The Major League Soccer expansion draft is just another step in the roster-building process for busy Atlanta United.
The MLS newcomers have been busy in the months leading up the expansion draft by acquiring big names Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones as well as adding a slew of players with MLS experience over the weekend.
“We’re building a whole roster in its entirety and the expansion draft is one part of that,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said on Monday in a conference call. “We’re looking at every mechanism we can to build the roster.”
The 2016 expansion draft differs from past ones since teams only have five selections instead of 10.
The reduction in picks is seen as a positive by general manager Paul McDonough, who went through the process with Orlando City two years ago.
“It was a lot of study and discussion (that took place) and getting allocation in lieu of the five picks is better,” McDonough said.
McDonough also learned from the expansion draft process, as he values MLS experience in a first-year squad much more than he did with Orlando.
“We weren’t heavy on (MLS experience) in Orlando and probably turned out to be a mistake,” McDonough said. “Our goals are to come out of the block and be very competitive. We understand the importance of MLS experience and competition.”
“It’s really interesting the list of players out there,” technical director Carlos Bocanegra said. “MLS experience is important for on the field, but also in the locker room with the uniqueness of MLS.”
United added some MLS experience to its growing squad on Sunday, as it acquired Michael Parkhurst, Harrison Heath, Kevin Kratz and Romario Williams in trades.
“Parkhurst is a veteran leader at a crucial position for us down the spine,” Bocanegra said. “He’s got national team, MLS and European experience. He’s a good leader in the locker room. Good player for the club image and he also plays well out of the back. Which suits our style. He’s a great piece for us to get.”
“Kratz has European experience and is someone who can compete across all of the midfield for playing time,” Bocanegra said. “Good passer of the ball and he likes to compete. With all the guys we’ve gotten, we’re really thrilled about it.”
The players already on the roster and those that will be added on Tuesday will enter an open competition for spots when the preseason begins.
“With the guys on the board, we’re pretty open to anything,” Bocanegra said. “We don’t have starters on the field right now. We have 11 spots open for competition. The guys come into preseason and will have to win those spots.”
One position that hasn’t been touched yet in the building process is goalkeeper. Atlanta acquired Sean Johnson from Chicago, but then quickly shipped him off to New York City FC.
ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported U.S. men’s national team netminder Brad Guzan will be headed to Atlanta for the 2017 season. The Atlanta staff declined to comment on Guzan specifically.
“We aren’t going to talk about any players under contract with another club,” Eales said. “What I would tell you is we’re on top of the allocation ranking. We’re always in the mix if there are any players on that list coming back or talking about coming back to MLS.”