LOS ANGELES — Following the 2017 MLS Expansion Draft, Los Angeles Football Club EVP and general manager John Thorrington talked to assorted reporters about the draft results at the LAFC Experience Center.
The Expansion Draft on Tuesday was arguably the largest Expansion Draft event in the MLS expansion era, with an outdoor show, done live on-site and with a show with MLSsoccer.com in their New York City studio. Supporters attended the event, and all of the selections were announced on stage during the show streamed to the world.
“We went for guys that fit our soccer decision-making filter,” Thorrington told reporters immediately following the draft. “The same benchmarks and criteria that informed [previous roster] decisions were involved in these as well [in the expansion draft].”
LAFC have been busy in recent days, first trading for FC Dallas defender Walker Zimmerman over the weekend and then on Tuesday selecting five players in the Expansion Draft: Tyler Miller, Latif Blessing, Marco Ureña, Jukka Raitala, and Raheem Edwards. As expected, a trade was later announced involving two of those selections, as LAFC flipped Raitala and Edwards to the Montreal Impact for defender Laurent Ciman, presumably to play alongside Zimmerman.
Unsurprisingly, before that trade was announced, both Thorrington and LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said they were happy with all of the players selected and said they would all be good fits for the kind of team they are trying to build. And while more trades could come down the pike, the trio of Miller, a 24-year-old goalkeeper from the Seattle Sounders, Blessing, a 20-year-old winger/forward from Sporting Kansas City, and Ureña, a 27-year-old Costa Rican international forward from the San Jose Earthquakes sounded like players both Thorrington and Bradley liked quite a bit.
“We never knew who would be available until Sunday, but a lot of this is a reactive scouting process, where you absorb what’s out there in the league,” Thorrington said. “I’ve watched [Ureña] live a number of times, not knowing whether he’d be available in this. I certainly had the misfortune of watching him play against [the U.S.] earlier this year. Dangerous player, he’s a handful and we think certainly a good fit.”
Thorrington was asked if LAFC had reached out to players taken in the Expansion Draft ahead of the announcement: “Some, yes.”
“We only [talk to players or their agents] when we have the permission of the club. So when the club granted us permission, yes [we talked to them ahead of time] but we do not proactively do that unless we have permission of the club.”
And while LAFC didn’t have to compete with another expansion team this time in the Expansion Draft, meaning there was less to “game” out, the decision-making process was “dynamic” and changed by the hour, according to Thorrington.
When asked when the decision on the picks were made, he responded, “All five? Literally as I walked on the stage.”
“The final decisions were cleared at the last minute.”
Now, attention turns to signing Designated Players, news which sounds like it will be coming soon, and TAM players, as well as Free Agency for Thorrington, a process that opened to all MLS teams as soon as the Expansion Draft ended. Teams can sign up to two Free Agents, which are players out of contract who are at least 28 years old and have at least eight seasons of MLS experience.
“We’re going to be in active talks with players eligible for free agency, that starts as soon as I’m done with this,” Thorrington said, as three years of waiting for this moment becomes several very busy months to come for him and LAFC.
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