It’s been a memorable MLS hot stove already, and perhaps the most significant since 1995. We’ve already had three separate drafts, and we're just four weeks from a SuperDraft that looks to be as loaded with young talent as last year’s version.
In the interim, it’s time to turn our sights toward some of the Yanks and Canucks abroad who might find a cozier home on this side of the Atlantic. From Landon Donovan and Frankie Hejduk to Julian de Guzman and Adrian Cann — not to mention Hunter Freeman, the latest addition to the Houston Dynamo roster — MLS has a proud history of bringing prodigal sons home from European adventures and giving them a place to grow and improve.
Here’s five more who teams here should target — and who should target the league:
Rob Friend, F
The Canadian was among the pioneers at UC Santa Barbara and a top-shelf talent who brought a mid-major program from obscurity to prominence in the early part of the decade. Since graduating in 2002, he’s had stops in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany, where he featured in more than 80 games for Borussia Mönchengladbach of the Bundesliga.
Currently the big target forward plays for Hertha BSC in the 2.Bundesliga. He turns 30 next month, has a year left on his contract and would be a great addition for Toronto FC.
Eddy Sidra, D
The Sudanese-born Canadian international has spent the last three years at Energie Cottbus, bouncing between the Bundesliga and German second division.
An attacking right back who gets up-and-down the field relentlessly, Sidra’s game is already well-rounded at the tender age of 21. Some thus far unexplained issues cropped up in Germany, and he now finds himself out of contract, a true free agent available at the right price. Either Canadian club in MLS would be happy to have him, but given the rebuilding process in Columbus, Sidra might find the best home with the Crew.
Eddie Johnson, F
EJ was once considered the future of the US forward line, but his career has stagnated since his move to Fulham in the summer of 2008. Though he may never scale the heights pundits had once hoped were his, last year’s loan to Aris Salonika of Greece — in which he scored five goals in 16 appearances — showed he still knows where the goal is.
Johnson’s contract expires in summer of 2011, and it's possible Fulham would let him walk for free just to have his contract off the books. If that’s the case, then D.C. United would be a perfect landing spot. No team in MLS history has needed a proven goal-scorer more and, lest we forget, Johnson has a Golden Boot and a 15-goal season under his belt in the league.
[inline_node:323274]Benny Feilhaber, M
Like Johnson, the US international’s contract is up this summer and, like Johnson, he’s almost certainly moving on. In Feilhaber’s case, though, it’s not because his performance has been wanting; over the past two years, he’s been AGF Aarhus’ best player when not injured.
The issue with Feilhaber is Danish tax law, where the salaries of foreign players are taxed at 25 percent for the first three years, then jump to 60 percent thereafter. Ouch.
He had nibbles from several La Liga teams in the summer, and it’s a fair bet that one or two will come calling once the window opens in January since Feilhaber is a top-notch talent with World Cup experience and, at 25, he's just entering his prime. But MLS has landed players like that before, and any number of teams has the budget space to offer him a contract. He’d be a particularly nice fit in the Dynamo midfield, where his ability to hold the ball and dictate the tempo of the game would be a welcome addition.
Carlos Bocanegra, D
Boca has already had a great career in Europe, one that’s continuing with Saint-Étienne in Ligue 1. He’s played both central defense and left back at every stop on his European tour, and is regarded as a pro’s pro, the type of leader who puts in the full effort every time he steps on the pitch, be it for a World Cup game or a practice.
Now 31, Bocanegra’s seen and done it all, and almost any team in the league would love to have him on the roster. His credentials as a leader and a winner — Boca’s been the captain of the US national team since the middle of 2007 — are unquestioned, and he remains a dominant force in the air on both sides of the ball.
The New England Revolution, who let in a league-high 50 goals last season, could desperately use his services.
Others to keep an eye on: Paul Stalteri, Freddy Adu, DaMarcus Beasley, Lars Hirschfeld, Herculez Gomez, Marcus Hahnemann, Frank Simek.