It was certainly a busy day for LAFC.
The day finally arrived for LAFC to fully build its roster, though LAFC got a head start on everyone else on Tuesday morning. One hour before the start of MLS Free Agency, LAFC got its shot to add to its evolving roster, making its selections through the expansion draft, then using two of those picks to strengthen its back line.
“So much work went into today’s draft, not just in the last 48 hours, but literally for two years as we analyzed what was on offer in the league,” LAFC General Manager and EVP of Soccer Operations John Thorrington said.
LAFC let everybody who attended the expansion draft participate in the events, as everybody from Thorrington, to head coach Bob Bradley to even a member of LAFC’s supporters group got to announce the pick. LAFC used its first selection on Tyler Miller, a 24-year-old keeper from the Seattle Sounders. Miller has been the back keeper behind Stefan Frei since last season. Miller gained a little notoriety during the playoffs when he started the first leg of the Western Conference Finals against Houston and made three saves and got the win, a 2-0 decision, which was Seattle fifth straight playoff shutout.
LAFC then concentrated on the attack with its next two picks. LAFC selected Latif Blessing, a 21-year old Ghanaian winger from Sporting Kansas City. Blessing scored three goals and assisted on five goals for SKC last season, and scored three more goals in U.S. Open Cup play helping Sporting win their third U.S. Open Cup.
“Latif Blessing is exciting,” Bradley said. “A young player capable of beating people on the dribble, can play any of the attacking spots. Latif is a player that we think has real talent and we’re excited to work with.”
LAFC’s third selection was the more notable of the selections, as they used their third selection on Marco Urena, who played for the San Jose Earthquakes last season. Urena is one of the more notable players on the Costa Rica national team, having made 55 appearances for the Ticos last season and scoring 14 goals, including a two-goal performance against the United States in a World Cup qualifying match back in September. Urena scored five goals for the San Jose Earthquakes last season.
“He plays up front in a way that he’s a threat behind the defense, he works very hard, when you lose the ball he’s the first guy to help begin defending,” Bradley said. “I think if you get him on the right team and the right mix of players, the pluses is that he gets chances.”
LAFC used its last two picks on defenders, Jukka Raitala from the Columbus Crew and Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC. However just moments after the expansion draft, the two players were traded to the Montreal Impact for Center Back Laurent Ciman.
“Laurent is a top defender who provides leadership and great distribution,” Bradley said in a statement released by the club after the trade. “His experience in the league and with the Belgian National Team will be invaluable as we build our club.”
Ciman will certainly go down as the headline acquisition for LAFC. Since his arrival from Belgium in 2015, Ciman has established himself as one of the top defenders in MLS. Ciman won defender of the year and made the MLS Best XI in his first year and is also a two-time all-star (2015, 2016). Ciman has also represented the Belgium national team, earning 19 caps and played in Belgium’s opening game of the 2016 European Championships.
LAFC had actually been busy on the transaction from before Tuesday’s draft. Just a day after the conclusion of MLS Cup, LAFC acquired defender Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas in exchange for $250,000 in general allocation money plus an additional $250,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. The two teams also switched allocation rankings, as Dallas will have first priority in the allocation order while LAFC is now 11th. LAFC also made a trade with Atlanta United FC, as LAFC receives an international slot in exchange for fourth-round pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.