With the 2011 MLS Cup in the books, teams across MLS aregearing up for a flurry of buying, selling and trading as they prepare toattempt to dethrone the newly-crowned champions Los Angeles Galaxy in 2012, andthe first transactions are already in motion. The Earthquakes, along with 17 other teams announced onMonday their list of protected players for the upcoming Expansion Draft, whichis set to take place at 10 a.m. PT on Nov. 23. In the draft, the Montreal Impact set to become theleagues 19th team will have the opportunity to select 10 playersfrom among the unprotected players around MLS and cannot select more than oneplayer from each team.
Each team can protect 11 players from selection, includingthree international players, provided a team has at least four. Players signed to a Generation adidas contract as well ashomegrown players are exempt from selection. The Earthquakes currently have nohomegrown players, but defender Ike Opara and goalkeeper David Bingham are bothon Generation adidas contracts, meaning they did not have to be protected. There were very few surprises on the Earthquakes list, withmost of the expected names including star forward Chris Wondolowski and otherkey contributors from 2011 such as right back Steven Beitashour, center backJason Herhandez and midfielder Khari Stephenson being protected. Stephenson, from Jamaica,Rafael Baca (Mexico) andSimon Dawkins (England)accounted for the teams international selections. Two players whose futures were the subject of speculation,Dawkins and Steven Lenhart, were both protected. Lenharts contract is up atthe end of the year, but team president Dave Kaval confirmed earlier that theclub is seriously considering re-signing the forward after he tallied fivegoals and three assists before missing the last half of the season on apersonal leave of absence. Like weve said publicly and like Earthquakes GM JohnDoyle and Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop have said publicly, hessomeone that we felt made a very, very positive impact on the team when heplayed, Kaval said in a Nov. 12 interview Its the time of year where were looking at contracts, andwere trying to understand what his thoughts are. Dawkins situation is slightly more complicated as he playedfor the Earthquakes on loan from English Premier League club Tottenham, and hisloan finished at the end of the season. Kaval confirmed the Earthquakes areinterested in bringing Dawkins back for the 2012 season, but that the situationis not entirely in their hands. Theres no final decisions either way obviously theunderstanding whether or not Tottenham is comfortable with him being over herefor another is sort of critical to our offseason planning, Kaval said. TheyTottenham were all happy, I think its more whether Simon has a spot in England. Sothat is not decided yet and because of that, were sort of just in a holdingpattern. However, a tweet from the teams official Twitter accountexplained that his inclusion on the protected list was in order to protect hisrights and prevent his acquisition by another MLS team. Notable unprotected players include left midfielder BobbyConvey, whose option is not expected to be picked up after a falling out withYallop, left back Ramiro Corrales, as well as center back Nana Attakora andright midfielder Jacob Peterson, who were both acquired in a trade midwaythrough 2011, along with Alan Gordon, who was protected. The full protected list is as follows: Rafael Baca, SteveBeitashour, Jon Busch, Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins, Alan Gordon, Jason Hernandez, Steven Lenhart, JustinMorrow, Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski. The full list of unprotected players available for selectionis as follows: Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Bobby Burling, BobbyConvey, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen, Maxwell Griffin, Chris Leitch, Matt Luzunaris,Ellis McLoughlin, Jacob Peterson, Brad Ring, Scott Sealy, Tim Ward, AndrewWeber.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter @nicholasrosano