With the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft's protection list revealed Monday, that news ruled the day. But couched within that curiosity was a crucial nugget:
The list of 37 players eligible for the second round of Major League Soccer free agency (for players age 28 & up with eight MLS seasons of experience; either out-of-contract or option declined), which opens up Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
A browse down the line, and some names of note jump out – respect to the FA the First Justin Mapp – so let's get the hypothetical gun charged and ready to fire, starting with …
DaMarcus Beasley > ATL
After two-and-a-half seasons in Houston following a welcome return to MLS, DaMarcus Beasley has reached free agency at 34. Having retired from international duty, and more functional than foundational after all this time, "Run DMB" remains a steady presence with a wide breadth of experience. From the top flights to the four World Cups, he'd likely provide Atlanta United with A) a defender, as they've rostered only one so far; B) a two-way player able to adapt situationally; and C) someone who's been around the MLS block and can help guide and mentor the expansion franchise through its fledgling start.
Also, he knows a guy – Beasley and Carlos Bocanegra spent quite a lot of time together on US national team rosters. Never hurts.
Will Johnson > MNU
After a strong season for his hometown Toronto FC, one that nearly ended with MLS Cup No. 3 for Will Johnson, perhaps this is a hard sell. But expansion franchise Minnesota United FC would do well to target the Canada national teamer, who – even on an overpay – should provide a cost-effective wet blanket with which to smother opposing offenses. It might take a lot of money to convince Johnson to pass up the chance to join a ready winner, but it's a luxury MNUFC should find room to accommodate under/over/around the cap. (Straight TAM, homey!)
Ned Grabavoy/Jack Jewsbury > POR front office
This is actually a wrap. Both players announced their retirement since the Timbers' season ended early. Ned Grabavoy is headed into player development, while longtime Timber Jack Jewsbury will focus on the business side.
Chad Barrett > TBD
Look, Chad Barrett is a touch peripatetic and hasn't started regularly for several seasons, but the erstwhile Earthquake can provide a solid, steady presence up top. Also, nobody looks at their roster and goes, "Hey, you know what we have too many of? Solid veterans who score clutch goals." Dial up the contenders, Chad; someone's going to be seeking a finishing piece.
Dominic Oduro > VAN
It's possible the well-traveled Dominic Oduro might have found his place as part of the Montreal counter-attack, producing a two-goal, three-assist and one-thisclose trash-talk masterpiece of a postseason run. But he should consider continuing to blaze his "FreakyFast" trail across the breadth of the Great White North, where he could wreak absolute havoc in a partnership with Cristian Techera and a (theoretically/hopefully) healthy Kekuta Manneh. Vancouver have long been fishing for a finisher, and – at the right price – Oduro could spice up the WhiteCaps' sometimes-staid operation while offering a gamebreaking option up top.