LAFC continued to grow its roster through Tuesday's MLS expansion draft.

By Avi Creditor
December 12, 2017

LAFC doesn't need the help of its soon-to-be MLS counterparts, but it took the opportunity to poach players and assets from five of its 22 future opponents in Tuesday's MLS expansion draft.

Backed by billions and with a vision to reset the standard in MLS, LAFC is guided by manager Bob Bradley, who will cultivate his second MLS expansion team–20 years after the first, in Chicago. He had already begun to put his stamp on the club, following the the signing of Mexican Designated Player Carlos Vela by reacquainting with Egyptian international defender Omar Gaber and acquiring center back Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas via trade.

For the most part, players picked in the expansion draft traditionally don't wind up making an impact for the selecting club–if they even make the final roster at all. Depending on how a team is choosing to build its roster, the expansion draft might be nothing more than a minor footnote on the road to opening day.

Tuesday, though, was essentially a free chance for LAFC to either add roster filler, acquire desirable assets that can be spun off or pluck a diamond in the rough and land a genuine contributor for Year 1. And the way in which VP of soccer operations John Thorrington and Bradley spoke about their picks, it certainly made it seem like it would be holding onto most of its five selections, while two were later spun off. 

Here are the five selections LAFC made, with teams who lost players receiving $50,000 in general allocation money from the league for their troubles:

Tyler Miller, Seattle Sounders

Thorrington sure made it seem like Miller would be part of his plans going forward. He was a backup goalkeeper for Seattle, and at 24 years old and a salary of $63,633, there's value in having him be part of the club's goalkeeping corps. Thorrington praised the potential and mentality of the 6-foot-4 backstop, who started in place of Stefan Frei in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference finals and posted a 2-0 clean sheet against the Houston Dynamo.

Latif Blessing, Sporting Kansas City

The 20-year-old, Ghana-born attacker had three goals and an assist in his first MLS season, on the heels of winning a golden boot in his native country. He obtained a green card with SKC, so he won't count as an international player for the club, should LAFC hold onto him. Bradley called Blessing an "exciting, attacking player" and praised his ability to go by opponents before adding that the club is looking forward to working with him. It certainly sounds like he's staying put.

Marco Ureña, San Jose Earthquakes

The Costa Rica international torched the USA in a World Cup qualifier in September and had five goals and three assists in his lone season with San Jose. Like for the two players taken before him, post-pick comments made it seem like LAFC will be his new club. Thorrington praised his play with Costa Rica, said he was "watched extensively" throughout the year and added "we're hoping for productive things from him as an attacker ... I know he'll make our fans proud." 

Jukka Raitala, Columbus Crew

The 29-year-old Finland left back could provide a complement on the other end of the field to Gaber. He played in 28 matches and started 20 for the Crew in his first season in MLS, notching a pair of assists.

Raheem Edwards, Toronto FC

Edwards was a revelation for TFC this season, largely overshadowed because of his star-studded teammates, but effective as an attacking left back. The TFC academy product had a goal and six assists in 21 games (10 starts), and there is very little risk to this selection. On a bargain-basement deal of $53,000 in 2017, the 22-year-old Edwards is the exact kind of player teams should target in this forum, though it wouldn't be a shock to see him taken as a way to extract allocation money out of TFC in a return trade.

(UPDATE: Edwards and Raitala will be sent to the Montreal Impact in exchange for veteran Belgian center back Laurent Ciman. The 32-year-old Ciman was the 2015 MLS Defender of the Year and should form a stout center back pairing with Zimmerman.)

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