Charlotte FC continue to build their inaugural roster ahead of their 2022 season debut, selecting five players in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft on Tuesday.
Charlotte made their five selections from the list of eligible players revealed on Monday. Per draft rules, no MLS club could lose more than one player in the draft.
Charlotte went low-risk, high-reward by taking Gaines with their first selection. The 23-year-old forward will join his second expansion side in as many seasons after spending the 2021 campaign with Austin FC.
While yet to break through as a consistent contributor at the professional level, his physical gifts are obvious, with Gaines possessing breakneck speed that can put defenders on their heels. The hope for Charlotte will be that Gaines can compete for minutes as a depth piece in the attack right away, with upside to become a consistently productive MLS forward.
The 24-year-old Englishman joined Atlanta ahead of their 2017 expansion season, making 20 appearances before departing to join English side Portsmouth. He then rejoined Atlanta in 2020 and was a regular, starting 32 of the club's 34 games last season while scoring two goals and dishing out two assists across 2,776 minutes.
With that MLS familiarity, as well as his previous stint with an expansion team, Walkes should provide a steady presence in the back and serve as a vocal leader from day one.
The 28-year-old left back played at least 1,500 minutes in each of his four seasons with D.C. United, where he's made 97 appearances since joining from Saprissa in his native Costa Rica ahead of the 2018 season. He's also featured extensively for Costa Rica on the youth international circuit, earning six senior-team caps since his 2018 debut.
TRADED TO VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
Trading Expansion Draft picks is another way new clubs accrue financial resources while assembling their roster, and Charlotte did that with each of their final two choices. The first was Blackmon, who Charlotte selected from LAFC and then traded to Vancouver Whitecaps FC for $350,000 in 2022 GAM and $125,000 in 2023 GAM.
Blackmon has been a useful player for LAFC since joining the Black & Gold as the third overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft from the University of Pacific. He's been a regular starter at both right back and center back while playing in 64 regular-season matches.
TRADED TO LAFC
Just three days after winning MLS Cup 2021 with New York City FC, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is on the move. Upon being selected with Charlotte's fifth pick of the Expansion Draft, the forward was traded to LAFC for $400k in General Allocation Money in 2022.
The 27-year-old is coming off a productive season for the recently-crowned champs, scoring seven goals in just 1,234 minutes, while frequently playing the role of an energetic super-sub off the bench. Indeed, Tajouri-Shradi's last appearance in a NYCFC jersey came as an 80th-minute substitute in Saturday's dramatic shootout victory over the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup.