A pair of MLS teams announced their initial roster moves for the 2016 season on Thursday, with FC Dallas exercising contract options on seven players and the Colorado Rapids picking up the options of eight members of their 2015 squad.
Perhaps most importantly, Dallas announced they have signed 20-year-old Homegrown midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who had a career year as a regular starter, to a new contract. Re-signing Acosta comes in addition to picking up the 2016 contract options of MLS Best XI defender Matt Hedges, Rolando Escobar, Atiba Harris, Ryan Hollingshead, Zach Loyd, Victor Ulloa and Je-Vaughn Watson.
In an interview with FCDallas.com, Technical Director Fernando Clavijo discussed the challenges of maintaining a core that has developed sooner than expected. Dallas tied the New York Red Bulls atop the MLS regular-season table with 60 points, though New York earned the Supporters' Shield on the goal differential tiebreaker (+19 for NY vs. +13 for FCD).
“The better you play, the more success [there is], it is more difficult to keep that team together,” Clavijo said. “As a matter of fact it’s very hard because the salaries go up, by some percentage, and it’s not just the salary [that is the issue], it’s the salary cap. We needed to look for different ways to have a competitive team.”
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Dallas declined contract options for Otis Earle, Danny Garcia, Michel and David Texeira. The club also declined the option on defender Walker Zimmerman's contract because he has graduated from the Generation adidas program and would count against the club's salary budget, but Dallas extended a bona fide offer to Zimmerman and will, if the teams cannot agree to terms, retain his MLS rights.
The Rapids did a bit of housecleaning after their disappointing 2015, picking up the options on eight players but declining those of another 10.
Colorado picked up options for goalkeepers Clint Irwin and John Berner, defenders Joseph Greenspan and Axel Sjoberg, midfielders Sam Cronin, Jared Watts and Dillon Serna, as well as striker Dominique Badji.
The list of players who had their options declined might be more notable. The Rapids did not pick up options for captain Drew Moor, midseason acquisitions Sean St. Ledger and Maynor Figueroa, Designated Player Gabriel Torres as well as Vicente Sanchez, Lucas Pittinari, Carlos Alvarez and Charles Eloundou. The club has offered Moor and St. Ledger new deals.
Marlon Hairston, Marc Burch, Juan Ramirez, Marcelo Sarvas, Dillon Powers, Kevin Doyle, Caleb Calvert and Luis Solignac were all already under contract in Colorado for 2016, while veterans Bobby Burling and Michael Harrington both had their deals expire.
“We have had to make some very difficult decisions over our roster but that is all part of the process of change,” Rapids VP of soccer operations and technical director Paul Bravo said in a club statement. “We are completely committed to improving on the pitch in 2016 and this is the first stage.
“We are renegotiating with some of these players now but I’d like to thank all those leaving for their service to the club and wish them well for the future. We will now concentrate on developing our roster in order to have a successful 2016.”