MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota United FC released its list of 11 protected players ahead of Tuesday’s expansion draft, leaving a trio of Loons currently under contract exposed alongside a number of 2018 Loons whose contracts had expired or had their 2019 options declined.
Designated Players Darwin Qunitero and Ángelo Rodríguez were protected, as were captain Francisco Calvo and fan-favorites Miguel Ibarra and Brent Kallman. Sporting Director Manny Lagos opted to protect both Ethan Finaly and Kevin Molino after knee injuries prematurely ended their seasons. 2018 minutes-leader Michael Boxall, first-choice goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, midseason-signing Romario Ibarra and veteran midfielder Rasmus Schüller were also protected.
Forwards Abu Danladi and Mason Toye (Generation Adidas) and Collin Martin (homegrown) were automatically protected and did not count against MNUFC’s cap of 11 protected players.
Fernando Bob, March Burch, Maximiano, Alexi Gómez, Ibson, Alex Kapp, Matt Lampson, Eric Miller Bertand Owundi, Frantz Pangop, Jérôme Thiesson, Johan Venegas and Collin Warner — all presently out of contract — are eligible for selection by FC Cincinnati tomorrow, with only Burch and Warner eligible for free agency.
The club had previously stated it was in contract negotiations with Miller, but now runs the risk of losing his rights to FCC.
Defensive midfielder Sam Cronin, who missed all of the 2018 regular season due to lasting complications from a concussion sustained in 2017, and young defenders Wyatt Omsberg and Carter Manley are unprotected, but still under contract.
It seems unlikely FC Cincinnati would use one of its expansion picks on one of the Loons’ out-of-contract players. However, Miller, a 25-year-old fullback with more than 8,000 minutes played in MLS, might catch the Orange and Blue’s interest as a capable and experienced MLS defender, depending upon his contract demands.
Whether Minnesota’s announcement about contract negotiations with Miller was a measure of confidence the deal would get done, or a shrewd bit of public relations to lessen the potential blow of seeing the Minnesota native leave for another team would be rendered moot should Miller be selected.
Given Cronin’s long and ongoing road to recovery from a head injury, it would be a shock to see Cronin selected on Tuesday.
Manley, a 2018 SuperDraft first-round pick, logged 1,100 competitive minutes in 18 games spread across MLS, USL and Open Cup play in the fullback’s first professional season. Omsberg, a centerback and fellow 2018 first-round pick, started in four of his seven appearances for the Loons last season, and started an additional four games for the Tulsa Roughnecks in the USL.
Both represent affordable depth for the Loons while retaining the upside that saw them taken among the first 23 selections of this year’s SuperDraft. And with Forward Madison FC of USL League One recently announced as the Loons’ 2019 affiliate, both look in line to receive competitive minutes whether or not either crack Minnesota’s starting XI should they stay in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
At present, Manley and Calvo are the only fullbacks on Minnesota’s roster, and the latter has said on multiple occasions he prefers centerback. Having finished the season as the Loons’ starting leftback, it will be interesting to see where the Costa Rican international is deployed in 2019. Should Minnesota loose either Miller or Manley it will have, at most, two fullbacks on its roster. If MNUFC view Calvo as a fullback and loses Omsberg, it will be left with just a pair of centerbacks.
With three forwards and a five attacking midfielders/wingers jockeying for a likely four spots in the Loons’ starting lineup, strengthening his team’s defense was already on Lagos’ priority list for the offseason. Should Miller, Manley or Omsberg hear their name called tomorrow, that task will become even more difficult for Lagos and the Loons.
Minnesota United Players Protected
Goalkeeper: Bobby Shuttleworth
Defenders: Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo and Brett Kallman
Midfielders: Ethan Finlay, Miguel Ibarra, Romario Ibarra, Collin Martin¹, Kevin Molino, Darwin Quintero and Rasmus Schüller
Forwards: Abu Danladi², Ángelo Rodríguez and Mason Toye²
1. Homegrown player
2. Generation Adidas
Minnesota United Players Unprotected
Goalkeepers: Alex Kapp and Matt Lampson
Defenders: Marc Burch, Carter Manley*, Eric Miller, Wyatt Omsberg*, Bertrand Owundi and Jérôme Thiesson
Midfielders: Fernando Bob, Sam Cronin*, Maximiano, Alexi Gómez, Ibson, Frantz Pangop, Johan Venegas and Collen Warner
* Under contract