Everyone has the blueprint because they saw it in action last year. Add the right piece from overseas (Nicolas Lodeiro), and you can be the Sounders – a team that's scuffling along but finds their form and makes it all the way to the final game of the season en route to hoisting the one trophy that everybody wants.
That's the lure and potential of the summer transfer/trade window, which is open as of Monday, July 10. It will stay open until August 9. The next four weeks, ladies and gents, is when big moves will happen.
With that in mind, here's a look at the roster status of all 22 teams, and some not-entirely-uninformed speculation about what they need, and what they could potentially get:
The Five Stripes have filled all 30 roster spots, and are signing a new Homegrown every 15 minutes thus far in their maiden MLS voyage, so they don't have obvious wiggle room. They also spent serious cash this winter on both DPs and TAM-level players, so it's hard to imagine them making a big splash here or there.
They could certainly use another center back they trust (Miles Robinson's lack of playing time is a concern), as well as a defensive midfielder who can soak up some of the good minutes Jeff Larentowicz is giving them. Larentowicz turns 34 next month, is well past 30,000 total minutes of professional soccer, and they've looked defensively flimsy without him. Getting an heir apparent, if not necessarily an outright replacement, has to be on their "to-do" list.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low, but who cares? They'll continue to be so much damn fun to watch regardless.
The scary thing about the Fire, who are unbeaten in 11 and sit atop the Supporters' Shield race and are generally playing the prettiest soccer in all of MLS, is that it feels like they've only made half their moves. They have a senior roster spot open, they have a reserve roster spot open, they have a supplemental roster slot open. Reportedly they have enough GAM and TAM left over to pay down David Accam's contract and open another DP slot. They theoretically have need for a midfield playmaker:
Quintero is fun and creative, but he might not be the right fit as he plays little defense. Still, that tweet should give everyone an idea of the Fire's ambitions over the next four weeks.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: High! Even if it's not a Quintero-level player in terms of name recognition, expect Chicago to add a backline piece and either a TAM-level, or DP-level attacking midfielder.
The Rapids went from nearly the top of the league in 2016 into something of a stealth overhaul in 2017, and I can't really blame them. What they did last year was mostly unsustainable, as is proving to be the case.
They're now left to make moves like the one from earlier this year, in which they shipped veterans Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to Minnesota United in return for a pair of mid-20s players in midfielder Mo Saeid and winger Josh Gatt. I'd expect them to keep doing stuff like that – targeting what they feel to be undervalued assets and trying to accumulate TAM and GAM – while waiting out a few of the bigger contracts on the books so they can go into full rebuild mode this winter.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low, but they're still going to be active. And they'll answer every phone call/listen to every offer.
The latest reports have Columbus zeroing in on Venezuelan winger Jhon Murillo as a potential Young DP addition this window. Murillo is a winger, and Justin Meram is a winger, and Ethan Finlay and Kekuta Manneh are wingers, and first-round draft pick Niko Hansen is a winger.
Even if we say "well yeah, but Meram is going to move inside and play as the No. 10 next year to replace Federico Higuain," that's still a glut of guys at one particular spot, and everybody in MLS needs wingers. Given that, and given Finlay's gone from the fringes of the US national team to a part-time, non-productive starter in Ohio, it's easy to imagine Gregg Berhalter will be taking a million potential, trade-related calls this month.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: High, both in terms of transfer and trade.
Dave Kasper made those season-saving moves for Sam and Mullins last July, and probably needs a reprise in 2017. D.C. are tied for dead last on points, tied for dead last in goal differential, and dead last in goals scored. Their season is over if they do not find some magic.
Part of it would hopefully come from getting the gang all healthy and back together again, but it seems now like United bet too large this winter on hoping that their cadre of over-30 key players would all defeat Father Time for one more year. That didn't happen, and they're now left in a situation where they need to address concerns on the backline, at defensive midfield and on the wing.
Speaking of defensive midfield in particular...
Kasper was seen at Red Bull Arena on Friday night, presumably to scout Honduras vs. Costa Rica. That's a good start.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: United aren't the type of team that signs household names (yet), but they've already brought in Jamaican international forward DeShorn Brown and are reportedly targeting Bolivian attacker Bruno Miranda. Expect a couple more moves at that level.
