MLS Off-Season Progress Report…Well, Most of One…

Thought I’d take some time today to update the latest off-season player movement around Major League Soccer (MLS). I’ll cover every MLS team down below, talking about which players the club has signed – as recorded on their respective rosters – but will only cover changes that have happened since my first off-season progress report. That said, 1) I’m away from my usual post and the notes I keep there, which means 2) I’m missing some details on some rumors, players trials, that sort of thing.

Getting back to that first off-season report, when I typed up each team’s list of incoming players, I divided them into players coming in by transfer and those “acquired” via the Super- and Supplemental Drafts. The approach for this update will look a little different. Judging from what I’m seeing on the rosters and a player movement round-up run on Soccer America on February 5, teams have signed some, though nothing like all, of their draftees. To account for that, drafted players whose names appear in their team’s official site roster PLUS any player a given team brought in via transfer will be listed as Signed. I’m assuming players in this category to be part of the team at this point.

The other two categories I’ll use are Trialist/Wish-List and Out. The first category includes players named in various sources as being associated with a given team, whether through an invite to camp or by rumor; in the cases where the names are either obscure or low-profile (no offense), I might just provide a link to the source. And the “Out” category is what it is: players who have left the team since the first off-season progress report.

As implied above, there will be holes in this. I’m operating from memory on a few calls. Further, some teams simply enjoy better coverage – among them, teams like the Kansas City Wizards (thanks to Hillcrest Road) and FC Dallas (thanks to FC Dallas Updates); those blogs cover everything down to their players’ stool samples. Other teams (think Colorado) are just hard to find because the front office in question just seems to hate their teams’ fans. But I’m mentioning my blindspots mainly by way of welcoming corrections in the comments. If I missed something, let me know and I’ll get the new information in the main post as soon as I can. If you don’t want to use the comments, don’t be shy about emailing information to me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

Good god, that’s a lot of preamble. A final thing or two and I’ll get to the goods. One, each team’s current roster is embedded in their name. Two, of course I’ll comment on where I think each team is…that’s just a given. No grades, though. Not this time.

Here goes (fixed it!):

Chicago Fire
Signed: Patrick Nyarko, Stephen King
Trialist/Wish-List: Fabrice Pancrate, Tomacz Frankowski, a pair of Bermudans
Out: Matt Pickens (to Queens Park Rangers)
Thoughts
Chicago seems headed in the right direction, at least in terms of the KIND of players they’re looking at. Just a little upgrade in the attack would help. They could also stand a little depth in defense, especially with some players getting on in years, but they should remain their ornery tough-to-beat selves without additions. Pickens leaving isn’t great, but at least Jon Busch, assuming he stays fit, provides an MLS-ready alternative.

Chivas USA
Signed: Raphael Wicky
Trialist/Wish-List: Jose Cardozo, Takayuki Suzuki
Out: NOT Brad Guzan…and that’s a good thing for the team
Thoughts
I still have no idea what Chivas would have done if Guzan went to Aston Villa – pick up one of the “league ‘keepers” I expect, but that’s just not the way to go into a season. Wicky is an interesting signing – should give them some more flexibility to monkey with their personnel if nothing else. I have my doubts about where they’re looking for forward depth. Cardozo, if memory serves is over 35 (he’s a no-show in the link above, but I think I’ve read he has since showed). I don’t know much about Suzuki, but hope he pans out for them. But this looks like another team seemingly making respectable progress…good stuff.

Colorado Rapids
Signed: Christian Gomez (still not up on the official site, or MLSnet.com…damn!)
Trialist/Wish-List: Everything is secret with these tits.
Out: Current from first off-season report
Thoughts
Gomez has finally landed…maybe and/or unofficially. Class VI banged out a pretty good impact analysis so I’m just going to turn it over to him. This has potential to be a big move – and Rapids fans better hope it’s enough, ‘cause there’s ain’t much else on the horizon.

Columbus Crew
Signed: Any Iro
Trialist/Wish-List: Lars Ricken (?); and, if you look at the draftees they’re taking south, you could probably lump them up here. I’m thinking one of the drafted forwards will make the final cut.
Out: Current in first off-season report.
Thoughts

The Crew will be so much stronger if Iro works out, but they should do all right on defense. The attack remains a concern; they’re asking a lot of youth.

DC United
Signed: Marcelo Gallardo, Gonzalo Peralta, Ryan Cordeiro
Trialist/Wish-List: Not seeing or hearing any…but they have enough.
Out: Christian Gomez
Thoughts
DC still strikes me as the most season-ready team in MLS. It’s that simple.

