Contract Deadline Day: Breaking down the biggest moves

Lloyd Sam - DC United - pointing - isolated

Monday was MLS' Contract Deadline Day, meaning that all non-playoff teams must pick up or decline their players' contract options for the 2018 season, while out-of-contract players will also be announced. We'll be breaking down all the biggest moves and what they mean right here, and you can check out our deadline day tracker for a complete rundown of all the teams' rosters.


D.C. decline options on Franklin, Sam

D.C. United announced their moves on Wednesday, saying goodbye to a few veterans in the process. Sean Franklin and Lloyd Sam saw their options declined after a 2017 season that saw United finish in last place in the Eastern Conference. Franklin appeared in just 19 matches in 2017, after helping to lead D.C. to the playoffs in the previous three years. After registering three goals and six assists in under 1,000 minutes last season for United, Sam was unable to replicate that type of output in double the minutes this season.

Patrick Nyarko and Marcelo Sarvas were left out of contract while the team is currently negotiating to bring back goalkeeper Steve Clark. 

Fire decline purchase option on Juninho

On Tuesday, the Chicago Fire's roster moves yielded few big-time shockers. They exercised most of the options on players instrumental to their 2017 rebuild, while the majority of fan favorites still stayed under contract. Still, at least one familiar face in MLS won't be staying: Juninho, whose purchase option, at the end of his loan to the team, was declined. The 28-year-old played six seasons with the LA Galaxy, from 2010 to 2015, helping the team to three MLS Cups during that period. This year marked his return to MLS from two years in Liga MX, at Club Tijuana. With the Fire this year, he played in 21 matches, starting 17, earning a goal and two assists. 

A last word -- yes, Bastian Schweinsteiger is technically out of contract, but with the team reaffirming they're negotiating with him, he hasn't necessarily seen his last days in Chicago. 

Rapids decline options on Gatt, Gordon, nix Gil purchase

Midfielder Josh Gatt and veteran forward Alan Gordon were among those whose club options were not picked up by the Colorado Rapids on Monday.

Gatt, who came over from Minnesota United in a late March trade, had two goals and three assists – all for Colorado – after moving to MLS from Norwegian side Molde. The 36-year-old Gordon played mostly as a late sub, recording three goals and four assists in 26 appearances with six starts.

The Rapids also declined the purchase option on midfielder Luis Gil, acquired in a midseason trade with Orlando City SC after returning to MLS on loan from Lixa MX side Queretaro.

RSL part ways with veteran Schuler

Chris Schuler has been with Real Salt Lake for all eight of his seasons in MLS, but the veteran defender has not had a 20-match year in league play since 2014 and the club declined his option on Monday.

Schuler had twelve appearances this season, after appearing in just nine league matches total in 2015-16.

The club also faces several decisions to make with veterans who are out of contract – goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Chris Wingert – and Homegrown winger Brooks Lennon's loan deal from Liverpool expires at the end of the season, leaving him out of contract as well.

Whitecaps' deep cuts include Laba, Bolanos

Goalkeeper David Ousted has known since June that the Vancouver Whitecaps weren't picking up his option for 2018, but the club still had plenty of surprises to unveil on Monday.

The list of those whose options were declined includes midfielders Christian Bolanos, who had seven assists in league play this year, and Matias Laba, whose season was cut short in August by an ACL injury and subsequent surgery. The Whitecaps' list of declined options also included those of midfielders Marco Bustos and Russell Teibert, as well as veteran winger Mauro Rosales.

However, the club are still in talks with several players whose options were declined, and hope to keep striker Fredy Montero at BC Place after his one-year loan from Chinese side Tianjin Teda expires.

Kouassi, Angoua out in New England

New head coach Brad Friedel promised a defensive overhaul when he was introduced as head coach a couple weeks ago, and that's exactly what their initial offseason roster moves reflect. The two most significant departures are those of center back Benjamin Angoua and defensive midfielder Xavier Kouassi, the latter a DP. Both players had their options declined, along with defenders Donnie Smith, Josh Smith, Je-Vaughn Watson and London Woodberry and forward Brian Wright. In addition, defender Andrew Farrell, goalkeeper Brad Knighton (eligible for free agency), and forward Teal Bunbury are out of contract, while midfielder Gershon Koffie returned to his original club, Hammarby IF of Sweden.

