Can Sporting KC repeat as MLS Cup winners? How will RSL cope without Jason Kreis? Are Toronto genuine contenders? Graham Parker and team reps set the scene for 2014
Seems like only yesterday I was securing a fortune for future Parker generations by selling bootleg hand warmers to frozen journalists, as Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake conducted the epic penalty shoot out from hell (as it froze over) in MLS Cup.
But already, the rosters have been shuffled, the drafts have been super, Toronto have been headline-styled for the Rob Ford era, Chivas USA have been headline-styled for the Extreme Team Makeover era, and we’re ready to kick off another MLS season this weekend.
So what can we expect? Well, for the impatient, immediately below, I’ll try to give you a quick sense of who and what to watch in each conference, while below even that, our regular cast of fan reps, bloggers, and beat writers give their team-by-team takes on how all the off-season movement has left their side geared up for this year, along with a round-up of who’s in and who’s out at soccer-specific™ locker rooms around North America.
Go through those in forensic detail, adjust your fantasy teams, consult your local MLS capologist, and add your own ungrounded optimism, or empirically-proven pessimism, in the comments section.
Last year, the New York Red Bulls won the Supporters Shield on the final day. First year coach Mike Petke had vowed to try and change the culture of a club historically known as big-spending also-rans, and he broke the club’s 18-season trophy drought in doing so.
Evidently, Petke and sporting director Andy Roxburgh see no reason to mess with a winning formula, as for once the revolving door at Red Bull Arena has barely swished. Very little major roster turnover and an evident faith in the existing squad, other than some defensive reshuffling that among other things saw Richard Eckersley, formerly of Toronto, show up at Red Bull Arena. Is it an approach that will work? Sporting KC seem to think so, judging by the MLS Cup winners’ own limited movement in the off-season — though the move for goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was a necessary one, with captain Jimmy Nielsen retiring.
Other teams find themselves under new management, with Frank Yallop looking like an intriguing appointment at Chicago Fire, given his extensive control over recruitment as well as coaching matters. A couple of Seattle imports, in Patrick Ianni and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, will help reshape a defense that has lost the promising Austin Berry to Philadelphia, while several players had options declined as Yallop looks to rebuild. His predecessor Frank Klopas finds himself at a Montreal side who’ve been quiet on the trading front, though they did bring in forward Santiago Gonzalez from Sud América. Whether he can score enough goals to counteract the loss of the retired Alessandro Nesta’s organizing nous may be one of the keys to the Impact’s season.
A couple of sides who missed the playoffs last year have been understandably busy, with a lot of positive buzz about the way that D.C. United, decent in 2012, hapless in 2013, have rebuilt, with MLS veterans Davy Arnaud, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke and Sean Franklin backing up a strike force that has made the intriguing additions of Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola — two players with different types of points to prove. And in Philadelphia, John Hackworth has finally got the chance to operate without the personnel hangovers of the Piotr Nowak years, and has reshaped his midfield around one of the returning US national team players, Maurice Edu.
We had a sprinkling of veterans taking their leave from the league in the off-season. Brian Ching retired at Houston, while Matt Reis at New England and the less-than-veteran-but-part-of-the-furniture Eddie Gaven left a Columbus side looking to the future in their first full season under new owner Anthony Precourt and head coach Gregg Berhalter — the latter ensuring that the wave of personnel arriving back from Europe extends from the field to the technical area. Omens looking good for the Crew being one of the challengers in the East, after a weekend mauling of Sporting KC in their final warm up game.
But of course, the big off-season story was Toronto. The team who’d become the undisputed byword for Eastern underachievement following New York’s Shield win, have gone all-in over the off-season, with big deals for Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe, followed by a loan deal for Julio Cesar — and of course there’s the young designated player Gilberto up front. There’s even a return for one-time team headliner Dwayne DeRosario. It’s all rather exciting, even if the outlay is still a very big gamble, and other teams have grumbled about Toronto hyper-inflating the market with the wages they’re paying their new big earners (Matias Laba is the unfortunate Designated Player too many, and has been shuttled across to Vancouver). But as Tim Leiweke, the exec who brought Beckham to LA during his time there, put it of his new Canadian rescue mission — “The patient was dying.”
All these changes will take time to settle and Toronto have been a little unconvincing in pre-season. But frankly, “a little unconvincing” is already progress. Maybe this is finally their year for at least that first elusive playoff spot. GP
The Chicago Fire’s off season story revolves around new head coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop. Frank 2.0 replaced Frank (Klopas) 1.0 late in 2013 and almost immediately set about updating the squad to his liking.
Highlights among the many (too many to list) moves made thus far are the hiring of Fire legend C.J. Brown as assistant coach alongside Clint Mathis, the signing of homegrown playmaker Harry Shipp (fresh from winning the College Cup with Notre Dame), and a classic MLS-style lottery loan acquisition of USA U21 midfielder Benji Joya from Santos Laguna. Yallop has also made moves to (ostensibly) shore up the Fire’s leaky defense, though perhaps at the expense of some future depth by trading away 2012 Rookie of the Year Austin Berry as well as Jalil Anibaba in favor of veteran MLS defenders.
The results in preseason have been good, with the Fire winning 7 out of 8 games while allowing only 2 goals. Fire fans have reason to be wary, though, after the club posted a similar record last preseason and then started the regular season in disastrous fashion. The influx of youth has paid dividends in preseason, with Shipp and Joya both making strong cases for inclusion in the first team.
Expectations are all over the place depending on who you talk to, but Fire fans will definitely not be pleased if the season ends without a serious Open Cup run and a berth in the league playoffs. The Fire has missed out 3 of the past 4 years in the playoffs, meaning Yallop and ownership will be under tremendous pressure to deliver.
IN: D/M Lovel Palmer (12/13/13 - trade from Real Salt Lake) ; F Harrison Shipp (1/9/14 - Homegrown) ; GK Kyle Reynish (1/10/14 - free) ; M Chris RItter (1/13/14 - Homegrown) ; D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (1/15/14 - trade from Seattle); D Patrick Ianni (1/15/14 - trade from Seattle) ; F Giuseppe Gentile (1/24/14) - waiver draft; M Benji Joya (2/5/14 - weighted lottery); D Marco Franco (2/25/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: GK Paolo Tornaghi (11/25/13 - waived) ; M Arévalo Ríos (11/25/13 - option declined); D Michael Videira (12/9/13 - option declined); M Corben Bone (12/9/13 - option declined); M Joel Lindpere (12/9/13 - option declined) ; F Maicon Santos (12/9/13 - option declined) ; D Shaun Francis (12/9/13 - out of contract); D Wells Thompson (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; M Daniel Paladini (12/12/13 - traded to Columbus); D Jalil Anibaba (1/15/14 - traded to Seattle) ; M Brendan King (2/20/14 - waived); F Kellen Gulley (2/20/14 - waived) ; F Federico Puppo (2/24/14 - contract terminated) ; D Austin Berry (2/14/14 - trade to Philadelphia)
Ian Frasier, Crew Union:
For most of the offseason, that ‘this is our year’ feeling has been virtually non-existent in Columbus. After a gradual decline in results and annual roster upheaval under Robert Warzycha, expectations have waned. (Pre)court is now in session though and new owner Anthony Precourt made the decision to take the team in a new direction under Gregg Berhalter.
