Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Where MLS Western Conference depth charts & rosters stand for 2022

The offseason is in full swing. Lots of rosters have been torn down, and a few have been steadily built up.

With that in mind, here’s an update of our annual Offseason Roster Build compendium. We started with the Eastern Conference, published yesterday, and now we go West.

In we go.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Austin trimmed around the edges, declining a few contracts, seeing two loans expire and bidding farewell to center back Matt Besler, who headed into retirement.

They also dipped into the free agent pool to bolster their attacking depth, signing right winger Ethan Finlay – reuniting him with Josh Wolff, who was an assistant in Columbus during Finlay’s heyday – and forward Maxi Urruti, who will become the first player in league history to suit up for the entire Texas triangle.

They also made left back Zan Kolmanic’s move permanent. As it stands, he is the only LB on the team, and with Besler’s retirement there is no depth at left center back, either. Plus, as of this writing, Alex Ring (who is, as of the new contract he signed on Monday, officially a DP) is the only d-mid on the team.

What's next

Addressing the above, presumably. Austin need to make some signings to bolster the backline, and frankly I think their need goes beyond simple depth: one of them should be a starting-caliber center back. If they don’t get that done they are setting themselves up for a world of hurt.

More interesting, from a roster management standpoint, might be the Tomas Pochettino situation:

My first reaction was “this would be a good move for Austin.” Pochettino underwhelmed, to put it mildly, in 2021, and looked more like a fringe starter for a bad team than a DP for a good one.

My second reaction was “this wouldn’t just be a good move – I think it might be a necessary move given the lack of defensive midfield flexibility.” With Ring now a DP (presumably a DP in that liminal space between a max salary and the max amount that can be bought down with xAM), it would take a bucketful of allocation cash to buy Pochettino down below the max salary threshold.

Why do that for a guy who doesn’t fill a need, and probably isn’t even starting caliber?

If the Jhojan Valencia reports are true, then it looks like Austin’s front office have already made their decision. The 25-year-old Colombian is a rangy destroyer more than a hold-and-protect shield, and rangy destruction is exactly what this midfield needed last year.

He, or someone like him, will likely be in Austin this year. And as for Pochettino… River Plate isn’t exactly a bad safety school.

Feb. 8 update

The focus over the past month has been on the two places it should’ve been: d-mid and center back.

Austin took care of the first issue by making good on the Pochettino to River Plate loan, which then opened up room to go out and get Valencia. They also signed Felipe Martins as a free agent for good measure.

These are very clear-eyed, “let’s address what we obviously need” types of signings. Austin fans should be pleased.

On the second issue, they pounced when Kipp Keller dropped and was available with the fifth pick in the SuperDraft, then added Norwegian international center back Ruben Gabrielsen on a free. While it’s unlikely Keller starts right away, and while Gabrielsen has the profile of a depth piece rather than surefire solution, these are once again some clear-eyed additions at a place of need after what must have been some honest assessment about how things went last year.

The only other move of note was that they bought out Ulises Segura, and with that it sure looks like Austin’s moves are done for this window.

Feb. 23 update

Nada since the last update – Felipe was the last incoming player and Segura the last outgoing.

Austin FC Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Urruti has been starting over Djitte in preseason.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

The Rapids let six contract options expire and saw three other contracts end, mostly for depth pieces. But since you don’t want to shake up a winning team too much, they were actually in negotiations to bring six of those nine guys back. The most prominent of them was center forward Dom Badji until he jetted for FC Cincinnati on Tuesday. Alas.

Another player who won’t be back: DP playmaker Younes Namli. The 27-year-old had 3g/5a in 1800 minutes over two years and… yeah, that’s not how you want to spend a DP slot.

Interestingly, Colorado acquired the MLS rights to former FC Dallas midfielder Bryan Acosta via the Re-Entry Draft. Acosta is a talent – good feet, good motor, tough in the tackle and there’s not a pass on the field he can’t hit – but he’s also an ineffective, hero ball-prone heat check guy who almost always prefers to do his own thing rather than operate within the structure of a coherent system.

He is, in short, the antithesis of a Rapids Way type of player. Maybe he’s just some veteran insurance for them to keep in their back pocket in case Kellyn Acosta, Mark-Anthony Kaye or Cole Bassett gets sold this winter, I guess? Even if that was the case I’d question his fit.

Regardless, he’s not yet on the roster.

What's next

There have been whispers about Auston Trusty being sold to a European side for months. There has been on-and-off interest in Acosta for years, and there have been offers turned down by Bassett, who’s fresh off scoring his first-ever US men's national team goal. There have got to be teams interested in Kaye as well given how well he’s played for the past four years and how many “yeah, this guy’s a modern central midfielder” boxes he checks.

And it’s obvious the Rapids will sell. They are very into the idea of becoming the Philly Union of the West, and that’s not a bad thing to be.

That said: The Rapids are a 60-point team with three open DP slots and two open U22 Initiative slots. They’re bringing the whole damn gang back, and wouldn’t it be something if they went out and got two big-money, Best XI-caliber guys to plug into the mix.

I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But every Rapids fan I know hopes that is what’s next.

Feb. 8 update

Bassett did not get sold this winter, he got loaned. It’s one of those 18-month deals, and he’s now fighting for minutes with Feyenoord of the Eredivisie. This has the potential to be very good business for Colorado.

As for Trusty, those whispers about European interest were ultimately correct, though it didn’t happen the way most expected. He’s been “sold” to Arsenal – both the Rapids and the Gunners are owned by Stan Kroenke – in a move that’s fairly reminiscent of when NYCFC sold Jack Harrison to Manchester City. As with Harrison, I don’t think there’s any real expectation that Trusty will play real minutes with the mothership. But if he carves out a Harrison-esque EPL career I think everyone will be pretty damn pleased with that.

Bassett’s already gone. Trusty, for what it’s worth, is staying in Colorado until the summer.

In between those two moves they sold Kellyn Acosta to LAFC for up to $1.5 million of GAM, and then signed Kaye to a long-term deal that makes him a Rapid until at least 2025.

Those two deals, along with Bassett’s departure, give clarity to the Colorado hierarchy in central midfield, with Kaye and Jack Price the obvious starters and Bryan Acosta (who they officially signed) a potential third starter in more defensive alignments. New arrival Max Alves – a Brazilian playmaker signed via the U22 Initiative – could get out there in more attack-minded set-ups.

Max and Bryan Acosta are probably the two biggest new arrivals, though they also brought back Nicolas Mezquida, Steven Beitashour and Drew Moor, and traded for young, homegrown center back Aboubacar Keita from the Crew. The left-footer seems tailor-made to fit into the Trusty-shaped hole in the backline come this summer.