FC Dallas
Signed: This kinda counts; Roberto Mina resigned with MLS.
Trialist/Wish-List:
Jamie Watson, Gustavo Cabrera, Ali Manoucheri (already gone; other good stuff in there from Buzz Carrick), Andre Rocha, plus more young bucks than I can name (see what I mean about FC Dallas Updates?); there’s also some Scottish defender running around (something McDonald).
Out: Chris Gbandi – just announced today.
Thoughts
These guys are busy. I want to resist reading a lot into this…but it’s not working. I really like Dallas’ ambition. They had a good, if flawed team (much like last year, the year before that, and the year before that) and they’re making improvements in good places.

Houston Dynamo
Signed: Tony Caig
Trialist/Wish-List: All named here – mainly the draftees…not a lot for thrills.
Out:
Nate Jaqua
Thoughts
With Caig signed these guys look good nearly everywhere, but that one question remains: how many forwards does a team need? Sure, they could play different players from the current roster up top – I’ve read Dwayne DeRosario, Brian Mullen, and…someone else – but the forward position does require certain tools and talents. I’m not all the sold on any of those guys at forward. Yeah, it’s better than an empty space…but, still.

Kansas City Wizards
Signed: Chance Myers, Roger Espinoza
Trialist/Wish-List: Boris Pardo (according to this)
Out: Will John
Thoughts
If I were a Wizards fan, I’d want to see some more work on replacing Eddie Johnson. Still, Scott Sealy is pretty competent and they seem to have plans for adjusting…how good those plans prove to be is something else.

Los Angeles Galaxy
Signed: Julian Valentin, Ely Allen, Sean Franklin, Celestine Babayaro…even if he’s not yet on the official roster
Trialist/Wish-List: I couldn’t find much on these guys…tried….for a while.
Out: Current in first off-season report
Thoughts
Alexi Lalas talks about making more moves, but one has to wonder if anything major can come down the pike with so few players taking up so much of the cash. Will they be better than last year? Probably. Will that be enough? Ahh….that’s what we want to know.

New England Revolution
Signed: No one new….unless they upgraded those two U-20 guys (Mansally and Nyassi) to the regular roster.
Trialist/Wish-List: I got word on a Costa Rican forward – can’t say where, but that would help a lot.
Out: Current in first off-season report.
Thoughts
One gets the feeling that the Revolution brain-trust hasn’t kept current with the changing tempo of the MLS off-season – or at least they don’t show much in terms of having a scouting network. Players earning their checks in Costa Rican and Honduran leagues don’t impress like they used to. That doesn’t mean they can’t play, but there is a whiff of “William Sunsing” in their latest travels.

Red Bull New York
Signed: Eric Brunner
Trialist/Wish-List: Soccer By Ives names all the invitees and reports Osorio’s interest in an unnamed foreign forward.
Out: Current in first off-season report
Thoughts
Unless new arrivals come or Juan Carlos Osorio proves as adept at grinding out results in New York as he was in Chicago, I’d expect this year to look like last year. Still, they sound active and that should be encouraging.

Real Salt Lake
Signed: Tony Beltran, Alex Nimo, Matias Cordoba (at least Soccer America says so)
Trialist/Wish-List: My go-to site (RSLFM Report) is under renovation.
Out: Current in first off-season report
Thoughts
These guys showed signs of toughening up at the end of last season. Some hopeful observers think a full year for the “Three Argentines,” plus the addition of Cordoba, will make the first year in a new stadium a happier one.

San Jose Earthquakes
Signed: Current in first off-season report.
Trialist/Wish-List: None I know of…no one seems to know anything with these guys.
Out: Clarence Goodson.
Thoughts
The one steady refrain I hear from people trying to cover the NewQuakes is how damn hard it is. Best-kept secret in MLS, down to doing their training in LA. Where the team is concerned, however, when your starting eleven is your team, you’ve got some signing to do. Are they doing anything? Anybody?

Toronto FC
Signed: Current in first off-season report
Trialist/Wish-List: This is where I really wish I had my notes; I swear they’re talking to people.
Out: Current in first off-season report.
Another team that seems an awful like they’re standing pat. But with Mo Johnston’s recent move to the front office, it seems like he’ll have nothing but time to find recruits. All the same, I’m surprised that neither of TFC’s highly-touted SuperDraft defensive recruits (Julius James and that red-headed dude) have yet graduated to the senior team. That would be reassuring if I were a Toronto fan.

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