Who Houston should protect

Cameron, Ching, Davis all obvious choices for Dynamo to shelter

With the MLS Expansion Draft around the corner, it’s time for the Houston Dynamo to start thinking about which players they will choose to protect and which they will leave vulnerable to the league’s two new expansion teams, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers.

With former Dynamo assistant coach John Spencer in charge of one of the the Timbers, the Dynamo will have to be particularly careful about who they leave exposed in the draft. Here is MLSsoccer.com’s take on who Houston should protect.

Automatically Protected: Danny Cruz, Francisco Navas Cobo, Tyler Deric

Houston’s Generation Adidas player and two home-grown players are automatically protected, according to the rules.

Internationals Andrew Hainault, Lovel Palmer, Adrian Serioux

Although league sources told the Dynamo earlier that the team had to protect only two international players, that number has since reverted to three. Hainault started 26 league games for Houston and, while right back might not be his best position, he improved offensively over the last two years there while also providing cover at left back.

Palmer started 24 games for Houston in his first year in MLS, and the midfielder seemed to get more and more comfortable as the year progressed. At the end of 2010, his partnership with Geoff Cameron stabilized Houston’s struggling central midfield.

Of the remaining three international players, Serioux seems the most logical to protect due to his versatility, athleticism, and relative cost.

The Obvious: Brian Ching, Brad Davis, Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell, Tally Hall

Ching led the team in goals and Davis led the team in assists. While they command high salaries, both are the faces of the franchise and should remain so.

Cameron’s value to Houston was obvious, as the team struggled heavily while the emerging midfielder/defender was sidelined for nearly four months due to knee injury.

While the entire team struggled defensively, Boswell’s past performance as an elite defender in MLS makes him a must-keep.

Goalkeeper Hall played extremely well and has made a strong case for a starting role next year. That, along with his low salary, make him an easy choice to protect.

The Final Three: Mike Chabala, Colin Clark, Corey Ashe or Dominic Oduro

The remaining four players are likely very difficult decisions. Chabala was not protected last year, but the left back started 22 league games for Houston this year and contributed one goal and four assists. While he struggled at times, he is still relatively young and is a hard worker.

It seems unlikely the team would trade for Clark only a couple of months ago only to leave him exposed in the expansion draft. Without the injury, Clark would be an obvious player to protect.

Oduro and Ashe’s inclusion – or exclusion – from the protected list will likely be determined by the team’s salary negotiations with each. Ashe played well over the last month of the season, when he was provided an opportunity to start regularly, and also provided solid cover for Davis or Clark when they had injury issues.

Oduro’s speed helped stretch opposing defenses all year, but he struggled to play through physical challenges, and his efficiency in front of goal was lacking. If he re-signs with Houston, it would be a smart choice to protect the speedster.

Potential Unprotecteds: Sammy Appiah, Ryan Cochrane, Richard Mulrooney, Joseph Ngwenya, Anthony Obodai, Pat Onstad, Eddie Robinson, Adrian Serioux, Cam Weaver

There are always difficult choices, and the list of unprotected players would leave the expansion teams with difficult decisions.

If left unprotected, Weaver would be an obvious choice for either expansion side because of his Pacific Northwest roots, his relatively cheap salary, and the likelihood that he’ll bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season marred by an early injury.

Dwain Capodice is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com. Questions or Comments can be sent via email to dwaincapodice@gmail.com.