Badji left via free agency, signing in Cincy. As yet there is no replacement for him on the depth chart, though from what I understand expectations are high for 17-year-old homegrown Darren Yapi.

I’ll reiterate what I said last time, though: The Rapids are a 60-point team that seems to be a goalscorer away from being serious, elite contenders. They outplayed Portland in the playoffs last year but didn’t have anyone to put the ball away. What happens if they’ve got their own Raul Ruidiaz out there?

All three DP slots remain open.

Feb. 23 update

All three DP slots still remain open, as Colorado haven’t made a move since the end of January. They opened their season with a pretty punchless 1-0 loss in CCL play, and while it’s dangerous to read too much into the first game of the year, it’s not wild to do so given that a 1-0 loss on a late goal is exactly how last year ended as well.

Colorado Rapids Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: The Rapids actually played a 3-5-2 in their CCL opener, but I suspect they’ll evolve back into a 4-3-3.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

I don’t think the Hunts really wanted to sell Ricardo Pepi this winter. I’m pretty certain they intended to keep him for one more year, hopefully watch him score 20-odd goals and star in the World Cup, and then sell him.

But the reported $18 million is a Godfather offer. You don’t say no to that amount for a kid who’s always been great at putting the ball in the back of the net, but 1) still doesn’t do that much else, 2) isn’t an exceptional athlete, and 3) overperformed his xG for both club and country.

I think $9 or $10 million would have been a good offer for Pepi. They got double that. And so, when that happens, you sell.

The other exits were all declined options, the most notable of which was probably former DP central midfielder Bryan Acosta, though regulars Bressan (CB) and Phelipe (GK) were also shown the door.

Head coach Nico Estevez, late of the USMNT set-up, is thus far the only significant new addition. Obviously that’s going to change.

What's next

Dallas only have one true No. 9 on their roster, veteran DP Franco Jara. He has mostly underwhelmed in his two seasons with Big D, though it should be noted he was very effective – better than Pepi, as a matter of fact – down the stretch, and looked comfortable as a (VERY expensive) super-sub.

It stands to reason a big chunk of what they brought in for Pepi will go towards an in-his-prime No. 9 replacement. I think it should also stand to reason that one of the two open DP slots should go to a high-level attacking winger. Jader Obrian and Szabolcs Schon had their moments, but neither guy’s going to threaten to make the Best XI and Paxton Pomykal… this is the year they’ve got to commit to playing him as a full-time No. 8.

If they get those two big moves right then it’s just a simple matter of adding depth along the backline and in goal (recent reports have them signing Spaniard Cristian Rivero), and maybe promoting one of the kids to be Jesus Ferreira’s back-up at the No. 10.

It’s not hard as long as they get those two DP signings right. That, though, has been harder than it should’ve been for years.

Also note Dante Sealy is on loan with PSV and Justin Che, who’s long attracted interest from the likes of Bayern Munich because…

…stuff like this isn’t teachable, might both be sold this month as well?

Dallas’s front office has a ton of resources to build a contender with, and given that most of their roster is both young and experienced at the same time, the window’s open.

They just have to get those DP signings right.

Feb. 8 update

They took that Pepi money and spent a bunch of it, both within the league and outside of it. From within the league they traded a record fee of $2 million GAM for Paul Arriola, and outside the league they spent close to $10 million to bring in young Argentinian winger Alan Velasco from Independiente.

I like both these moves. Arriola’s a sure thing if he stays healthy (fingers crossed), and while Velasco is not a sure thing – no 19-year-old is – the review I’ve gotten about him from some South American friends and the clips you can find on Wyscout are pretty damn compelling.

“What about forward?” you’re thinking and the answer is to trust in Jesus Ferreira. They gave him a long-term Young DP deal, and Estevez seems to see him as a linking, playmaking No. 9 – the Frisco Firmino. I am not wild about that, but it’s a different approach than most teams take with the center forward role, and variety is the spice of life after all.

They also brought in a pair of European veterans on loan in right back Nanu and goalkeeper Maarten Paes, though I’m not sure either guy is slated to start. Neither is Isaiah Parker, the college winger they took with the third overall pick in the SuperDraft, but who projects best as an attacking left back, or left wingback. They’re already using him in that spot in preseason, and if he develops well he’s another potential national teamer and multi-million-dollar sale.

Speaking of that, the Che deal went through, but it wasn’t quite as expected. He’s off to Hoffenheim rather than Bayern Munich, and it’s an 18-month loan to start.

So it’s been kind of a whirlwind month. I like what I’m seeing in this roster more than what was there for most of last year, though it’s worth noting they remain thin in central midfield. That’s especially concerning given one of the five names on the depth chart there is Paxton Pomykal, and while Pomykal is brilliant when healthy, “when healthy” will always be a concern with him.

So there’s probably one more signing coming. Dallas have two open U22 Initiative slots to play with there.

Feb. 23 update

Dallas kept making big intraleague moves, this time shocking everyone by trading Ryan Hollingshead – the best left back in the league over the past four or five years – to LAFC for Marco Farfan on Feb. 10.

Hollingshead is a unique attacking threat, able to underlap and orchestrate on the run in Zone 14 in a way no other MLS fullback does. Farfan is more of a typical modern fullback who stays wide, facilitates possession and will occasionally get to the endline for pullbacks. He fits for a team that expects Velasco and Pomykal to occupy the left channel in the attacking third. Estevez knows this well, given he’s seen Farfan in camp with the USMNT.

Farfan also fits Dallas’s timeline better given his age. Farfan is just 23, while Hollingshead will turn 31 in April.

Dallas made two official additions in the past two weeks, signing 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick Tsiki Ntsabeleng, a midfield string-puller from South Africa by way of Oregon State who’s shown very well as Pomykal’s back-up in preseason. The other was adding academy ‘keeper Antonio Carrera.

They’re not done, though, as it seems all but certain Dallas will sign Blaine Ferri, a local kid and former USYNT regular who should slot in nicely on the No. 8 depth chart.

FCD preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: Velasco isn’t in town yet, so Obrian is almost certain to start this coming weekend.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

For a team that went full clean slate – new owner (Ted Segal), new GM (Pat Onstad), new coach (Paulo Nagamura, finally made official on Monday) – Houston’s been weirdly slow to clean house or build anew with regard to the roster. There were only nine guys shown the door at the end of the year, with just two (striker Urruti and GK Marko Maric) being starters.

Obviously Boniek Garcia and, to a lesser extent, Maynor Figueroa were big cultural losses. But still, this doesn’t feel like the type of teardown I think most expected.

