Monday was Roster Deadline Day in MLS, the first stop on the silly season roller-coaster that won't truly come to an end until the winter trade/transfer window closes in early April. Seriously, there will be nearly five months of this to come.
The vast majority of players who were released will fall into one of three buckets:
Bucket 1: Free Agency
To be free agent-eligible in MLS you have to be at least 28 years old and with at least eight years of MLS service. So the RSL trio of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wingert are all free agents, as are a few more who became available across the league.
Be aware that clubs can re-sign their own free agents before the free agency period begins on December 12.
Bucket 2: The Re-Entry Draft
Age 23 or 24 with 3+ years of MLS experience? Age 25+ with 4-to-7 years of MLS experience? Then this is where you'll land.
Vancouver's DP defensive midfielder Matias Laba (who's coming off an ACL tear, but still) would conceivably be the biggest name available in the Re-Entry Draft should he participate. Andrew Farrell, the 2013 No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick, is another, as is 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year Dillon Powers.
None of these guys is someone you'd build a roster around, but each is the type who could help the right team in the right situation.
Bucket 3: The Waiver Draft
If you don't fall into either of the first two buckets (almost always because of age or length-of-tenure), you'll land here. The waiver draft is usually a ghost town – here's our headline from last year:
The reason there is twofold. First, a fair number of the guys who are waiver draft-eligible today will renegotiate new deals with their current clubs over the next two or three weeks. Second... teams just aren't into picking up each other's scraps like they used to be. As salary budgets grow, the potential MLS player pool is growing as well.
But that doesn't mean guys who hit the waiver wire and go unselected are seeing their careers end. A bunch of these guys will get non-roster preseason camp invites come January, and a few of them will stick. Others will find spots in the lower divisions, a la Sebastian Ibeagha – the 2017 USL Defender of the Year, who went unpicked in the 2016 MLS Waiver Draft and will certainly be in some MLS team's camp eight weeks from now.
With all that in mind, here's a Best XI of players available after Monday's bloodletting:
GK: David Bingham (Re-Entry Draft): Bingham struggled in 2017, going from the fringes of the USMNT to out of the starting lineup entirely. He didn't play a single minute after August 5, and it's clear the Quakes have no intention of re-signing him. It was reported earlier this year that he's looking to ply his trade in Europe.
Rimando (Free Agent) and Vancouver's David Ousted (Re-Entry) also deserve shouts here. I think RSL will be able to re-sign Rimando, though Ousted is not in the 'Caps' plans.
RB: Farrell (Re-Entry Draft): The learning curve of his first two seasons flattened out and then cratered after 2015's disastrous experiment with him at center back, and 2017 was pretty clearly Farrell's worst year as a pro. He seems like he needs a change of scenery.
Best Fits: Montreal could use an upgrade at right back, and Farrell would probably be that. But I think the most interesting landing spot for him would be with any team that plays in a back three or five, in the type of scheme that emphasizes mobility and aggression out of the CBs (different from playing CB in a back 4, which is how he was used in 2015).
CB: David Edgar (Waiver Draft): Edgar is 30, and he missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing major knee surgery following a hit-and-run last winter. That combination of words is bad news – it's hard to imagine a guy who was never that quick would recover well at his age.
But mobility isn't the be-all end-all (how many foot-races do Chad Marshall or Drew Moor win these days?), and Edgar has had a long and good career both for his country (41 caps with Canada) and at the club level (151 appearances in the English Premier League and Championship).
Best Fits: Lots of teams need CB depth, and someone should take a shot here. Best fit might be D.C. United or the Galaxy, both of whom need a veteran organizer. Though don't sleep on Montreal, as Edgar's size (he's 6-foot-4) would help them considerably on set pieces.
Vancouver are reportedly negotiating to bring him back.
CB: Gideon Baah (Waiver Draft): Like Edgar, he missed the whole season with an injury. Unlike Edgar, he's a young-ish and mobile left-footer who could conceivably have the best years of his career ahead of him.
Of course, Baah has played less than 500 minutes over the past two seasons and doesn't have Edgar's club pedigree, so even if he maxes out his talent he might fall short. But that's what you tend to get on the waiver wire, right?
LB: Kip Colvey (Waiver Draft): Generally speaking teams don't release good left backs, so the pickings are slim here. Colvey is maybe not starter material in MLS, but he's got an engine and at just 23 he's worth taking a flyer on.
Colvey played primarily in the USL this past year, and his calling card was his consistency. He won't lose games for you (and he will occasionally win a game for you with his passing ability, which is underrated).
