Union spared in Los Angeles FC's expansion draft; Eric Ayuk returns from Sweden loan

The Union survived the ritual gamble of leaving players exposed for the latest Major League Soccer expansion draft, as new club Los Angeles FC took its allotted five players from elsewhere.

Each team in MLS had to offer 11 players to the expansion draft pool. The Union’s set was mostly made of reserves, but had a few notable names: left back Ray Gaddis, centerback Richie Marquez and backup goalkeeper John McCarthy. Marquez, in particular, seemed a candidate to be picked, as he’s a southern California native with 69 league appearances in his four-year career.

Los Angeles’ picks were: Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Tyler Miller, Sporting Kansas City forward Latif Blessing, San Jose Earthquakes forward Marco Ureña, Columbus Crew defender Jukka Raitala, and Toronto FC forward Raheem Edwards.

Ureña is the biggest name of the bunch. He is a regular with Costa Rica’s national team, and scored both goals in the Ticos’ World Cup qualifying win over the United States in New Jersey in September.

Some of the other players might end up getting flipped to other teams for more valuable assets. Raitala and Edwards have already been traded to Montreal for defender Laurent Ciman.

LAFC will begin playing next year, at a 22,000-seat stadium currently under construction that’s right next to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The ownership group includes Mia Hamm, Magic Johnson, Will Ferrell and Peter Guber.

The manager is former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley. His roster doesn’t have many players under contract yet, but it has two notable names in Egyptian centerback Omar Gaber and Mexican star midfielder Carlos Vela. Both players are likely to represent their nations at next summer’s World Cup. So is Ciman, with Belgium.

Eric Ayuk returns from Sweden loan

The Union picked up Cameroonian winger Eric Ayuk’s contract option for the 2018 season. Ayuk, 20, returns to the team after a year-long loan with Swedish club Jönköpings Södra IF. While abroad, he recorded one goal and zero assists in 12 league appearances and one domestic cup appearance. Jönköpings was relegated at the end of its season after finishing 14th out of the Swedish league’s 16 teams.

Ayuk joined the Union in 2015, breaking onto the scene with two goals and two assists in 28 league games. In that year, he became — and remains — the youngest player in history to play a full 90 minutes, and the youngest Union player to record an assist. He played in just one league game in 2016.

“Exercising Eric’s option is another important move for us as we continue to build a young core here in Philadelphia,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in a press release. “He performed well during his loan stint in Sweden, receiving valuable playing time at a high level. We look forward to helping him take the next step in his development here in Philadelphia.”