Three for Thursday: Counting down the best midseason imports to MLS who didn't break the bank
Teams are on the move again as the summer transfer window opens, looking to find that one foreign import who could make the difference between success and failure as the league gears up for another exciting playoff push.
For many clubs in this day and age, that means a Designated Player, though buyer beware – there are plenty of high-priced busts that have graced MLS briefly, and plenty more to come. Sometimes it's more prudent to search for a more cost-effective option.
In fact, two of MLS' most successful teams added key pieces in the summer transfer window at one point or another without breaking the bank. Here are the three most successful midseason imports to MLS of the non-DP variety:
Gómez arrived at D.C. United in 2004 after making a name for himself in his native Argentina, and the team's interest in him quickly proved to be well-founded.
He meshed well with a D.C. attack led by Jaime Moreno (more on him later), scoring four goals in the nine regular-season games he played that year and adding another in the postseason as D.C. earned a fourth MLS Cup for their trophy cabinet.
The initial success was no fluke, as Gómez established himself as a legitimate attacking threat, earning himself spots on the MLS Best XI in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He was named league MVP in 2006, won a pair of Supporters' Shields with United, and would finish his MLS career – which included a one-year stint with the Colorado Rapids – with an impressive 48 goals and 39 assists in just over 10,000 minutes played.
Plucked from the Spanish second division in August 2007 – the summer of David Beckham – the signing didn't make waves. But there was no doubt that Morales was a quick learner, tallying an assist less than a minute into his MLS debut.
It was too little, too late for RSL that year, with the team well out of playoff contention, but it was clear that Morales was not simply meant to be a quick fix. In 2008, he led RSL to their first-ever playoff berth, starting 29 of 30 games while tallying six goals and 15 assists, the latter good for second in the league.
The numbers weren't quite as sparkling in 2009, but the Argentine playmaker nonetheless started all four of RSL's playoff games, adding a goal and an assist as the Claret-and-Cobalt won their first-ever MLS Cup.
Since then, Morales has gone on to establish himself as one of the premier playmakers in MLS, and indeed on the continent. He helped RSL to the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League finals and established himself as a key part of the team's widely hailed possession style while providing a deadly threat on set pieces. He even earned himself a DP deal in 2012 in the process.
Why not save the best for last?
Moreno is one of the first-ever MLS midseason signings, having come over to D.C. United from Middlesbrough in the summer of 1996. He quickly made an impact, netting three goals and three assists in nine regular-season games, plus another one of each in United's successful run to MLS Cup 1996. He also netted three goals across the semifinals and final as United completed the double by claiming the US Open Cup.
The much-loved Bolivian didn't stop there, though. By the time he was done with his MLS career in 2010, he had totaled 133 goals – the league record then and one shy of the record now – over 340 appearances, had been nominated to five MLS Best XIs and was named MLS Cup MVP in 1997.
Not only was Moreno individually brilliant, he was an integral part of every trophy D.C. racked up from that first double all the way to the 2008 US Open Cup. As one of the greatest MLS players of all time, it's a no-brainer to rank one of the first midseason signings as one of the best as well.