D.C. United's championship roster was further depleted yesterday when three players, including defender Ezra Hendrickson, were selected in the MLS expansion draft. Rookie midfielder Kevin Ara and oft-injured forward Thiago Martins also were picked.

However, club officials felt fortunate to not lose promising goalkeeper Troy Perkins and Salvadoran midfielder Eliseo Quintanilla.

"We didn't want to lose anyone," technical director Dave Kasper said, "but the reality of an expansion draft is that we were going to lose a few players who meant a lot to the team."

Starting midfielder Earnie Stewart announced after the team's MLS Cup victory that he was planning to return to Europe and all-star defender Ryan Nelsen is pursuing a deal with a European club.

Hendrickson, 32, was selected in the third round by the new Los Angeles team, which will be operated by famed Mexican club Chivas and be known as Chivas USA. He had joined United in midseason to provide defensive depth and ended up playing 12 regular season games (eight starts). He also started in the Eastern Conference final against New England.

Ara, a third-round pick from Harvard last winter, was chosen in the ninth round by Salt Lake City. He made six regular season appearances, including one start, and played just 114 minutes. With United's depth in midfield, Ara would've had difficulty earning time next season.

Martins, 28, missed the entire season after tearing the ACL in his left knee last winter and then re-tearing it on the brink of his return to the active roster in June. However, United was counting on the 6-foot, 185-pound Brazilian to compete for time as a target forward next year.

Chivas, coached by former United Coach Thomas Rongen, selected several players with Latin American backgrounds, including first overall pick Arturo Torres, a midfielder from the Los Angeles Galaxy; Chicago midfielder Orlando Perez; Kansas City midfielder Francisco Gomez; and Colorado defender Antonio de la Torre.

Salt Lake City chose Chicago veteran midfielder Andy Williams in the first round and Chicago goalie D.J. Countess in the second.

United feared that Perkins, who made 16 starts before yielding to veteran Nick Rimando, would go, leaving the club with only one experienced goalkeeper going into next season. But Countess turned out to be the only goalie grabbed.

Quintanilla was another prime candidate because of his Salvadoran roots, but the fact that he missed the entire season with a broken leg might have scared off Chivas.

Meantime, United is holding out hope that Nelsen will re-sign with MLS, but a source close to the situation said that, in addition to a pair of English Premier League teams, Nottingham Forest was among three lower-level clubs in the running. A German Bundesliga team is also interested.