Every MLS Team’s Biggest Offseason Move
Biggest Offseason Moves for Every MLS Team
Each year, the offseason in MLS becomes a little more convoluted while being more exciting. Toronto FC has made the biggest slash in MLS as they may have cemented a new trend of teams signing big-name players easily recognized by North American fans after the Seattle Sounders got Clint Dempsey to return in 2013. The league helped facilitate both of those moves. The high-profile transfers, signing of international players and designated player slot movement this offseason has once again called into question the business transparency of the league as more new rules were revealed, along with various interpretations of old rules. As the league continues to expand, there are still many who are unsure of how that plan is executed.
The lack of understanding continues as the Montreal Impact close in on Uruguayan forward Santiago Gonzalez, who is being signed by a mechanism called a special discovery signing. The contract of Gonzalez is spread out over several seasons to allow for a smaller cap hit. This is so that teams can have access to players they would otherwise be unable to sign. It also does not use one of the two designated player slots a team is allowed. Teams may purchase a third slot like Toronto FC did.
This mechanism essentially means the league controls the player until the team pays an equal salary. That can be understood, but what happened with Camilo Sanvezzo is still baffling. Camilo will play for Queretaro next season, and began the process by tweeting a picture of him in their kit. His agent played the system that was put in place by the Vancouver Whitecaps' debacle to name a new coach, and backed his player that had an option with no salary figure exercised by the Whitecaps. The front office of MLS stayed pretty quiet other than to say Vancouver got a good deal, and details of the transaction are still foggy.
In November, Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena joined USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann in expressing the thought that the offseason in MLS is too long. Klinsmann expressed this view two years ago, citing that most pro clubs get two months off before returning to work. Regardless of those thoughts, preseason has begun for MLS teams and the big moves of the last few months are starting to show their worth.
Now let's take a look at the biggest move for every team over the last several months. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
Chicago Fire - Benji Joya
The Chicago Fire were one of the more active clubs in the offseason, declining five club options and signing two players to homegrown contracts. However, they were awarded Benji Joya in a weighted lottery at the beginning of this month, and the former U-20 U.S. international has a good chance to find time in the starting lineup. Joya has a chance to line up behind the 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee after signing with MLS from Santos Laguna. Joya can be a box-to-box type player if the Fire decide to use him that way, but his offensive instincts are hard to ignore.
Chivas USA - Mauro Rosales
There is always some type of story coming from Chivas USA, but acquiring Mauro Rosales is finally a positive piece of news. The Goats used over a dozen players in the midfield last year, so Rosales brings reliability and productivity. Rosales should be able to provide assists for a team that desperately needs them.
Colorado Rapids - Marvin Chavez
The team from the Rockies contended for much of the year last season, but the Rapids' inexperience was too much to overcome. Unfortunately, they did not make a big splash, and two of their outgoing players are big additions to other clubs. The arrival of Marvin Chavez via trade will help with speed on the outside, but they waited so long to name a new coach that the team's preparations have to be lagging behind.
Columbus Crew - Michael Parkhurst
The Columbus Crew is going to look a lot different this season as new owner Anthony Precourt looks to revitalize the franchise. Adding USMNT defender Michael Parkhurst to the mix is a good way to start. The move will be good for Parkhurst as he tries to play his way to Brazil for the World Cup. He may be playing center-back in Columbus, but will continue to show his versatility.
D.C. United - Eddie Johnson
This could have went a number of different ways for D.C. United. They have had a very active offseason, saying goodbye to Dwayne De Rosario and adding a multitude of players via the Re-Entry Draft and trade. Adding forward Eddie Johnson could prove to be the biggest move made this offseason despite the acquisition of Fabian Espindola, Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell. Johnson was clear that he wanted paid last year and now he has to prove he is worth the investment. As always, he will be a target in set pieces and could be part of a dynamic attack.
FC Dallas - Adam Moffat
The offseason for FC Dallas was stagnant. They have made a couple moves in the last week, including signing attacker Andres Escobar on loan from Dynamo Kiev who could be part of a three-man front line. Still, it is the consistency of Adam Moffat in the midfield that makes him more valuable. There is always the threat of a long-range strike from Moffat to energize the crowd. Moffat has been on the move a lot lately, but wants to prove that he is worth an investment.
Houston Dynamo - Tony Cascio
Tony Cascio has looked great in the preseason as he tries to earn minutes with the Houston Dynamo. Cascio became the first intra-league loan in MLS history, a mechanism approved in 2013, and will be ineligible to play against the Rapids. Although the Dynamo were rather quiet, it is Cascio's ability to fit into Dom Kinnear's system that could help him find his potential.
