Orlando City announced the 12 players it selected for protection in the 2019 Expansion Draft on Saturday. The team protected all three of its 2019 designated players — Nani, Dom Dwyer and Mauricio Pereyra — along with rookies Santiago Patiño and Kamal Miller.
Designated player Josué Colman also made the list despite spending most of the season on loan to Cerro Porteño in Paraguay. The Lions also protected Tesho Akindele, who came in second in goal-scoring last season with 10 goals.
Although the Lions protected centerback Robin Jansson, they left off his counterpart, Lamine Sané, who served as the second pillar of the backline as the team set a record for least goals allowed in a season. Orlando City also did not protect goalkeeper Brian Rowe after his 110-save season. Cristian Higuita — who has been a dynamic mainstay of the midfield since 2015 — was also left unprotected.
The protected list isn’t necessarily a blueprint for which players the team will keep and release for the 2020 season. Instead, it reflects the front office’s strategy as the Lions attempt to protect the assets they think would be most likely to be snatched in an Expansion Draft.
Each team is allowed to select 12 players for its protected list. Homegrown players — such as Benji Michel, who scored five goals in his breakout rookie season — are also automatically protected. Although any player left unprotected could be selected in the Expansion Draft, Orlando City left several players unprotected because their salary would make them an unlikely choice.
On the flip side, players who are protected aren’t necessarily guaranteed to suit up in purple for 2020. Orlando City has yet to make any trades in the offseason, and players could be protected in order to retain their rights to make a trade further on down the line.
Here is the full protected list:
Danilo Acosta (Homegrown player)
Cam Lindley (Homegrown player)
Benji Michel (Homegrown player)
João Moutinho (Generation Adidas player)
Mason Stajduhar (Homegrown player)