And the resulting build-up has been slow as well. The Dynamo re-signed mercurial playmaker Darwin Quintero to a non-DP contract, made a bit of a splash in free agency by signing Steve Clark to take Maric’s place in net, and then they shipped a third-round pick to LA for veteran CB Daniel Steres.

But that’s it. And there haven’t even been any rumors or links for incoming, big-name players.

What's next

Hopefully some rumors or links for incoming, big-name players, specifically at center forward. Right now the depth chart there basically does not exist, while every other spot is two- or three-deep.

Houston officially have two open DP slots, though CB Teenage Hadebe can be bought down off of his, so make it three open DP slots and three open U22 Initiative slots.

They have a chance to go really big here.

Feb. 8 update

Houston have not yet gone real big, and have in fact made just three additions to the roster over the past month. One, at least, was a DP goalscorer – Paraguayan center forward Sebastian Ferreira, a fox-in-the-box type the Dynamo paid a club-record fee for (reportedly $4.3 million).

They also drafted a center forward with the fourth overall pick in the SuperDraft, taking Icelandic No. 9 Thor Ulfarsson from Duke, and then traded for the Homegrown rights to young d-mid Brooklyn Raines and signed him.

It feels like there should be more moves coming, but I don’t know. There aren’t even any particularly interesting rumors out there, so maybe this is it for this window.

Feb. 23 update

There is now a very interesting rumor! Hell, we can even call it a report, as our own Tom Bogert says the Dynamo have made an offer to Atleti for El Tri legend Hector Herrera. HH isn’t what he was three years ago, but the 31-year-old would be a very obvious fit for that central midfield and is the type of signing that’d get the fanbase juiced to boot.

But that’s just a potential move. They did make two actual moves, adding free agent fullback Zeca (he’s got 130 appearances in Brazil’s Serie A) and buying out veteran central midfielder Joe Corona, who just so happens to play HH’s position.

Not that I’m reading anything too much into that. Not me! I’d never!

Houston Dynamo Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Coco Carrasquilla’s loan only runs through June 30. I’m genuinely surprised the Dynamo haven’t exercised the purchase option yet – this kid is legit.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Gone is Eduard Atuesta, sold to Palmeiras for about $4 million. Gone is Tristan Blackmon, taken in the Expansion Draft. Gone, too, is head coach Bob Bradley, off to Toronto after four wildly successful years in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s kind of wild how thoroughly the front office has dismantled that great 2019 team, which remains the best team I’ve ever seen take the field in MLS. The only holdovers from that group’s starting XI are Carlos Vela (his option has been exercised, so he’s back for at least one more year), Latif Blessing and Eddie Segura (who is still recovering from that ACL he tore last summer).

Gone, too, are a bunch of depth pieces, including a pair of goalkeepers and young central midfielder Bryce Duke.

The Black & Gold still have talent, and John Thorrington has added more in trading for defender Franco Escobar and forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. But new head coach Steve Cherundolo will be coaching a very different team than the one Bradley led for most of the past four years.

What's next

There are two big, obvious holes, and one open DP slot.

Hole No. 1: Goalkeeper. LAFC weren’t quite FC Cincinnati-bad over the past couple of years, but they were in the neighborhood. League-average goalkeeping gets them into the playoffs last year.

It shouldn’t be hard to find that.

Hole No. 2: D-mid. I can’t believe they only got $4 million for Atuesta who, at his best, was one of the very best d-mids in the league. But they did, and he’s gone, and now they have no adequate fill-ins on the roster (it is definitely not Francisco Ginella).

Obviously I think they should find themselves a DP d-mid. Get that spot right and it can elevate the whole team. Get that spot wrong and they’ll likely spend another year watching the playoffs from home.

Feb. 8 update

So here’s a question: What do they do with Kellyn Acosta? They sent up to $1.5 million GAM to Colorado for him, and while I’m of the opinion Acosta’s always been a middling No. 8 in MLS, he’s been exceptional as a No. 6 for the USMNT in four of his five starts at that spot since the summer (including a Man of the Match-caliber performance vs. Mexico in the Gold Cup final).

I think he fits better for LAFC in that role, but then what happens to Ilie Sanchez? They signed him as a free agent two days before the Acosta trade, and whispers are it was not a small contract for Ilie.

Having two starting-caliber guys for that spot is not a bad thing, obviously. I’m just hoping Acosta gets the first crack at it, because the upside with him there appears to be significantly higher.

There is significantly less confusion about what happens in goal now. LAFC sent Vancouver $1 million in GAM, a first-round pick and potentially more performance-based GAM for Maxime Crepeau, who I had third in Goalkeeper of the Year balloting in 2021. This should be one of the best moves of the offseason, by anyone, and LAFC are, on paper, a better team than they were in November.

Feb. 23 update

Word around the league last year was Thorrington knew LAFC’s roster had skewed too far away from guys with MLS knowhow, and that he wanted to fix it this winter. And it turns out that info was correct, as Thorrington has exclusively shopped within MLS this window, something that continued over the past few weeks as he shipped out Marco Farfan for Ryan Hollingshead – a completely understandable “win now” move, and one that adds an occasionally game-breaking attacking left back with over 200 MLS games – then signed Doneil Henry to flesh out the center back depth chart.

In all, LAFC have made eight additions this offseason. Those eight guys have a combined 1,050 games of MLS experience (all competitions) under their respective belts. Thorrington seems to have had a really clear idea of what his team was lacking.

Back to Hollingshead for a minute: On paper, he seems like such a great fit on that left flank playing behind Brian Rodríguez. Hollingshead is the best attacking left back in the league, and while he can overlap very well, what he’s exceptional at is underlapping, i.e. getting into Zone 14 on the run and then playing attackers through. That should be absolutely perfect for Rodríguez.

LAFC Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: I might be wishcasting with Acosta at the No. 6 there, as Ilie actually started at that spot in the final preseason game and Acosta was in more of a No. 8 role alongside Cifuentes, and Blessing was on the bench.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

A dozen players are gone from last year’s squad, one which got out of gates hot and then utterly collapsed over the final third of the season. The biggest departures: DP Jonathan dos Santos, who was allowed to walk, and long-time midfielder Sebastian Lletget, traded to the Revs for up to $1.3 million in allocation cash, depending upon which incentives are hit.

Even bigger than the departures of dos Santos and Lletget, though, is the departure of sporting director Dennis te Kloese for Feyenoord, back home in the Eredivisie. It was never quite clear to me which of the signings over the past few years were te Kloese’s, which came from the Chris Klein/Jovan Kirovski side of the building, and which were from Greg Vanney.

