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Let’s Talk Expansion Draft Strategy

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This is how we believe Minnesota United FC should go about their upcoming draft in December.

MLS: Minnesota United FC-Press Conference Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The expansion draft is interesting. With very few exceptions, the drafts do not tend to create stars for any of the new teams, but who the teams pick is just as important as the SuperDraft.

Minnesota United FC needs players. They currently have none. They have two fullbacks that are likely to be announced in the near future, but this could be the first chance for the team to start building.

Recent History

West Bromwich Albion v Orlando City SC Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

With the first pick in the 2014 Expansion Draft, Orlando City SC drafted goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from the Portland Timbers. Ricketts, a Jamaican International, made 10 appearances for Orlando before being traded to his former club, the LA Galaxy, for a second round pick in the SuperDraft.

Some might say that only 10 appearances could be seen as a failure, but Orlando did turn him into an eventual first round SuperDraft pick in 2016 (after another trade with D.C. United). After some research, this process seems pretty common.

My limited research showed me that teams tend to use certain players taken in the Expansion Draft as a way of garnering more or higher picks in the SuperDrafts. There is one notable recent exception, though.

MLS: New York City FC at Philadelphia Union Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With their eighth pick, NYCFC picked midfielder Tommy McNamara and save for one brief loan spell, Tommy has been a revelation for NYCFC. McNamara appeared 19 times in 2015 and 30 times this past season scoring five goals each year. I think it is safe to assume that he will be in the midfield for NYCFC for the foreseeable future.

Strategy for the Loons

I think that Minnesota United should look more for players like Donovan Ricketts rather than hoping to stumble upon a Tommy McNamara. Overall, I think that a strategy of finding depth pieces is better in the long run, and if we do happen to stumble upon a Tommy McNamara, that’s just grand.

The Loons will be hoping to make a splash in their first MLS Season, and that is commendable. I do not see a world where other teams are not protecting players that they see as their future. What NYCFC got with McNamara is more the exception that proves the rule rather than the rule.

There are rumors that the Loons management are currently on a scouting trip to Central and South America and are hoping to find some players to sign. Personally, I would hope that they are looking for a #10 in the mold of Nicolas Lodeiro in Seattle while on this scouting trip, but that is just my hope with little to no information to substantiate the rumors. With that in mind, and with the hope that a Christian Ramirez signing will be announced soon, I would be surprised to see the Loons focusing on attacking players with their expansion picks.

Soccer: Minnesota United FC at New York Cosmos Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Loons should be looking to bolster the defense and midfield. Right now, the only rumored players that the Loons have are Kevin Venegas and Justin Davis. Both of whom are defenders, but they are not centerbacks. Damion Lowe had to return to the Sounders as his loan was up. It is probably safe to assume that Seattle will not use a protected slot on the young defender as Lowe has yet to appear for the top team. There is no guarantee that his skill and experience will translate to the MLS, but the Loons are very familiar with his play.

Without knowing exactly what the protected player lists will look like, these are just speculative. There are defenders that are likely to be protected - Eric Miller in Colorado, Nick Hagglund in Toronto - and there are those that I think will not be protected - Lowe, Calum Mallace in Montreal, and Steven Beitashour in Toronto. But without set lists, I admit we are just speculating.

Looking at MLS rosters, the midfield options that could be unprotected are slim pickings. Calum Mallace is listed as a defender, but can definitely play in the midfield, so that is one option. Young Zach Pfeffer from the Rapids could be unprotected, and he could be a nice piece to have for the future. FiftyFive.One posted a good breakdown of the lack of midfield options that could be open that I recommend taking a look at.

While I said that attackers may not be the most prudent mode of drafting, there could be no shortage of attackers to target. Longtime journeyman, Jack McInerny could be available. As could Colorado Rapids DP, Kevin Doyle. Either of these players could add depth to an unknown frontline or as tempting pieces to trade later.

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The expansion draft is a great opportunity to build for the future. The Loons need to be smart, but they can afford to take some risks on some players that teams may have given up on.

Have any thoughts? Please let us know, below!