Dallas did most of their shopping this offseason. Some of it has come good, and much of the rest of it is what we'll politely term a work in progress. Either way, they clearly have enough talent in the side to stay in the hunt for the US Open Cup, the Shield and MLS Cup itself. I'd imagine most Dallas fans would feel it's a disappointment if they don't take home at least one of those titles.
The one place where they're thin is at center back. Expect an addition at that spot, perhaps via trade from within the league but more likely via import, as los Toros Tejanos have one international slot left open.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low. They'll make a move, not a splash (unless someone really does come in with some €€€ for Walker Zimmerman).
The Dynamo have been one of the surprise teams this half-season thanks largely to their group of attackers. Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis, Erick "Cubo" Torres and Mauro Manotas all have been among the better players in the league at their positions. Manotas in particular has through-the-roof trade value, but is probably untouchable. And really, I wouldn't expect any of those four to get moved unless Cubo has a breakout Gold Cup performance and some Liga MX teams come calling.
That said, there are clear upgrades that need to happen both in the backline and attacking midfield. It looks like that last bit is about to be addressed in the form of Argentine No. 10 Tomas Martinez, though nothing's official yet.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW:
The Galaxy have two senior roster slots and a DP slot open. They are below the playoff line, their defense has alternately been pretty passable (as in they earn something close to a passing grade) and pretty passable (in that you can pass right through them). They've missed some of their biggest names and best players throughout the season, and generally performed at a level below that which fans generally expect in Carson.
So yeah, they're going to make a big freaking splash this summer. At various times in the past 12 months they've been linked to Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Andre Pierre-Gignac and Dario Benedetto, which gives you an idea of how high they're aiming. There's also this:
Movsisyan hasn't been great for RSL (there's a reason he may very well be on the trade block, after all), but he strikes me right now as a "change of scenery" guy – the type who gets a kick-start just by finding a new address.
He doesn't have a Galaxy-esque international profile, but nobody will care about that if he gets goals.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: High. As much sense as getting Movsisyan makes, my money is on LA getting a player whose name is splashed on a screen that's 20 feet tall and luminous.
Moves are already being made, with the long-rumored acquisition of Scottish winger Sam Nicholson coming to fruition on Monday morning. In theory that gives Adrian Heath an attacking weapon on the wing who can either push for a starting job or come in as a change-of-pace substitution – something that the current backup wingers have uniformly failed to manage.
There's also been lots of talk of a loan-with-purchase-option move for RBNY Homegrown striker Brandon Allen, who's torn up USL for the last two years but hasn't really gotten an MLS run-out in Harrison. That makes sense to me, as does the Christian Dean interest; the rumored pursuit of Danish 'keeper Anders Lindegaard... not so much, given how well Bobby Shuttleworth has played and his manageable cap hit.
Regardless, it's going to be a busy summer for the Loons.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Medium. Lindegaard is probably the biggest name they'll be linked to, so "splash" isn't really the right word. But they're making moves already and there will be more to come.
Montreal's season isn't precisely hanging by a thread – making up seven points in the standings over half a season is far from impossible, especially when you have multiple games in hand (as the Impact do). But Ignacio Piatti is hurt, Ambroise Oyongo is really hurt, and the defense has been a sieve. There's not a lot to point to and say "yeah this team's ready to make a run."
Figuring out that defense has to be job No. 1. Montreal have a DP slot open, an international roster slot, and two senior roster slots, so they have room to add both another center back and a left back. I'm sure they're working the phones already.
The Revs have six roster slots open, but only one of them is a senior roster spot. Still, that's obviously enough to add a third DP to the disappointing duo of Kei Kamara and Xavier Kouassi, neither of whom has really worked out in Foxborough for one reason or another.
Using a DP slot to address obvious issues at center back wouldn't be unprecedented – remember Jose Gonçalves? – but it would probably be painful, given how much the Revs have already invested at that spot in offseason imports Antonio Delamea and Benjamin Angoua. Still, their season is slipping away one backline mistake at a time, and unlike the Impact they're not sitting on a bunch of home games in hand. The Revs are straight desperate.
Expect them to work the phones in the trade market as well as doing some overseas scouting.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: "Splash" isn't the right word but they'd love to replicate the success they had in signing Delamea. And if there are big intra-MLS trades this month, it shouldn't shock anyone to see the Revs at the heart of the deal.
