MLS Expansion Draft: LAFC grabs five and trades two right away

Youth, speed, experience, international status, and potential were all scooped up in the Expansion Draft by 2018 expansion team Los Angeles FC, which promptly traded Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards to Montreal in exchange for veteran defender Laurent Ciman.

Coach Bob Bradley and general manager John Thorrington had hit every position in naming five players from the lists of unprotected players submitted by the 22 MLS teams, which were allowed to protect 11 players each. Those playing on Homegrown contracts and Generation Adidas deals were protected automatically. In order -- not that it matters – LAFC selected:

Tyler Miller GK Seattle (USA)
Latif Blessing MF Sporting Kansas City (Ghana)
Marco Urena  F San Jose (Costa Rica)
Jukka Raitala D Columbus (Finland)
Raheem Edwards D Toronto FC (Canada)

Both Raitala and Edwards were quickly packaged in a trade and whisked off to Montreal, where new head coach Remy Garde will have them in his plans instead of veteran defender Ciman, the 2015 MLS Defender of the Year. Raitala and Edwards have played left back, though in Toronto's 3-5-2 formation Edwards moved up field to a wingback role that better suited his attacking prowess.

Ciman, 32, has played 85 games since joining Montreal in January, 2015. He was an MLS Best XI selection in his first season as well as Defender of the Year. The Belgian international has scored two goals and logged three assists in league play, and has played every minute of Montreal's eight playoff games since his arrival.

LAFC went for youth and potential with its first two picks: Miller, 24, has great tools but just two first-team starts, and Blessing, 20, delivered some electrifying moments in his first MLS season while starting 16 of 25 games, scoring three goals, and tallying one assist.

Urena, 27, is a Costa Rican international who in his first MLS season scored five goals (on 49 shots) and logged three assists. In October he scored both goals at Red Bulls Arena in a 2-0 defeat of the U.S. that carved a major dent into the Americans’  hopes. His 2017 salary (about $290,000) is the largest of the five players selected.

Raitala, 29 played 28 games for Crew SC in his first MLS season and is primarily a left back for the Finnish national team (36 caps). He registered two assists. According to whoscored.com, he averaged 1.1 tackles and 1.2 clearances per game and completed 78.6 percent of his passes.

Most projected drafts had Edwards in the mix. The 22-year-old native of Ontario is fast, left-footed, and in 21 games (10 starts) scored his first MLS goal and chalked up six assists. He played just two league minutes in 2016 but has significant experience the past two seasons in the Canadian Championship. Can the native Ontarian find success in Quebec?

With the Expansion Draft completed, the period by which MLS Free Agents can solicit offers has begun and other mechanisms for player movement start to follow. The MLS Waiver Draft will be held Wednesday and Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft is scheduled for Friday.

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