Rounding up the MLS comings and goings: Eastern Conference

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Photo by Kelley L. Cox/ISIphotos.com

With the MLS Eastern Conference as wide open as it was down the stretch last season, a roster tweak in the right direction could be all it takes to separate certain clubs from the pack.  

In the opening month of the offseason, no teams did more to augment their rosters than the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City, two clubs that felt they had what it took to win the conference crown last season before ultimately losing out to the Houston Dynamo.

With SKC adding Bobby Convey to the fold and Philadelphia tapping into the international market to add talent from Costa Rica and Panama, the two teams figure to be very much in the mix yet again in 2012.

Then there's the expansion Montreal Impact, whose calculated roster construction makes it seem like the club won't be a typical expansion pushover in its inaugural MLS year.  

While those three clubs have been the most active during the offseason, here is a look at the comings and goings in the entire conference to date:

CHICAGO FIRE

Not much in the way of headline news has come out of the Windy City, where the Fire's only adds so far have been adding complementary pieces in former Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly and New England forward Kheli Dube.

The club cut ties with Colombian import Cristian Nazarit and former U.S. Under-20 striker Gabriel Ferrari, who is in the process of recovering from ACL reconstruction.

The Fire also lost two players in the re-entry draft, as Baggio Husidic and Jon Conway were both selected in the second phase of the draft.

Chicago did secure the services of forward Orr Barouch, purchasing his rights from Tigres after having him on loan in 2011.

COLUMBUS CREW

Another offseason, another roster purge by the Crew. Granted, this season's edition is hardly as drastic as last year's, but Designated Player (and the team's leading goal scorer) Andres Mendoza is gone, as is MLS all-time leading goal scorer Jeff Cunningham. Robbie Rogers could very well be the next big name to bolt Crew Stadium, as he is out of contract and has been rumored to be making a move overseas.

Talented left back Josh Gardner was picked in the expansion draft, and midfielders Kevin Burns and Santiago Prim and defender Dejan Rusmir were ushered out of town as well.

The Crew did sign their second-ever Homegrown Player in goalkeeper Matt Lampson, and they brought in former New York Red Bulls defender Carlos Mendes through the re-entry draft to provide cover in the back.

D.C. UNITED

There's a bit of a changing of the guard going on in D.C., with veterans Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, Marc Burch and Devon McTavish all gone. Brandon Barklage, Steve Cronin, Joseph Ngwenya and Jed Zayner all had their contract options declined as well, meaning that D.C. has plenty of holes to fill on its roster.

The biggest item to emanate from the bowels of RFK Stadium was the club passing on its option to purchase Charlie Davies' contract from Sochaux and ending his up-and-down tenure with the club.

Veteran defender Robbie Russell was brought in from RSL to stabilize things across the back line, and he is the first of what should be quite a few new faces in the United locker room come 2012.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

Aside from purchasing the full rights to midseason midfield pickup Luiz Camargo, Houston has been rather dormant since reaching the MLS Cup final, but that doesn't mean that Dom Kinnear and his staff won't make some noise before the offseason is up.

The first item on the docket is finding a way to re-acquire Brian Ching, whom the club left unprotected for the expansion draft. Despite making threats he would retire if selected, Ching was taken by the Montreal Impact, putting Houston in a position to make a trade if it wants its captain back.

Hunter Freeman never made the impact expected upon his return to MLS and was subjected to the re-entry draft, where he was picked up by Colorado. Carlo Costly had his loan with the club expire without a new deal, and he returned to Atlas in Mexico, leaving room on the club's depth chart at forward.

Homegrown Player Francisco Navas Cobo was also shown the door, as were Jason Garey, Eddie Robinson and third-string goalkeeper Evan Newton.

MONTREAL IMPACT

Montreal hasn't entered the league silently, making a splash by taking Ching with its opening pick of the expansion draft.

From that point, it's seemingly been notable move after notable move for Jesse Marsch and his staff, who have integrated the likes of Donovan Ricketts, Zarek Valentin, Justin Braun, Bryan Arguez, Davy Arnaud and Patrice Bernier into the squad while also having a go at Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka before losing out in the bidding process.

The Impact began the roster-building process with the acquisition of former Inter Milan defender Nelson Rivas and Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins, as well as NASL holdovers Ian Westlake, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Hassoun Camara.

With the first pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft in tow, Montreal's offseason and roster construction are far from being completed.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

The biggest moves the Revolution made this offseason were swapping out coach Steve Nicol for Jay Heaps and securing captain Shalrie Joseph to a Designated Player deal.

Aside from that, the Revs used the re-entry draft to their advantage, plucking Danleigh Borman, Nate Jaqua and Simms off the scrap heap. Borman and Jaqua have yet to sign with the club, though.