All 20 senior roster slots taken, all three DP slots taken, and it seems like there's probably not that much room left in that salary budget. It also, quite frankly, doesn't seem like there's much need to add players to this team given A) how well they're playing, and B) how good a job Patrick Vieira's done of coaching up cast-offs like Ben Sweat, Tommy McNamara and Ethan White.
I could see teams calling NYCFC all day to ask about one of their young attackers. Maybe Miguel Camargo or Khiry Shelton is available? Those guys would have real trade value in the league, but it's not clear why/if the Cityzens would want to part with any of them unless an obscene amount of GAM or TAM is on the table.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low, unless Andrea Pirlo suddenly decides to retire.
New York reportedly have upwards of $700,000 in allocation money on hand, which means they have more than enough to pay down either Gonzalo Veron or Sacha Kljestan's DP hit (or maybe both?) and add a big name. I 1,000 percent expect that to happen fairly early in the window.
But the question is...
Where, exactly, do they make that big add? They're clearly missing Dax McCarty, but both Tyler Adams and Sean Davis have improved over the course of the season, and I just don't see RBNY walking away from the wager they placed on those guys after just six months.
Here's a tidbit: When Aurelien Collin goes 90 this season, RBNY are 3-2-0 with 6 goals scored and 3 conceded, and have posted three of their five shutouts. In the other 13 games this year they've gone 5-6-2 with 14 goals scored and 22 conceded. Their with/without Collin splits from last year were similarly horrible. Guess who they need to stay healthy?
So New York are clearly in the market for Collin insurance in central defense, and my guess is they'll go for a splashy attacking signing as well. Too much of the goalscoring burden has fallen onto Bradley Wright-Phillips's shoulders this year.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: High. Thierry Henry's not walking through that door, and Youri Djorkaeff's not walking through that door, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if there was a Juan Pablo Angel-esque signing walking through that door.
They were the ones supposedly in the lead for Juan Quintero, who would maybe be part of the answer for an attack that's become too static and predictable in recent months. If they've been pipped by Chicago, that means they'll have to rethink their approach this summer, or at least move down their list of targets.
And it probably does have to be a busy window. OCSC are the worst team in the league on PPG since the start of May, and while the defense has been mostly to blame, it's not like the attack has been busy banging home goals to bail out the backline.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Pretty high, but their real work is going to come in the winter. They'll be shedding a ton of salary and rebuilding a good chunk of the roster.
All 30 roster slots are filled, which means all 20 senior roster slots are filled. They've used up all their international slots as well. There's not a lot of wiggle room.
There are, however, potential trades to be made and the necessity of adding some sort of chance creator as a No. 10 to play underneath C.J. Sapong. Ilsinho has worked hard on both sides of the ball and they have a better record with him playing there than earlier in the season, but the inability to get the final ball from that part of the field is pretty clearly what's holding Philly back at the moment.
Roster moves can, of course, be made, and they do have an open DP slot. One way or the other they'll be adding a playmaker.
Of course, they may already have one on the roster who's just about ready to get some burn...
Adam Najem is very good.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: By Philly standards I'd say they're pretty decent.
Portland have a few roster slots open, but none of their three DPs (Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco) have contracts that appear to be the type you can easily pay down with TAM or GAM or a combination thereof.
That leaves them to do some needed backline surgery with allocation cash and cap space, and some of it has already taken place in the form of center back Larrys Mabiala, who was added back in June and is officially eligible to play now. Mabiala's played in some good leagues, and the hope will be that he blends into the lineup seamlessly and can hold down the fort while Liam Ridgewell recovers from (yet another) injury.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: They've already made their big signing. I could see them adding another veteran center back just in case.
This was supposed to be an on-the-fly rebuild that was derailed from Day 1 this year by Justen Glad's injury. They're 2-2-0 with 8 goals scored and 5 conceded in his four games back – not league leaders or anything, but not bad. In the first 16 games of the season while Glad was out via injury or international duty, they went 4-10-2 with 15 goals scored and 35 conceded. That is a catastrophe.
Glad is back now, and will have a new center back partner in Marcelo Silva, who was signed last week. The defense should improve, and the offense is already improving thanks to the addition of Jefferson Savarino, the return from international duty of Albert Rusnak and Brooks Lennon, and the return to form of Joao Plata.