The idea of a new owner brought dreams of a sugar daddy and fancy DPs, but that hasn’t happened. Berhalter made a solid career as a defender and came to Columbus with a reputation for defensive tactics, so it seems natural that his offseason focus was improving the defense. 3 new signings, all 3 potential World Cup participants, will start on the back line in front of a new GK.
The offense remains largely the same from last season. There are very good pieces in Federico Higuain and Dominic Oduro. Jairo Arrieta is going to be the ‘X factor’. Arrieta never found his feet last season after missing a lot of time with the team early on. They are also relying on production from a cast of role players to give depth in the wide areas.
It would be easy to look at this team and think it will be the same story as the last couple of years. Same formation, defensive minded coach. Preseason revealed a much different tactical approach (quick passing, lots of movement) and the results showed. Finally a glimmer of hope. This year may not be so bad after all.
IN: GK Brad Stuver (11/25/13 - Waiver Draft); D Waylon Francis (11/26/13 - Discovery) ; D Matt Wiet (11/26/13 - Homegrown) ; M Daniel Paladini (12/12/13 - trade from Chicago) ; GK Steve Clark (12/16/13 - trade from Seattle) ; D Ross Friedman (1/8/14 - Homegrown) ; M Matt Walker (1/8/14 - Homegrown) ; D Michael Parkhurst (1/13/14 - rights acquired from New England) ; M Hector Jimenez (1/14/14 - trade from LA Galaxy) ; D Ben Sweat (2/14/14 - SuperDraft); M Kingsley Baiden (2/14/14 - SuperDraft) ; D Giancarlo Gonzalez (2/21/14 - transfer from Valerenga)
OUT: M Eddie Gaven (10/31/13 - retired) ; M Matías Sánchez (10/31/13 - waived); F Aaron Horton (10/31/13 - waived); D Drew Beckie (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Gláuber (11/22/13 - option declined); D Kyle Hyland (11/22/13 - option declined); D/M Danny O’Rourke (11/22/13 - option declined); M Konrad Warzycha (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Chad Marshall (12/12/13 - traded to Seattle) ; GK Andy Gruenebaum (12/16/13 - traded to Kansas City); GK Daniel Withrow (3/1/14 - waived)
Kim Kolb, Screaming Eagles, author of Nestliner blog:
Up. DC United was in the position where that was nearly the only place to go. In this offseason, United made a concerted effort to remake itself. Though unlike many MLS teams, United took a domestic and MLS-centric route to its rebuild. Through the 3748 re-entry drafts, procedures and processes, United picked up players with proven MLS pedigrees, including the return of central defender Bobby Boswell who solidifies the backline and should bring the veteran leadership that Ben Olsen has been craving. Other new faces: Davy Arnaud, Nana Attakora, Fabian Espindola and Sean Franklin.
United also rolled the dice in bringing in Eddie Johnson from Seattle, who seemed to be the odd man out (and not getting satisfactorily paid) in an openly decaying Sounders lockerroom. United couldn’t help pulling an obscure foreign signing however, as it pulled Christian Fernandez from Spain. So the young starting core of Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius, Bill Hamid, and Nick DeLeon will be supplemented with a completely revamped defense and a new forward tandem. The trick becomes all the new pieces gelling in time for a solid start to the 2014 season: during preseason, the defense seems to have found some solid footing, while the offense started to round into form during the Carolina Challenge Cup (along with a Coffee Pot Cup match). United has emerged from positive preseasons recently only to stumble out of the gate, a strong March is necessary to cleanse the palette of 2013’s aftertaste.
IN: M Davy Arnaud (12/10/13 - trade from Montreal); D Sean Franklin (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); D Bobby Boswell (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1) ; F Conor Doyle (12/13/13 - transfer from Derby County) ; F Eddie Johnson (12/17/13 - trade from Seattle) ; F Fabian Espindola (12/18/13 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; D Jalen Robinson (1/6/14 - Homegrown); D Nana Attakora (1/9/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2); D Jeff Parke (1/14/14 - trade from Philadelphia) ; D Steve Birnbaum (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); F Christiano François (1/24/14 - waiver draft) ; D Christian Fernández (2/7/14 - free)
OUT: F Carlos Ruiz (10/30/13 - option declined) ; F Lionard Pajoy (10/30/13 - option declined) ; M Marcelo Saragosa (10/30/13 - option declined) ; M Dwayne De Rosario (10/31/13 - option declined); M/F Syamsir Alam (11/1/13 - option declined) ; D James Riley (12/9/13 - option declined) ; M John Thorrington (12/9/13 - option declined); D Daniel Woolard (12/9/13 - option declined) ; D Dennis Iapichino (12/9/13 - out of contract); D Dejan Jakovic (1/14/14 - transferred to Shimizu S-Pulse) ; D Ethan White (1/14/14 - traded to Philadelphia) ; F Casey Townsend (2/19/14 - waived) ; GK Joe Willis (2/27/14 - loaned to Richmond) ; M Collin Martin (2/27/14 - loaned to Richmond) ; F Christiano François (2/27/14 - loaned to Richmond)
Stephen Eastepp, Keeper Notes Reporter | Houston Dynamo, Pumas Unam, Liga Mx
Over the last couple months, nothing extraordinary has happened in Houston and it has honestly made fans a bit nervous. Even though the Dynamo made it deep in the playoffs, the club had obvious issues and only time will tell if Dominic Kinnear did enough to address them.
Houston’s biggest adjustment in the new year will be on the backline, something they haven’t had to worry much about in recent years. Bobby Boswell is gone and it appears David Horst and Eric Brunner will battle for the open spot next to Jermaine Taylor. It’s an interesting battle considering both were former teammates in Portland and have seen better days, but difficult to see them stepping in and filling Boswell’s void.
The midfield depth is back, but this time around a new face is making waves in the preseason. Tony Cascio, part of MLS’ first interleague loan deal, joins a crowded and talented midfield but his recent form could have earned him a surprise starting spot.
Will Bruin hasn’t had a preseason to remember, but we all know stats start counting on March 8. Bruin’s improvement on finishing in the upcoming year is key, along with Giles Barnes and Omar Cummings producing in the second forward spot.
Travel and tired legs won’t be an excuse in 2014 for Kinnear’s men, as they won’t be in the CONCACAF Champions League. That means a dedicated focus on league play – and also higher expectations.
IN: D David Horst (12/17/13 - trade from Portland) D; A.J. Cochran (1/16/14 - SuperDraft) ; M Tony Cascio (1/21/14 - loan from Colorado) ; F Mark Sherrod (2/26/14 - SuperDraft) ; GK Michael Lisch (2/26/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: F Brian Ching (11/25/13 - retired) ; D Bobby Boswell (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; F Calen Carr (12/9/13 - out of contract); D Mike Chabala (12/9/13 - option declined); M Alex Dixon (12/9/13 - option declined); F Cam Weaver (12/9/13 - option declined)
Sofiane Benzaza, Mount Royal Soccer:
It was a quiet off-season for the Montreal Impact in player procurement. But yet again, the club let go of another head coach when it named Frank Klopas as its third head coach in three years. Even though Marco Schallibaum took the 2012 MLS expansion club to new heights by mid-season last year, he also led them to a horrible ending.
What is now called the Free Fall of 2013 is something that Joey Saputo and Nick Santis want to avoid at all cost. With little movement on the transfer market, management must believe in the squad it has assembled. That said, a “discovery signing” hailing from Uruguay has joined the club: Santiago Gonzalez.
The 21-year old striker is the biggest signing of this off-season and the club is hoping that he will add depth and competition at the forward position. Hernan Bernardello could also be considered as a new signing as he joined the club during the summer of 2013 but was only able to play 8 games, due to injury.
As per expectations, the only marker for success is making the playoffs and hopefully winning the MLS Cup. Klopas will have the easy task to take over a veteran squad that has played together for two years. On the other hand, he will have the hard task to maximize his team’s potential while not over-using them so as to avoid another free fall.
Being predictable is a death sign at the professional level and Klopas will need to avoid that, at all cost.
IN: D/M Eric Miller (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); F Santiago González (2/14/14 - transfer from Sud América)
OUT: D Alessandro Nesta (11/8/13 - retired) ; M Paolo DelPiccolo (11/25/13 - option declined) ; M Maximiliano Rodríguez (11/25/13 - option declined) ; M Sinisa Ubiparipovic (12/9/13 - option declined); M Davy Arnaud (12/10/13 - traded to D.C. United) ; D Zarek Valentin (12/19/13 - transfer to Bodø/Glimt)
Julie Kumor, Midnight Riders:
I spent the first half of the off-season like most Revolution fans when Juan Agudelo’s visa was denied, hoping Juan would decide to remain with us. In my head it was going to turn out like some Disney movie “Little Mighty Revolutions” – Kelyn Rowe stands up in the locker room, tilts his head to one side and says “Dude” - which had a complex meaning – “stay, you belong with us, because we are a team and have a job to finish.” I mean that was how it was supposed to end, right?
Since we didn’t get the “happily ever after ending” – we did what we do best – FULL ON PANIC MODE. *RED ALERT* *RED ALERT* Toronto signed everyone, DC and Philly are making moves, and we brought in Shalrie Joseph and Marko Perovic as trialists, and watched our beloved Jose Goncalves making waves in the press about his contract. We whined about how we depend too much on the draft, despite making some good picks. We trade away Michael Parkhurst to the Crew, and waited impatiently for our Agudelo-replacement. We wondered when and where we would get our elusive SSS.
Then finally, the sun came out, probably over Tucson, and we acquired Teal Bunbury, another young forward that has shown promise on the national team. I have been told he isn’t the Agudelo replacement in the true sense, but he will do, he will score goals. I am excited for this season, I think they will once again be a fun team to watch and will be playoff contenders. My biggest hope is that Kelyn Rowe lives up to the expectations that we have all set for him. This is your year, bro.
IN: M Paolo DelPiccolo (11/25/13 - Waiver Draft) ; GK Brad Knighton (12/11/13 - trade from Vancouver); F Charlie Davies (1/9/14 - transfer from Randers) ; M/F Steve Neumann (1/16/14) - SuperDraft; F Patrick Mullins (1/16/14 - SuperDraft) ; F Teal Bunbury (2/19/14 - trade from Sporting KC) ; D Jossimar Sanchez (2/26/14 - ‘13 Supp. Draft); M Daigo Kobayashi (2/26/14 - rights from Vancouver) ; M Alec Sundly (2/27/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: F Chad Barrett (11/22/13 - option declined) ; M Ryan Guy (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Tyler Polak (11/22/13 - option declined) ; M Clyde Simms (11/22/13 - option declined); M Juan Toja (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Bilal Duckett (11/22/13 - waived); F Matt Horth (11/22/13 - waived); M Gabe Latigue (11/22/13 - waived) ; F Juan Agudelo (11/22/13 - out of contract); GK Matt Reis (12/11/13 - retired)
Dan Ryazansky, Metrofanatic:
How is this offseason different from every other?
That’s right. Whatever the team’s name was, MetroStars and Red Bulls were always known for constant offseason turnover. Players were jettisoned and brought in at a heart-stopping rate. And it never, ever worked.
This year? Not so much. Nine starters remain from last year’s team. The major change is in central defense, as wise vice captain S. Markus Holgersson and his large salary was sent packing, to be replaced by either newcomer Spaniard Armando, or holdover Ibrahim Sekagya. The Kosuke Kimura - Brandon Barklage right back platoon has lost the latter, with ex-Toronto man (and one-time Man U hopeful) Richard Eckersley looking to own the spot. Pouting forward Fabian Espindola is now in DC, left back David Carney was shipped back to Australia, arriving ex-US international Bobby Convey will contend for spots on the left flank... and that’s it. That’s pretty much it.
Of course, last year’s New York team WAS different from all those that preceded it: it actually won something. Oh, sure, the Supporters Shield is not as shiny as MLS Cup, but it’s definitely something. So, perhaps, this new offseason strategy and supposed multi-year consistency that is bound to come are the final steps for that ultimate glory.
We can only hope.
IN: M Bobby Convey (12/13/13 - trade from Toronto) ; D Armando (1/23/14 - free transfer); D Richard Eckersley (1/27/14 - trade from Toronto)
OUT: GK Kevin Hartman (11/21/13 - retired) ; D David Carney (11/25/13 - option declined) ; D Brandon Barklage (11/25/13 - option declined); D Heath Pearce (11/27/13 - out of contract) ; F Amando Moreno (12/9/14 - out of contract); F Fabián Espíndola (12/9/13 - option declined); D Markus Holgersson (1/2/14 - contract terminated)
Dan Walsh, Philly Soccer Page:
Philadelphia Union made some big moves this offseason and went from an uninspiring team to a team with major expectations. The additions of Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Chaco Maidana and Austin Berry should make this team a playoff team. Their midfield has gone from one of the league’s worst to potentially one of its best. The forward corps remains very good. Their center backs should be strong for years to come (if they can retain Amobi Okugo once his contract expires). They may have the league’s best situation at right back, with starter Sheanon Williams backed by Ray Gaddis. And they finally have some depth.
But this team won’t mesh immediately. Union manager John Hackworth still has to see how the pieces best fit together. Nogueira could be the engine that makes it all run, but he’s also not a true No. 10 playmaker. How he fits into the team will determine a lot of what the Union do in attack. Maidana has shown some creative spark and played both centrally and on the wing in the past, so if Nogueira isn’t a creator, Maidana could be the No. 10 they need. Either way, by season’s end, this could be one of the league’s best teams. They won’t win a Supporters Shield because it takes time for new teammates to gel, and goalkeeper and left back remain weak links. Once they come together though, the Union could contend for the MLS Cup.
IN: M Corben Bone (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); D Ethan White (1/14/14 - trade from Philadelphia) ; M Cristian Maidana (1/15/14 - free transfer) ; GK Andre Blake (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); M Maurice Edu (1/27/14 - loan from Stoke City) ; M Vincent Nogueira (1/30/14 - transfer from Sochaux); GK Brian Holt (2/3/14 - free) ; D Austin Berry (2/14/14 - trade from Chicago)
OUT: GK Oka Nikolov (11/25/13 - waived) ; M Greg Jordan (11/25/13 - waived) ; M Kléberson (11/25/13 - waived) ; F Don Anding (11/25/13 - waived); D Chris Albright (11/25/13 - retired) ; M Michael Farfan (12/23/13 - transferred to Cruz Azul) ; D Jeff Parke (1/14/14 - traded to D.C. United)
Malena Barajas, Women United:
Defending MLS Champions Sporting KC open the MLS season away at Seattle Sounders FC Saturday, March 8, at 3 p.m. ET following an 8-1-1 preseason campaign record in Arizona and Florida. It will be the first of five matches in the 15 days to follow, which include two CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches against Liga MX Clausura leader Cruz Azul, then two more matches before the end of the month. Seems a daunting task, but the opportunity to test the depth of the bench at the beginning of the season will prove beneficial.
With players pending to be sent to USLPro affiliates Oklahoma City FC and Orlando City SC, the active roster for the season is not set. However, given the tame approach to player acquisition (notably midfielder Sal Zizzo from Portland and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum from Columbus), Coach Vermes and the core of the squad are familiar with early season stress (think 2011 ten consecutive match road trip).
Following goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen’s departure to coach Oklahoma City FC, Eric Krongberg will be SKC’s number 1, but he should expect a challenge from new arrival Gruenebaum. A new captain will be announced Tuesday following this writing, with many anticipating that hometown hero Matt Besler will don the armband. Other offseason personnel news included a Juventus offer for 16-year-old Homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, the departure of Teal Bunbury to New England, and the continued hope that Claudio Bieler — who had five goals and six assists during the preseason campaign — will be in Vermes’ good graces.
IN: M Sal Zizzo (12/13/13 - trade from Portland) ; GK Andy Gruenebaum (12/16/13 - trade from Columbus)
OUT: GK Jimmy Nielsen (12/9/13 - retired) ; D Kyle Miller (12/11/13 - waived) ; D Brendan Ruiz (12/11/13 - waived) ; F Teal Bunbury (2/19/14 - traded to New England)
Duncan Fletcher, Waking the Red:
That old George Bush saying ‘Fool me once...won’t be fooled again’ makes me hesitant, after all this is still Toronto FC I’m talking about, but damn if that wasn’t a ridiculously impressive off season.
There’d been a lot of big talk towards the end of last season and going into the off season and the management team delivered. Signings from within the league, Jackson, Justin Morrow and Dwayne De Rosario are all well calculated gambles, as is young Brazilian DP striker Gilberto whose success, or lack of, might well be the most important factor for how the team as a whole fares. The signings of Jermain Defoe, promoted as a ‘bloody big deal’, and Michael Bradley were of course the big attention grabbers and Ryan Nelsen’s QPR connections brought in another big fish, Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar on loan.
So then, plenty of good news, though there have been enough negative signs to keep things real. Big man up front Bright Dike suffered an achilles injury, terrible news for him personally — his hopes of making Nigeria’s World Cup team dashed — and exposing a worrying lack of depth up front. Also, Matias Laba had to be shipped out due to too many DPs, and the pre season games were worryingly poor.
Despite all that, the expectations are of at least a playoff spot, and after a couple of depressing seasons, it’s good to have some optimism and something to look forward to. Whatever happens, TFC will be interesting this year.
IN: M Jackson (12/9/13 - trade from FC Dallas) ; F Gilberto (12/13/13 - transfer from SC Internacional) ; D Justin Morrow (12/17/13 - trade from San Jose); F Jordan Hamilton (1/9/14 - Homegrown) ; M Dwayne De Rosario (1/9/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; F Jermain Defoe (1/10/14 - transfer from Tottenham); M Michael Bradley (1/13/14- transfer from AS Roma) ; D Bradley Orr (1/24/14 - loan from Blackburn Rovers); GK Júlio César (2/14/14 - loan from Queens Park Rangers)
OUT: M Michael Thomas (11/29/13 - option declined) ; M Darel Russell (11/29/13 - option declined) ; F Robert Earnshaw (11/29/13 - option declined) ; F Justin Braun (12/9/13 - out of contract); F Danny Koevermans (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; GK Stefan Frei (12/10/13 - trade to Seattle) ; M Bobby Convey (12/13/13 - trade to New York) ; D Richard Eckersley (1/27/14 - trade to New York) ; D Jonas Elmer (2/7/14 - contract terminated) ; F Emery Welshman (2/25/14 - waived) ; M Matías Laba (2/26/14 - traded to Vancouver)
On the face of it, the East providing the Shield and MLS Cup winners might suggest that what’s been the weakest Conference for some time, may finally be getting stronger again, though there’s a fair argument that the advantage of having two or three games against last year’s D.C. and Toronto teams was not the toughest way to pad your points total for the Eastern teams — while the West was what it’s always been of late — a tank full of piranhas turning on each other, with occasional pauses to nibble on Chivas USA.
Chivas were of course put out of their misery last week, or at least put on notice of an end to that misery, with the sale of the club back to the league and the prospect of a new LA2 side next season. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a big turnover of players under latest head coach Wilmer Cabrera, and it seems to be working so far - with Chivas unbeaten in eight pre-season games. Meanwhile the proverbial contented, fat, but slightly bruised piranha in the previous paragraph’s analogy, Portland Timbers, will be looking to build on Caleb Porter’s great first year by repeating their Western Conference win and finding a way to finally beat RSL — who had their number right up to and including the Western Conference playoff final last year.
Real Salt Lake of course went on to lose that brutal penalty shootout in the final, but arguably the bigger loss has been the departure of head coach Jason Kreis to New York City FC, immediately after that. His replacement, Jeff Cassar, is an internal appointment in the mode of RSL’s general belief in continuity, but he might have hoped for an easier start than Salt Lake’s opening few games, starting with a trip to an LA side they dumped out of the playoffs in November, and who’ll be hoping for revenge.
LA Galaxy appear to have taken the sight of watching Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan bouncing off those big RSL center backs personally, and have beefed up their attack with the 6’5” Rob Friend and 6’1” Samuel (on loan from Fluminese) coming in to add some much needed physicality up front. They’ll need all those extra resources straight away, with a CCL quarter final coming up next week against cross-border neighbors Club Tijuana.
The Galaxy are joined in the quarters by Sporting KC who face Cruz Azul, and by Californian rivals San Jose, who missed out on the playoffs last year, but rallied under Mark Watson to negotiate their Champions League group and land a tie with Toluca. It’s been a case of all change for San Jose, who both rebranded in the off-season to celebrate 40 years as the Quakes, and have so far got rid of 15 players, including the midfield staples of Rafael Baca, Marvin Chavez and the last of the MLS originals Ramiro Corrales, and defenders Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. It’s made the Quakes roster look a little picked over — despite the additions of the likes of Billy Schuler and Atiba Harris up front, Bayern Munich’s Andreas Gorlitz, and versatile New York defender Brandon Barklage at the back.
Marvin Chavez pitched up in Colorado, who’d been beginning to shape into a very decent possession side under Oscar Pareja, only for the former Dallas player to head to Frisco in the off-season to take over from the departing Schellas Hyndmann. Rapids legend Pablo Mastroeni is back and in charge on an interim basis, but just as Pareja was a late off-season replacement for Gary Smith a couple of years back, so the Rapids find themselves going into another season with unsatisfactory preparation. Meanwhile Dallas enter the season with Pareja ushering in a new era. Out goes veteran David Ferreira, lively midfielder Jackson goes to Toronto, and Kenny Cooper is off to Seattle, while Pareja adds a little insult to injury with Colorado, by bringing Hendry Thomas with him to his new club, as well as the intriguing signings of David Texeira from FC Groningen and Andrés Escobar on loan from Dynamo Kiev. Will it work? Ask Colorado fans if they care.
Back up to the part of the world that would have you believe more than anyone has ever cared, and it’s been an intriguing off-season in the Pacific Northwest. Carl Robinson took over from Martin Rennie at Vancouver, but any hopes of a smooth transition swiftly went on the back burner as Golden Boot winner Camilo agitated for, and eventually got, a release to Mexican club Queretaro. Without him the onus is on the young guns of Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh to assume a lot more responsibility, though they’ll have some support in midfield with the arrival of Matias Laba — squeezed out as a young DP by the Toronto trolley dash.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Caleb Porter has somewhat retooled the shakiest part of last year’s otherwise solid Portland Timbers, by bringing in Norberto Paparatto from Tigres and Jorge Villafana from Chivas to shore up the defense, and getting rid of a total of six defenders, including Mikael Silvestre. Perhaps his most intriguing signing though, is Steve Zakuani, who joins from rivals Seattle. The Sounders, and coach Sigi Schmid, endured a tough off-season, after another playoff failure capped by a two-legged capitulation to the Timbers. Schmid held on to his job, but Zakuani was only one of 13 departures, that included keeper Michael Gspurning, forward Eddie Johnson and erstwhile designated player Mauro Rosales. Kenny Cooper came in up front, in the hope that with the right assistance he’ll repeat the form of his 2012 season with New York rather than his underwhelming tenure back at Dallas, while Marco Pappa’s return to the league is an intriguing addition to midfield.
The Mauro Rosales departure is interesting as he’s found himself at Chivas USA, whose club motto (for the next year at least) might be “Interesting Times”. At least he’ll have a familiar face to talk to in Eriq Zavaleta, also from Seattle (on loan), though with the club awaiting their fate next year neither man may be in too much of a hurry to unpack. Chivas have reshuffled as usual, albeit for different reasons this time round. They’ve sent back their Guadalajara contingent, and gone about making a number of free signings in an attempt to be competitive this year, including the addition of one-time Aston Villa player Luke Moore. It’s been a rough ride for the club’s long-suffering fans and it would be tough to begrudge them a more competitive swan song then the last few years of drift have delivered. GP
Alicia Ratterree, The Goat Parade:
It is not an exaggeration to say Chivas USA’s offseason was not only the most eventful around the league (even Toronto FC’s superclub ambitions couldn’t top it) but the most eventful in club history. The top story, of course, is that the league recently bought the team back from owners Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, and will be looking to sell the team hopefully within this year to someone who will keep the team in LA and finally build a stadium for them. Obviously, soccer is why we pay attention to these stories in the first place, but given that news, the soccer has certainly taken a back seat of late.
That said, real games are about to start, and soccer will once again become a concern for the battle-hardened Goats’ fans. The team is undergoing yet another rebuilding project, with Wilmer Cabrera now leading the squad, and a mix of youth and experience filling out the roster. Mauro Rosales and Andrew Jean-Baptiste join the club via trade this offseason, and Argentine veteran Agustin Pelletieri and English forward Luke Moore have been signed. The result? Who knows, honestly. It looks like Chivas will be better than they were in 2013, though that isn’t a high bar at all. But if they can do better over the course of the entire season and hopefully move up the standings at least a bit, it will represent something good in Chivatown.
IN: M Mauro Rosales (12/11/13 - trade from Seattle) ; D Andrew Jean-Baptiste (12/12/13 - trade from Portland) ; F Adolfo Bautista (1/14/14 - free); D Tony Lochhead (1/22/14 - free) ; D Andrew Ribeiro (1/23/14 - free) ; D Fejiro Okiomah (1/27/14 - free) ; D Donny Toia (1/27/14 - free); M Thomas McNamara (2/14/14 - SuperDraft); M Agustín Pelletieri (2/19/14 - free) ; F Luke Moore (2/24/14 - free) ; F Eriq Zavaleta (2/28/14 - loan from Seattle)
OUT: D Mario de Luna (11/21/13 - end of loan from CD Guadalajara); D Jaime Frias (11/21/13 - end of loan from CD Guadalajara) ; M Edgar Mejía (11/21/13 - end of loan from CD Guadalajara) ; F Julio Morales (11/21/13 - end of loan from CD Guadalajara) ; GK Patrick McLain (11/21/13 - option declined); D Steve Purdy (11/21/13 - option declined) ; D Daniel Antunez (11/21/13 - option declined) ; M Marvin Iraheta (11/21/13 - option declined) ; M Josue Soto (11/21/13 - option declined) ; F José Manuel Rivera (11/21/13 - option declined) ; F Tristan Bowen (12/11/13 - traded to Seattle) ; D Jorge Villafaña (12/12/13 - traded to Portland) ; M Gabriel Farfan (2/3/14 - loaned to Chiapas); M Carlo Chueca (2/27/14 - waived) ; F Bryan de la Fuente (3/1/14 - waived)
Todd Haggerty, Balboa Constrictors:
The Rapids off-season can best be characterized as a mess as the ‘Pids management, led by the blog hating and dissent crushing Tim Hinchey, have led the team through a series of bewildering moves. It started with Pareja saga and now, with less than two weeks till the new season begins, the team is still without a manager. Rapids legend Pablo Mastroeni might be the new manger or the team may try to be the first ever coached by special assistants to the technical director (this may be a clever cost saving move). Regardless, it is embarrassing. Roster turnover has been fairly limited and Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers and Shane O’Neill should continue to improve. However, it is the continued instability in the front office that will hold the team back from what should be a year of progress. In the end the Rapids season will be like most, playing for a final playoff spot.
IN: D/M Marc Burch (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); M Marvin Chávez (1/7/14 - trade from San Jose) ; M Marlon Hairston (1/16/14 - SuperDraft) ; D Grant Van De Casteele (1/16/14 - SuperDraft); GK Joe Nasco (2/12/14 - free) ; M Jared Watts (2/12/14 - SuperDraft); GK John Berner (2/18/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: D Diego Calderón (11/21/13 - loan expired) ; M Jaime Castrillón (12/9/13 - option declined); GK Steward Ceus (12/9/13 - option declined); M Jamie Smith (12/9/13 - option declined) ; M/D Anthony Wallace (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; F Atiba Harris (1/7/14 - traded to San Jose) ; M Jamie Smith (1/10/14 - retired); M Tony Cascio (1/21/14 - loaned to Houston) ; M Hendry Thomas (2/12/14 - traded to FC Dallas) ; D Kory Kindle (2/18/14 - retired)
Gina Zippilli, The Inferno:
Aah... the first game of the year! Preseason is a happy time regardless of the team you support; old players have gone, new players have come and no matter how badly your team may have choked last year, you get to start with a clean slate.
FC Dallas had a great offseason. Papi is home, Jackson and David Ferreira (aka FCD’s own Bash Brothers) are gone, and the team has made some great additions in the forms of Hendry Thomas, Adam Moffat and a slew of new blood from abroad and through the draft. Papi’s return has done wonders for morale in Big D; we’re all optimistic that Oscar will be the man to get us back to the playoffs.
With that said, however, we are still FC Dallas fans. At the end of the day, our optimism is tempered by history. The team played a boring 1-1 draw against the San Antonio Scorpions last weekend with the Scorpions’ equalizer not being scored until second half stoppage time. It seems like in what looks to be a rebuilding year, the best thing to do is what we’ve been doing for years: prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.
IN: M Ryan Hollingshead (12/9/13 - 2013 SuperDraft); M Adam Moffat (12/13/13 - trade from Seattle); M Brian Span (1/9/14 - weighted lottery); M Hendry Thomas (2/12/14 - traded from Colorado); F Andrés Escobar (2/14/14 - loan from Dynamo Kiev); F David Texeira (2/21/14 - transfer from FC Groningen); F Tesho Akindele (2/27/14 - SuperDraft) ; D Nicholas Walker (2/27/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: M David Ferreira (11/25/13 - option declined) ; M Ramon Nuñez (11/25/13 - option declined) ; M Erick (11/25/13 - option declined) ; M Jackson (12/9/13 - traded to Toronto); M Victor Ulloa (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; D Ugo Ihemelu (12/9/13 - option declined) ; F Kenny Cooper (12/13/13 - traded to Seattle) ; M Bobby Warshaw (2/26/14 - transferred to GIAS) ; F Bradlee Baladez (2/26/14 - waived); GK Kyle Zobeck (2/26/14 - waived)
Josh Guesman, founder, The Section 108 blog, co-host of Corner of the Galaxy podcast:
From the moment the last whistle blew in Salt Lake City the Galaxy coaching staff were focused on improving the team.
Carlo Cudicini, Colin Clark, Pablo Mastroeni, Michael Stephens, Hector Jimenez, Bryan Gaul, Greg Cochrane and, most shockingly, Sean Franklin have all left the team. In their place are target forwards Samuel and Rob Friend, Midfielders Stefan Ishizaki and Baggio Husidic, and defender James Riley. The Galaxy also added Kyle Venter via the draft and goal keeping coach Matt Reis.
You should see a big improvement in the depth and quality of the strikers, with Robbie Keane able to be paired with Rob Friend, Samuel, Gyasi Zardes or Landon Donovan.
Landon, however, is expected to anchor the midfield from a wide position. Juninho and Sarvas will reprise their central role with Husidic being a sub. Meanwhile Zardes and Ishizaki will battle for the remaining winger position.
James Riley will be the backup to either AJ DeLaGarza or Todd Dunivant with the possibility of the Galaxy adding Dan Gargan as more depth in defense. And look to see Omar Gonzalez paired with Leonardo in central defense for the start of this year. Jaime Penedo, in goal, is a clear no-brainer.
The LA Galaxy will look for consistency this year. With clear focus on the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The team needs to make a statement in all tournaments they play. Missing the playoffs is unacceptable and raising a cup at the end of the year is the only satisfactory result.
IN: M Baggio Husidic (11/14/13 - free) ; F Samuel (1/7/14 - loan from Fluminense); F Rob Friend (1/13/14 - free transfer) ; M Stefan Ishizaki (1/30/14 - free transfer); F Bradford Jamieson (2/20/14 - Homegrown) ; F Raul Mendiola (2/20/14 - Homegrown)
OUT: M Colin Clark (12/9/13 - option declined) ; M Laurent Courtois (12/9/13 - option declined); D Sean Franklin (12/9/13 - option declined) ; M Michael Stephens (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; GK Carlo Cudicini (12/9/13 - contract terminated); M Pablo Mastroeni (12/10/13 - retired) ; F Jose Villarreal (12/23/13 - loaned to Cruz Azul) ; M Hector Jimenez (1/14/14 - traded to Columbus) ; M Kyle Nakazawa (1/21/14 - retired); D Bryan Gaul (2/28/14 - waived)
Roger Anthony, Timbers Army:
Early in his career, Bill James, who pioneered the statistical analytics now used in Major League Baseball, developed something called the Plexiglass Principle. His research showed that teams jumping from the bottom to the top of the standings in a single season generally lost ground in the following year. Does that apply to soccer? Well, let’s ask the San Jose Earthquakes or D.C. United.
After a climbing from eighth in 2012 to the top of the Western Conference table, Portland faces the great expectation of staying there. In so doing, the Timbers will pose the question: “Can you win without a target forward?” Portland has just one on the roster, that being 35-year-old Frederic Piquionne – and if things go well, he might not see a first-half minute all year.
The football produced by Portland thus far has been attractive to the point of hypnotic. The Timbers opened their 23 Feb. match with San Jose by immediately pinning the Quakes to their 18-yard box with 20 consecutive completed passes, holding possession for a minute and 40 seconds. But the passing and possession haven’t produced much … yet. Consequently, three winless preseason matches at home have created some concerns. Can Portland unlock a park-the-bus defense? Given the club’s reliance on small, speedy and skilled attackers, will MLS officials insure that systematic fouling isn’t a viable tactic?
If those answers are no, Portland still has some cards to play; the club has two open DP slots.
IN: D Jorge Villafaña (12/12/13 - trade from Chivas USA) ; M Steve Zakuani (12/12/13 - Re-Entry Stage 1); GK Andrew Weber (1/10/14 - free); F Gastón Fernández (1/15/14 - transfer from Estudiantes de La Plata) ; D Norberto Paparatto (1/15/14 - transfer from Tigre) ; D Bryan Gallego (1/15/14 - Homegrown) ; M/F Schillo Tshuma (1/16/14 - SuperDraft) ; D Taylor Peay (2/11/14 - SuperDraft) ; M George Fochive (2/25/14 - SuperDraft) ; M Aaron Long (2/25/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: D David Horst (12/9/13 - option declined); D Ryan Miller (12/9/13 - option declined); D Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (12/9/13 - waived) ; F Brent Richards (12/9/13 - waived); F Ryan Johnson (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; D Brad Ring (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; D Andrew Jean-Baptiste (12/12/13 - traded to Chivas USA) ; M Sal Zizzo (12/13/13 - traded to Sporting KC) ; D David Horst (12/17/13 - traded to Houston) ; F Sebastián Rincón (1/10/14 - loan expired); F José Valencia (1/15/14 - loaned to Club Olimpo) ; GK Milos Kocic (1/25/14 - retired) ; D Mikaël Silvestre (1/27/14 - contract terminated)
Denzel Eslinger, RSL Perspective:
Real Salt Lake will be looking to turn a season of seconds —2nd in the Western Conference, 2nd in the US Open Cup and 2nd in MLS Cup — into something better. To do so will be no easy task — gone is Jason Kreis but Jeff Cassar is ready to step up, the roster remains largely the same with three impactful departures (Yordany Alvarez, Khari Stephenson, and Lovel Palmer) but two additions that could be very interesting in Jordan Allen (RSL Homegrown player), who spent a semester at Virginia but has spend a lot of time with RSL over the last couple years, and Luke Mulholland who has showed very well this preseason.
It is hard to argue that RSL doesn’t have one of the best spines in MLS (Rimando, Borchers, Beckerman, Morales, and Saborio) and the depth that went 27 players deep last year is a bit lighter but I still think RSL is 25 players deep and that could again be the deepest of any squad in MLS. RSL continues to go forward without any of the big name signings that have become so popular, but have built a record of success the last 5 years that is unmatched by most teams. 2014 will look to be a 7th straight year in the playoffs, and should be a 5th straight season of 50 points and 15 wins.
IN: M/F Jordan Allen (12/31/13 - Homegrown) ; M Luke Mulholland (1/21/14 - free)
OUT: M Yordany Álvarez (12/9/13 - out of contract); D Brandon McDonald (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; GK Josh Saunders (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; M Khari Stephenson (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; D/M Lovel Palmer (12/13/13 - traded to Chicago)
Lisa Erickson, Center Line Soccer:
Thank goodness for even years! Ever since the San Jose Earthquakes have come back to MLS in 2008, odd years have been very odd and even years have meant playoffs and perhaps a Supporters Shield; this year the Quakes hope that 2014 will mean bringing home their third MLS cup.
This off-season in celebrating being on the planet for 40 years, the Quakes changed their motto (Unity, Devotion, Heritage) changed their logo/shield, and even changed their colours (What’s black and blue or red all-over?). But those weren’t the only changes for the Goonies, there were some key transactions that went down. Mark Watson dropped the “interim” out of his title after ending last year as the coach with the best record for those last games with an unbeaten in the last seven matches.
As for other transactions, 13 players were out plus another two went on loan (David Bingham & Sam Garza); while San Jose picks up 8 players. The Quakes will have their work cut out to bring the new guys up-to-speed; but with a defense and midfield already shored up, Wondo not playing with a broken foot and already scoring in USMNT camp, I have a feeling that these Goonies won’t be missing the playoffs in 2014. Is this the Year of the Earthquake? I do believe it might just be!
