Monday Postgame: Who won the offseason? Ranking MLS overhauls as preseason ramps up
The offseason train keeps chugging along, bringing us closer and closer to the start of the 2014 season, and providing plenty of sightseeing along the way.
This past week, if you looked out your compartment window you saw Philadelphia continue their midfield makeover, the LA Galaxy launch their own USL PRO franchise, and San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski boost his World Cup stock by scoring both goals in the US national team’s 2-0 win over South Korea.
Elsewhere, there was a uniform and logo redesign for the Earthquakes, more expansion developments in Miami and San Antonio and, believe it or not, a Freddy Adu sighting. The former MLS wunderkind turned up in England, training with Championship side Blackpool.
There was also, on Friday, the closing of the European winter transfer window. MLS still has a transfer window of its own, from February 12 to May 6, so teams can still bring in players. But for now, with training camps in full swing, let’s take a look at who fared best in the offseason.
Here’s a lightning-round ranking of all 19 teams’ winter moves:
19. Montreal: Veteran defender Matteo Ferrari recently said the Impact were “a little bit … not as good as before.” A little bit, yes: They lost Alessandro Nesta and Davy Arnaud and have made no significant acquisitions.
18. FC Dallas: Said goodbye to former MVP David Ferreira, versatile Brazilian Jackson, and big striker Kenny Cooper, and hello to … journeyman midfielder Adam Moffat, former UVA attacker Brian Span, and draftee Ryan Hollingshead. Fans are no doubt waiting for the other shoe – or several pairs of other shoes – to drop.
17. Vancouver: The Whitecaps lost 2013 MLS Golden Boot winner Camilo and his 22 goals in a messy, embarrassing exchange with Liga MX side Querétaro. On the bright side, they picked up Iranian international and 2012 MLS All-Star defender Steven Beitashour.
16. Houston: The Dynamo reached their third straight Eastern Conference Championship last season, and have more or less stood pat since, replacing center back Bobby Boswell with David Horst, adding defender A.J. Cochran in the draft, and getting winger Tony Cascio on loan from Colorado. Are they keeping pace in the revamped East?
15. Real Salt Lake: The team that came within a penalty shootout of the 2013 championship is obviously still equipped to contend, but they’ve been very quiet in the offseason, only signing young attacker Jordan Allen to a Homegrown contract, and adding two-time NASL Best XI midfielder Luke Mulholland.
14. Sporting Kansas City: Confident in their title-winning roster, the defending champs have only added winger Sal Zizzo and keeper Andy Gruenebaum. They also re-signed defender Chance Myers to keep their stout backline intact.
13. New England: Don’t underestimate how much Juan Agudelo brought to this young, exciting team last season. Draftees Patrick Mullins (pictured right) and Steve Neumann are skillful players, but not likely to replace Agudelo’s impact this year.
12. San Jose: The Quakes gave up one of the league’s better wingback duos in Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow, as well as quality midfielders Rafael Baca and Marvin Chávez. Are replacements Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (from Ligue 1 side AJ Ajaccio), Billy Schuler, Brandon Barklage and Shaun Francis enough?
11. Chicago: New boss Frank Yallop revamped the Fire defense, sending Jalil Anibaba to Seattle in exchange for veterans Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni, and acquiring former RSL wingback Lovel Palmer. Yallop could use midfield help, though.
10. New York: No splashy signings, but the Red Bulls re-upped club Defender of the Year Jámison Olave, and acquired versatile veteran Bobby Convey and rugged defender Richard Eckersley, along with Spanish center back Armando.
9. Chivas USA: The Goats tabbed former US Under-17 national team boss Wilmer Cabrera as their head coach, and improved their defense with the addition of athletic center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste, who will likely partner former US international Carlos Bocanegra. On the attacking side, they brought in aging former Mexican international Adolfo “Bofo” Bautista, 34, and former Seattle winger Mauro Rosales, who turns 33 on February 24.
8. Colorado: The Rapids don’t have a coach as of now, but they have an exciting mix of youth and experience, and made two useful signings in speedy winger Chávez and veteran defender Marc Burch.
7. Columbus: The Crew lost club mainstays Eddie Gaven and Chad Marshall, but brought in US international defender Michael Parkhurst, Costa Rica international Waylon Francis, and former Galaxy midfielder Hector Jimenez. Can new coach Gregg Berhalter inch them toward the red line this year?
6. Seattle: The Sounders parted ways with striker Eddie Johnson and center backs Hurtado and Ianni. In return they took on Cooper and defenders Marshall and Anibaba. They also added a good goalkeeper in Stefan Frei, and a potential replacement for Rosales’s assists in winger Marco Pappa. If the new parts fit well, Clint Dempsey & Co. have a shot at meeting the high expectations awaiting them in 2014. But that could be a very big "if."
5. LA Galaxy: The Galaxy picked their spots, adding Swedish international winger Stefan Ishizaki, 22-year-old Brazilian forward Samuel, and towering Canadian international striker Rob Friend to help bring variety to their attack, which can be over-reliant on Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. They also added midfield depth in former Chicago Fire man Baggio Husidic.
4. Portland: The Timbers look better on paper heading into 2014 thanks to some savvy, selective acquisitions: They picked up former Seattle winger Steve Zakuani, and added to their Argentine brigade by bringing in striker Gastón Fernández and defender Norberto Paparatto to join countrymen Diego Valeri and Maximiliano Urruti.
3. D.C. United: With nowhere to go but up, the Black-and-Red could soar this season. They remade their defense by picking up Sean Franklin, Jeff Parke, and Boswell, and their attack by bringing in Johnson and Fabián Espíndola. They also nabbed veteran Arnaud, and drafted promising former Cal center back Steve Birnbaum.
2. Philadelphia: The Union’s offseason rivaled the landmark one in Toronto. Philly acquired US international Maurice Edu, 27-year-old Argentine midfielder (and DP) Cristian Maidana, and 26-year-old Frenchman Vincent Nogueira, ex-captain of Ligue 1 side Sochaux. They also mined the SuperDraft for some promising talent, including overall No. 1 selection Andre Blake, and 6-foot-4 Brazilian midfielder Pedro Ribeiro out of Coastal Carolina.
1. Toronto: The biggest double-signing in league history rightly grabbed the headlines, but don’t overlook the Reds’ other pickups: Brazilian DP striker Gilberto, former MVP Dwayne De Rosario, versatile ex-Dallas man Jackson, 2012 All-Star wingback Morrow, and Blackburn loanee Bradley Orr.