There's no offseason in Major League Soccer.
Well, technically there's an offseason by way of an absence of games, but the goals, tackles and saves are swiftly replaced by rumors, reports, and most importantly, transactions, of which there have been plenty so far this week.
Let's take a run-through what has gone down over the past couple of days.
Rowe, Castillo and Rubio land with new clubs: What's it all mean?
On Tuesday, a succession of trades were announced. Once the dust settled, three clubs filled needs, as Kelyn Rowe (and $300,000 in allocation money) landed with Sporting Kansas City, Edgar Castillo with the New England Revolution and Diego Rubio with the Colorado Rapids.
Woah. Let's start with Kansas City.
With Khiry Shelton reportedly moving on, the timeshare on KC's No. 9 in the starting XI appeared to shift heavily in the direction of Rubio. While he would have competition – the club acquired Krisztian Nemeth in August and Erik Hurtado on Dec. 14 – a player that had 8 goals and 6 assists in just 781 regular season minutes last season (plus 2 goals and an assist in 168 playoff minutes) appeared to earn a full season leading the lines. So the move caught many off-guard.
Unless Peter Vermes is content to ride Nemeth/Hurtado at center forward, something that's possible given he reportedly likes Nemeth at No. 9, this could be the precursor for SKC signing another forward. On a conference call Wednesday to discuss the transactions, Vermes admitted the club are "potentially" looking to add a striker in January. So, time will tell.
Vermes said he sees Rowe as No. 8 or No. 10. He'll get to play in a system that will accentuate his technical ability, and the move provides SKC another midfielder in a season that includes a Concacaf Champions League run. At 27 years old, he should be at the beginning of his prime. It's a win-win for club and player, considering Rowe clearly wasn't part of Brad Friedel's plan in New England. MLSsoccer.com's Matthew Doyle is very, very in on the move for SKC.
So while I was writing the year-end column today, a 3-team trade happened in @MLS. Out of that 3-team trade SKC got:— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) December 19, 2018
– The best player involved
– $100k TAM
– $200k GAM
As for the Revs, they receive an above-average attacking fullback in Castillo – to pick up where Chris Tierney left off – for Rowe before his value depreciated on the bench. Castillo may not completely be a long-term solution at the position, given he's 32, but he stops a rotating door at left back that's existed since Tierney's last full season in 2017.
In Colorado, Rubio's acquisition continues an attacking shift at the club. The Rapids did not catch the record-breaking goalscoring wave the rest of the league seemed to ride in 2018. They scored just 36 goals, at least seven fewer than anyone else in the league and at least 13 (!!!) fewer than anyone in the Western Conference. They are taking measures to remedy that.
The Rapids acquired Kellyn Acosta in July and handed him the No. 10 shirt. His shot of adrenaline helped a bit, but goalscoring has never been Acosta's chief responsibility from the midfield. Before trading for Rubio, the club acquired striker Kei Kamara. That's not a bad start to the offseason.
Will Kamara and Rubio play together, though? For the assets and salary devoted to the pair, one would have to assume (hope?) so. Regardless, Kamara and Rubio are a huge upgrade after an end of the season run that saw them held scoreless in eight of their final 10 matches.
The next day, the Rapids' offseason transformation continued by acquiring fullback Keegan Rosenberry from the Philadelphia Union for a bundle of $300,000 allocation money, that could rise to $400,000 if certain thresholds are met. The 25-year-old has made 80 appearances across three seasons for the Union.
I'll pass the baton to MLSsoccer.com's Bobby Warshaw for a reaction in 280 characters or less.
Holy crap. This is something. Rosenberry is an above-average player for a decent price (though probably up for new contract soon) in a weak MLS position. He's the type of player I'd overpay for in MLS. Feels like the next version of the perpetually-underrated Beitashour. https://t.co/VTAMrL7OrB— Bobby Warshaw (@bwarshaw14) December 19, 2018
FC Dallas signs "The Cobra"
In case you haven't heard, FC Dallas' new striker Zdenek Ondrasek goes by "The Cobra", which is unquestionably a fantastic nickname. That nick-namesake is tattooed prominently on his back, slithering from his spine to just below his neck.
I'm already looking forward to the headlines and tweets The Cobra will inspire.
Ondrasek joins Dallas from the Polish first division, where he scored 20 goals in 66 appearances for Wisla Krakow. The 29-year-old missed 2017-18 with an Achilles injury, but bounced back stronger than ever with 11 goals in 20 appearances this season. It was his best goals-to-game campaign of his career other than 2014, when he scored 15 goals across 25 games in the Norweigan second division.
Signed with TAM, FC Dallas clearly has high hopes for him. They moved on from Maxi Urruti and Roland Lamah this offseason, not to mention the departures of Mauro Diaz and Acosta during 2018, so there were goals to fill. All things being equal, it's a signing that makes sense.
As assumed when FCD promoted Luchi Gonzalez from academy director to head coach, and comments club owner and president Dan Hunt made to MLSsoccer.com in November, the FCD are set to double down on a youth movement in 2019. Obviously Ondrasek's arrival can happily co-exist within an ecosystem that prioritizes a youth movement, but, with Dom Badji (26) already on the depth chart at center forward for a club that predominantly has played with one striker, a path to MLS minutes for Bryan Reynolds (17) and Jesus Ferreira (17) just got a bit murkier.
Galaxy re-sign Ibrahimovic, Pontius; Re-acquire Juninho
The idea of keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a no-brainer. But, how he'll fit on the roster as a newly minted Designated Player and general manager Dennis te Kloese will curate the roster for whoever is brought in as their next head coach is less of a no-brainer. A full-brainer? Sure, why not.
Ibrahimovic's new roster classification means one of Gio dos Santos, Jona dos Santos or Romain Alessandrini will have to lose the DP tag, whether that's their departure or some creative cap maneuvering. If it's a departure, the rumors point to Gio, but it's no foregone conclusion. Finding a club to take on his salary, given he has 9 goals in his last 39 appearances, provides a few hurdles te Kloese will need to clear.
They have some time to figure that one out, though. In the interim, the Galaxy have re-signed versatile veteran Chris Pontius after a successful first season in Hollywood while re-acquiring Juninho, who was an important member of the Galaxy's last three MLS Cup triumphs.
The Galaxy haven't made any upgrades to their noxious backline, but keeping Ibrahimovic, Pontius and adding Juninho is a good start to the winter. C'mon, the offseason is the time for optimism!