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Charlotte FC select five in expansion draft, trade two

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Dec 4, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; A detail view of the Adidas soccer ball during the second half during the Western Conference Finals of the 2021 MLS Playoffs between the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; A detail view of the Adidas soccer ball during the second half during the Western Conference Finals of the 2021 MLS Playoffs between the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

New Major League Soccer franchise Charlotte FC selected its first five players in an expansion draft Tuesday, then immediately traded two of its picks.

Defender Tristan Blackmon, selected from Los Angeles FC with Charlotte’s fourth choice, was dealt to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Charlotte received $350,000 in general allocation money for 2022 plus $125,000 in general allocation money for 2023.

Forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, chosen from MLS champion New York City FC with the fifth expansion pick, was swapped to LAFC, with Charlotte getting $400,000 in general allocation money.

Charlotte’s first three selections were Austin FC midfielder McKinze Gaines, Atlanta United defender Anton Walkes and D.C. United defender Joseph Mora.

“We took the players that we believe can fit in the game model and also players that want to come and want to be here,” Charlotte FC coach Miguel Angel Ramirez said, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Gaines, 23, appeared in nine games for Austin this year, starting once and scoring one goal.

“He’s (one of) the fastest players in the league in amazing conditions,” Ramirez said, per the Observer. “He’s not a center-forward in my opinion. He was playing as a center-forward in Austin. For me, he’s a winger, pure winger.”

Walkes, 24, spent three years with Atlanta. He appeared in a career-high 32 games this season, all starts, and logged two goals and two assists.

Mora, 28, played in 97 games (81 starts) in his four seasons with D.C. United. He has yet to score an MLS goal.

Regarding the selection of Walkes and Mora to lead the defense, Ramirez said, according to the Observer, “We needed to close (the defensive positions) with MLS experience. And more than MLS experience, (it’s) MLS experience fitting this game model.”

Blackmon, 25, made 64 appearances (46 starts) over four years with LAFC. In his MLS career, he has two goals and five assists.

Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said of Blackmon in a statement, “We are very pleased to welcome Tristan to our club and city. He brings league and cup experience from a very good team. It is always key to find the right balance of MLS experience and new young players to this league; for that reason, it was important to get a deal done while we had the opportunity to make a trade through the expansion draft.”

Tajouri-Shradi, 27, produced seven goals and one assist in 23 regular-season games (14 starts) for NYCFC this year. He logged 26 goals and nine assists over four seasons for New York City, making 84 regular-season appearances, including 49 starts. He came off the bench to make three playoff appearances this year, including the MLS Cup final on Saturday.

LAFC general manager John Thorrington said in a statement regarding Tajouri-Shradi, “Ismael is an explosive attacking player who is a proven winner in MLS and is a good fit to how we look to play. We know from experience he is difficult to defend and brings great pedigree to our club.”

Charlotte FC will become MLS’s 28th team when it kicks off play in late February.

–Field Level Media