Regardless, when you have four different folks with a hand on the wheel trying to build a team, you’re bound to get a Frankenstein’s monster of a roster with no coherent throughline or vision. And so that’s what the Galaxy have had for years now.

My guess is that it’s mostly Vanney calling the shots now and trying to dig out of it. LA are in a better place than they were a year ago, but it’s still not great.

What's next

Chicharito occupies one DP slot. Kevin Cabral, still a Young DP, occupies the other. That means two things:

  1. One DP slot is open.
  2. The Galaxy can go as big as they want with that open slot and still have access to all three U22 Initiative slots, each of which is currently filled (and likely will stay that way, unless Julian Araujo is sold).

If it was me, I’d be aiming for a midfield hardman/ball-winner. Even at their best last year the Galaxy lacked bite, and while Rayan Raveloson filled the need part-way, it definitely was only part-way. He’s not exactly prime Ozzie Alonso out there, and youngsters like Carlos Harvey, Adam Saldana and Daniel Aguirre profile more as depth pieces.

Beyond that, both fullback slots need attention as there is no depth, the entire CB corps was underwhelming, and the massive question looming over all of this is whether Vanney is willing to trust Efrain Alvarez, who occupies another of the U22 slots, to be the No. 10.

If he’s not, then the open DP slot will likely get spent there. But the fact LA brought Sacha Kljestan back and are in talks to bring Victor Vazquez back hints they’re going to give it a spin with Efra and see if, now that he turns 20 in June, he’s grown up enough to do the job.

Feb. 8 update

They officially brought Vazquez back, which was probably the right call. They signed Raheem Edwards as a free agent, reuniting him with Vanney, which is a good move (I thought Edwards was very good down the stretch for LAFC last year). And then they got Mark-not-Marky Delgado from Toronto for $500k of GAM.

I love the Delgado move. I always thought there was some unexplored Roger Espinoza-style ball-winning nastiness to his game, and putting him in a 4-2-3-1 next to Ravoleson seems a perfect place to embrace that role.

Bear in mind even if Delgado doesn’t become that good, he still raises LA’s floor. This is a guy who was a full-time starter on an MLS Cup winner and CCL finalist, and is now in the prime of his career. Really great work by LA to get him for a very manageable fee.

I am less enamored with the widely reported move for Douglas Costa as the third DP. He’s 31 and is the ultimate “live with the lows to get to the highs” type of player. Maybe it’ll work with this team – if Chicharito’s healthy for 2500 minutes, it probably will because Chicharito’s movement makes any winger look good. But this feels like the type of DP signing a team would’ve made four or five years ago rather than the type the best teams are making now.

Anyway, it feels like the Galaxy are just about set. Now it’s just a question of whether the defense works as it’s supposed to, and if the old guys in attack have one more wild ride left in their legs.

Feb. 23 update

I did not expect the Galaxy to do what they did with that open DP slot. Rather than go young, or shop in an under-the-radar location, they went out and got themselves a VERY Galaxy signing in 31-year-old Brazilian winger Douglas Costa.

Costa is an exceptional talent, which is why he’s spent most of the past decade being swapped back and forth between Bayern Munich and Juventus, earning himself three Bundesliga titles and three Scudettos in that time, as well as 31 caps with Brazil.

Three years ago an MLS team signing a player like Costa, who played Club World Cup and Champions League games for Bayern literally last season, would’ve been the biggest story of the offseason. This year it barely made a ripple. The league has changed.

Anyway, I really quite like this signing. The Galaxy already have a bunch of kids on the roster; what they needed was another veteran difference-maker. And while Costa’s never exactly been the most reliable guy in the world, whenever he’s bought in he’s produced goals and (lots of) assists. I think he’s gonna help Chicharito and Cabral feast.

LA Galaxy Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Even with the additions and a year of chemistry under their belts, they’ve been a sieve in preseason.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

They came into 2021 hoping to make a deep playoff run and maybe even contend for MLS Cup. My word did they fall short of all of that.

In the aftermath of a massively disappointing season, the Loons are now dealing with what looks like a pretty serious exodus of talent: Ethan Finlay (Austin) and Ozzie Alonso (Atlanta) signed as free agents elsewhere, while Jan Gregus – who entered Adrian Heath’s doghouse after the Euros and never got himself out – saw his option declined and was selected by San Jose in the Re-Entry Draft.

It has been something of a bloodletting, bordering on a rebuild. I am surprised at how quickly it’s gone from “solid foundation, and I like what they’re doing” to “creaky foundation, they might be in some trouble” in Minnesota.

They're also reportedly about to sign South African international Bongokuhle Hlongwane to a U22 Initiative deal. We'll see where he fits into the front three, and how consistently Heath uses him.

What's next

Looming over everything is the Emanuel Reynoso situation. It… doesn’t look good, as he was arrested last month and spent a couple of weeks in jail. The Argentine No. 10 is obviously the best and most important player on the team; everything they do is designed to revolve around him.

What’s disappointing is that the 2021 team didn’t revolve as efficiently as it seemed like it should’ve. French DP striker Adrien Hunou, in particular, struggled, and while Argentine winger Franco Fragapane put up good numbers, he (like so many others) came up small in the one-and-done playoff appearance.

Do they use another DP slot – they’ve got one open – on a striker and move Hunou to the wing, or even to the bench? I’m not sure, though if they go big on that then they won’t have the flexibility to use the full allotment of potential U22 Initiative signings. Of course, that might not matter so much given Heath’s habitual reluctance to play the kids (yes, Thomas Chacon is still on the roster).

But what happens if they do that and Reynoso can’t play? What if the presumed starting central midfield pairing of Hassani Dotson and Wil Trapp just doesn’t work? Even if it does, the Loons need some depth there, all across the backline, at the No. 10, and center forward.

They haven’t (formally) made a single incoming move yet, but damn is it going to be a busy winter.

Feb. 8 update

It looks like Adrian Heath isn’t necessarily convinced Hunou is the right guy at the No. 9, but also that he’s not willing to bet a full DP slot on that. And so he’s split the difference, bringing back old friends Abu Danladi (very much a reclamation project at this point) and, reportedly, Luis Amarilla.

Amarilla, you’ll recall, got off to a scorching hot start with Minnesota in 2020 before that got shut down by COVID, and then by injuries. He then went to LDU Quito for 2021 and tore it up, scoring 15 goals in a little over 2000 all-competition minutes, including three in 300 Copa Libertadores minutes.

If he’s healthy he’ll produce in MLS, and I don’t think they’ll have to spend a DP slot to get him.

