Los Angeles FC have already signed a handful of players to join their burgeoning team for their debut season in 2018, but on Tuesday they took one of the most visible steps a new MLS franchise takes in preparing for that first campaign: the expansion draft.
Now, typically speaking there aren’t a ton of players taken in expansion drafts in Major League Soccer history who have gone on to become significant contributors to the team who took them. In recent years, it’s become a way for new teams without many assets to acquire a few trade chips, players they know their original team will want back, or are wanted by other clubs around MLS. That’s certainly the case with several of the players LAFC took Tuesday, and while we shouldn’t expect all of them to stay with the team long, there’s still some intriguing possibilities to consider.
Before we get to those possibilities, here are the five players LAFC added to their roster:
- Tyler Miller (GK, Seattle Sounders)
- Latif Blessing (F/W, Sporting Kansas City)
- Marco Ureña (F, San Jose Earthquakes)
- Jukka Raitala (D, Columbus Crew SC)
- Raheem Edwards (M/D, Toronto FC)
One of the standout names on this list is Edwards, who Toronto had to leave unprotected simply as a result of the sheer depth of quality on their roster. The talented and versatile winger played more defensively in recent months for Toronto and did well doing it, and his quality in helping push the ball forward up the left side into more dangerous areas is a valuable thing, especially for a fledgling team like LAFC, and especially with a manager who sets his teams up like Bob Bradley does. But Toronto will want him back very badly, and LAFC could wind up with some valuable pieces because of it.
Miller is also an interesting name on this list. The Sounders’ backup goalkeeper is a talented young man in goal, but was blocked by the still-great Stefan Frei. He’s done well whenever he’s been called on, though, and with LAFC still not having a goalkeeper, adding a talented up-and-comer who will be just 25 when the 2018 season starts is not a bad place to be. Don’t be surprised if LAFC hold onto him unless they manage to acquire a clearly superior man in goal, and if they do trade him there’s always plenty of teams in MLS looking for players just like Miller.
The other three players — Ureña, Raitala, and Blessing — all seem like players LAFC are more likely to spin off in trades than to retain, but all would be useful to keep if it came to that. Ureña and Blessing are good supporting forwards, with Ureña looking like a decent potential partner for LAFC’s first designated player signing, Mexico international Carlos Vela. Blessing is more of a wide forward, something that Bradley doesn’t often employ, but offers speed and a good eye for attacking runs.
Raitala is a Finland international who played significant minutes for Columbus last season, though the left back was not the best of their defenders. Still, he’s a tough-nosed player with plenty of experience, which can be valuable for an expansion side. That said, since both he and Edwards play the same position, don’t be surprised if only one of them is kept — if either of them are.
With the MLS trade window open and free agency underway, expect plenty of action around LAFC — and don’t be surprised if these five players pop up in trade reports soon.