More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Fire announced their 'protected list' of 11 players who wouldn't be eligible for selection by Philadelphia in today's MLS expansion draft.
One player in particular who stood out on the list was midfielder Justin Mapp. Mapp, a 25-year-old winger who has enjoyed a lot of success in the past, struggled with his play - and his ability to get playing time - for all of 2009. All the same, the Fire felt that they had to protect him (and his $220,000 salary) at the expense of promising youngsters Mike Banner, Peter Lowry and Daniel Woolard.
"Justin Mapp is a player that has value to a lot of teams. Especially one that's coming in with a lot of allocation money," said Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas. "It's better [to protect him] considering that the player has value if we're thinking of... moving him than we could get something for the player instead of leaving him unprotected and losing him for nothing."
While Klopas's rationale makes sense - trading Mapp could land the Fire a valuable commodity - it would have been nice to see the aforementioned younger players protected as well. Unfortunately, only 11 players are put on the list, which made for some tough decisions for Klopas and his staff.
"With 24 players on the roster and 11 to protect you're going to leave some players out there," Klopas said. "Throughout the season players are going to get opportunities and teams are going to be watching and unfortunately that's part of the process and there's nothing you can do now."
Klopas, who intimated that he hopes no Fire players get selected by Philly, said he wasn't sure if Union Head Coach - and Klopas's former Fire teammate - Peter Nowak would be specifically targeting any of the Fire's unprotected players.
"Peter's a very disciplined guy," Klopas said. "He wants hard working guys. It kind of depends on other players that are out there, what positions he's looking to pick up and other players he's bringing in and what makes more sense. But I think there are quite a few players that we left there that I think are good players that could be picked up."
As I've said earlier, I would have liked to see Mike Banner on this list instead of Justin Mapp. I feel like Banner is a player who showed a lot of promise last season and has a chance to be a real solid player for the Fire. This is in stark contrast to Mapp who, despite his undeniable talent, just didn't seem to have it in 2009.
I'm set to drive off to the Detroit-area for Thanksgiving in a couple of hours, so I may be unable to post until well after the end of the expansion draft. I'll have a piece up detailing the whole process as soon as I can though.