Cristian Maidana

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Which players should Minnesota, Atlanta target in Expansion Draft?

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Tuesday afternoon may not fully determine the future of either squad, but the Expansion Draft can certainly help both Atlanta United and Minnesota United as they enter their first MLS season.

[ MORE: Arena hopeful Dempsey will be ready when WCQ resumes ]

On Monday, all 20 current MLS clubs released their lists of protected players (11 players that cannot be selected in the Expansion Draft) so at PST we want to take a look at which options make the most sense for Atlanta and Minnesota.

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In order to assess which players are likely fits for MLS’ two newest additions, we have to first take a quick glance at the players that both Minnesota and Atlanta currently possess. While Atlanta has been extremely active in its lead up to entering the league in 2017, Minnesota currently has three players signed, two of which were on the team’s NASL squad last year.

Gerardo Martino and Atlanta have gone after several high-profile talents thus far, including Designated Players Kenwyne Jones and Miguel Almiron, as well as MLS veteran Michael Parkhurst.

With a plethora big names available in Tuesday’s Expansion Draft, let’s take a look at who Atlanta and Minnesota should target.

Jermaine Jones

While age, cost and injuries certainly play a factor for the 35-year-old midfielder, Jones’ veteran presence would surely lift either side in the event that he is selected on Tuesday. Not only was Jones a key figure in the Colorado Rapids midfield in 2016, but he continues to be involved in the U.S. Men’s National Team setup, proving that he can still play in his mid-30s.

Cristian Maidana

The three-year MLS attacker had a bit of a quiet year in 2016 with the Houston Dynamo, but the Argentine possesses plenty of creativity and skill to make Atlanta or Minnesota an immediate contender. Just two seasons ago, Maidana led MLS in assists (15) and at 29 years old he likely has a lot left in the tank.

Steven Beitashour

While Beitashour and Toronto FC just fell short in the MLS Cup final, either expansion side would be getting a top-end defender to bolster their backline. A seven-year veteran, Beitashour has established himself as one of the league’s best outside backs and can provide a major boost in both the attacking and defensive thirds.

Tranquillo Barnetta

Barnetta hasn’t been earth-shattering since joining MLS, but he has provided the Philadelphia Union in their attack. His ability to handle set piece situations makes him a top commodity, while the 31-year-old’s European experience also gives him strong leadership qualities in the locker room. Despite traditionally playing on the wing before coming to the United States, Barnetta has become a solid central midfielder and can play facilitator in the attack.

Clint Irwin

While reports have surfaced linking Brad Guzan to Atlanta, Minnesota could be a very good destination for the veteran goalkeeper, who nearly helped his TFC side win its first MLS Cup. At 27, Irwin should be on the eyes of Adrian Heath’s side after a strong campaign for the Eastern Conference side.

MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 1-0 Philadelphia Union (video)

AP Photo/Bob Levey
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The game in 100 words (or less): If you’re an MLS fan not already familiar with Andre Blake’s work, you might want to catch up to the rest of us and familiarize yourself with the 25-year-old Jamaican international before it’s too late — he’ll be off to Europe in the not-so-distant future. On Saturday night, it was the no. 1 overall pick in the 2014 SuperDraft who almost singlehandedly kept the Philadelphia Union close before Cristian Maidana lashed home a free kick in the 95th minute to hand his former team a 1-0 loss courtesy of the Houston Dynamo. The loss sees the Union’s lead atop the Eastern Conference shrink to just two points over the Montreal Impact, while the Dynamo grab three vital points in their race against the Chicago Fire to avoid a 20th-place finish in MLS this year.

[ MORE: MLS on tap — Tim Howard returns, another NYC derby ]

Three Four moments that mattered

21′ — Blake’s quick reaction saves a goal for Philly — Andre Blake is an absolute stud of a goalkeeper, unfortunately for Giles Barnes in this instance.

29′ — Blake does it again to keep it 0-0 — As stated above, Blake does a pretty good Bill Hamid impression.

81′ — Fabinho boots the ball off the line — So, you finally beat Blake with an attempt on goal, and the man covering the post makes a goal-line clearance. Sometimes soccer be like that.

95′ — Maidana serves up the pain — In fairness, it was far from undeserved for Houston, and this is a stunning free kick by Maidana, off the underside of the crossbar.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Maidana (95′)

MLS offseason kicks off with flurry of trades 24 hours after MLS Cup

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The 2015 Major League Soccer season came to a thrilling conclusion not even 24 hours ago, and the MLS offseason is already in full-swing after a number of teams began trading well-established, noteworthy players all over the place on Monday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

A running, constantly-updated tracker and analysis of all trades and transactions made on Monday…

(All salary numbers taken from MLS Players Union salary release, found here.)

In return for Chris Pontius, D.C. United received allocation money and targeted allocation money (TAM) from the Philadelphia Union. Pontius, who is 28 and has started just 39 games the last three seasons (6 goals, 4 assists combined), counted $365,000 against the $3.49 million salary cap in 2015. Pontius turned in a 12-goal, four-assist season in 2012 to earn league MVP consideration, but a string of long-term injuries follower shortly thereafter and he has struggled to regain his form of four years ago.

[ MORE: Timbers top Crew SC to lift first MLS Cup trophy ]

Mr. Versatility, a title and trait which surely hurt Lamar Neagle’s long-term future with his hometown Seattle Sounders, has been shipped across the country to D.C. United, where he’ll likely become a full-time starter for the first time in his career. The only question that remains: where exactly is he going to play? During his time with the Sounders, Neagle featured as a winger on both sides of the field, as well as a center forward. Neagle is 28 years old and counted just $165,000 against the $3.49 million salary cap in 2015. In his last three seasons with the Sounders, Neagle racked up 21 goals and 15 assists.

[ MORE: MLS Cup Playoffs Best XI — Stars of the 2015 postseason ]

Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger are headed to the Houston Dynamo, where they’ll play for Owen Coyle. In exchange for the no. 10 attacking midfielder and winger/forward, the Philadelphia Union received allocation money, TAM and the Dynamo’s first-round draft pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft (6th overall). In his two seasons with the Union, the 28-year-old Maidana, who counted $203,500 against the $3.49 million salary cap in 2015, scored three goals and notched 26 assists. Wenger, the no. 1 overall SuperDraft pick of the Montreal Impact in 2012, scored just seven goals two seasons with the Union. His 2015 salary cap hit was $180,000.

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 24

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Week 24 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and was it ever one for the long-term memory bank! Saturday night’s slate of games offered up one of the most memorable comeback victories in MLS history.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 24 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

There was also a matter of Nat Borchers, who features in this week’s MLS Team of the Week (full squad below), scoring a 95th-minute winner against Real Salt Lake, his former club of seven seasons. Borchers’ late header was the only chink in the armor of Nick Rimando (also in the TOTW), who was predictably brilliant in nearly securing his side a 0-0 draw.

[ WILD NIGHT IN MLS: SKC 4-3 VAN | FCD 1-2 LAGRBNY 3-0 TFC | RSL 0-1 POR ]

Elsewhere in Week 24, Obafemi Martins returned from injury to score two goals; Robbie Keane marked his 100th MLS appearance with his 65th and 66th league goals; David Villa scored his 14th goal and notched his sixth assist of the season; and Kekuta Manneh bagged a first-half brace in an utterly dominant performance.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 24

Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

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Defenders: Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Nat Borchers (Portland Timbers), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes)

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Midfielders: Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps), Cristian Maidana (Philadelphia Union), Kwadwo Poku (New York City FC), Paulo Nagamura (Sporting Kansas City)

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Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders), David Villa (New York City FC)

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