Expansion Draft

Austin FC decision-makers explain Expansion Draft selections

Danny Hoesen - San Jose Earthquakes - glasses celebration

Given Austin FC were selecting alone in the 2020 MLS Expansion Draft, rather than alongside another club entering the league like Nashville SC and Inter Miami last year, there wasn't any need to prioritize the five picks.

You get five and can select them in whatever order, it doesn't matter, because you have five consecutive.

Yet, perhaps there was some symbolism to Austin's first choice when they surprised many observers by picking Dutch forward Danny Hoesen

“When he became available, he became someone who quickly jumped to the top of our list," sporting director Claudio Reyna told media on a virtual press conference following the draft. "He’s really motivated for a new challenge. I’m a big believer that when guys get a clean start, come to a new club and work under a new coach they can get back to their levels. We feel he’s got that ability to lead the lines and score goals. We just think he’s going to be a great addition to the team.”

Head coach Josh Wolff, who scored 80 goals during his own MLS career and won more than 50 caps with the US national team as a forward, is excited at the chance to work with Hoesen. 

“Danny’s exceptional quality is his finishing ability and his positioning in the box," Wolff said. "The thing I look for in strikers is their movement, how they identify spaces to attack and their timing. It was a difficult 2020 for Danny, but I think we’ve seen his qualities in years past. Still at a good age, still hungry. We expect somebody who will score goals.”

Hoesen, who turns 30 in January, made only three starts in 2020 due to a combination of form and health. He is only two years removed from posting 12 goals and four assists in 2018.

Another reason for some surprise, though, is that Hoesen was available to be picked at the Re-Entry Draft later this week as he was out-of-contract with the San Jose Earthquakes.

"When we got the list for the Expansion Draft, we wanted to be aggressive and go get guys," Reyna said. "… We wanted to go, show him our commitment and not wait for him. We think he’s someone who is going to make an impact for our team.”

Another big splash Austin made was receiving $225,000 in General Allocation Money as well as the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft from the Montreal Impact in exchange for Kamal Miller, who they took with their final selection. 

“We were hopeful to get some allocation money back in the Expansion Draft, the amount we got back was great for us," Reyna said. "Yes, he is a good player. He attracted interest from a few teams. … We have targets in that position that we’re looking at, we felt comfortable enough to make that move to bring in those assets.”

Reyna added the club were open to trading more than one pick and fielded plenty of offers.

By the end of Tuesday night, Austin now have 11 players for their inaugural roster thanks to a flurry of nine additions over the last 48 hours. Between the Hoesen and Miller picks, Austin selected midfielders Jared Stroud and Joe Corona as well as goalkeeper Brady Scott to add to the team. 

Corona, 30, is a player who is expected to soak up plenty of minutes in central midfield. The former US international made 47 appearances in the LA Galaxy's midfield over the last two seasons after a long career in Liga MX, mostly with Club Tijuana. His ball-playing ability will fit in the team's desired playing style, likely out of a 4-3-3 formation.

“He’s a talented player, an experienced player," Wolff said. "He’ll be good in the buildup, he’s comfortable on the ball and is a facilitator. He deals with pressure well.”

Stroud's versatility and value made him an intriguing option after his first season in MLS with the New York Red Bulls. Scott, meanwhile, is signed with an eye on the future but could even make a more immediate contribution. 

“A young, up-and-coming goalkeeper like Brady was very interesting," Reyna said, before adding the club expect all their selections to compete for playing time. "I followed him for years with the youth national team, I like everything about him. A goalkeeper’s development is later than field players. Getting feedback from soccer people and coaches, we thought he has a lot of upside.”

The list of acquisitions is really just getting going for Austin, who are under halfway through with their inaugural roster build. They have one Designated Player in Cecilio Dominguez, another exciting attacker in Rodney Redes and, now, nine guys with MLS experience. 

Austin continue to target and negotiate with international talent, while Reyna told Andrew Wiebe in an interview that he expects the club to fill their two open DP spots in 2021 as well. 

“The work continues, we got more players to add," Reyna said. "We feel good, we’ve got more and more players added to the squad. It’s coming to life, it’s great.”