Their other incoming moves have been depth moves – at goalkeeper, at center back, right back and in attack – while they freed up a DP slot by finally buying out Chacon. We hardly knew ye, young Thomas.

Besides Amarilla the other name to remember is Kevin Arriaga, a gigantic Honduran d-mid whose deal is reportedly just about done. He would immediately come in and challenge for a starting role.

Reynoso, for what it’s worth, is in camp and playing full-tilt in preseason. So things are looking better and more stable than they did a month ago.

Feb. 23 update

Those reports about Arriaga and Amarilla turned out to be true, as Minnesota added the former last week, signing him from C.D. Marathón of Honduras. The latter arrived this weekend on a transfer from Velez Sarsfield.

Heath has been after both of these guys for a while. I imagine he’s pretty happy with this winter’s work, and he should be – the Loons look a lot better than they did three months ago.

Minnesota United Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Minnesota’s shopped goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair all winter long, according to sources. There’s lots of interest in the Canadian international, but the asking price (i.e., lots and lots of GAM) has supposedly scared away almost everyone.

Also, with Amarilla’s arrival I have no idea what happens to Hunou.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

They have been the busiest team in the league thus far this offseason. I’m going to list their moves in order of importance:

  • Traded starting RB/RWB/RCB Alistair Johnston to Montréal for $1 million of GAM.
  • Signed veteran DM Sean Davis from RBNY as a free agent.
  • Sold four international roster slots for $250k GAM each.
  • Traded up to $150k GAM for veteran attacker Teal Bunbury.
  • Traded away young right back Dylan Nealis for up to $200k GAM.
  • Took young CB Josh Bauer in the Re-Entry Draft.
  • Traded a first-round pick for forward Ethan Zubak.

They also let a bunch of contracts wind down, including that of DP No. 9 Jhonder Cadiz.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of these moves – Bunbury doesn’t really fit a need for them at all, and as soon-to-be 32 he’s on the downslope, while only a charitable reading of the depth chart could have Zubak higher than fourth – but the opportunity cost in both instances was pretty low given all the assets on hand.

Also, I really like Johnston. He’s a no-frills asset at three different spots and is just 23 years old. I’m not sure they needed to trade him, and in recent memory teams that have traded in-their-prime domestic starters for allocation cash have mostly regretted it (just ask LAFC about one Walker Zimmerman).

The flip side is that Nashville are now absolutely flush with cash and, given Gary Smith’s recent track record with youngish players, it’s reasonable to expect improvement throughout the roster.

What's next

There are currently zero holes in this roster – with the addition of Davis, who will likely push Dax McCarty and Anibal Godoy for a starting job, they now have quality depth in the spot they kind of lacked that last year. And while there are some questions about right wingback with Johnston gone, I’ve long suspected that was Alex Muyl’s best spot. Behind him are a stopgap veteran in Eric Miller and a youngster with upside in Irakoze Donasiyano, who they took in the first round of the 2021 SuperDraft.

No, the real question with Nashville is whether their best players can be good enough to win a trophy, and for that reason I think they’ll be standing pat for the rest of the winter. That means sitting on an open DP slot and presumably hoping Ake Loba performs well enough as a No. 9 that they don’t have to consider buying yet another one.

The knock-on effect from that, of course, is what happens with the U22 Initiative slots. Right now just one is filled (greetings, Rodrigo Piñeiro). If they have to go big with that open DP slot, then that one is all they get. If they keep it open or use it to sign a TAM-able DP instead (maybe that’s what Mike Jacobs is hoarding all that allocation cash for???), then they can fill all three with low-cap-hit, high-upside youngsters.

But again: My guess is none of those gears really start turning until the summer window opens.

Feb. 8 update

As expected, no gears are really turning for Nashville. They added veteran Bryan Meredith as goalkeeper depth and bought out Colombian center back Miguel Nazarit. That’s it for moves over the past month.

That said, if they can get right back/right wingback Shaq Moore before the summer window, I think they’ll do it. It’s not clear to me who has his discovery rights (Moore isn’t an Allocation Order guy, which means discovery rights is how he’d come to the league), but Gary Smith wants a better crosser from that spot. And while Moore is limited in possession, he can dime the hell out of a cross.

I think he’ll end up in Nashville at some point, though I don’t know if it’ll be this window or next.

Feb. 23 update

As predicted, Nashville haven’t done a damn thing. They’re set.

Nashville SC preason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Nashville were cheeky/obstinate about releasing lineup information in the preseason – no graphics showing formations, no tweets listing names, even. I can’t imagine what advantage they think they’re getting from this approach, but oh well.

Anyway, my guess is it’ll be last year’s 3-5-2 that plays a lot like a 3-4-2-1 depending upon Mukhtar’s mood and how much time the Coyotes are spending on the front foot.

And that’s the other thing worth noting: Nashville fans have embraced their mascot, Tempo the Coyote, and thus have adopted “Coyotes,” which they then shorten to “‘Yotes,” as the club nickname.

I love it. Come on you Mustard Yotes!

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

The big stories haven’t happened just yet. It’s assumed Diego Valeri’s gone, but it’s not official. It’s assumed Sebastian Blanco will be re-signed, but things have hit a snag and Seba’s reps are now negotiating in public, on Twitter via reports from Argentine journalists.

It’s assumed starting right back Josecarlos Van Rankin will be back, but that’s not official yet and it kind of looks like he’s negotiating via social media as well.

I also don’t think I was the only one assuming goalkeeper Steve Clark – who’s been so good for them over the past four years – would be back. But Clark’s already gone, having signed with the Dynamo as a free agent.

That’s three starters and a club legend from an MLS Cup finalist. Those guys are big deals, and the entirety of Timbers fandom is holding their collective breath to see what’s next.

What's next

Hopefully a happy resolution to this:

The Timbers collected better than 2 points per game last year when Blanco played. He was as significant an on/off guy as literally any field player in the entire league. If they can’t get this done then they’ll have to spend big to replace him, and even if you spend big you’re not guaranteed to get anything close to what Blanco’s provided.

They’ll still need fullback depth even if Van Rankin is back, and obviously they’ll probably want to go out and get a new starting goalkeeper (though I’ve always liked Jeff Attinella).

But the big deal is Blanco. Everything else hinges on how that works out.

Feb. 8 update

Clark left, Attinella retired and the Timbers signed three different goalkeepers who will, presumably, compete for the starting job. My money is on Aljaz Ivacic (who they re-signed), but who knows. It feels like a free-for-all, and I doubt this is going to be a position of strength like it has been over the past four years.

