- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

D.C. United captain Ryan Nelsen, who led the team to a MLS Cup title Sunday, likely has played his last game for the club after four seasons.

Nelsen was left unprotected as the club released its list of protected players yesterday in advance of Major League Soccer’s expansion draft tomorrow. The 10-round draft will stock the league’s two new teams, Los Angeles-based Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake in Utah.

“We feel [Nelsen is] going to sign in Europe,” said United technical director Dave Kasper. “He has several offers on the table. It’s just a matter of picking a club. This is not coming as a surprise to us.”

United offered Nelson a contract making him the highest-paid defender in the league at about $180,000 but couldn’t match what he is being offered elsewhere. Nelsen made his intentions known to the club Tuesday.

“I’ve got to look at a number of options, and there are many options in Europe,” said Nelsen, who made $95,000 this season. “I’ve been in MLS four years, and at 27 I’ve probably got just two more contracts in my career, so I have to look at every option.”

The New Zealand star was linked with Scottish team Glasgow Rangers last year.

“With all the possibilities going on around him, Ryan always remained very focused on winning the Cup,” Kasper said.

Each of MLS’s 10 teams is allowed to protect 12 players in the draft and United chose to protect forwards Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian, Santino Quaranta, midfielders Brian Carroll, Josh Gros, Ben Olsen, Dema Kovalenko and Christian Gomez, defenders Bryan Namoff, Mike Petke and Brandon Prideaux; and goalie Nick Rimando.

In addition to Nelsen, the club left unprotected forward Thiago Martins; midfielders Earnie Stewart, Eliseo Quintanilla, Tim Lawson amd Kevin Ara; defender Ezra Hendrickson; and goalie Troy Perkins. Martins and Quintanilla missed the season with injuries, and Stewart is returning to live in Holland.

Freddy Adu, David Stokes and Jason Thompson are United’s youth Project-40 players and thus are automatically protected, as is developmental player Nana Kuffor.

Teams can lose a maximum of three players in the draft and each time a player is selected, a team can remove a player from the unprotected list.

Some other notable players left unprotected around the league were Jason Kreis (Dallas), Cobi Jones (Los Angeles), Jeff Agoos (San Jose) and Tony Meola and Preki (Kansas City).

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