Cristian Higuita, Kyle Smith among Orlando City players eligible for 2019 MLS Expansion Draft

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With two more teams entering Major League Soccer in 2020, that means another Expansion Draft is right around the corner, with Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC having their pick of five players apiece from rosters across the league.

On Saturday morning, the names of players left available were announced by the league’s 24 clubs, bringing along names left unprotected by Orlando City.

Here is Orlando’s list of available players:

  • Carlos Ascues
  • Alex De John
  • Adam Grinwis
  • Cristian Higuita
  • Will Johnson
  • Sacha Kljestan
  • Shane O’Neill
  • Dillon Powers
  • Greg Ranjitsingh
  • Robinho
  • Brian Rowe
  • Lamine Sane
  • Kyle Smith

That means all of these players have been protected by the club:

  • Danilo Acosta*
  • Tesho Akindele
  • Josué Colmán
  • Dom Dwyer
  • Robin Jansson
  • Cam Lindley*
  • Sebastián Méndez
  • Benji Michel*
  • João Moutinho^
  • Chris Mueller
  • Nani
  • Mauricio Pereyra
  • Uri Rosell
  • Mason Stajduhar*
  • Ruan Teixeira
  • Santiago Patiño
  • Kamal Miller

Homegrown and Generation Adidas players are automatically protected from the Expansion Draft, meaning Mason Stajduhar, Benji Michel, Cam Lindley, Danilo Acosta, and Joao Moutinho were all exempt from the draft.

The surprising name left out would be Higuita, who is out-of-contract this winter and is hopeful to stay with Orlando City.

The Colombian is Orlando’s last remaining player from their expansion season in 2015 and was brought to the club by Miami’s Sporting Director, Paul McDonough. Higuita has been arguably one of Orlando’s most consistent players across their first five seasons in MLS and would bring an immediate flair and force to any team’s midfield, especially a brand new team looking for stability on defense.

Among the other notable names left unprotected were starting goalkeeper Brian Rowe and defensive staples in Will Johnson and Carlos Ascues. Sacha Kljestan is also free for the taking, but with his age and high salary, it’s unlikely we’ll see either expansion side take a flyer on Kljestan after one of the worst seasons of his career.

The Expansion Draft is always a mixed bag of results, as teams often value assets over finding actual starting players since teams rarely leave their best players unprotected.

Orlando City has only lost one player in previous Expansion Drafts when Atlanta United selected Mikey Ambrose in 2016.

The Expansion Draft starts at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 19, and can be watched live on MLSSoccer.com.


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