D-mid, on the other hand, will remain a position of strength. Diego Chara’s still there, and now he’s got an heir in 19-year-old David Ayala, an Argie d-mid who the Timbers brought in via the U22 Initiative.

Van Rankin remains unsigned, but recent reports say it’s only a matter of time.

Those reports say the same for Blanco, but that situation is still in some amount of limbo because of that balky knee of his. He went from a sure-thing, done, DP deal to “maybe I’ll try Boca Juniors,” to “Boca Juniors isn’t interested because that knee’s not great,” to… maybe a two-year TAM deal with Portland?

Honestly, he’s worth it at that price even if they can only squeeze 1500 minutes a year out of him. Blanco’s been magnificent as a Timber, and there’s no like-for-like replacement out there just waiting to be brought in.

And there is no backup, veteran playmaker anymore. Valeri has officially left the building, heading home to play one last season with Lanus before hanging them up for good. By my count he registered 100 goals and 101 assists for the Timbers across all competitions over nine glorious seasons.

Build the statue.

Feb. 23 update

Van Rankin is back, and so is Blanco – they officially re-signed him two a two-year DP deal. Maybe the most recent knee scope looked more promising? They also added 2022 MLS SuperDraft pick Justin Rasmussen, a left back who scored himself a banger in preseason.

Andy Polo, meanwhile, saw his contract terminated following allegations of domestic abuse.

Portland Timbers Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparic are supposed to both be healthy by the first week of March, though that was the projection a month ago and I haven’t seen any official updates since then.

Felipe Mora’s going to be out longer than that. He just had surgery this past week, and the recovery timeline provided suggests an early-April return to action.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

They beat out a few suitors from around the league to retain Pablo Mastroeni and make him the permanent head coach, and they parted ways with a handful of depth pieces. Of those, Donny Toia was the one who’d contributed the most over the years, but former Young DP Jeizon Ramirez is the one whose departure provides the most flexibility.

You don’t really care about that, though. You’re here because you care about what’s happening with Albert Rusnak. Here’s what he said after the regular season:

“Yes, I want to stay with Real Salt Lake," Rusnak told before the playoffs. "I’ve told them many times. I spoke with the front office and said I’ve felt really good since day one and I’d love to stay. They’re aware of that, they’ve expressed they want to keep me. The official part [agreeing to terms] hasn’t been done yet."

And that official is still VERY MUCH up in the air given that Rusnak, as of late last week, is now linked with a potential free agent move to the Seattle Sounders.

Bear in mind money talks, and the Sounders seem to be asking him to take a big pay cut – at least $700,000, as per that Sounder At Heart report. So I’m not holding my breath expecting him to be wearing Rave Green this year.

But it’s on the radar. And stranger things have happened.

What's next

It looks like they want Justin Meram back, and it looks like they’ll get him. They also want Everton Luiz back, and while I don’t think that one’s quite done, I do think they’ll get him.

Rusnak is the big deal, though – at least from a roster standpoint, anyway. The bigger deal is it appears RSL are, at last, on the verge of getting a new ownership group.

New ownership groups tend to like to make a splash. Even if they re-sign Rusnak, they’d still have two open DP slots and three open U22 Initiative slots. Big splashes can be made with that kind of room.

I think the next time I update this for RSL, things will look very different.

Feb. 8 update

So it turns out the Rusnak-to-Seattle stuff was real, wasn’t it? That’s a big loss, but I honestly think Rusnak’s a mid-tier MLS No. 10 at best, and that an aggressive ownership group could do better on the open market.

And guess what? RSL finally have that aggressive new ownership group they’ve been dying for over the past two years! The deal was finalized about a month ago, and this year should mark the start of a new era.

They haven’t made any huge moves yet, just re-signing Everton Luiz, inking a bunch of Homegrowns and picking up veteran d-mid Scott Caldwell via free agency. They also took in Venezuelan attacker Sergio Cordova on loan from FC Augsburg.

There are certainly bigger moves coming. One could – really should – be Gustavo Cuellar, who was freaking awesome for Deportivo Cali and Flamengo over half a decade before spending the past two years with Saudi giants Al-Hilal. How good is Cuellar? How about “ahead of Diego Chara on Colombia’s d-mid depth chart”-level good. You can watch him tomorrow in the Club World Cup semis against Chelsea, and honestly if RSL get this one done, it’s one of the best signings any team will make this offseason.

It’ll also likely cost them a DP slot, which would mean they’ll have two left. One of those needs to go to a Rusnak replacement, and I’d be fine with them pocketing the other until summer just to see how what they’ve got on hand is working.

They’ll also need left back depth, or potentially even a starter at that spot. And man, I’d love to see them figure out how to bring Anderson Julio back. He was a singular off-the-bench weapon last year.

Feb. 23 update

They have not made any big signings since the last update, only adding veteran Johan Kappelhof via free agency as center back depth.

Cuellar is still starting games in Riyadh and there have been no other high-level DP rumors that have come across my radar. RSL, for what it’s worth, got absolutely rinsed in their final preseason game, a 3-0 loss to the Timbers in Portland.

Real Salt Lake Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: RSL played a 3-4-2-1 in their final preseason game, so take the above depth chart with a very large grain of salt.

Whatever their formation, though, they’ve got a lot of work to do. I can understand the new ownership group not wanting to rush into things, but this team does not look ready to start the season.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Options were declined on Luciano Abecasis, Carlos Fierro and Andy Rios. Daniel Vega was out of contract, allowed to walk and subsequently announced his retirement this week. Oswaldo Alanis’s two-year loan came to an end.

And that appears to be that for the Pelado Gang. They did bring Javier “Chofis” Lopez back for six more months, and Eric Remedi is still around, but the days of sporting a roster largely defined by the fact that it was, in large part, composed of guys who’d played for Matias Almeyda before, appear to be done.

Also done is the Chris Wondolowski era. We knew that. It still hurts, though.

San Jose also bid farewell to some depth pieces and took the “interim” tag off of GM Chris Leitch’s door – that was obvious when he had the juice to make the Jeremey Ebobisse trade, I thought – but other than that, it’s been a weirdly quiet offseason.

That includes the continued presence of Almeyda, who seemed a decent bet to find greener pastures after three mostly unsuccessful seasons. This is, by all accounts, the final season of his contract, so he’ll probably be on the hot seat from the jump.

What's next

The Quakes have only three center backs and just one left back. They have two guys on DP slots (Chofis and Cristian Espinoza), but both can be bought down. They have only one of their U22 Initiative slots filled.

If they get aggressive they can end up being really good. And even if they don’t get aggressive they could end up being really good – I love the potential in a front three of Ebobisse flanked by Espinoza and Cade Cowell – but there’s obviously less leeway if you’re trying to build on a budget.

