MLS 2017 expansion clubs Atlanta United and Minnesota United took another step toward building their inaugural rosters Tuesday, looting 10 other clubs for players in the league's expansion draft and then spinning some of them off for other assets.
Atlanta picked Montreal fullback Donny Toia first in the five-round affair, and the teams alternated from there, selecting from a group of unprotected players, which teams revealed on Monday. The most notable selection was Atlanta's selection of Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin, especially amid reports that the club is wooing U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan from Middlesbrough.
As always, with the expansion draft, picks aren't guaranteed to remain with the selecting clubs, and Atlanta and Minnesota acted quickly, trading some of them off for allocation money or other assets. Atlanta club president Darren Eales had confirmed what was coming on the MLS broadcast of the draft, that the club had a couple of prearranged trades prior to the draft. Irwin, for instance, was sent back to Toronto for another player and cash considerations, and Toia was shipped to Orlando City for a SuperDraft pick.
Here are all 10 selections, along with rapid reactions to the picks–and the subsequent moves (for the record, here's what we chose in our mock MLS expansion draft):
Atlanta United - Donny Toia, D, Montreal Impact (Impact players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Minnesota United - Chris Duvall, D, New York Red Bulls (Red Bulls players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Rapid reaction: A pair of prudent, cost-effective moves here. Toia is a young (24), underrated fullback, and Atlanta hasn't yet built its defense. At $67,500 (in 2016 guaranteed compensation, according to MLS Players Union documents), Toia comes at a great price point. So, too, does Duvall, who, at $63,000, could start for Minnesota right away. As an Atlanta-area native, going to Minnesota instead of Atlanta must tug at the heartstrings at least a little bit.
[UPDATE: Duvall will head to Montreal along with allocation money in a trade that will send Costa Rica international Johan Venegas to Minnesota. Duvall replaces Toia as the Impact's young, inexpensive right back, while Venegas gives Minnesota a very promising attacking piece. Just ask John Brooks.]
[UPDATE II:Toia is headed to Orlando City for the club's first-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft (eighth overall). Orlando takes on the young fullback, with whom manager Jason Kreis is familiar from their days with Real Salt Lake, while Atlanta now has two of the top eight picks in the draft.]
Atlanta United - Zach Loyd, D, FC Dallas (FC Dallas players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Minnesota United - Collen Warner, M, Houston Dynamo (Dynamo players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Rapid reaction: Loyd's a proven defender in MLS, though he's coming off a summer concussion and had a relatively lofty salary at $221,666. Coupled with newly acquired Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta has some building blocks in the back. Warner would be Minnesota's first midfielder, a box-to-box tool for manager Adrian Heath who made $174,433 last season in Houston.
Atlanta United - Clint Irwin, GK, Toronto FC (TFC players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Minnesota United - Mohammed Saeid, M, Columbus Crew SC (Crew SC players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Rapid reaction: First thought is that Irwin won't be staying put. Early reports have him being dealt back to Toronto, and given that Atlanta is rumored to be landing Guzan and picked another goalkeeper later, it'd be odd to keep Irwin. As for Saeid, he'll take up an international roster slot for Minnesota, but he is an affordable midfield piece ($120,000), who fits Heath's style and was solid when given chances in Columbus.
[UPDATE: Irwin is indeed headed back to Toronto from Atlanta, in exchange for general allocation money and defender Mark Bloom, a Marietta, Georgia, native. Bloom was unprotected, too, so instead of just acquiring him, Atlanta was able to squeeze some cash out of Toronto in addition to landing him. Shrewd maneuvering.]
Atlanta United - Mikey Ambrose, D, Orlando City SC (Orlando City players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Minnesota United - Jeff Attinella, GK, Real Salt Lake (RSL players exempt from the remainder of the draft)
Rapid reaction: The 23-year-old Ambrose gives Atlanta yet another young, cost-friendly ($62,496) defender, while also blocking Heath from picking any of his former players from Orlando. Attinella was one of the more reliable backup goalkeepers in the league, but as long as Nick Rimando is at Real Salt Lake, he was never going to be a regular starter. This gives him a chance.
Atlanta United - Alec Kann, GK, Sporting KC
Minnesota United - Femi Hollinger-Janzen, F, New England Revolution
Rapid reaction: Kann just signed a new contract with Sporting KC Tuesday, so it wouldn't be a stretch to think Atlanta picked him to pry allocation money from Peter Vermes's side. Hollinger-Janzen, meanwhile, had a goal and two assists as a rookie but flashed ability that could be useful for Minnesota, which has no other attacking pieces at the moment.
Potential, future soccer stadiums in America
The league's array of player-movement mechanisms and drafts continues, with free agency also beginning Tuesday. The MLS waiver draft takes place on Thursday, followed by the first stage of the re-entry draft on Friday. The second stage of the re-entry draft is slated for Thursday, Dec. 22.
The MLS SuperDraft will be Friday, Jan. 13, in Los Angeles. Minnesota will pick first, followed by Atlanta.