Ljungberg unprotected for expansion draft

The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps have some interesting Fire players to choose from in this year's expansion draft, especially if they are willing to open up their checkbook.

The Chicago Fire and other league squads submitted their 11-player protected lists Monday in preparation for this Wednesday's expansion draft. And Chicago left its two designated players Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo unprotected, as well as forward Collins John.

Chicago protected the following players:

Forward -- Calen Carr

Midfield -- Mike Banner, Baggio Husidic, Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Logan Pause and Bratislav Ristic

Defense -- Wilman Conde, Steven Kinney, Gonzalo Segares and Kwame Watson-Siriboe

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson and midfielders Corben Bone and Victor Pineda are automatically protected with Generation adidas or home grown status. Husidic recently graduated from Generation adidas, so the Fire protected the University of Illinois-Chicago product.

Recently retired C.J. Brown and Brian McBride were obviously left unprotected, as well as defender Krzysztof Krol who wants to play in Europe.

The Fire's decision to leave some of their priciest players available appears to be by design, with some hope that Portland and Vancouver are not interested in shelling out big bucks for key personnel.

Nevertheless, it is surprising that Ljungberg is not secured for next season. Heading into the offseason, Ljungberg's return for 2011 should top Chicago's priority list.

Of the Fire's 11 protected players, the most questionable was midfielder Mike Banner. While his willingness to play multiple positions is commendable, Banner is a specialized option that typically should be utilized off the bench.

No more than two players can be claimed from a team's unprotected roster. So who will actually be taken off the Fire's group?

Defender Dasan Robinson and midfielder John Thorrington appear to be two potential selections for Portland and Vancouver to pursue. Both players have had their share of injuries. But if -- and it's a big if -- they stay healthy for a whole season, Robinson and Thorrington are very useful options for an expansion side.