Expansion Draft

LAFC brass reflect on expansion draft decisions, players acquired

Bob Bradley - LAFC - presser

LOS ANGELES – Until the moment he took the stage at the MLS Expansion Draft Tuesday, LAFC general manager John Thorrington wasn’t certain which five players the club would select.

“All these things about what’s happening in the future, they are not preordained on Sunday [when the eligible player list was revealed],” he said immediately after announcing the selections with help from head coach Bob Bradley and an LAFC supporter. “These are really live decisions.”

Despite being the only expansion club in this edition of the expansion draft – and avoiding the added challenge of another team competing for the same players – LAFC were considering their options in making their five selections until the very end.

“We probably had a list every hour and it was dynamic based on conversations about our thought process and debating back and forth with the technical staff and their numbers,” Thorrington explained. “The final decisions were clear at the last minute.”

When, mere hours after the draft, expansion draft selections Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwardswere traded to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Laurent Ciman, it was clear LAFC weren’t only waiting on finalizing their own shopping list.

“The selections are part of a process,” Bradley said. “We’re in a good position to think about all the different ways to put a team together and today was important to move that process forward.”

The remaining three selections — goalkeeper Tyler Miller, attacker Latif Blessing and striker Marco Ureña — appear to be set to wear black and gold, for now.

Thorrington knew Miller from his time as a graduate student at Northwestern University, where the former Seattle Sounders goalkeeper earned his side a shutout in nearly half of his 77 collegiate matches. The 24-year-old also kept a clean sheet for the Sounders in the first leg of their recent Western Conference Championship victory in Houston when starter Stefan Frei was injured.

“If you go all the way back to 1998, Zach Thornton hadn’t played much with the MetroStars, he was behind Tony Meola,” Bradley said, drawing a parallel between this draft and the one he oversaw with the Chicago Fire two decades ago. “We got Zach at the right time and I think Tyler is that type of young goalkeeper.”

Born in Accra, Blessing led the Ghana Premier League in scoring in 2016 before signing with Sporting Kansas City. Although he bagged a brace against Orlando City during league play in May, his goalscoring performances in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals and final are what caught Bradley’s eye.

“A young player capable of beating people on the dribble, who can play any of the attacking spots,” the LAFC coach said. “Latif is a player that we think has real talent and we’re excited to work with.”

If the young players Miller and Blessing were selected for their potential, Ureña was chosen for his experience.

“He’s a guy we weren’t sure would be exposed in this draft,” Thorrington said, simultaneously applauding and bemoaning the pain Ureña inflicted on American soccer fans when he notched two goals for Costa Rica against the US national team in September’s World Cup qualifier. “To think we can acquire an asset who will potentially be a starter in a World Cup through the expansion draft, that’s huge for us.”

Bradley, meanwhile, spoke to the quick-recovery and hard-working components of the forward's game.

“When you lose the ball, he’s the first guy to help you begin defending. He hasn’t always been a consistent goalscorer in the clubs that he’s played on, but I think if you get him on the right team in the right mix of players, he gets chances.”