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 the first installment of our annual Offseason Roster Build compendium. We started with the Eastern Conference, published yesterday, and now we go West. Both will be periodically updated throughout the preseason.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.