Anyway, this is the Quakes, so I don’t think they’ll get aggressive. I think they’ll acquire depth pieces on a budget and hopefully get the best out of their high-upside youngsters.

Gonna keep my fingers crossed they talk Wondo into lacing ‘em up for another five years, tho.

Feb. 8 update

Almeyda is still there, and still giving some pretty scorching quotes in the Spanish-language press about how displeased he is with the current situation.

That’s his prerogative, but in general I like the direction of this Quakes’ roster build. They brought in Jan Gregus via the Re-Entry Draft, a proven No. 8 who can spread the field as well as Jackson Yueill, then got the most MLS-ready attacker out of the SuperDraft in Ousseni Bouda. They also added Francisco Calvo as a depth piece – at least, I hope he’s a depth piece – at left center back and left back, and signed a bunch of their Homegrowns.

This team makes a lot of sense on paper, even if I don’t really rate Chofis. The question, as always, is will Almeyda have them do stuff that makes sense on grass?

I’m going to take a wait-and-see approach here.

Feb. 23 update

Two moves for the Quakes since last time, including one big one: They went out and traded for Philly’s DP central midfielder Jamiro Monteiro on Valentine’s Day. Love of a No. 10 who does more than just score the occasional banger was clearly in the air.

Monteiro, if he rediscovers his 2019 form, is such a great fit. He’s got a huge engine for a No. 10 and is brave as hell about finding the game – he wants it to run through him, which Chofis never really does. Put him in a midfield with Judson and one of Gregus or Yueill, and it works perfectly.

The other move was lower profile, but the Quakes finally found the right number to sign center back Oskar Agren, a Swede they traded up to snag with the 13th pick (Clemson, SuperDraft). I wouldn’t be shocked to see him play real minutes this year.

San Jose Earthquakes Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Your eyes do not deceive you. Almeyda really has been rolling his team out in a 3-6-1 with Yueill at center back, Cowell and Espinoza at wingbacks and Remedi as an attacking midfielder.

They might ship a thousand goals this year. JT Marcinkowski deserves hazard pay.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Garth Lagerwey’s been doing this for a while and you know how he operates, yeah? The winter isn’t for big signings: the winter is for being as ruthless as necessary in creating cap space in order to make big signings in the summer. It’s also, now, about being as ruthless as necessary to create playing time for the kids.

Seattle have invested a lot in that academy of theirs over the past half-decade, and it’s starting to pay dividends. And one gets the sense that Lagerwey, Adrian Hanauer et al would rather have more backup minutes going to high-upside (and high variance) Homegrowns rather than more highly reliable, if almost certainly less exciting veterans.

And so… seven contracts were declined and four more players went out of contract. They’ll negotiate and bring a few back, I’m sure (I doubt Kelyn Rowe’s going anywhere, and they made a “bona fide offer” to bring back Alex Roldan), but two (goalkeeper Spencer Richey and center back Shane O’Neill) are already gone for good via free agency.

This is all business as usual in Soundersville, as are the signings of giant No. 9 Sam Adeniran from Tacoma Defiance, as well as Homegrown midfielder Obed Vargas.

What’s not business as usual is the link to RSL DP playmaker Albert Rusnak. I’d be surprised if it happens. Rusnak has been a DP since Day 1, and reports say that Seattle are trying to get him on a TAM deal. That’d be a hell of a pay cut for a guy who’s smack in his prime.

But stranger things have happened, and if Seattle pull this off it’d be an absolute masterclass from Lagerwey, Craig Waibel (the guy who brought Rusnak to MLS in the first place) and the rest of that front office.

What's next

Wait and see on Rusnak, and probably some serious negotiation with the younger Roldan, as well as the likes of Rowe and maybe Will Bruin.

Other than that it’s just depth stuff. They could use another center back and a third-string ‘keeper (unless they are able to bring Stefan Cleveland back, which I seriously doubt. The kid showed last year he’s good enough to start somewhere, and there are half a dozen MLS teams that could use an upgrade in goal).

If the Rusnak deal falls through I don’t really expect Seattle to pivot this window. I think they see an opportunity and are trying to take it. If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, that’s fine – this team should still be one of the best in the conference, and they’ll have kept the powder dry for the summer window, which is their typical approach anyway.

Just for the sake of bookkeeping: They currently have three DPs, though one (Joao Paulo) is TAM-able, and have filled one of their U22 slots.

Feb. 8 update

They got Rusnak. They re-signed Rowe, Bruin, Alex Roldan and Fredy Montero, and added Homegrown Dylan Teves, who was one of the stars of the NCAA Tournament. They also traded Brad Smith to D.C. United in a move that opened an obscene amount of budget room – $750k GAM for his rights, then they flipped the international roster slot he occupied for $250k more GAM, and of course they cleared his $600k salary off the books.

You rarely see Lagerwey go so hard during the winter window, but I think we should read the obvious thing into this here: The Sounders think they have a shot at winning the CCL, and so they wanted to make their moves early. They have the type of high-end talent that can get it done on that stage, so now it’s a question of chemistry, continuity and sharpness. Getting the whole gang into camp ASAP is the way to create that.

The one potential fly in the ointment is the status of Nouhou. He just had a monster performance in the AFCON against Mo Salah, and it would not shock anyone if Seattle suddenly were fielding the types of bids that make you sit up and take notice. I don’t really think that’ll happen until the summer, but maybe Al-Hilal were watching? That money spends.

Anyway, the Sounders do seem to be a little thin at the back right now, and that would become a lot thin if they get an offer they can’t refuse for Nouhou. Just something to keep an eye on.

Feb. 23 update

Just one move since last time, as they added giant center back Jackson Ragen, who spent last year with Tacoma in the USL and actually got on the field last week for a minute in CCL play.

Seattle Sounder Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: It was straight back to the 4-2-3-1 in their CCL opener. I’m sure Brian Schmetzer’s going to keep the 3-5-2 club in the bag, but there’s no doubt what the preferred look is.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza both saw their contracts end and each is still officially out there in free agency, but I haven’t spoken with anyone who thinks that those guys will be anywhere but Kansas City next year.

Not so for two other starters, as both Ilie Sanchez and Luis Martins hit the exit. That is a significant bit of turnover for a team that was quite good last year and leaned particularly heavily upon Ilie at multiple spots.

They also sold Homegrown right back Jaylin Lindsey to Charlotte for $325k of GAM, a tidy chunk for a talented kid who’s repeatedly seen his career derailed by injury.

