How should NYCFC handle the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft?

By Christian Smith
Dec 11, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; Members of the New York City FC celebrate with the MLS Cup after defeating the Portland Timbers in the 2021 MLS Cup championship game at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; Members of the New York City FC celebrate with the MLS Cup after defeating the Portland Timbers in the 2021 MLS Cup championship game at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 9, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; New York City midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) answers questions from the media at University of Portland. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 9, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; New York City midfielder Maximiliano Moralez (10) answers questions from the media at University of Portland. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports /

Who should NYCFC leave unprotected in the MLS Expansion Draft?

  • Maxi Moralez
  • Jesus Medina
  • Tony Rocha
  • Alfredo Morales
  • Gedion Zelalem
  • Malte Amundsen
  • Luis Barazza
  • Juan Pablo Torres
  • Hèber
  • Vuk Latinovich
  • Cody Mizell
  • Chris Gloster
  • Alexandru Mitrita

Outside of the realization that Alexandru Mitrita is indeed still under contract with NYCFC, some might be surprised to see Maxi Moralez on this list. But hear me out!

Maxi is arguably one of, if not the, best player City has ever had. Though he’s never been much of a goalscorer, the diminutive Argentinian attacking midfielder has been pivotal to NYCFC’s success to this point and is the architect of City’s strong midfield. However, Maxi turns 35 in February. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that Father Time is undefeated, and he will eventually catch up to Moralez too. Despite his massive contributions in the latter half of the 2021 season, including their MLS Cup-winning playoff run, the NYCFC Front Office could see it as being beneficial to, at the very least, get Maxi off of a Designated Player contract to make room for younger talent coming through. Plus, the man has already won the team its Cup. Maybe it’s time to turn the page.

As far as Jesus Medina is concerned, I think it’s relatively obvious that NYCFC must get him off their books by any means necessary. Medina’s contract expires at the end of the year and so far, there’s been no word on any talks of a contract renewal. Obviously, Medina isn’t the worst player ever, and even his most ardent critics — Skyscraper Blues included — acknowledge that he is of at least some value. But that value does not justify a Designated Player slot, or even a big cap hit. Even if NYCFC doesn’t renew Medina’s contract, his signing rights can be left unprotected for Charlotte to grab up. Honestly, it’s not that huge of a loss either way.

The hardest name to leave unprotected is by far former talisman Hèber. As much as the NYCFC fanbase loves the Brazilian striker, it’s quite possible that he isn’t of the same value he was just two seasons ago. Hèber is coming off of a rather serious ACL injury that left him out of action for nearly a year. And even if he’s valued both in the stands and in the locker room, it’s quite possible that his big contract isn’t worth holding onto. I know, it’s sad. But it is what it is.

Other names listed as unprotected in our mock list include either depth players like Vuk Latinovich, or players whose value doesn’t justify protection over others like Alfredo Morales. The latter started off his NYCFC career quite sluggish but had a massive influx of good form towards the end of the 2021 season that carried through to City winning the ultimate prize. Unfortunately, other than a string of good games, what justifies him being protected over the players that are?

Also, shoutout to the human victory cigar that is Tony Rocha! You are a great guy and a severely underrated player. But, business is business.

Next. Where does NYCFC go from here after winning the MLS Cup?. dark

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