Seattle goalie Miller leads LAFC list in MLS expansion draft
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seattle goalkeeper Tyler Miller was the Los Angeles Football Club’s first pick in the Major League Soccer expansion draft on Tuesday.
LAFC also chose Sporting Kansas City forward Latif Blessing, San Jose forward Marco Urena, Columbus left back Jukka Raitala and Toronto defender Raheem Edwards. The club then traded Raitala and Edwards to Montreal for Laurent Ciman, the Impact’s former All-Star defender.
Coach Bob Bradley’s club finally has some assets to begin shaping a roster around the three prominent players it had previously acquired: Mexican forward Carlos Vela, Egyptian defender Omar Gaber and American defender Walker Zimmerman, who joined last weekend in a trade with FC Dallas.
“As we build a team, we start with nothing,” Bradley said. “So we need to start to get some names. We need to have some players that you feel can step on the field and play the kind of football that we want, but also players that have some value so that as you continue to have discussions with clubs, you’ve got different ways to put your team together.”
With the arrival of Ciman, LAFC already has the basis for a stout defense on a team that intends to play up-tempo, attacking football. The 32-year-old Ciman was MLS’ Defender of the Year in 2015, and he will team with Zimmerman in a formidable central pairing.
“Center backs like him are not easy to come by,” LAFC general manager John Thorrington said. “Those are two guys that have a great potential of working together. It’s not an easy position to fill with two top targets. When you look at the pair, I think they just complement each other really well.”
Thorrington began the draft uncertain of how many of his five choices would be with the club when it begins play as MLS’ 23rd franchise in March, and he quickly shipped out 40 percent of his haul.
That’s normal in recent years: Only four of the 10 combined players chosen by Atlanta and Minnesota in last year’s expansion draft actually stayed with their clubs, and only three appeared in a game. Those clubs’ general managers traded six of the 10 players selected for additional assets.
The moves are all part of a bigger plan for Bradley and Thorrington, who have been scouting on several continents for most of the past few months. LAFC seems likely to be a thoroughly international club, as evidenced by the expansion draft featuring five players from five different countries.
Miller could be a keeper in net, however. The 24-year-old New Jersey native and Northwestern product spent the past two years stuck behind Stefan Frei with the two-time Western Conference champion Sounders. Thorrington acknowledged a minor significance in LAFC’s decision to announce Miller as its first selection.
Blessing and Urena, who is likely headed to the World Cup with Costa Rica next year, fit LAFC’s desire for exciting attacking players.
While his central defense is solid, Bradley hopes to acquire enough talent to play an exciting style in the club’s new downtown Banc of California Stadium, which should be finished early in the 2018 season.
“It’s our responsibility to get off to a good start from the beginning in LA,” Bradley said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum, and it’s up to us to see that our fans are rewarded right away on the field. I think we’ve got a bunch of guys so far that are talented, attacking players that people are going to enjoy watching.”