Two new faces inbound thus far, one of whom is actually an old friend: Uri Rosell is back, signed in free agency presumably to fill Ilie’s d-mid shoes, while Ben Sweat, who was also signed via free agency, is now the only left back on the roster (but might fit better these days as a back-up left center back, maybe?).

What's next

More defenders, I think? Andreu Fontas was great most of last year but he wore down badly by autumn and became a liability for the stretch run, while Nicolas Isimat-Mirin spent most of the year hurt. Sweat is, as mentioned, the only left back on the roster. Zusi, should he be re-signed, is one of two right backs – the other is 18 years old.

The other question I have is what happens at defensive midfield. Rosell is there, and Remi Walter and Jose Mauri are there, but none of those guys were particularly good in 2021. I can cut Walter and Mauri some slack since it was each's first year in MLS, and both have the type of resume that suggests they should be very good in this league.

But if that was the case, it was kept mostly under wraps.

The other “what’s next” revolves around the status of Robert Beric. Sporting very cleverly selected the big No. 9’s rights in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, and given how frequently Alan Pulido’s been injured, Beric would be a hell of a smart pick-up if they can get him on a good number.

Beric was a DP in Chicago. He shouldn’t be now, but given that two (Gadi Kinda and Johnny Russell) of Sporting’s three DPs are very likely TAM-able, I feel like something could be worked out.

Feb. 8 update

Sporting got the worst news of the offseason four weeks ago: Pulido is out for all of 2022. Their star No. 9, the biggest signing in club history, has been really good when he’s been on the field, but he’s also been made of glass. And now Sporting have to adjust.

The need to get a full-time replacement supersedes all others in my opinion, but Peter Vermes is not the type to panic buy. Beric will not be it – he and Sporting reportedly couldn't come to a satisfactory deal – and while other rumors have had SKC interested in J.J. Macias, there’s been nothing confirming that in any way.

Obviously, though, keep an eye on what happens here. I don’t think it’ll be as significant as the Pulido move was in the first place, but I don’t think it’ll be nothing, either.

The moves Sporting have made since the first installment have been typical Sporting: They re-signed Zusi and Espinoza, and picked up former Rapids Homegrown center back Kortne Ford as a free agent. They went to France and came back with their likely starting left back in young Logan Ndenbe, and signed two other young imports that nobody’s ever heard of in center back Robert Voloder and winger Marinos Tzionis. Those three guys could occupy the three U22 Initiative slots come roster compliance day.

It all looks good on paper, but I’m not sure how they can put together a title-worthy team if they don’t find a clear, worthy answer on a Pulido replacement.

Feb. 23 update

As expected, Vermes did not panic buy. The replacement he came up with for Pulido is Montenegran striker Nikola Vujnovic, who’s in town on loan (with a purchase option, of course) from FK Vozdovac of the Serbian league. Vujnovic, a 25-year-old fringe international, seems to profile more as a solid rotation piece rather than a high-level starter in MLS – he’s averaging a goal about every 180 minutes in Serbia, which neither overwhelms nor underwhelms, it just whelms – but who knows? Maybe the fit will be so perfect he finds a new level playing in that Sporting attack.

KC also parted ways with a couple of youngsters in Grayson Barber and Tyler Freeman.

Sporting KC Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: This roster is as it appears: lean and mean, bordering on thin. They have multiple senior roster slots open and the ability to make a move, so let's see what Vermes has in the works.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

For once, the ‘Caps front office under Axel Schuster is kind of taking a breather.

Obviously they made Vanni Sartini the official head coach, dispensing with the interim tag, but they have made minimal moves since crashing out of the playoffs at Sporting KC. Options were declined on just three players and contracts expired on just two others (though those might be brought back). Bruno Gaspar left after being not great on loan.

They also, once again, made what I think is a shrewd intra-league trade, swapping a $475k of GAM spread over the next two years for RCB/RB Tristan Blackmon.

That might be the least amount of turnover of any club in the league. What happened is that Vancouver did their winter work during the summer, and so their offseason addition – Ecuadoran playmaker Pedro Vite – has been around for months already.

What's next

The elephant in the room is DP center forward Lucas Cavallini, who is very clearly Brian White’s backup at this point. I doubt he’s happy with it; if he’s not playing regular minutes he’s probably not going to the World Cup. I also doubt Vancouver’s happy with it; paying DP money for a backup is no bueno.

I have a hunch as to how this is going to work out: Cavallini’s better than he’s shown thus far in MLS, but it’d be hard for another team to justify taking a guy with nine goals in two years in on a DP deal. So I don’t think there will be an intra-league trade; a loan down to a Liga MX side seems much more likely.

If that’s how it happens, Vancouver will have two open DP slots and no clear needs anywhere on the field. My guess is that once they hit that point they’ll just wait and see how things look come the summer window, and do any necessary deals then.

Feb. 8 update

One of the shocks of the offseason thus far was the Maxime Crepeau deal. Out of nowhere one of the league’s best ‘keepers was on the move, traded to LAFC for $1 million of GAM, a draft pick, and then more conditional GAM on top of that.

Crepeau was awesome for the ‘Caps last year, and I don’t think they really wanted to trade him. That said, the fact they have not felt compelled to make a move to replace him with a big name or a veteran should tell you something about how highly Thomas Hasal is rated internally. Maybe they have the next Crepeau on their hands already.

There were two other departures, as midfielder Janio Bikel was loaned to Vicenza, and Homegrown forward Theo Bair was sold to St Johnstone of the SPL.

Still no word on a Cavallini deal, but I’ll be surprised if he’s still on this roster come opening day. It makes too much sense, for both him and the team, to move him.

If you’re a ‘Caps fan you should probably hope the likes of Santos Laguna, Necaxa and Club America keep farting out awful attacking performances and start to feel a bit of desperation to make a move. Cavallini would work well for any of those teams.

Feb. 23 update

The only official move of the past two weeks was their re-signing of young Homegrown goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer, who as of now seems to be second behind Hasal on the depth chart.

Cavallini is still there, and still behind White in the pecking order. I can’t imagine this situation will last, given it’s not really in the player’s nor the club’s best interest to have him on the bench. I’m sure the ‘Caps and Cavallini’s agent are both working the phones to find a buyer.

Seb Berhalter, who they acquired for just $50k GAM from Columbus back at the start of the month, and who I thought so little of that I didn’t even mention it in the previous update, has apparently impressed well beyond expectations, and might actually be in line to start the first few games of the season.

Vancouver Whitecaps Preseason Depth Chart

Worth noting: Vancouver’s got about a half-dozen players out on loan, so don’t let the relative thinness of this depth chart fool you.