Ah MLS player acquisition quirks. Dealing with allocation rankings, TAM and GAM is just a way of life for supporters and fans. So Monday’s news there will in fact be an expansion draft when Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC come into the league is far from uncharted territory. The league has held nine expansion drafts since its inception in 1996. Most of the time, these drafts consist of guys who will never have a significant impact on their new team. But there are quality players to be found. Here are five guys who probably should’ve been protected by their original teams.
1. Brad Evans
Selected by: Seattle Sounders
Previous Club: Columbus Crew SC
It was a tough call for top spot on this list, but Brad Evans’ journey is pretty dang impressive. Evans came in as a solid, if unspectacular MLS player from a very successful Columbus Crew side. Seven years later, he’s the Sounders’ captain, a fringe national teamer and has filled in all over the field for Seattle. Considering the vast majority of expansion draft signings fail to make any impact, getting a player like Evans who has developed into a club icon is incredible.
2. Sebastien Le Toux
Selected by: Philadelphia Union
Previous Club: Seattle Sounders
Le Toux was picked as one of Philly’s 10 selections in the ’09 draft. He made an immediate impact on the field, scoring a hat trick in the Union’s first-ever home game, and off it by quickly becoming a fan favorite. The Frenchman finished 2010 with 14 goals in 28 games en route to making the All Star Team and MLS Best XI. He followed that up with an 11-goal season in 2011 and, after a second stint with the Union from 2013-2016, he’s the club’s all-time leader in goals and assists. We’re splitting hairs when it comes to Le Toux and Evans on this list. Ultimately the argument comes down to the value of a being a true club legend vs. trophies. Le Toux will always have a very special place within Union lore. But Evans has been an integral part of four US Open Cups and a Supporters Shield. Teams will say nice things about club legends. But everyone is in this game to win silverware.
3. Zach Thornton
Selected by: Chicago Fire
Previous Club: New York/New Jersey Metrostars
Here’s some fun MLS trivia. Chicago actually selected Kevin Hartman from the LA Galaxy with the third pick in the 1997 Expansion Draft. LA quickly traded Jorge Campos and Chris Armas to the Fire to get Hartman back. Hartman would go on to play 243 games for the Galaxy while helping win two MLS Cups. Chicago came out just fine though because in addition to Campos and Armas, the latter of whom would go on to have an excellent stint in the Windy City, the Fire picked Zach Thornton 11th. Thornton beat out Campos for the starting job and then backstopped the Fire team that won the 1997 MLS Cup and US Open Cup. He would go on to make 215 appearances while collecting two more Open Cups and a Supporters Shield. Plus, he was hands down the best keeper in the original backyard soccer. Let’s see Campos or Hartman top that!
4. Justin Mapp
Selected by: Montreal Impact
Previous Club: Philadelphia Union
Mapp’s MLS career actually started way back in 2002 as a member of Project-40. He played for D.C., Chicago and Philly before he was selected by Montreal in the 2011 expansion draft. It was north of the border that Mapp played the best soccer of his career, putting up four goals and 21 assists over 82 appearances. We likely would’ve seen that production continue if not for a gruesome injury that ended his 2015 season.
5. Tommy McNamara
Selected by: New York City FC
Previous Club: Chivas USA
Tommy Mac! The 25-year-old is the youngest on this list, but it’s not hard to imagine he’s in the conversation for the No 1. Spot once his NYCFC career is all said and done. McNamara was rescued by NYCFC after Chivas USA folded following the 2014 season. He scored five goals and assisted on three more in just 19 games during his first season in the Bronx. And McNamara has only gotten better this year under Patrick Vieira. He’s established himself as a regular starter to the tune of four goals and nine assists with eight games still to go. McNamara’s stellar play hasn’t gone unnoticed on the world stage. The Ireland FA has come calling and the New York native could soon face a big decision about his international future.