Major League Soccer’s newest team, St. Louis CITY SC, is growing by the day. Ready to join as the league’s 29th club, STL will soon add up to a handful of more players.
That’s right. It’s time for the Expansion Draft, coming to you Friday night (7 pm ET | Watch Live on St. Louis CITY SC's YouTube page and simulcast nationally on MLSsoccer.com, the MLS App, as well as MLS's YouTube, Twitter and Twitch pages).
St. Louis have been preparing for this for a while. In conversations with people at the club, they aimed to complete most of their international signings in the summer and fall, before focusing on the domestic market in the winter. The Expansion Draft is the single biggest piece of that domestic puzzle, as the club can make five selections.
“We’re doing our homework, we’re watching literally every game that’s played in MLS,” sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel told me in October. “The good thing is that Bradley [Carnell] knows the league very well, John [Hackworth] knows the United States soccer landscape like hardly anyone else, so I have two great guys with me. We’re aware of every single player.”
There will be trades; I feel confident in saying that. So, maybe some players below won’t make sense for STL’s ethos, but someone else in MLS may pay for them.
“The Expansion Draft isn’t like going into a candy shop and getting just what you want," Pfannenstiel said. "It’s more complex than that."
One reason it’s complex is that there are some free agent-eligible players (like Derrick Etienne Jr., Aaron Long, Eric Remedi and more) who could be selected, but why would you waste a pick on a player who could be signed in free agency? Plus, there’s the obvious fact there’s no guarantee you agree to terms on a contract.
There are different categories of players to pursue on the unprotected list. There are MLS-experienced veterans, younger MLS guys on favorable contracts, high-priced imports and more.
Here are the best players available for St. Louis to select (for themselves or trades).
Both players turn 36 in April, so it’s not a long-term play, but both still have legs (particularly Bedoya, who had a phenomenal season once again for the Philadelphia Union). Both are also excellent in the high-pressing/transition ethos.
Age is a factor here. In each of the last two seasons, McCarty set a new personal low in minutes since 2010. Bedoya just hobbled through the playoffs with a hip injury.
Tyler Miller has been here before. He was selected in LAFC’s Expansion Draft and was the starting goalkeeper there for a few years before signing for Minnesota United FC, presumably to be the starter.
Miller is no longer the starter – he’s now deputizing Dayne St. Clair – but he’s a starting-caliber goalkeeper in this league. He’d be useful to someone… just not St. Louis, who signed UEFA Champions League veteran Roman Burki.
This would be a select-and-trade situation.
Alex Muyl has been a regular contributor for Nashville SC over the last two and a half years and was a key rotation player for the New York Red Bulls before that. At 27 years old, he has 192 MLS appearances.
The indefatigable winger/wingback would fit St. Louis’ pressing ethos perfectly, and he’s a player Carnell knows well from his RBNY days.
Muyl is someone who I think has a strong likelihood of being selected.
Trapp, who turns 30 in January, would make sense at the base of St. Louis’ midfield, though his deal isn’t inexpensive ($785k last year, per the MLSPA).
Another former RBNY guy, Tim Parker hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in Houston. Maybe a change of scenery (and a return to this style of play) could get him back in form?
Parker is on an expensive deal ($1 million last year, per the MLSPA), so it’s far from straightforward.
The defender turns 30 in February and has made 217 MLS appearances between Vancouver, RBNY and Houston.
Nick DePuy, who turns 28 next week, is a classic Expansion Draft pick: A domestic defender on a team-friendly contract who has shown promise, but has not garnered a ton of regular minutes.
St. Louis could do much worse than DePuy here. He has 59 appearances for the Galaxy in the last three seasons.
Shinyashiki, 25, is a former MLS Rookie of the Year (previous version of the Young Player of the Year award). A hard-working, versatile forward who can play anywhere across the front line. He has 22g/7a in 5,185 minutes. That’s an attractive profile.
I expect him to have a strong chance of being selected (either for STL or traded – Charlotte weren’t the only team in talks to acquire him last spring).
Okay, “MLS veteran” is a bit of a stretch, but there’s no other easy category he fits in. Even still, Corujo looked really solid for Charlotte FC in their debut season before suffering an ACL tear.
Would St. Louis draft a player currently out with a long-term injury and who’s likely to miss decent time in 2023? Would he fit their system?
