The top 11 questions for you to consider this weekend as silly season madness continues:
Teams are getting the hang of this relatively new feature on the MLS landscape, as Friday's busy flurry of activity showed. Past editions have offered up veteran performers like Clyde Simms and Marc Burch. Which of Friday's picks will prove themselves as the canniest pickups? The likes of Danny Califf, John Thorrington and Eric Avila constitute a wealth of MLS experience and in many cases, ample lingering potential.
10) Have the rich gotten richer this week?
Sporting Kansas City added two useful pieces, Benny Feilhaber and Ike Opara (not to mention lesser-known Cameroonian signing Yann Songo’o), to a roster that brought home the top spot in the Eastern Conference the last two seasons. Essentially made possible by the additional allocation money granted to CONCACAF Champions League qualifiers, SKC’s reinforcements will be needed in a demanding 2013 – and MLS rivals will hate to see the extra firepower available to coach Peter Vermes.
The Earthquakes were the only team that finished higher than Sporting in the 2012 regular season, and they, too, face the complex task of rewarding their top performers, building depth, using their extra allocation funds effectively and remaining under the salary cap. Re-signing Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow and Sam Cronin is a good start.
8) Is US starlet Mikkel Diskerud really headed for Portland?
The Timbers are doing a more serious sequence of chopping and changing as new coach Caleb Porter remakes the team to his liking, with several noteworthy trades followed by this week’s hot rumor that the Norwegian-American playmaker is being lured to Oregon. That transfer would stand as a huge opportunity for a talented young US international – and something of a coup for both PTFC and MLS.
7) What else is Porter up to in PDX?
His moves thus far seem to be setting the stage for the attacking-oriented, pass-happy 4-3-3 formation Porter prefers. The former Akron boss also seems to be collecting young challengers to Portland’s veteran incumbents, which looks like an intriguing storyline to track in preseason.
6) Can Chelís change the picture at Chivas USA?
New Goats coach José Luis Sánchez Solá is an outsized personality within Mexican soccer, but it’s unlikely that he’s yet faced a task quite like the one that awaits him in SoCal. The early to-do list for “El Chelís” so far: learn English; come to grips with unique MLS rules and policies; take quick stock of the Goats’ current assets (including the future of Juan Agudelo) and begin to dial up Chivas USA’s regional and national relevance. Daunting, to say the least.
Lurid reports that former Montreal coach Jesse Marsch was being lined up as Mariner’s replacement while the incumbent scouted at College Cup clogged the news cycle with negative vibes last weekend. That noise has quieted, replaced by talk of construction and acquisition after TFC cleared cap and roster space through this week’s trade with Portland. Many questions remain unanswered in the city by the lake.
4) Who will earn the call to join this year’s Generation adidas crop?
Rumors about the makeup of the newest GA class are swirling and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead. The program remains one of the leading ways for MLS to capture young North American talent, though this year’s harvest may look a bit different thanks to the league’s increasingly selective outlook and a draft field that some pundits have called lightweight.
3) And will others soon join Crew prospect Wil Trapp as Homegrown signings?
Even closer to the grassroots, clubs continue to groom promising players in their own backyards and Columbus snared the effective equivalent of a first-round SuperDraft pick this week as the Akron midfielder signed on with the Black-and-Gold. Now the focus turns to the likes of Gyasi Zardes and London Woodberry, two among several hot NCAA prospects with MLS academy ties, to the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, respectively.
2) Can the college game hang on to its central place on the US scene?
Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski has built his program into a Division I dynasty and an assembly line of MLS standouts. So when he speaks out on the value of college soccer like he did after the Terrapins’ College Cup semifinal loss last Friday, people listen. MLS youth programs are expected to one day surpass NCAA as the league’s leading talent pipeline, but that day still looks a long way off.
1) Was Rafa Márquez the biggest bust in MLS history?
File this one under “endless source of barstool banter.” Maybe the Mexican international was misunderstood – but if so, we’ll probably never know, since he made matters worse nearly every time he opened his mouth near a microphone. There have been some disappointing high-profile signings over the league’s existence, but it’s debatable whether anyone ever left the league with as few defenders and as many boo birds as a Red Bulls Designated Player.