The MLS summer transfer window recently shuttered, which of course means it's time to weigh up which new arrivals will have the most say in the race for playoff positions.
The secondary transfer period saw some fine additions to the league from abroad, from guys joining teams desperately chasing a postseason invite to newcomers trying to integrate into title contenders and everything in between.
Some will put their stamp on the stretch drive by sparking victories, while others might have impact because of what they don't manage to do for new employers in a new land.
No. 5: Michael Mancienne, New England
While I'm not quite so high as Bobby Warshaw is on the Revolution defender's potential impact, he does offer specific value to a club in the thick of what is poised to be a tight sprint to the finish in the Eastern Conference. Really, it's too much to ask one man to shore up a whole back line. And if one absolutely must, Mancienne isn't the guy to do that.
What he can do is defend on the run (hello, press breakers!), usher away loads of crosses (the Revs have leaked eight restart goals and two-thirds of their shots conceded come from inside the box) and confidently move the ball out of the back without resorting to long balls (only Real Salt Lake hits more).
That may well be just enough for New England to eke out one of those last two playoff slots up for grabs.
No. 4: Eric Remedi, Atlanta United
The Five Stripes recruit was a most welcome addition to their defensive midfield department. Darlington Nagbe remains out for a while with an injury, it's probably best not to lean too hard for too long on 35-year-old noble soldier Jeff Larentowicz, and the Supporters’ Shield leaders have a pair of New York hounds nipping at their heels.
The Argentine midfield stopper anticipates well, covers ground aggressively and challenges firmly, and these talents have seen him rack up 25 total defensive stops in his first two MLS starts. He's also quite keen on switch passes, which grant space to rabid attackers that flourish with room to vroom. As such an ideal fit on one of the MLS Cup favorites, Remedi looks the part of a final title puzzle piece.
No. 3: Pablo Aranguiz, FC Dallas
Don't get it twisted; FCD’s young playmaking prospect isn't this high on the list because I foresee him quickly replacing the wizardry of Mauro Diaz. And as they stand atop the West, nine points above seventh-place Vancouver, the Aranguiz effect isn't about earning a playoff berth. It's about booking some extra home games and how far they can go through the West bracket.
When Diaz was about the same age as Aranguiz is now, and also carrying growth experience at Chilean side Union Espanola, he joined Dallas midway through the 2013 season. "The Little Unicorn" put up three goals and two helpers in 10 stretch games with the club.
If Aranguiz can approach that level of final product on the way to the playoffs, Oscar Pareja will be tickled. What the boss really needs the youngster to accomplish most is simply bringing ideas back to Zone 14, so opposing defenses can't crowd the Texans' productive flank runners.
No. 2: Wayne Rooney, D.C. United
As amazing as his weekend game-altering play was – and yeah, it really was amazing – the new D.C. star man hasn't truly exploded onto the MLS scene. Until Saturday's two-way, stoppage-time bull charge, Rooney's positive influence has been more nuanced guidance than viral video.
By putting a 50-ish yard diagonal on a tee for Lucho Acosta to beat Orlando City, the veteran picked up his third assist in 401 minutes since joining up. That's great, and his leadership is evident with so many youngsters working their build and attack crews. But Rooney has yet to ignite the ol' scoring boots, bagging but one D.C. United goal thus far.
Can the burly Scouser bang in seven or eight for a side with three to five games in hand on the five teams they need to leapfrog? If “Señor Wayne” leads the Black-and-Red to the postseason, we'll all know I picked the wrong numero uno here. I'm just not sure he can quite manage it. If nothing else, D.C. will surely annoy the hell out of the 11 teams striving for the postseason that still must play at Audi Field during this regular season.
No. 1: Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders
If you've watched Seattle play this year or spent any decent amount of time listening to my esteemed colleagues chat on ExtraTime Radio and Instant Analysis, or talked to any frustrated Sounders fan prior to the start of the secondary transfer window, you'd know that their offense suffered mightily because there was no one to stretch and pull at opposing back lines with Jordan Morris sidelined.
Enter Ruidiaz, and suddenly the Sounders are back on their seasonal second-half grind, causing defenses some bother, winning games and rallying up the table. Of course, it's s small sample size, but an attack that wallowed at the league's bottom until July has averaged two goals and 15 shots per game since the Peruvian entered their lineup four games ago.
That's a rise of 1.16 goals and a hair over three shots more per game. They're not just any shots, either. With Ruidiaz pestering the center backs, Nicolas Lodeiro has an easier time finding spaces between lines to operate and Seattle are pulling the trigger from inside 12 yards much more often.
Even before Ruidiaz goes on any goal rolls (and he surely will), it's a warning sign for everyone in the West to worry about the Rave Green gang again.