The big question now is what happens with Movsisyan. On paper he should be an ideal fit for this team, but he's already clashed with head coach Mike Petke, his goal total since coming back to Utah hasn't been DP-caliber, and the reports of him being on the block are very credible.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: High. My guess is they'll make moves both within the league and by adding another piece from outside MLS. And don't be all that shocked if they get an offer they can't refuse for Plata.
San Jose's already made what's likely to be their biggest move of the window in signing DP attacker Vako Qazaishvili. How he fits – he's really a second striker, which is a spot currently pretty well spoken for in San Jose – will be interesting.
The other interesting thing is, obviously, the initiation of the Chris Leitch era and the changes that come with it. The Quakes have been mostly a 3-5-2 team under Leitch thus far and have put much more emphasis on holding the ball and building through midfield. It's been good, too, with a couple of wins against Seattle and LA, and a good 30 minutes at Atlanta before Kofi Sarkodie's needless red card.
The biggest revelation thus far hasn't been the formation, though, but rather how commanding Anibal Godoy has been in a pure, deep-lying defensive midfield role. If that's his long-term spot, and if they're confident Jackson Yueill can play as a No. 8 in front of him, then guys like Darwin Ceren and Fatai Alashe are indeed tradeable assets.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: They have a chance to make some interesting trades, for sure. And they'll probably want to set their sights on an in-his-prime center back, since most of their options at that spot are on the wrong side of 30.
Seattle have already addressed a need at their troublesome right back slot by acquiring Dutchman Kelvin Leerdam last week. They probably also need to add a young and athletic center back – even if the rumors about Roman Torres leaving aren't true, they should do that – and with, reportedly, $900,000 in allocation money to spend, they have the room to do it.
But there is maybe an even better chance that allocation cash goes to pay down Ozzie Alonso's contract in order to open up space for another DP signing. The most frequently mentioned name has been Paraguayan international winger Derlis Gonzalez, currently of Dynamo Kiev. Gonzalez is a Miguel Almiron-level talent, which gives you an idea of Seattle's ambitions here.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Just as happened last summer with Lodeiro...
Big splash. Huge.
SKC have roster slots open and everybody knows they make one or two low-key signings every summer. It could be a flier on a Central American prospect or a guy brought up from Swope Park Rangers, or maybe even somebody picked up off the waiver wire. "Splashy" really isn't their thing.
Interesting to note, though, that they've gotten recent productivity from Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi, as well as Homegrown center back Erik Palmer-Brown. The first two are welcome additions to the attack while Palmer-Brown will be one of the more fascinating players to keep an eye on this summer because there will very clearly be offers from large, European clubs for his services (though given he has only six months left on his SKC deal, a pre-contract is probably more likely than an outright purchase).
About the biggest splash SKC could make, then, is to sign EPB to an extension, which would maybe presage a move to a three-man backline alongside Ike Opara and Matt Besler? That seems anathema given Peter Vermes's devotion to the 4-3-3, but it's worth looking at more than once.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low.
They have two senior roster slots open, and an international slot, so they can do some work if they can find a guy at the right price. And it's very obvious where they'd be looking: right wingback. Steven Beitashour is out for a while after getting hit by a Kyle Fisher-shaped truck in the Canadian Championship, and right now the depth chart at that spot looks like this:
- Rookie Oyvind Alseth
- Literally no one else
(Tsubasa Endoh is not a right back, don't @ me).
The good news? Alseth's been totally decent in his 164 minutes! I'm sure it was nice for the TFC brass to discover that in a non-total-emergency situation.
The other good news? TFC's not dumb. I'm sure they knew they were thin at right back and had probably been scouting that spot all season.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: It's hard to see a move happening within the league (there just aren't a lot of right backs out there for some reason), but they'll add a piece. It just won't be a "splashy" piece.
Wooooo Yordy Reyna HYPE TRAIN!!!!!!
The biggest addition the 'Caps will make this window is the guy they signed back in the winter who missed the first half of the season. Reyna is FUN:
He was relentless against NYCFC in the exact way that Vancouver needed.
There remains the possibility of that Christian Dean trade, and there have been rumors of Atiba Hutchinson all year. Atiba's quality, but he's 34 and has played over 600 professional games. There's not a lot of tread left on the tires, so if they can get him for a reasonable price on an 18-month contract that makes a certain amount of sense.
But spending a DP slot? No.
LIKELIHOOD OF MAKING A SPLASH THIS WINDOW: Low, but I bet they're involved in a lot of trade talks.