New York City FC released their initial preseason roster on Monday, revealing the players who are with the team for their current training camp in Jacksonville, Florida.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud was not among the list of 28 names released by the club.
Diskerud’s exclusion from camp isn’t exactly a surprise. Though his contract is guaranteed for the 2017 season, the 26-year-old fell out of favor with NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira last season. He played just 12 games, didn’t feature in any regular-season matches after June 2 and saw his name publicly bandied about by the club in trade talk.
As indicated by sporting director Claudio Reyna in Monday’s preseason roster press release, NYCFC are “working to try to find solutions” for Diskerud and goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who is also under contract and also not in Jacksonville.
For Diskerud, that solution will likely be outside of MLS.
According to multiple sources at other clubs, NYCFC have tried to trade Diskerud, but two factors – his high salary and his apparent unwillingness to move elsewhere in the league – have prevented talks from seriously progressing.
Diskerud’s salary, pegged at $761,250 in 2016 by the MLS Players’ Union, is the biggest hurdle. Other MLS clubs don’t value Diskerud at that number, and don’t want to use a Designated Player spot on him or spend the significant amount of allocation money it’d take to buy his salary budget charge down under the DP threshold, which is what New York did in the previous two seasons. NYCFC, meanwhile, aren’t interested in having his cap number hit on their books, and don’t want to eat his salary just to move him to another MLS team.
Sources indicated that, barring something unforeseen, Diskerud will likely be sold or loaned outside of MLS. Norway, where Diskerud was born and raised and where he played until joining NYCFC ahead of the 2015 season, would seem a natural destination.
I expect a deal to get done, but NYCFC have an option to get Diskerud off their books if they can’t complete a transfer or loan. MLS allows each club to buy out the contract of one player who has a guaranteed contract during the offseason. A buyout, which would be done at NYCFC’s expense, would remove Diskerud’s cap hit from City’s books.
A new identity for Cabrera's Dynamo
‘Identity’ is the big buzzword around the Houston Dynamo these days.
Houston, who were defined by their stability, straightforward tactical identity and success during the Dominic Kinnear years, drifted somewhat aimlessly in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
They struggled in their year-plus under former manager Owen Coyle, finishing 15th in MLS in 2015 and getting off to a slow start last year before Coyle left the club to return to England in May. You could never really tell what the Dynamo wanted to be under the Scotsman, with Houston starting 2016 with an all-out attacking approach before shifting to a more defensive setup prior to his departure.
Interim head coach Wade Barrett maintained the Dynamo’s defensive stance after he took over for Coyle last year. It was an identity, but not a successful one. Houston finished 19th in MLS in 2016 and, after scoring 11 times in their first three games, ended the season with just 39 goals, tied for second-fewest in the league.
The lackluster results led to the Dynamo hiring former Chivas USA and US U-17 national team head coach Wilmer Cabrera as manager in October. Cabrera spent 2016 as head coach of first-year USL club Rio Grande Valley FC, the Dynamo’s hybrid USL affiliate. He had a solid year in South Texas, guiding the Toros to a second-place regular season finish in the Western Conference standings before they were bounced in the conference quarterfinals.
Since Cabrera arrived in Houston, he and GM Matt Jordan have had a clear mandate: Build an identity for the Dynamo by making the group younger, faster and more dynamic.
That strategy is coalescing around a series of significant signings from Central and South America, with a pair of attacking additions standing out as potential building blocks for the new Dynamo. First, the club landed 20-year-old Honduran international Alberth Elis as a Young Designated Player on a year-long loan from Monterrey in December. They added another Honduran a few days later, signing forward Romell Quioto using Targeted Allocation Money just hours after shipping striker Will Bruin to Seattle.
Jordan is high on both players. Quioto, 25, is the slightly more established of the two, but the younger Elis has a ton of potential. He turned heads while helping Honduras to a fourth-place finish at the Olympics last summer, and already has three goals on the senior level for Los Catrachos. If things go well in Houston, who have an option to purchase Elis from Monterrey at the end of his loan, he could turn into a cornerstone piece for the Dynamo.
Elis and Quioto figure to line up on opposite flanks, with 21-year-old Young DP Mauro Manotas – who scored six goals in the final eight games of 2016 – likely to slot in at striker. Cubo Torres, back in Houston after returning from a loan to Cruz Azul, is also in the mix, working with a “clean slate” under Cabrera, with whom he had so much success at Chivas USA in 2014.
“They have profiles that are very adaptable,” Jordan told me earlier this month at the MLS Combine. “Quioto can play on the wide right, he can play wide left; you have Elis, he can play wide left, wide right; both have played up top, as well. Manotas, we saw his upside last year, he’s a big talent at such a young age. He’s a finisher, he’s a goal scorer, he’s got great feet for his size and good speed. And then you’ve got Cubo who, you know, we’re hopeful too that he can regain his form. So it’s finding that balance between those guys.”