Timbers keep squad mostly intact

After they announced their roster moves for the offseason, it appears the most significant turnover for the Portland Timbers is most likely coming in the form of a coaching change. The only two options not picked up by the Timbers were those of defender/midfielders Amobi Okugo and Bill Tuiloma, with the Timbers opting to extend a bona fide offer to Tuiloma. Midfielder Ben Zemanski is also out of contract and will be eligible for MLS free agency. Forward Lucas Melano is under contract with the Timbers for 2018 and remains on loan with Estudiantes in Argentina.

FCD hope to keep Figueroa despite declining club option

FC Dallas declined their option on defender Maynor Figueroa on Monday, but said they hope to work out a new deal for 2018 with the Honduran international.

Figueroa has been a key part of the Dallas defense over the past two seasons, with 54 league starts, and helped them to a Supporters' Shield/Lamar Hunt US Open Cup double in 2016.

Dallas also declined options on defender/midfielder and Saint Kitts and Nevis international Atiba Harris, who will be eligible for free agency, and on veteran midfielder Javier Morales. Veteran goalkeeper Chris Seitz is out of contract and also eligible for free agency.

Sporting KC part ways with DM Mustivar

Soni Mustivar was Sporting Kansas City's first-choice defensive midfielder in 2015-16, but newcomer Ilie's dominance in that role this year relegated Mustivar to the bench and his club option was declined on Monday after just 14 league appearances and two starts in 2017.

Perhaps Sporting's most significant year-end departure – young defender Erik Palmer-Brown's free transfer to Manchester City – has been public knowledge since mid-September.

Loons decline Taylor's option after expansion season

Veteran defender Jermaine Taylor was among those whose club options were declined on Monday after Minnesota United's expansion season in MLS.

The 32-year-old Jamaican international, acquired from Portland before the season, made just 14 appearances for the Loons this year and his six starts were his fewest in seven MLS seasons.

Red Bulls part ways with Grella after season-ending knee injury

Mike Grella's knee injury ended his season early with the New York Red Bulls, and on Monday the club declined to exercise their option on the 30-year-old midfielder.

Grella made 55 league appearances for the Red Bulls in 2015-16, but knee troubles limited him to eight appearances with three starts in 2017 before he had season-ending surgery in late June. 

Of note: veteran defender Damien Perrinelle's contract expires at the end of this season.

Jones out at StubHub as only 12 remain on Galaxy roster

The LA Galaxy cleaned house on Monday, with Jermaine Jones' option declined as part of a series of moves that left only 12 players on the 2018 roster.

The veteran midfielder, who has played for three MLS clubs in the last four seasons, made 20 appearances this year as LA took an uncharacteristic tumble to the Western Conference cellar – precipitating Monday's moves that also saw the club decline its option on once-promising forward Jack McBean and the entire goalkeeping corps of Brian Rowe, Clement Diop and Jon Kempin.

Defender Ashley Cole and midfielder Baggio Husidic are both out of contract at the end of this season as well.

Brillant, Allen out at NYCFC

New York City FC's biggest departure – the retirement of midfielder Andrea Pirlo – happened well before Monday, but the club still saw some significant partings, with defenders R.J. Allen and Frederic Brillant among the 11 players whose options were not exercised. Both were mainstays of the Bronx side's 2016 playoff run but saw their time diminish this season, with Brillant recording 23 appearances and Allen 15.

Defensive midfielder Yangel Herrera already has a guaranteed contract for 2018, as his loan deal from England's Manchester City runs through next season, not only this one.

Quakes cut ties with Bernardez, Hoesen

The San Jose Earthquakes – fresh off appointing a new head coach – were the first team to announce their roster moves on Monday. Among the most notable were their declining of contract options for veteran center back Victor Bernardez and Dutch forward Danny Hoesen. Bernardez, 35, appeared in 162 regular-season games for the Quakes since joining the team in 2012. Hoesen joined the Quakes ahead of the 2017 season and appeared in 32 of the team's 34 games, scoring 5 goals and 5 assists. With center back Andres Imperiale also out of contract for the Quakes, the team is set for a defensive overhaul after shipping 60 goals during the regular season plus another five in their Knockout Round loss to Vancouver. Also of note, goalkeeper David Bingham is out of contract.