New faces in new places
just like last year, they will make some moves right before or after the season starts.
The MetroStars pulled off this year's big signing with Youri Djorkaeff. I was an assistant coach for a U.S. Under-21 team in 1989, where we played in the Toulon tournament in France and finished third -- the best U.S. finish ever in that tournament. We tied France 1-1 in a group game. The goal for France came from a Djorkaeff free kick. Our goalkeeper was Kasey Keller. Memories.
Well, Youri will help the Metros; he is a big-time pro with great skills and experience. The travel will get to him and the pace of the game will cause him to wear down. But if Bob Bradley uses him correctly and connects him to Amado Guevera he will help their young team immensely. The value of a player like this is just as big off the field in the locker room, providing leadership, stories and an example.
D.C. United has also stood pat so far. They have room to add one foreign player. Christian Gomez was a big addition last year and this year I think they will still add a defender. Stay tuned to find out who that will be.
Columbus exchanged veterans with Chicago. Tony Sanneh was an extra for the Crew as a defender and they had that part down before he joined them last year. Ante Razov adds some firepower upfront for Columbus with Jeff Cunningham moving on to Colorado. The key will be how Edson Buddle and Razov combine. Who will sacrifice for the other and how good will Kyle Martino's service be? The potential is good but only time will tell -- it is that thing called chemistry.
The Fire made a ton of moves. They added Sanneh in the back along with Samuel Caballero. Both players have been injury-prone, but if they are healthy, these two additions give them size and experience and toughness. John Thorrington has great speed and can play wide on the right, or on the left in a pinch. But he is another one who has been injured a lot. If they can't overcome the injury bug, Chicago coach Dave Sarachan will need an extra trainer. Mario Ivan Guerrero is another good player who should help them at left back. He attacks well and is a capable defender. It looks like it will be four in the back this year for the Fire.
Kansas City made only one main change, and adding Sasha Victorine helps them due to his versatility. He is the kind of player that sometimes is under-appreciated by the fans. But, during my time at the Galaxy whenever a team talked to us about trades, the Victorine name was one of the first mentioned by the other team. There still could be one more addition. Remember: Russian striker Igor Simutenkov is gone.
Out West, we start with Club Deportivo Chivas USA, one of the new teams. Ramon Ramirez gives them a great veteran influence. He is skillful and smart, but again, travel and the pace of the game could take a toll. They have a lot of foreign players and these players always take some time to adjust to the time changes that accompany travel, something that makes MLS unique from other leagues. Douglas Sequeira is a defensive midfielder who will give them some steel in the middle of the field -- but he is not a game-breaker.
The other new team is Real Salt Lake. The jury is still out on the big Bosnian defender they got, Senad Halilovic. Jason Kreis is set to have a big year. He looked lean and hungry down in Bradenton, Fla. The man has pride and a good attitude. Clint Mathis is also one of the best when he wants to play and is focused. And Eddie Pope is the class among U.S. defenders when he is healthy. Trinidad & Tobago international Marlon Rojas is another strong defender, but a little inconsistent. The early season will shows us how well all this meshes.
San Jose has had to rebuild. I always like to say reload, but when you lose so many players down the middle of the field then you are rebuilding. Brad Davis, acquired in a trade with Dallas, and Ricardo Clark, in a trade with the MetroStars, definitely help. They both have great potential, but are still short on experience and need to step up quickly and run the game. Alejandro Moreno and Ronald Cerritos will help them up front. Both these players are consistent. Cerritos may have lost a little pop in his step but he still holds it well and is good in the air. Moreno brings his lunch pail everyday and is faster than people think. Wade Barrett solidifies the left side again. There might still be a move to come with the Quakes.
FC Dallas. OK, I need to get used to saying that. Cornell Glen adds speed and Dallas hopes he is more consistent than he was with the MetroStars. I still expect them to make a move for a veteran defender before the season starts. The rest of their team has stayed pretty much the same.
The Colorado Rapids added a great deal of speed with Cunningham. A change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered. When he is on, there is no defender in the league who wants to see Jeff running at you with the ball one versus one. I think there are many more moves to come though. Coach Fernando Clavijo is usually active on the foreign player front and I think he is just evaluating players at this point.
Finally, the Galaxy. Guillermo Ramirez is a good signing. He can play make and is also goal dangerous. Michael Umaña is a solid defender, not spectacular but solid. Again the foreign players need to adjust to the day-to-day tempo of MLS. Carlos Ruiz did this fairly quickly, due to his style of play -- he enjoyed the physicality. Los Angeles has stockpiled money with their trades with Salt Lake and Chivas USA. This allows the team to make another move or two with the extra cash. What formation they play to get the best out Ruiz and Ramirez is the key question.
That's an early run at some of the moves made this offseason by the 12 MLS teams. But have no fear: there will be more to come as the season grows closer.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.