The Union surprisingly left promising right back Olivier Mbaizo among nine of their players exposed to Major League Soccer’s upcoming expansion draft.

Two new teams, Inter Miami and Nashville SC, will enter the league next year. They will each add five players in the draft, set for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. MLS’ 24 current clubs can only lose one player each in the event.

The first step in the process was for the Union to pick 12 players to protect. They chose goalkeeper Andre Blake; defenders Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis, and Kai Wagner; midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho; and forwards Cory Burke, Fafa Picault, Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Andrew Wooten.

A team’s homegrown players are exempt from the process. That took goalkeeper Matt Freese; defenders Mark McKenzie, Matt Real and Auston Trusty; midfielders Brenden Aaronson, Anthony Fontana and Cole Turner; and forward Jack de Vries off the board.

Nine players were thus left to be exposed: backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik; reserve outside backs RJ Allen and Fabinho; veteran centerback Aurélien Collin; Mbaizo; midfielders Warren Creavalle, Marco Fabián and Haris Medunjanin, and reserve forward Michee Ngalina.

Union sporting director Ernst Tanner (left) and manager Jim Curtin.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Union sporting director Ernst Tanner (left) and manager Jim Curtin.

It’s surprising that Monteiro, Ilsinho and Picault were protected, since all three are out of contract at the end of the year (Monteiro via his loan expiring). Had they been exposed and picked, the acquiring team would have really only been acquiring the right to negotiate a new deal.

But if the Union think Miami might want Ilsinho or Picault, they’re probably right — especially Picault. He lives there during the winter, and visits during breaks in the regular season. Because Picault does not qualify for free agency within MLS, the Union could extend him an offer and keep his rights if he turns it down.

Miami would then likely have to make a deal to get him, and it would likely cost more than the $50,000 in allocation money a team gets for losing a player in the expansion draft.

Mbaizo is the headline name among the exposed players because he’s in line to be Gaddis’ successor at right back. His playing time this year was limited by injuries, but should see the field more next year.

The 22-year-old Cameroon native is also likely to have some significant sale value in the future. This month, Mbaizo has been playing for Cameroon’s national team at the under-23 men’s Africa Cup of Nations. He was on the field for every minute of the group stage, and helped set up the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Mali.

Alas, a 2-1 loss to Egypt in the group stage finale meant Cameroon finished third in their group on goal difference, and failed to reach the semifinals.

It isn’t surprising that Fabián and Medunjanin were left unprotected. Designated Players and other high earners are often exposed and are rarely taken.

Medunjanin is out of contract, so the choosing team would have to strike a new deal with him. Fabián is presumably heading abroad, but technically remains under a team-held option in his contract for the 2020. If he’s selected, the new team would have to negotiate that.

Bendik, Allen, Fabinho, Crevalle and Ngalina are also going into option years, and Collin is out of contract. It’s a bit surprising that Creavalle was left exposed, and even more that Ngalina is out there. The Union have been quietly high on the 19-year-old attacker’s potential for a while.

Overall, though, the odds that the Union lose anyone in the expansion draft are slim. Just 10 players leaguewide will be selected from a pool of 222 names. Nashville might also leave the Union alone as a thank-you for the Derrick Jones trade in May, though both teams declined comment when asked if there’s a deal.