Among the names leaving New England include veteran defender Ryan Cochrane, midfielder Pat Phelan and Dube. 2011 imports Monsef Zerka, Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio also look unlikely to return to Gillette Stadium.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

The Red Bulls have been awfully silent for a team accustomed to making the headlines. Perhaps the biggest moves have yet to be made, though. Despite claims from GM Erik Soler that neither Tim Ream nor Thierry Henry would be leaving the club, even for a loan, reports have both players making potential moves to the Premier League.

The Bolton-Ream link won't go away, nor will the buzz about Henry making a return to the Emirates to play for Arsenal on a short-term loan.

As far as the moves that have been made, the Red Bulls signed St. John's centerback Connor Lade to a Homegrown Player deal and cut ties with a number of players, including John Rooney, Chris Albright and Bouna Coundoul.

Plenty of question marks remain, including just who will be in goal considering German goalkeeper Frank Rost hasn't yet been brought back (although the club acknowledged it was in talks with him), and whether Rafa Marquez will return or be sold this winter.

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia hit the CONCACAF market hard, going after Costa Rican up-and-coming forward Josue Martinez and left back Porfirio Lopez in addition to Panamanian central midfielder Gabriel Gomez. 

Philadelphia also managed to secure high-energy midfielder Nizar Khalfan in the waiver draft and signed Jimmy McLoughlin to a Homegrown Player deal.

The biggest losses for the Union came in the midfield, where Justin Mapp and Stefani Miglioranzi have left town, but the recent signings should certainly cover up for those departures.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

If the Union or Impact haven't had the most newsworthy offseason so far in the conference, then Sporting KC has. The club brought in veterans Paulo Nagamura and Bobby Convey to change the culture of the midfield and re-acquired the services to left back Seth Sinovic after initially losing him in the expansion draft.

In order to get Sinovic back, SKC dealt captain Davy Arnaud to Montreal. Two Designated Player spots on the roster opened up as well, as Omar Bravo returned to Mexico with Cruz Azul, and Jeferson's loan from Vasco de Gama expired. Left winger Ryan Smith, who took a leave of absence from the club early last season, was dealt to Chivas USA. 

TORONTO FC

Aside from trading for Jeremy Hall and signing Bermudan international winger Reggie Lambe, it's been a pretty quiet offseason for the Reds, who did most of their roster shuffling throughout the 2011 season.

The club parted ways with the likes of Javier Martina and Gianluca Zavarise, while losing Borman in the re-entry draft, but manager Aron Winter has a solid core of players who came together late last season in preparation for a run to the club's first postseason berth in 2012.

This entry was posted in MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Columbus Crew, MLS- D.C. United, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- Montreal Impact, MLS- New England Revolution, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Philadelphia Union, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Toronto FC. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Rounding up the MLS comings and goings: Eastern Conference

  1. maka says:

    uh… Rost isn’t being brought back? I thought that was still up in the air.

  2. Pepe says:

    You missed the Dynamo not picking up Danny Cruz’s option for next year. It doesn’t assure his departure, but it makes it somewhat probable.

  3. The Imperative Voice says:

    I like what Montreal is doing and it will be interesting to see how the Ching gambit sorts out. I personally would let Montreal rot because Ching is overpriced for his production, but Houston is making brave noises that they won’t be held hostage by Montreal, which suggests to me a period of typical Kinnear stubbornness followed by an Oduroesque training camp move to bring Ching back. I’m not a Hainault fan so I’d bluntly trade the Quebecois out for Ching to save salary and speed up the backline.

    As Pepe suggests what the Dynamo do about likely GA grad Danny Cruz will be interesting. There’s been talk of the Dynamo pursuing RWs and I’m not sure if that’s intended to limit Cruz’s salary ambitions or more intelligently a statement we want to upgrade the right side to be more complimentary of the left. Houston is a little too dependent on Davis and Colin Clark, while showing flashes, hasn’t proven durable or everyday enough…….but if history says anything Houston will move in the summer — at the expense of early season mediocrity or outright suckiness — so they’re best analyzed in August or September.

    I think the Mendoza (13 G) and Davies (11 G) decisions may come back to haunt those teams. They may have subjectively underwhelmed per expectations, or outright offended, but goals aren’t easy to come by in MLS. My team leaders had 5 goals, and a lot of the NT flavors du jour like Bunbury and Sapong had 5-9 goals. I don’t think you just drop 1/3 to 1/4 of your goals out and snap, recover.

    I also think KC is more ordinary of a team without Bravo. I think Bravo was the touch of class difference between competitive and mediocre.

    NY looks unsettled as does DC.

  4. Edwin in LA says:

    That would be pretty dumb from Houston’s part, he is the only natural right winger they have.

    Watson can play there but he’s a central midfielder and didn’t do all that well on the right, even if they brought someone else to start Cruz is a good back up that is plenty serviceable. I thought he finished strong especially after that 2nd goal to secure the win in Portland when the Timbers were pushing really hard for tie

  5. Pepe says:

    He just graduated from GA and would be very expensive. I’m sure Houston doesn’t want to lose him, but it’s probably not worth 140k a year for an inconsistent, injury-prone sometimes-starter.