The Dynamo have also made meaningful additions in midfield and defense, signing Panamanian international center back Adolfo Machado from Saprissa in December, adding defensive midfielder Juan David Cabezas on loan from Colombian club Deportivo Cali just before New Year’s and acquiring former LA Galaxy defenders Leonardo (Re-Entry Draft) and A.J. DeLaGarza (trade) earlier this month.
DeLaGarza is the most well-known out of that group, but the Dynamo are betting on Machado and Cabezas to make huge impacts, too. Both are coming off of successful stints with their previous clubs, and both have the resumes that indicate they’ll be successful in MLS.
"I don’t know where I’m going. I would like to stay in Houston," Beasley told Goal. "Hopefully we can get that sorted out. We’re still in negotiations with Houston, so we’ll see."
Together, most of the new additions fit a profile. Of the Dynamo’s eight signings so far this winter, six are from Central or South America and four are 25 or younger. Players from Honduras, Colombia and Panama will have no issues adjusting to Houston’s brutal summer conditions, while the youngsters should receive solid tutelage under Cabrera, a proven teacher in what the Dynamo consider to be a teaching league.
The offseason signings also give the Dynamo a distinctly more Latin feel, something that they didn’t have a ton of under previous regimes. I don’t want to overstate the importance of that, but it’s something that surely won’t hurt in one of the most Hispanic metropolitan areas in the US.
Signing promising young attackers and building around experience in the midfield and backline is a smart play for a club that doesn’t have a history of spending huge on Designated Players. Pairing those players with a coach who has a successful history of developing youngsters and putting them in a city (and climate) that they should adjust to more easily than others is an added bonus.
I still think they’ll have a hard time making the playoffs in the West, but, for the first time in a while, the Dynamo’s strategy is making a lot of sense.
New GM Fioranelli settling in with San Jose
San Jose will be waiting until at least the summer window to sign a Designated Player, as new GM Jesse Fioranelli told reporters earlier this week that the Quakes – who had been linked to Club America star Darwin Quintero earlier this month – won’t be signing any additional DPs prior to the season opener.
The reasoning? San Jose believe that the summer transfer window – when European leagues are out of season – offers more and better options for big-name signings.
He hinted at that when I sat down with him during an interview at the Combine a couple of weeks back. The approach fits in with what San Jose have been saying all offseason, too. During their lengthy search for a GM, San Jose emphasized that the main quality that they were looking for in a new hire was the ability to have a solid hit rate on DPs.
They also made it clear that they’d be patient – both in their GM search and in finding the right Designated Players. They understood that the hire and any DPs the new GM would bring in would have significant long-term ramifications for the club. They took a little extra time to find the right GM, not hiring Fioranelli until Jan. 5. If they have to take the same approach with DPs, so be it.
Sitting down with Fioranelli, it was pretty clear he’s completely on board with that patient approach.
“We might want to have two, three, four different player opportunities that are very well aligned with what we are looking for that will give us that foundation to head into the season,” he told me at the Combine. “And then maybe we’ll evaluate the bigger signings when the transfer market is going to be more open to opportunities, because the winter transfer market is usually going to be a little more restrained.”
Just 37, Fioranelli has an interesting backstory. He was born and raised in Switzerland to an Italian father and American mother, spending his summers with extended family in the States before moving to the US to attend high school outside Baltimore. He returned to Switzerland for college, eventually getting into the family business of player representation while he was still a student.
After spending a little more than eight years as an agent and one year in banking, Fioranelli, who speaks English, German, Italian, Spanish and French, got in on the club side of things, eventually working his way to Serie A side Lazio. After three years as the club’s head of analysis, he moved in July 2015 from Lazio to crosstown rivals AS Roma, where he worked in the sporting direction department.
At Roma, Fioranelli and the team he worked on made heavy use of analytics as they attempted to build sustainable, successful processes in match analysis, scouting and player recruitment. He didn’t offer too many specifics, but he’ll try to do the same in San Jose, who have been linked to FC Groningen attacker Danny Hoesen and FC Luzern’s Albanian midfielder Jahmir Hyka over the past week.
He also understands he’ll have a learning curve in MLS. He’ll lean on technical director Chris Leitch and head coach Dominic Kinnear as he learns the ins and outs of the league and hopes to be fully up to speed in the next two or three months.
Even then, though, expect Fioranelli and the Quakes – who don’t have a history of big spending – to be deliberate and thorough in their approach to roster building.
Dampening the David Accam rumors
Transfer rumors around Chicago Fire attacker David Accam, which have popped up several times over the past couple of years, emerged again this week, when a French outlet reported that the Ghanaian attacker is drawing interest from Ligue 1 outfits Toulouse, Rennes and Nantes.
The report stated that Accam “has been offered” to the clubs, and that the Fire are looking for a 3 million euro transfer fee for the 26-year-old Designated Player.
A source close to the situation told me on Thursday that there is no truth to the reports, and that the Fire are not looking to sell Accam, who has 19 goals and seven assists in 48 regular season matches since joining Chicago ahead of the 2015 season.