Best Fits: Obviously Colorado will be the first team to come to mind given Colvey's connection with Anthony Hudson likely coming in to take the head coaching job. Seattle could also use some left back depth given Joevin Jones' imminent departure.
DM: Laba (Re-Entry Draft): Laba's been a no-frills central midfielder destroyer for nearly a half-decade in British Columbia. When healthy he's not quite elite, but he's well above average and there's an argument to be made that a more ball-oriented system could better play to the Argentine's strengths.
Best Fits: Vancouver are negotiating to bring him back, which makes not-so-much sense given their investment in Aly Ghazal and Nosa Igiebor (who they're negotiating to re-sign). New England should get involved, as should RSL (if only to gain some leverage with Beckerman) and Colorado.
And of course the Galaxy desperately need a true, no-frills No. 6.
CM: Powers (Re-Entry Draft): Once upon a time Powers was arguably the most impressive up-and-coming central midfielder in the league, both tough on the ball and able to move the zone of play with precision. But the last three seasons have seen a steady decline in his effectiveness and production, and now here he is.
It's too early to write him off, though. The ability to pass is still king in this game of ours, and that remains Powers' calling card.
Best Fits: I will be disappointed if he's not reunited with his old head coach Oscar Pareja in Dallas, especially given Kellyn Acosta's likely departure this winter. RSL could also be a good landing spot, as Powers would form a useful No. 8 platoon with Luke Mulholland (who is his polar opposite in terms of strengths and weaknesses).
RW: Teal Bunbury (Re-Entry Draft): The four-time USMNTer had his best season since 2011, registering 7g/1 in 1279 minutes for the Revs. For his career he has 36g/21a in just under 12,000 minutes, so he can clearly play in this league and make a difference if the situation is right.
He's never going to be a clinical finisher or an incisive passer, but how many back-up wingers/ad hoc center forwards in MLS are? He's in the prime of his career, fills a specific role, and has been a good soldier about coming off the bench.
Best Fits: Maybe a return to Sporting would make some sense? Even more, though, could be a move down I-95 to D.C. United. Ben Olsen's team has a need for wing depth – especially "goalscoring" wing depth.
Of note: Bunbury is three months too young to be a free agent.
LW: Fabian Herbers (Waiver Draft): The 24-year-old suffered through an injury-ravaged second season, but as a rookie he showed the ability to be an asset all over the attack. His numbers back that up: 4g/9a in 1685 career MLS minutes suggest he should be on the field all the time if he's able to handle the physical load.
Herbers isn't a genius playmaker despite those numbers, but he understands how to combine around the box and get into good spots both on and off the ball.
AM: Jose Villarreal (Re-Entry Draft): It still stuns me that Villarreal hasn't been able to get regular MLS minutes, partially because he's so talented and partially because he's so versatile. I could've listed him here at either wing, playmaker or center forward. He's done a bit of everything in his career – except start.
Are there attitude issues? Commitment? Fitness?
I don't know. I do know there is talent:
Villarreal, who is 24, has 5g/9a in 2354 MLS minutes, including three assists in 389 minutes this past season. Maybe he's one of those guys who really does need to be pushed out of his hometown and into a sink-or-swim situation. Or perhaps he needs to find a coach who believes in him and will put him on the field, which is not always the easiest thing for domestic attacking players.
Best Fits: The Union need a No. 10 who's not ball-dominant to play underneath CJ Sapong and in front of their veteran, deep-lying central midfielders. Villarreal would be very nice right there.
FW: Alan Gordon (Free Agent): Gordo forever, man. I still wish he'd been on the field for the USMNT's last 15 minutes against Trinidad & Tobago – you just know he'd have won a few headers and put one on a platter for Christian Pulisic or Clint Dempsey.
That said, Gordon is much more than his size and aerial ability. He's always had superb vision and creativity around the box:
Best Fits: RSL are surely already on the phone with him. Sporting and Portland should be as well, as should LAFC.
Other guys I expect to re-sign with their current team:
- Beckerman & Rimando (DM & GK – RSL): I think they'll be able to figure something out before these guys hit the market.
- Gonzalo Veron (FW – RBNY): They declined his option but are working to bring him back.
- Brooks Lennon (W – RSL): He was on a one-year loan and hasn't re-signed with RSL yet, but I think it'll happen.
- Yamil Asad & Greg Garza (LW & LB – Atlanta): One-year loans that are being negotiated. I'm more confident Garza will be back than Asad.
- Chris Duvall (RB – Montreal): An offer to bring him back was extended.
- Darren Mattocks (FW/W – Portland): Option declined, but they're working to bring him back.