Parchman: Your MLS club's No. 1 priority this offseason

MLS 2017 Team Needs - Generic Image

The offseason wheeling and dealing is well underway in MLS. Expansion sides Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC have both essentially started from scratch, with Atlanta especially making some big splashes. Every other MLS club entered the winter with more specific needs, but some are more pressing than others. Here’s a snapshot of what everyone needs -- there's still time!

Chicago Fire
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A withdrawn midfield creator</strong><br> The current Fire have been built in incongruent phases under different leadership, but they have pieces both at the back and up top, where David Accam is practically begging for a string-puller. If Veljko Paunovic can add an engine in the middle to connect John Goossens and the defensive midfield, chances should skyrocket.
Colorado Rapids
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: Speed on the wings</strong><br> The Rapids don’t have a ton of household names, but their spine is perhaps the strongest in the league defensively. The problem has been fitting pieces in out wide in the midfield to keep teams honest and push a more dangerous, multi-faceted attack. The only true winger on the roster is Marco Pappa, so injecting the flanks with speed in the offseason will add another dimension.
Columbus Crew SC
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: Possession-oriented, athletic center back</strong><br> Michael Parkhurst is <a href="//">now gone to Atlanta</a>, and he lacked some pace and agility for Gregg Berhalter's system, anyways. With that in mind, since so many of Columbus’s attacks start through the central defense, finding a quicker, pass-first partner (someone like Giancarlo Gonzalez, for instance) would be perfect.
D.C. United
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A No. 6</strong><br> Since Perry Kitchen left for Scotland, Ben Olsen’s boys have been getting by with a patchwork defensive midfield that includes a 35-year-old Marcelo Sarvas. An uncharacteristic four-goal letup in the Knockout Round with Rob Vincent in the hole probably gave Olsen something to mull. With answers at most other positions, D.C. needs to find another midfield shield this offseason.
FC Dallas
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: An overlapping fullback</strong><br> There is no quick fix to losing a Fabian Castillo, but FC Dallas was already thin at fullback behind him. FCD has precious few out-and-out needs, but finishing the year with Maynor Figueroa and Atiba Harris, who have an average age of 32, at fullback wasn’t ideal. They can plug Tesho Akindele for Castillo (for now), but an overlapping presence in defense would be huge.
Houston Dynamo
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A central attacking creator</strong><br> The Dynamo are actually in decent stead at a few positions, namely the logjam in the central defensive midfield. But they were so thick at that position that they often had to make do with a Cristian Maidana playing that primary creator role. Not ideal. Houston desperately needs a No. 10 to unlock what was an anemic and uncoordinated attack in 2016.
LA Galaxy
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A midfield hub</strong><br> It seems like a long time since Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas prowled the Galaxy midfield. LA is loaded up with attackers, but the departures of Steven Gerrard and Nigel de Jong in 2016 leave the club in desperate need of a ballast deep in the central midfield. Whether that’s a box-to-box guy, a true No. 6 or more of a regista, the Galaxy need to find a heartbeat in the middle to build around.
Montreal Impact
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A No. 8</strong><br> Even with the departure of Didier Drogba, the Impact boast a mighty impressive front line. But the connective tissue between the backline and those pieces is fraying. Mauro Biello’s first-choice midfield in the playoffs has an average age of 34, and the Impact could desperately use a younger, more energetic shuttler between Laurent Ciman and Ignacio Piatti.
New England Revolution
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A width-pushing winger</strong><br> On paper, the Revolution have no worries for the foreseeable future up the gut. Between Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Scott Caldwell and Kei Kamara, the Revs should be fine. But they struggled to diversify their attack with width and often relied on in-pinching wide midfielders to combine. The Revs need a jump for the East’s second-worst attack in 2016. A winger who likes to stay wide and whip in crosses is a great start.
New York City FC
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A cornerstone central defender</strong><br> NYCFC lived mighty dangerously at the back in 2016, and Patrick Vieira’s predilection for the three-man central defense stretched them thin at a position of need already. The club looks stronger at fullback than center back, and NYCFC needs a pillar in defense to improve in 2017. DP center backs are rare things, but NYCFC wouldn’t be out of place looking for one.
