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Austin FC Brings First Squad Into Focus Through Expansion Draft, Trades

Inaugural club roster swells to 11

By Eric Goodman, December 18, 2020, Sports

When Austin FC Head Coach Josh Wolff woke up Sunday morning, the first day of the 2021 MLS offseason, his team did not have enough players to run a three-man weave drill. Three days later, the backbone of the club's inaugural roster has begun to take shape.

In Tuesday's livestreamed, socially distant 2020 MLS Expansion Draft, held exclusively for Austin FC, Wolff and Sporting Director Claudio Reyna announced the addition of four players to the club's debut squad, as well as one trade to acquire free agency spending money.

Forward Danny Hoesen, winger Jared Stroud, goalkeeper Brady Scott, and midfielder Joe Corona are all headed to the Texas capital. "We feel that we were able to really target some areas with experience and also youth and continue to round out the roster," Reyna said.

With the first of five picks, AFC took Hoesen, a 29-year-old Dutch attacker from the San Jose Earth­quakes. Hoesen is a well-traveled, imposing No. 9 striker coming off an unproductive 2020 season that ended prematurely due to a knee injury. Both Reyna and Wolff expressed confidence that Hoesen will bounce back in 2021.

Stroud, a versatile winger, made 20 appearances for the New York Red Bulls in 2020. His high-energy play impressed AFC staff, who were excited to see the 24-year-old on the list of unprotected players. "Right away when we saw the expansion list come out, we highlighted [Stroud] as someone we thought could add so much to our team," Reyna said.

Nashville SC's Scott becomes the first goalkeeper on the roster, though at 21 years old he is more likely a development project than an immediate starter. While he has yet to play in an MLS match, Scott has logged several appearances with the United States U-19 and U-20 national teams. Reyna raved about Scott's upside but admitted the club will look to add more experience between the posts.

Joe Corona projects as an immediate starter and an experienced leader in the midfield. Prior to joining LA Galaxy in 2019, Corona navigated an eight-year career in Liga MX with Tijuana and Club América, and has logged 23 caps with the U.S. men's national team.

With the final pick of the draft, AFC selected 23-year-old defender Kamal Miller, then immediately traded him to the Montreal Impact for $225,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), along with the 11th pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. Reyna believed the sum to be the largest ever swapped for an expansion draft pick in MLS history.

The addition of the four expansion players brings the club's current roster size to 11. On Sunday, Reyna and company took advantage of a half-day trade window to acquire five MLS veterans in exchange for a total of $1,175,000 in GAM. That group was headlined by 26-year-old fullback Nick Lima, acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes for $500,000 in GAM. Lima has played nine times with the USMNT, including at the 2019 Gold Cup, where Wolff served as an assistant coach. "I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this club from its foundation," Lima said in a Twitter video.

Austin FC's first two international signings, attackers Cecilio Domínguez and Rodney Redes, remain on loan playing in their native Paraguay.

The shortened MLS offseason hit its next gear yesterday, Wed., Dec. 16, as free agency kicked off. Reyna expects to be plenty busy rounding out the squad before the team takes the field in spring 2021. "We obviously still have more work to do," Reyna said. "But we feel good and we've got more and more players added to the squad. It's just coming to life."

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