We should have known better than to think the MLS summer transfer window would come and go with a whimper. It's not called deadline day for nothing.
Thanks to feverish will-he-won't-he speculation about the MLS futures of Mix Diskerud (not gonna happen) and Sacha Kljestan (dead for now as well) and an All-Star extravaganza marked by golazos, finger wags and laps of honor, the buzz was downright inescapable.
And though midnight came and went on Wednesday, the silly season isn't over just yet.
There’s still plenty of time to improve before rosters freeze on Sept. 15, and out-of-contract players and trades remain in play. Even if your club didn’t land that difference-maker you’ve been pining after – I’m looking at you New England (see below), Chicago and Columbus – that doesn’t mean 2014 is a wash.
- TRANSACTIONS: All the 2014 comings and goings in MLS
So for those of you who welcomed a promising new face to your locker room in the past month – perhaps even the crème de la crème of the summer window, a Designated Player with World Cup experience – a hearty congratulations. For the rest of you poor, tortured souls, don’t break out the pitchforks and torches just yet.
(Take those frustrations out on Twitter, so we can all enjoy your obsessive hand wringing.)
Who knows? Maybe Jermaine Jones will think twice and ink that reportedly lucrative deal with the Fire. Maybe New England will deliver on their Twitter foreshadowing and bring in reinforcements at defensive midfield and forward. Maybe the Crew will get that goalscoring striker they so desperately need, or even Diskerud once his contract runs out.
It could all happen, but you can’t grade the future. And that’s why I’m sticking with the here and now as we run the rule over this summer’s transfer window winners and losers.
Orlando City SC/New York City FC
- In: M Kaká (Orlando City SC), F David Villa (New York City FC), M Frank Lampard (New York City FC)
Portland deserve a shout here, investing DP dollars on Liam Ridgewell to (they hope) fill a hole in central defense the Timbers have been trying to spackle since they entered the league. Same for San Jose, until recently the last place you'd expect to see big money (transfer fee and DP dollars?) dropped on a diminutive Argentine playmaker more likely to win the lottery than a header in the six-yard box.
Both should be solid – perhaps eventually spectacular – signings, but Orlando City and NYCFC saw those gambits and upped the ante with Kaká, David Villa and Frank Lampard. That's one FIFA Ballon d'Or recipient, two World Cup champions and three UEFA Champions League winners, if that sort of thing matters to you. The only downside? We won't see any of these guys on the field until March 2015.
- In: MF/D DaMarcus Beasley, M Luis Garrido
It's been an ugly year in Houston, but Dominic Kinnear and Chris Canetti didn't mess around in the summer window. The Dynamo have given up a league-high 40 goals so far this season, and priority No. 1 was finding a way to shield and reinforce the backline. At just 23, Honduran d-mid Luis Garrido is already a World Cup vet, and he's the kind of ball-seeking bulldog that should make David Horst and Jermaine Taylor look much, much better.
The headline move was, of course, DaMarcus Beasley, who was tempted back to MLS from Liga MX with a well-earned DP contract. With that contract, the left back job belongs to Run DMB – cue clubs prowling around Corey Ashe – who started his career in orange by helping the Dynamo record a shutout at home against D.C. That's all well and good, but Beasley needs to show some attacking panache to truly justify a deal that forced Houston to trade away jack-of-all-trades Warren Creavalle.
- In: GK Rais Mbolhi, D Carlos Valdés, F Brian Brown
With Carlos Valdés fresh off a World Cup quarterfinal run and back in Philly after some nightmare negotiations, Algerian 'keeper Rais Mbolhi settling the situation between the pipes after his own Brazilian adventure and Jamaican Golden Boot winner Brian Brown fighting tooth and nail for a permanent move, nobody navigated the window better than the Union.
Their most glaring deficiency was center back, where a cast of rotating characters alongside either Amobi Okugo or Maurice Edu had left much to be desired. With Valdés back in the team, that spot's now locked down.
At goalkeeper, Zac MacMath had alternated between baffling and impressive over three seasons as the starter. The 22-year-old won't be happy to relinquish top-dog status, but there's no doubt Mbolhi is an upgrade, what with two World Cups already under his belt. For kickers, Brown kicked off his Philly career with a goal last Friday – which gave his team a 1-1 draw at Sporting KC, an incredibly valuable point in the midst of a playoff race.
And that's what it comes down to for this team: Even without summer reinforcements, the Union had playoff-caliber talent. They just didn't have playoff-caliber results.
Ultimately, that's what the summer window is about. Have roster holes and ground to make up in the playoff race? Fill them, ideally with players who will contribute long-term without handcuffing your cap situation. The Union did just that and set themselves up to be the side no Eastern Conference team wants to see in November. If they get there, of course.
- Needs: Someone to convert Federico Higuaín's service
They held the top spot in the allocation order, which held some real value (D.C. flipped the third spot for Kofi Opare and a second-round pick!) as a number of US national team players reportedly eyed MLS. To come away with nothing (for now) when they had Diskerud squarely in their sights is a massive disappointment.
Really wanted Mix in Columbus. We gave it everything, so as disappointed as we are, we didn't leave anything on the table. #Crew96— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) August 7, 2014
Because I still can't wrap my head around where Diskerud would have fit in – perhaps for Tony Tchani, playing slightly ahead of Wil Trapp? – I think the biggest failing, and one the Crew could yet address via trade or discovery signing, was at forward. No offense to Adam Bedell and Aaron Schoenfeld, but neither should be leading the line regularly for a potential playoff team. Upgrading there should be priority No. 1.
All of that aside, Columbus reportedly also have Giancarlo González's murky future hanging over them with a big decision to make. Do they cash in now while his value is buoyed by a magical World Cup or build around the Costa Rican for the foreseeable future? Big decision, that. It's not all negative, though. Landing United States U-20 star Romain Gall was a nice consolation prize. Kid's got skill.
New England Revolution
- Needs: Striker to open up combination play around the 18, d-mid to protect back four
Somehow, someway – it's actually not that complicated, the East is downright mediocre after the top two teams – the Revs remain in the playoff hunt despite losing nine of 10. Seems like a time to add some new blood, right? Maybe shake things up and try to rediscover the form that pushed Sporting Kansas City to the brink during last fall's playoff clash? Striker and defensive midfield are pretty obvious areas in need of improvement, and the fanbase is getting so antsy over just about anything qualifies as a transfer rumor these days.
Only nothing's happened just yet, despite president Brian Bilello's recent Twitter tease; here's hoping free agent and man mountain Shola Ameobi pops up in New England to play as a target man. Instead, the lone move in Foxborough was loaning out Jerry Bengtson and his DP contract (something that had to be done, it must be said). They can get out of my loser column easily enough, though. They've just got to find a way to improve before Sept. 15 and then make the playoffs.
For all our fans asking, we do have an incoming player announcement that we should be able to make in the next few days.— Brian Bilello (@RevsPrez) August 6, 2014
- Needs: A jolt of confidence (and some wins) after a high-profile rejection
It's not often you hear about a US national teamer turning down many millions of guaranteed dollars, but Jermaine Jones reportedly did just that with the draw-or-die Fire. That deal isn't technically dead in the water, as Jones could sign all the way up to Sept. 15, but it's certainly a humbling blow for a club mired in a season defined by close-but-not-quite. When you're on the brink of missing the playoffs yet again and you've got the resources to chase big-name DPs, bringing in Razvan Cocis and an injured Sanna Nyassi simply isn't enough.