The 2013-14 MLS offseason got under way—as if by starter’s pistol—more or less the minute Lovel Palmer’s penalty kick smacked off the crossbar to end MLS Cup 2013 last Saturday. Offseason business immediately hit the ground sprinting, Usain Bolt-style.
There were end-of-an-era retirement announcements, surprising player transactions, a blockbuster coaching change, a Designated Player signing, and of course, the usual complement of rumors, from the mundane to the insane.
There was also the announcement of a marquee opponent for next season’s All-Star Game, a new affiliate franchise in Houston, a record yield in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft, and a rule change that switched up the MLS berths for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League.
Even the Kansas City Ballet was involved, as an MLS injury impacted the lineup for their annual production of The Nutcracker.
The deluge of developments was enough to overflow your cup of understanding, so let’s funnel it into manageable streams. Let’s rank the fledgling offseason developments, category by category.
Here we go:
3. Matt Reis, New England: The longstanding Revs backstop called it a career after a trying season during which his father-in-law, John Odom, was gravely wounded in the Boston Marathon bombing. Reis helped save Odom’s life on the scene, and he raised money for his father-in-law’s remarkable recovery. He returned to the Revs’ goalmouth for the latter part of the season and helped the young team reach the playoffs for the first time in four years. Great career, class act.
2. Jimmy Nielsen, Sporting Kansas City: The White Puma retracted his claws for good following a triumphant performance in MLS Cup 2013. It’s hard to beat going out on top, and even harder to beat going out on top after making a huge save despite playing hurt, but…see No. 1.
1. Pablo Mastroeni, Los Angeles: As one of a handful of players who made the leap from MLS to the international level on very short notice, Mastroeni (pictured right) takes the top spot here. After both Chris Armas and Claudio Reyna went down with injuries right before the 2002 World Cup, Mastroeni suddenly became a US national team starter, and came up with an excellent performance in South Korea/Japan. He would become a USMNT mainstay, logging 65 career caps, and forging a standout 16-year career in MLS.
4. Atlas wants to sign Landon Donovan. The USMNT’s leading scorer already poured cold water on this one, but the idea of Dos-a-Cero Donovan in Liga MX is intriguing.
3. D.C. United, the LA Galaxy, and Chivas USA are seeking Eddie Johnson. The Sounders just landed forward Kenny Cooper, so MLS’ very own Rod Tidwell (pictured right) could certainly be on the move. Stay tuned.
1. Jermain Defoe is set to sign with Toronto FC. This one sounds like it could be confirmed soon, thereby cementing Tottenham’s status as an MLS feeder team.
5. Bobby Convey to New York: The experienced former US international can help the Red Bulls on the wing or at left back.
4. Chad Marshall to Seattle: The 2008 Defender of the Year is still only 29, and should be energized by the change of scenery. He’ll also be playing in front of Stefan Frei, 27, who will be keen to regain the excellent goalkeeping form he displayed before injuries marred his last two seasons.
3. Steve Zakuani to Portland: Talk about a shocka, it hardly seems proppa, but the speedy winger (pictured right) is headed from Seattle to archrivals Portland, where he’ll seek a career rebirth under his college coach, Caleb Porter.
2. Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell to D,C. United: Sneaking a two-for-one here, but how about that Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft? An unprecedented five players were selected, including these two, at No. 1 and No. 20, respectively. They should help shore up the D.C. D, which surrendered 59 goals last season, second-highest total in the league.
1. Gilberto to Toronto FC: He’s 24, and he scored 14 goals in 24 games for Portuguesa last season. Will he be paired with England international Defoe on Toronto’s front line next season? Hey, TFC boss Tim Lieweke guaranteed the Reds would make the playoffs in 2014 (for the first time in their history). “Write it down,” he said.
Coaching/Front Office Changes
4. Matt Reis takes over as LA Galaxy goalkeepers coach: Reis said he’s looking forward to coaching acrobatic Panamanian Jaime Penedo. The Galaxy are in good hands between the pipes.
3. Greg Vanney becomes Assistant GM, Academy Director at Toronto FC: The former US international and MLS Best XI worked wonders with his decision to turn the Real Salt Lake-Arizona academy into a residency program. TFC, who also acquired the speedy, versatile Jackson, had a busy week.
2. Jason Kreis takes New York City FC job: After molding a model MLS franchise in Utah, the young American coach (pictured right) takes on an even bigger challenge—bigger budget, bigger market, bigger pressure.
1. Jurgen Klinsmann gets four-year extension and additional title of Technical Director: The USSF went all in on Klinsi. Would you have made that bet?
5. Houston launches expansion NWSL franchise. One of the most successful MLS teams (technically an expansion club) will kickstart the first NWSL expansion franchise.
4. The US U-17s paste England 5-1, Brazil 4-1. That LA Galaxy Academy striker Haji Wright is not too shabby. He was born two years after MLS launched.
3. Bayern Munich confirmed as opponent for the 2014 MLS All-Star Game. Let’s hope they’re not quite as regular-season ready as Manchester United were in recent ASG appearances.
2. A USSF proposal alters MLS berths in the CCL. A change, submitted before the 2013 season, was ratified by CONCACAF and eliminates the automatic CCL berth for the MLS Cup runner-up, handing it instead to the franchise with the best regular-season record in the conference opposite that of the Supporters’ Shield winners. Got that? This year, it means Real Salt Lake drop out and Portland join the CCL.
1. Seth Sinovic replaces Jimmy Nielsen in stage production of The Nutcracker ballet. The program for the Kansas City Ballet’s annual production featured an injury report this year: Nielsen, Jimmy, out (ribs). But the SKC defense was still represented in the show, as left back Sinovic (pictured right) stepped in for two performances on Sunday.
Offseason’s Greetings, everyone.