New York Red Bulls
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: Center back depth</strong><br> What to get for the team with everything? The Red Bulls have width, legit depth up top, perhaps the best overall midfield in MLS and a one-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. But the central defense appears to be sagging with age since Matt Miazga’s departure. Between Damien Perrinelle (33) and Ronald Zubar (31), the Red Bulls could do with a longer term partner for Aurelien Collin.
Orlando City SC
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A rounded defensive midfielder</strong><br> Since joining MLS in 2015, Orlando City’s struggled with defensive woes. The club’s given up a stunning 116 goals in the last two years (by far the worst in MLS), and they still seem to lack an edge in the defensive midfield. Neither Cristian Higuita nor Antonio Nocerino are the Dax McCarty/Osvaldo Alonso type to break up and organize, which this team desperately needs.
Philadelphia Union
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A primetime center back</strong><br> It might surprise you to learn the Union actually scored more goals than Toronto FC in 2016. But the lack of center back depth killed the Union, especially in the playoffs where stand-in Ken Tribbett was beaten in the box two separate times in the ultimate playoff loss to TFC. The Union are young and good in a lot of places, but they need to splash cash on a major center back.
Portland Timbers
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: An overlapping fullback</strong><br> The Timbers might not’ve known how valuable Jorge Villafaña truly was until he left last offseason. The Timbers’ Western Conference-worst defense in 2016 lacked punch out wide, and the Timbers’ were ripped open in a season-ending loss to the Whitecaps on the final day. Finding a true overlapper who can combine with the team’s attack would be enormous.
Real Salt Lake
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A Javier Morales replacement</strong><br> The RSL community will feel Javier Morales’s departure this offseason, but they’ll feel it even harder in March. RSL’s system has been predicated on a No. 10 for so long that they’d have to completely rework it without one. The team’s nod toward Luke Mulholland in that role for the time being only furthers the notion that RSL desperately needs to find a longterm answer at a position suddenly in flux.
San Jose Earthquakes
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A dedicated No. 10</strong><br> The Quakes have a lot of needs this offseason, and most all of them are on the attacking end of the field. Their decision to jettison Matias Perez Garcia for (excellent) defensive midfielder Darwin Ceren hit the reset button on a dire position of need for years. San Jose struggled mightily in chance creation in 2016, and Chris Wondolowski isn’t getting any younger.
Seattle Sounders
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: An attacking winger (for either side)</strong><br> The Sounders let go of Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle before the 2016 season, and ever since they’ve struggled to find width in two different formations this year. The future seems set up the spine, but things are far less certain at two patchwork wide midfielder positions in Brian Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1. With a number of players released and slots to fill, if they find a proper starting-caliber winger, this year's MLS Cup champs will be that much more dangerous in 2017.
Sporting KC
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: Wide midfielders</strong><br> Sporting KC is getting long in the tooth on either side of Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber. SKC is typically stout at the back and good up the middle, but Brad Davis just retired, Graham Zusi at age 30 struggled through the worst year of his club career, and Justin Mapp is 32. SKC was considerably more narrow than usual in 2016, which contributed to their up-and-down season.
Toronto FC
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: 3-5-2 center backs</strong><br> The beauty of finding a system that works - and in being this deep - is that you can look for depth as much as for starting players. TFC’s full-time switch to a 3-5-2 this offseason puts the onus on finding a raft of center backs capable of playing it. Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta are quality, but adding more to a roster that needs few holes plugged would shore up the team’s defensive efforts in 2017.
Vancouver Whitecaps
<strong>No. 1 offseason priority: A true No. 9</strong><br> At their best, the Whitecaps are a rip-roaring good time down the flanks and a terror for opposing defensive midfielders. At their worst, as they were on occasion in 2016, they’re the attacking equivalent of dancing on your partner’s toes. The Whitecaps got only six goals from their full-time forwards in 2016, and the options look no more certain this offseason. A single, big name would help.