It’s never too early for trade scuttlebutt, especially when there are 47 more days to go until Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window closes on May 8.
Until then, there’s nothing to stop clubs from making a move, from shuffling the deck before the season gets away from them. On any given day, discussions that could change the face of your club (or the league) are ongoing, even if they don’t always result in a deal.
That’s not a real text message, in case I needed to spell that out, but it’s the sort of inquiry I’d be sending New York City FC director of football operations Claudio Reyna right about now. Same for the rest of the players on my list of potential MLS trade targets, which you can find below.
Want to play MLS general manager? Evaluate my picks and outline your own trade targets in the comments section below!
Saad Abdul-Salaam (Sporting Kansas City)
Peter Vermes is in a tough spot. Graham Zusi is a Designated Player and US national team player, but he is no longer first choice on the wing in Kansas City. Given the cap hit, Vermes can’t sit Zusi, so he moves him back to right back to correspond with the Sporting original’s positional switch internationally. Nothing wrong with that, apart from the fact that right back isn’t the best place in which to spend DP dollars.
The trickle-down effect is that Abdul-Salaam finds himself in MLS roster purgatory, plenty good enough to be a productive starter (six assists in 2016) but stuck behind a veteran with the profile and skill set (Zusi is going to get better and better at right back, just wait) to keep him off the field for the foreseeable future.
Now, I can’t imagine Vermes wants to lose an affordable 25-year-old defender who runs like a deer and can pick out a cross, but everyone has their price. Can someone dangle an offer that piques the Sporting soccer czar’s interest?
Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC)
Looking for a physically dominant midfielder in his prime with nearly 150 career MLS starts? Well, there’s one in Columbus just waiting for a taker. The writing is on the wall for Tchani – he hasn’t made so much as a bench appearance this season after falling out of favor during the second half of 2016 – and it’s hard to watch a player who was arguably MLS’s best two-way central midfielder in 2015 (seriously, look at the stats) spin his tires.
It’s probably too much to ask Tchani to rediscover the form that helped propel Columbus to MLS Cup two years ago (5 G/6 A), but there’s plenty of talent and MLS know-how there and Crew SC aren’t in a position to demand too much in return after pushing the 27-year-old off the gameday roster. At this point, cap relief is better than nothing.
Of course, there are also concerns. Namely, was Tchani’s disinterested 2016 campaign just a blip that corresponded with Crew SC’s nosedive or a morass that will follow him to his next destination? If you believe it’s the former, it’s time to give Gregg Berhalter a call.
Matt Polster (Chicago Fire)
Suddenly, the Chicago midfield is crowded. Like, Tokyo subway at rush hour crowded, and Polster is standing on the platform watching train after train fly by without him onboard. After logging more than 2,000 minutes in both of his first two professional seasons, the 23-year-old hasn’t played a single minute for the Fire in 2017.
That’s not a huge shock considering the club signed Juninho in the offseason then traded a huge chunk of allocation money for Dax McCarty. It was always going to near impossible to force one of that duo to the bench, and with Bastian Schweinsteiger pushing his way into the midfield depth chart, opportunities just got even more scarce.
Given his affordable cap hit and versatility, the Fire won’t be eager to move Polster, but he’s got to get on the field to continue advancing his career. Maybe that will come at right back with Chicago, or perhaps someone will make Nelson Rodriguez an offer he can’t refuse.
Khiry Shelton and Tommy McNamara (NYCFC)
I know, I know. Claudio Reyna and Patrick Vieira are liable to hang up the phone if you call inquiring about Tommy Mac and Khiry. But then again neither have seen much of the field so far this year, with Jonathan Lewis preferred to Shelton as a late wing sub against Montreal and Designated Player Maxi Moralez and Rodney Wallace taking over centrally and on the left wing.
Perhaps NYCFC could be convinced to part with one in order to replenish their allocation money stash. They’re deep, after all, and both players have real value within MLS. McNamara put up five goals and nine assists in 2016, his first season as a full-time starter, while Shelton dropped four and nine despite making just 13 starts. Both could be starters, depending on the team.
You may not get far with the NYCFC brain trust, but it’s worth a call, at the very least.
Marky Delgado (Toronto FC)
Jay Chapman is worth a shout here, but there aren’t many teams raring to give attacking midfield minutes to young, relatively unproven domestic central midfielders. Those are generally reserved for the guys who make the big bucks, though I know the Armchair Analyst believes Chapman deserves a shot. Drink up, ExtraTime Radio listeners.
MLS teams do, however, have plenty of time for 21-year-old central midfielders with iron lungs, nearly 90 league appearances and equal parts bite and box-to-box tendencies. Delgado looked like he’d secured a place in Toronto’s XI last year, but playing time dried up late in the campaign and the former Chivas USA Homegrown played fewer than 90 minutes total from October through MLS Cup.
With the arrival of Victor Vasquez, Armando Cooper’s current stranglehold on a starting spot and Jonathan Osorio’s continued maturation, Delgado appears likely to be a late-game sub or injury insurance at best. Surely, someone is interested in changing that state of affairs.
Mauro Manotas (Houston Dynamo)
It’d take an awful lot since the Dynamo believe in Manotas’ talent, but here’s a scenario for you…
Let’s say Orlando City sell Cyle Larin this summer – a very real possibility that you should start preparing for now – and have a veritable bounty of allocation money to play with. Meanwhile, goals aren’t a problem in Houston, not with Cubo Torres already in double digits and Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto terrorizing defenses from the wings.
Lions general manager Niki Budalic calls up Matt Jordan, his counterpart with the Dynamo, and says, “Hey, we’ll flip you a family sized grab bag of TAM and GAM for Mauro Manotas.” Manotas hasn’t played much and takes up a DP spot, so Jordan thinks about it and comes to the conclusion that this might be an opportunity to accumulate the resources needed to upgrade at attacking midfielder, a move that could take his team from upstart squad to MLS Cup contender.
They make the deal, and Orlando get a young center forward to pick up where Larin left off while the Dynamo go out and sign a No. 10 who makes Cubo, Elis and Quioto even more productive. That sounds like a good deal to me.