IN: Andreas Gorlitz (Bayern Munich); M Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (1/7/14 - Discovery) ; F Atiba Harris (1/7/14 - trade from Colorado); F Billy Schuler (1/14/14- weighted lottery) ; M Tommy Thompson (1/17/14 - Homegrown) ; D Shaun Francis (1/24/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; D Brandon Barklage (1/24/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; GK Bryan Meredith (1/24/14 - free) ; M J.J. Koval (2/19/14 - SuperDraft)
OUT: M Ramiro Corrales (11/22/13 - retired) ; D Nana Attakora (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Dan Gargan (11/22/13 - option declined) ; F Marcus Tracy (11/22/13 - option declined) ; GK Evan Newton (11/22/13 - option declined) ; D Peter McGlynn (11/22/13 - option declined) ; F Cesar Diaz Pizarro (11/22/13 - option declined) ; M Mehdi Ballouchy (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; D Justin Morrow (12/17/13 - traded to Toronto FC) ; M Rafael Baca (12/23/13 - transferred to Cruz Azul) ; M Jaime Alas (12/31/13 - loan expired) ; M Marvin Chávez (1/7/14 - traded to Colorado) ; D Steven Beitashour (1/27/14 - traded to Vancouver) ; GK David Bingham (2/27/14 - loaned to San Antonio); M Sam Garza (2/27/14 - loaned to San Antonio)
Sam Chesneau, Gorilla FC:
Destroy & Rebuild. So much can and has been said about the Sounders offseason. Where to begin? There would be too many to list, but the big ones include the Mauro Rosales to Eddie Johnson connection, as both were sent to save the two worst franchises in each of the respective conferences, then losing Steve Zakuani and Michael Gspurning, mostly do to their high salaries and the absurdly low salary cap. The “big” names coming in include Stephen Frei, Marco Pappa and Kenny Cooper. I feel like the general consensus from the supporters is a wait & see approach. Many long term Sounders found their way out, and as more behind the scenes information surfaces about last year’s season ending collapse, the moves made begin to make sense. One thing that is clear is that Sigi Schmid is more than likely on a short leash. Playoffs are expected and a deep advancement as well. Hopefully the undefeated preseason is a good indicator that the chemistry amongst the team is high where it lacked post October last year. We just want to be in the CONCACAF Champions league and resume the momentum created from winning the US Open Cup for the first 3 seasons of the franchise’s 5 year MLS existence. Since this is the 40th year anniversary, we pretty much demand to retain some silverware in the process. There’s really no excuse, be it Supporters Shield, US Open Cup, or preferably the MLS Cup.
IN: GK Stefan Frei (12/10/13 - trade from Toronto) ; F Tristan Bowen (12/11/13 - trade from Chivas); D Chad Marshall (12/12/13 - trade from Columbus); F Kenny Cooper (12/13/13 - trade from FC Dallas) ; F Corey Hertzog (12/18/13 - Re-Entry Stage 2); M Aaron Kovar (1/9/14 - Homegrown) ; F Sean Okoli (1/9/14 - Homegrown) ; F Chad Barrett (1/9/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; D Jalil Anibaba (1/15/14 - trade from Chicago) ; D Damion Lowe (1/16/14 - SuperDraft) ; M Marco Pappa (1/31/14 - allocation)
OUT: GK Michael Gspurning (12/9/13 - option declined); D Marc Burch (12/9/13 - option declined); M Blair Gavin (12/9/13 - option declined); F Steve Zakuani (12/9/13 - out of contract) ; M Mauro Rosales (12/11/13 - traded to Chivas USA) ; M Adam Moffat (12/13/13 - traded to FC Dallas) ; F Eddie Johnson (12/17/13 - traded to D.C. United) ; D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (1/15/14 - traded to Chicago) ; D Patrick Ianni (1/15/14 - traded to Chicago); F Fredy Montero (1/30/14 - transfer to Sporting CP) ; F Will Bates (2/19/14 - waived) ; D James Ockford (2/26/14 - loaned to New York Cosmos) ; F Eriq Zavaleta (2/28/14 - loaned to Chivas USA)
Brenton Walters, Vancouver Southsiders, co-host of Two Fat bastards podcast:
It seems like the Camilo saga will never end. After sneaking off to Mexico (which netted the Caps a boatload of MLS money), it seems that his new team is bankrupt, can’t pay their players, and may be banned from competition. I won’t pretend to care that much what has happened to him after he left, but many here in Vancouver are taking no small pleasure in this situation.
The Camilo saga kicked off what looked to be a very difficult off-season for the Whitecaps, including a lengthy coaching search and nothing substantial on the player front. Calls for the front office resignations were heard, amid many calling for patience.
And our patience has seemingly been rewarded. New head coach Carl Robinson has settled in, has his players (mostly) on the same page, and the team has brought in three legitimately exciting players in midfielder Matias Laba (ex of the Toronto FCs) and Uruguayan attackers Sebastián Fernández and Nicolás Mezquida. And there’s more to come, with the near-certain signing of sometime Chilean international Pedro Morales from Målaga. (He scored against the mighty Barcelona, you know.)
The team has looked pretty good in pre-season action, if inconsistent at times. That’s to be expected. What is welcoming is to see a coherent style of play, fast attacking play, and the team playing as a team.
Don’t expect great things from this team - it will take a while for them to gel, and our backline looks a bit creaky, but there’s optimism in Vancouver, an optimism that was largely forced last season. If they make a run at a play-off spot and give some minutes to your younger players, and Robinson displays an ability to learn from mistakes, this season will be a success.
IN: D Christian Dean (1/15/14 - SuperDraft) ; M Andre Lewis (1/15/14 - SuperDraft) ; M Mehdi Ballouchy (1/26/14 - Re-Entry Stage 2) ; D Steven Beitashour (1/27/14 - traded from San Jose) ; M/F Sebastián Fernández (2/5/14 - loan from Boston River); M/F Nicolás Mezquida (2/5/14 - transfer from Boston River); GK Paolo Tornaghi (2/18/14 - free); M Matías Laba (2/26/14 - trade from Toronto)
OUT: D Lee Young-Pyo (10/27/13 - retired) ; D Greg Klazura (11/25/13 - option declined) ; GK Joe Cannon (11/28/13 - option declined) ; GK Simon Thomas (11/28/13 - option declined) ; D Brad Rusin (11/28/13 - option declined) ; M Jun Marques Davidson (11/28/13 - option declined) ; M Daigo Kobayashi (11/28/13 - option declined) ; F Tommy Heinemann (11/28/13 - option declined); F Corey Hertzog (11/28/13 - option declined) ; GK Brad Knighton (12/11/13 - traded to New England) ; F Camilo Sanvezzo (1/17/14 - transfer to Querétaro)