  6. The Imperative Voice says:

    I agree that Cruz is overrated, I’ve seen nothing besides occasional flashes and a lot of running around. Can’t hit a cross much better than Ashe and is marginally technical for the wing spot. I think you need more than hustle on the wing, just look at Brad Davis on the other side.

    I think the key factor is he is coming off of GA and past experience was that Ianni was cast off when that happened. I think Kinnear’s cheap and when the GA label disappears the formerly-labeled player tends to do so also.

    The suggestion I’ve heard batted about is Cruz moved to RB to justify the expense, but I’m not sold by the similar Ashe experiment on the other side, because you end up with a mediocre hustling back who is sloppy in disribution. As a former back I am big on the “prime directive,” I want to see shut down defenders who make clean passes from the back. Cruz doesn’t convey that to me.

  7. VADCUfan says:

    Davies had a high price tag to buy him ($1.3 mil). His inconsistency makes him almost as much of a gamble to buy as he was to acquire on loan at the beginning of last season.

  8. Pepe says:

    But the Dynamo have no need for a RB. Hainault’s got the position locked up (now that Cameron’s at CB), and Sarkodie is the long term future there.

  9. Charles says:

    I checked EA FIFA 12, NY is fine right where they are. Best team in MLS.

    I could see Montreal making the playoffs the first year right now. They have to beat out Chicago, Columbus, New England, NY, and Toronto. Yeah, long three months to go, but I could see Montreal making the playoffs.

  10. The Imperative Voice says:

    Houston lost the final because the defense could not hold for 90. The defense allowed a mediocre 41 goals, and Hainault, Boswell, and Ashe were often exposed during the season. Hainault in particular was repeatedly exploited by Chivas and KC in 3-goal drubbings. I think Hainault is slow and overrated. I prefer him to Boswell but I would keep looking.

    [My personal preference is for athletic backs in the Olave/Cameron/Jermaine Taylor mold. I think Houston's defense has tended to prosper recently not because of Kinnear's favored stick figures, but when Cameron plays CB.]

    I know the party line is Sarkodie is the future and we are so starved for defensive speed I found his ability to hold a flank refreshing — imagine that, a Houston defender who can’t be easily beat to the endline — but in practice Zakuani abused him during one start and his distribution was awful….he was a wing back who wanted to pass the ball back inside to mids all the time. He looked out of his depth and disappeared for the balance of the season. Granted, the veteran Kinnear Dynamo is not the best place to develop, but I think he needs to grow just to be a safe starter. Because he wouldn’t even start at Vancouver or NE long hitting telegraphed passes towards central midfield than can be picked off and run right at goal.

    And just on a basic level, when you finish second, I don’t think you can elevate to first without changes.

  11. The Imperative Voice says:

    My two cents I would not be surprised if Operation Shutdown was initiated. He started out very strong and then seemed to lose energy. He’s working his way back into the sport — credulous version — or he got the idea DC was merely renting him and was balking at your price tag argument and decided to save his body for the long term — cynical version.

    I would admit that we used to not pay transfers period, and $1.3 million is a tad steep, but if he was the Franchise maybe it would be worth it. There are players in that neighborhood on salary.

    I dunno, for some reason Emilio comes to mind. DC gets really productive strikers in town and then doesn’t keep them.

    And the other 800 lb gorilla in the room not getting mentioned is DC’s unstable franchise/stadium situation. Maybe Davies wanted a stable platform to work back up to the NT, and Sochaux is clearly not it — hopefully he escapes that nightmare — and DC was maybe a starting point, but maybe he wants a bigger scene or a more stable team. I worry about them playing at RFK. That can’t last forever. There is an OldQuakes potential here.

  12. August Spies says:

    The Fire-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  13. Mr. Maxican says:

    If Ching comes back to Houston it’s gonna be in an orange power tie not a Dynamo kit.

    As for Cruz not getting a reup is it by his design? Stu Holden was here for a mere 35k a year because he planned on moving on. maybe he is trying to do the same.

    Also grade on the Dynamo picking up Nathan Sturgis?

  14. Allen23 says:

    Wake me up when the Fire start doing something.

  15. Javier says:

    No doubt Philly is the most improved….Look for Chicago and Sporting to try to keep up with moves shortly

  16. MJC says:

    No doubt Bravo was important and KC isn’t happy to lose him but players go where they will, but you don’t watch Sporting much if you think he was the touch of class difference.

    He was a piece, a good piece but just a piece of the team. He had trouble keeping up with the relentless atheleticism of Kamara, Bunbury and Sapong.

    KC will be money ahead to add a steller attacking mid fielder like they hoped Jefferson would be. But Jefferson just never adjusted to the MLS. With Bravo and Jefferson gone Sporting has a ton of room to go out and get what they need.