Los Angeles Galaxy - Jose Villarreal
This is the first departure in the list that could impact a team more than any incoming player, as Jose Villarreal was loaned to Cruz Azul from the Los Angeles Galaxy. Villarreal moved to Mexico with Michael Farfan and there were some initial problems with the processing. The Galaxy used Villarreal at times last season, and will be relying heavily on aging players this year. The U-20 USMNT player hopes to return to L.A. after the 12-month loan.
Montreal Impact - Eric Miller
What does it say about a team's offseason that one of their draft picks is the biggest move? The Montreal Impact took Eric Miller, a former U-20 USMNT international and standout at Creighton University, fifth overall in the 2014 SuperDraft. Miller's versatility would allow him to play up to three positions, though he may fit best at fullback.
New England Revolution - SuperDraft Winners
It is not that the New England Revolution didn't make any moves this offseason, but their SuperDraft was easily the best. The Revs were able to acquire Steve Neumann and Patrick Mullins after a couple trades to move them up in the order. With the attacking third being the primary focus in the draft, the Revs' goal was clear in drafting Mullins, the two-time defending MAC Hermann Trophy winner, and Neumann, the 2013 Big East Offensive Player of the Year.
New York Red Bulls - Richard Eckersley
The defending Supporters' Shield winner New York Red Bulls had to be smart this offseason as the salary cap was a concern. They needed a veteran defender after losing four from their 2013 roster. Acquiring Richard Eckersley could prove to be a smart, economical move.
Philadelphia Union - Maurice Edu
The USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu desperately needed a move from Stoke City, and despite rumors that MLS was blocking the move, he is now a member of the Philadelphia Union. Edu has been an afterthought for almost two years now and should be a fixture in the midfield for Philadelphia.
Portland Timbers - Mikael Silvestre
This is another case of a player leaving a team, but figuring out how to amicably split with Mikael Silvestre will be beneficial for the Portland Timbers. It was clear that Silvestre did not fit into Caleb Porter's system, and he has dealt with a serious knee injury over the last year. The Timbers were making moves ahead of the decision on Silvestre and addressed their needs, but it is the consistency of Porter that has made this team a CONCACAF Champions League qualifier.
Real Salt Lake - Jeff Cassar
This is not about a player at all. When Real Salt Lake decided to hire a head coach from within, they made the right choice. Jeff Cassar will be able to use last year's momentum from a supposed rebuilding year that ended with the team being as runner-ups in the MLS Cup.
San Jose Earthquakes - Atiba Harris
There have been plenty of changes with the San Jose Earthquakes this offseason, including their kit as they celebrate 40 years as a franchise. Atiba Harris came over from Colorado with more athleticism and versatility than the attacking options on the roster. Harris was targeted for more aerial balls in 2013 than any other player, but could play on the outside in coach Mark Watson's system that stresses lots of player movement.
Seattle Sounders - Sigi Schmid
The transaction list for the Seattle Sounders is pretty long, but the best move was reaffirming belief in coach Sigi Schmid. Last year, they dealt with injury and a gutted roster from World Cup qualifiers. When Dempsey joined the squad, the Sounders could not mesh. Now that the ownership has backed Schmid, that distraction is gone and everyone can focus on a better finish than in 2013.
Sporting Kansas City - Andy Gruenebaum
The defending MLS Cup Champions will have a new starting goalkeeper in 2014. Andy Gruenebaum came over from Columbus to provide a solid option and create a good competition for Eric Kronberg. The two goalies know each other well and should make the topic of the starting keeper a non-issue.
Toronto FC - Michael Bradley
The team that has won the offseason is Toronto FC -- that is if you are looking for a splash. They have spent a lot of money along with the league to bring in USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley. It was a bit of a surprise, and not many thought Bradley would want to return from Italy. He will have a chance to hone his skills for the World Cup, where he is sure to be a starter. Toronto has made plenty of other moves, but Bradley is the focal point.
Vancouver Whitecaps - Jay Demerit
It is not a new player, but re-signing Jay Demerit is easily the best move the Whitecaps made this offseason. They have had a couple of public relations debacles to go with the slow hiring process for their head coach. Demerit is the captain, and feels like he still has a lot to prove after battling an injury last season. The Whitecaps needed to ink the veteran to get some good PR.