LAFC general manager John Thorrington knows his roster isn’t quite as full as those of past MLS expansion teams at this point in the team-building process, but he doesn’t anticipate that’ll be the case for much longer.
The club had six players under contract ahead of Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, where they selected five players including Costa Rican international forward Marco Ureña and Toronto FC prospect Raheem Edwards. The six they had on the roster prior to the draft was fewer than three of the last four expansion teams had ahead of their Expansion Drafts; Atlanta United had 15 players on their roster ahead of the 2016 Expansion Draft, Orlando City SC had 12 and New York City FC had eight in 2015, while Minnesota United had only three under contract last year.
LAFC are currently headlined by Mexican Designated Player signing Carlos Vela, Egyptian international midfielder Omar Gaber and defender Walker Zimmerman, who was acquired on Sunday from FC Dallas in exchange for $500,000 in allocation money. Thorrington and head coach Bob Bradley expect to add a few more players to that group in the days immediately following the Expansion Draft.
“I think we have a number of conversations that are very close to the finish line,” Thorrington told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “The frustrating part of these negotiations is that they’re not linear, so you can get to what feels like 95 percent the way there and the last 5 percent takes longer. But we are involved in a number of conversations from DPs all the way down to guys we just see as a good fit on our roster in the international market as well as throughout the league. I think you’ll see the obvious activity with Expansion Draft and free agency as well as the potential of getting one of these international deals across the finish line in the coming days.”
Now that the Expansion Draft is over, MLS free agency will begin. Expect LAFC to be active in the market. Bradley has ties to several members of the free agent class, including DaMarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, Brad Evans, Drew Moor and Nick Rimando, all of whom played for him on the US national team.
Thorrington and Bradley have extensively scouted just about everywhere in recent months, traveling to five countries in South America, several in Central America, throughout Europe, into Asia and in Africa. They’ll have a heavy international presence on their inaugural roster, which makes adding the right MLS veterans in the Expansion Draft, free agency and the trade market that much more important.
"A disadvantage, obviously, is there’s no continuity within our group. We’re starting completely fresh; our guys haven’t played together,” Thorrington said. “So, we do look for certain, not just ability, playing-wise, but certain character traits of guys we think would project well in terms of their ability to get up to speed with how Bob wants to play, with being adaptable to a new market, all those types of things.
“We want guys that we think will represent the club well in our market, on the field and off the field, and that will adjust very quickly so we can be in as strong of a position as possible come March.”