This is perhaps the most interesting one to me. Patryk Klimala has not been great with the Red Bulls… but he’s still a former Poland youth international who has been the subject of multiple $4 million transfers in his career (Jagiellonia to Celtic, then Celtic to RBNY).
If I’m Pfannenstiel, I’m immediately scouring my Bundesliga contacts and pitching Klimala. Why wouldn’t they be able to get a $2.5 million bid?
On the non-cynical side… Klimala is a forward who presses. That’s what St. Louis will be doing; he fits the system. Maybe roll the dice on a talented young(ish) player that your environment could be better for than their previous (a la Julián Carranza blossoming in Philly after purgatory in Miami).
This would require a conversation with the player and his camp to ensure he’s on board. There have been rumblings that he’s ready to go back to Europe (which would make sense given his lack of playing time over the second half of the season.)
Klimala, 24, has 13g/10a in 57 MLS appearances but fell out of favor this year.
Bou turns 33 in February, is expensive and was injured for about half of 2022. It’s a savvy roll of the dice by the Revs to leave him unprotected.
Could Bou fit somewhere else in the league? How about Chicago, who are looking for a new DP forward? Houston as a second striker for a team struggling in attack? Colorado? Maybe not. Probably not, the more we talk it out. But it’s worth a discussion. He had 24 goal contributions in under 2,400 minutes in 2021!
Nashville SC club-record signing Ake Loba has hardly been a factor since joining in 2021. It’s been a disappointment, and he wasn’t even getting off the bench at the end of 2022.
Loba probably doesn’t fit St. Louis’ system… but in 2020 he was signed by CF Monterrey for $9 million, then Nashville paid $6.8 million for him. He’s had success in Liga MX. Is there a $4-5 million bid out there for him? Maybe a little less? Who knows!
It’d be unfair to classify Pozuelo as “unwanted” because Inter Miami do indeed want him. They’re having talks about a new deal, but he’s currently out of contract.
Pozuelo, a former MLS MVP, was very good for Miami after arriving in a midseason trade from Toronto.
I know I said I wasn’t including out-of-contract players, but he’s not eligible for free agency. So, if he stays in MLS (outside of Miami), another team would have to trade for his rights.
I don’t expect him to get selected, though. He’ll almost definitely require a DP deal and doesn’t fit St. Louis’ style. Too many hurdles to try and make $200k GAM in a trade.
US international Nico Gioacchini joined Orlando City in the summer on a U22 Initiative deal but didn’t quite break into the regular rotation. He should have a chance to do so next year… if he’s still at the club.
Gioacchini, 22, has three goals in eight USMNT caps and broke through in the French second tier before coming to MLS.
Colorado Rapids U22 Initiative left back Lucas Esteves has been solid in 44 appearances over a year and a half. The 22-year-old came from Brazilian powerhouse Palmeiras.
The tricky part here: Esteves isn’t on a permanent deal (yet). His loan expires at the end of the season, but selecting him in the Expansion Draft would give his purchase option to St. Louis. They would need to trigger that option and agree to a new contract before he even takes part in a training session.
At 24, he’s not exactly young, but Ragen just wrapped up his first professional season. The big center back played a key role in the Seattle Sounders’ CCL-winning campaign and accrued 23 MLS appearances.
Ragen’s deal is the minimum and can be moved to the Supplement Roster in the winter. That’s key in this ordeal, particularly if you’re picking a couple of other expensive players.
I just want to see a 6-foot-8 center back thrive in this league, man.
- Alejandro Bedoya – I still think Bedoya has another year or two at a strong level. And who better than him to set the culture? You’d need to call him and make sure he’s on board with the project before making the selection first though. He’s certainly earned that throughout his career.
- Alex Muyl – Muyl fits this style perfectly. Carnell knows him. He’s another steady, strong veteran to plug into the group.
- Andre Shinyashiki – Shinyahiki hasn’t built on his Rookie of the Year campaign, but can play anywhere across the front line and should fit in very well with St. Louis’ style of play.
- Jackson Ragen – Ragen is an ultra-cheap, young-ish, domestic center back. Those players seem to get selected in Expansion Drafts. I could be talked into Nick DePuy in for one of the attackers in addition to Ragen, too.
- Patryk Klimala – With Klimala… you’ve got to take one big swing, right?
- St. Louis are light on fullbacks so far, but there aren’t a ton of great options available in the draft here. Maybe the trade market?