Orlando City SC and New York City FC the opportunity to select 10 players each from the rosters of the 18 existing MLS teams. So that Orlando and New York do not simply raid the collective MLS roster for the best talent, each existing team will be allowed to submit a list of 11 protected players from their 30-man roster. Orlando and New York can select a maximum of two players from any given team (see complete Expansion Draft rules and format here).
What are the implications for the Earthquakes? Homegrown player signing Tommy Thompson, who's salary is counted among the top-twenty on the team, does not count against the Salary Budget and is exempt from selection. The emerging star of the U.S. men's national team U-20 team, coached by Tab Ramos, Thompson has a very bright future in San Jose and will not need to be protected in the Expansion Draft.
Goalkeeper David Bingham. who until last week was a member of Generation Adidas, was graduated at the end of the season and is now eligible for selection. The four-year professional, who has made only 5 appearances for the senior team during his MLS career, has always been considered the heir apparent to Jon Busch as the Earthquakes starting goalkeeper.
Now, without the protection of Generation Adidas status, Bingham could very well be among the 20 players selected in the Expansion Draft if he is not protected. Certainly Busch can go another season or two, and the Earthquakes should do what is necessary to keep Busch on the roster for next year, but it remains a risky proposition to leave one or both 'keepers off the protected list. Conversely, it is unlikely that Doyle and Kinnear would elect to protect both goalkeepers, not at the expense of losing a valuable field player.
A look at the current NYCFC and OCSC rosters shows that each team already has a proven MLS goalkeeper under contract. Former LA Galaxy man Josh Saunders was signed by New York back in July and ex-Houston Dynamo starter Tally Hall was traded to Orlando City. Both 'keepers would be excellent choices to be their respective teams starters on MLS opening weekend in March, but either team might still look to build some goalkeeper depth via the Expansion Draft.
And that uncertainty is what frames the gamble that Doyle and Kinnear must take in developing their 11-man protected list. Less than a week remains before the Quakes must submit their list; unfinished roster moves will need to happen before then.