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Here’s who the Revolution should protect in the Expansion Draft

Jay Heaps faces some big decisions.

MLS: Portland Timbers at New England Revolution Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS Expansion Draft will take place at 12 pm ET on Dec. 13 at 12 pm. Before then, each team will choose 11 players that they want to protect. This number doesn’t include Generation adidas players who didn’t graduate at the end of the 2016 season or Homegrown players occupying a supplemental or reserve roster spot, as they’re automatically protected.

Unprotected players will be available to Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC, who will be taking part in the five-round draft. A total of 10 players will be selected and no more than one per team.

So, who should the New England Revolution protect? Let’s take a look.

Automatically protected: Scott Caldwell and Zachary Herivaux

Caldwell and Herivaux are both Homegrown products that are automatically protected. Caldwell is a regular starter who would likely be protected regardless, while Herivaux has plenty of promise.

Certain to be protected: Kei Kamara, Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Xavier Kouassi, Andrew Farrell, and Chris Tierney

The players listed in this section are no-brainers.

The Revs traded a lot to get Kamara, who’s a proven goalscorer despite the fact that he only collected seven goals and two assists after making the move to Foxborough. The striker’s best run of form came at the end of the year, which is reason for optimism.

A full preseason with the Revs will only help strengthen the partnership between Kamara and Agudelo, who is another sure-bet to be protected. Agudelo is likely to resume his role as “most dangerous player“ as long as he can stay healthy. At 24 years old, Agudelo still has a lot to contribute.

The same can be said about Rowe, who is also 24. The midfielder recently signed a new deal, a signal that he’ll be around for the foreseeable future. Rowe has often been criticized for being inconsistent, though some of those comments were muted in 2016 when he amassed five goals and seven assists.

Fagundez is another youngster full of potential. The 21-year-old may never repeat the highs he hit in 2013, but he still produces moments of brilliance and remains the face of the Revolution. Letting him go for free would be foolish.

Although older, Nguyen is still a significant piece for the Revs. The 30-year-old is on the fringe of the USMNT, but is an critical cog for the Revolution. Nguyen will almost certainly be back in 2017.

Kouassi finds himself in a similar situation, despite the fact he has never suited up for the Revolution. The Designated Player has been labeled as a “leader on the field“ and is expected to make a big impact. He’s also an international, which almost assures that he will be protected.

The Revs defense wasn’t good in 2016, but that had little to do with Farrell. After returning to the right back position, Farrell was steady. He should be back.

The same goes for Tierney. The veteran has struggled with injuries recently, but still has one of the best left foots in the league. While he’s not a guaranteed full-season starter, Tierney is the type of guy you want on your roster.

Likely to be protected: Gershon Koffie and Teal Bunbury

With Koffie’s contract set to expire, many people suspected that the midfielder’s time in MLS would be coming to an end. The Ghanaian put that theory in doubt when he posted an Instagram photo with a caption that read, “Thanks to my teammates, they showed me love and unity. [I’m] looking forward to a new season, new challenges with this family.“ If he’s open to the idea, the Revs should re-sign and protect Koffie.

Although Bunbury dropped down the depth chart towards the end of the 2016 season, he still has trade value, especially since Minnesota is joining MLS. I say the Revs protect Bunbury and entertain offers from around the league.

Toss-ups: Je-Vaughn Watson, Jose Goncalves, and the goalkeepers.

Watson ended up being a solid pickup for the Revolution, but he’s a 33-year-old who just had surgery. Losing him would be disappointing but not devastating.

That last part also applies to Goncalves, who had ups and downs in 2016. The former captain has declined since being named as MLS Defender of the Year in 2013. At 31 years old, Goncalves still has more to offer, but his time in New England could be up. That said, he would need to be protected if Koffie wasn’t since the Revolution need to protect two internationals.

One of the hardest choices that head coach Jay Heaps faces is which goalkeeper, if any, should be protected. Bobby Shuttleworth has tenure, but Brad Knighton, who won the Players’ Player Award, usurped the starting spot at the end of this year. Meanwhile, Cody Cropper looked pretty good in his one start. To me, Cropper’s the choice, but I’m not against protecting Knighton.

My final protected list: Agudelo, Kamara (DP), Fagundez, Rowe, Kouassi (DP, INTL), Farrell, Tierney, Nguyen, Bunbury, Koffie (INTL), Cropper, Caldwell (Homegrown), and Herivaux (Homegrown).

My final exposed list: Darrius Barnes, Goncalves (INTL), Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Knighton, Daigo Kobayashi, Jordan McCrary, Steve Neumann, Shuttleworth, Donnie Smith, Matt Turner, London Woodberry, and Watson.

Will the Revs lose anyone?

Maybe. Barnes, Goncalves, Femi, Knighton, Shuttleworth, Woodberry and Watson are intriguing options. If I’m an expansion team, I’d seriously consider adding the versatile Woodberry or any of the two available goalkeepers. Goncalves is also worth consideration, especially if you think you can spark a career renaissance.