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MLS Re-Entry draft: D.C. United defender Nick DeLeon among 3 selected in Stage 1

D.C. United defender Nick DeLeon (14) attempts to shoot the ball on Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) as Crew SC defender Milton Valenzuela (19) defends in the first extra time at Audi Field. Crew SC won 2-2 (3-2 pen.). (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

After spending the first seven years of his professional career with D.C. United, defender Nick DeLeon is making the move to Toronto FC as one of three players selected in Stage 1 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Friday.

The first player selected was goalkeeper Andre Rawls by the Colorado Rapids, while left back Donny Toia returned to Real Salt Lake, where he was the club’s first Homegrown signing.

All three players will need to have their options exercised by their new clubs after having them denied by their previous clubs at the end of the season.

Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft is set for Dec. 20 at 2 p.m. Teams can negotiate new deals with players selected in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft. 

The 28-year-old DeLeon, who started his career as a midfielder but converted to an outside back in recent years, made 180 regular season appearances for D.C. United and was a finalist for 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year.

DeLeon battled injuries the last two seasons, limiting his minutes to a career-low 1,062 this year. However, he scored one of the Black-and-Red’s biggest goals of the year, a sensational extra time equalizer in the Knockout Round against Columbus before Crew SC prevailed on penalty kicks.

DeLeon, picked seventh overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, also scored the late winner over the rival New York Red Bulls in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals.

“Nick is a veteran player that has experience both playing as an attacking winger and also as a defender,” Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “His versatility will be a welcomed addition to our club.” 

Rawls was originally selected by New York City FC in the third round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, but wasn’t signed until 2016 after spending a season with the Wilmington Hammerheads.

Rawls, 26, never made a first-team appearance and spent the 2018 season on loan with Orange County SC. Playing time might be tough to come by for Rawls, with Tim Howard returning for 2019 and the club acquiring Clint Irwin in a trade with Toronto on Friday.

The third player selected Friday was Toia, who went back to Real Salt Lake after two years with the Lions. The 26-year-old, who never played for RSL, spent a year with Chivas USA before two with the Montreal Impact and two with Orlando, where he made 29 starts in 2017, but just three this past season.

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