How have the other MLS teams done in the off-season? Part 2: Central and Mountain

Brian Ching is back with Houston, but with Brad Davis out with injury will Houston be able to return to MLS Cup Final? (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

A couple weeks ago we looked at six Eastern teams' off-season transactions. This week, I continue the off-season review with six teams from the Central and Mountain timezones. I have omitted the Fire from this preview as there will likely be a comprehensive roundup of the Fire's off-season when the regular season approaches. For now, we have three teams from the East and three from the West to look at here.

I am also aware that a number of transactions involving Eastern teams have occurred since the last article. There will be a special addendum recapping the updates from that article and this article when I release the West Coast preview. I will also provide periodic updates when the regular season approaches.

With the logistics out of the way, follow after the break for the transaction reviews of Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Salt Lake, and Kansas City.

Colorado

IN: Hunter Freeman, Tony Cascio, Jaime Castrillon, Martin Rivero

OUT: Sanna Nyassi, Mike Holody, Danny Earls, Miguel Comminges, Caleb Folan, Macoumba Kandji

Minutes XI Returning: 10/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 16/18

Colorado is in an interesting position of retaining almost their entire core 18, getting Conor Casey back from major injury and bringing in a new coach. If Oscar Pareja steps in and can fit in with this Colorado team, they could be in good shape for the next season. Two such reinforcements may come in the form of Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero on loan. Castrillon, the 28-year old Colombian, has 58 goals in nine years as a midfielder and Rivero is a young Argentine who will expect to create as a #10 playmaker. With many teams signing foreign attacking midfielders (most especially Colombians), Colorado is keeping up well with Castrillon and Rivero.

That is great news for a team that ranked in the mid-table in 2011 for goals scored. Though they lost their second highest goalscorer last season in Caleb Folan, his six goals and two assists are now no longer with the team, and they also lost Macoumba Kandji -- MLS Cup 2010 game-winning goal scorer - they do get Casey back from injury. Kandji didn't register on the score sheet last season mainly because he was out with a knee injury, but as a dangerous option off the bench in 2010, Colorado may be doing themselves a disservice by letting him go.

The major concern that Colorado should have now is age. Four of their returning top 11 in minutes is over 30 years old with Pablo Mastroeni at 35 years old and Tyrone Marshall at 37 years old. There will certainly be a transitioning between players in the squad in the coming years and current squad players will have to step up to lead the team.

Columbus

IN: Carlos Mendes, Matt Lampson (HG), Milovan Mirosevic, Olman Vargas, Ben Speas (HG), Ethan Finlay, Aubrey Perry, Kevan George, Kirk Urso

OUT: Josh Gardner, Dejan Rusmir, Andres Mendoza, Kevin Burns, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Rogers

Minutes XI Returning: 8/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 12/16

Columbus enters the 2012 season in the unenviable position of having lost both their leading goalscorer and assist provider. Already ranked 11th in goals and 17th out of 18 in assists, the Crew weren't an attacking powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination and may be even less so after losing Andres Mendoza's 13 goals and Robbie Rogers' seven assists.

Plenty of cap space did open up following Mendoza's departure as he was on a DP contract. Additionally, over $500,000 more salary cap space opened up after the departures of Rogers, Cunningham, Rusmir, et al. With a sizeable amount of salary cap and attacking production to fill, head coach Robert Warzycha could hit the market and find some good players to play in Cow-town.

Enter Milovan Mirosevic, a Chilean midfielder who has scored 48 goals in 106 games in the last three seasons with Universidad Catolica. Columbus also acquired Olman Vargas, a 6'2" Costa Rican forward who scored 17 goals in the last two Costa Rican first division seasons. Columbus may have been able to make their attack look a little better after signing these two players, but, man, nothing is going to make those away jerseys look better. Just... wow.

Dallas

IN: Blas Perez, Hernan Pertuz, Matt Hedges

OUT: Jeremy Hall, Maykel Galindo, Maicon Santos, Marvin Chavez, Jackson Goncalves

Minutes XI Returning: 9/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 14/18

A pretty healthy returning roster returning for the next season as FC Dallas looks to build on what was a little bit of an off year for them. The big loss for Dallas will be Jackson who was one of the best fullbacks in the league appearing in 28 games and registering four goals and two assists. There are decent forwards in this league who couldn't muster four goals and two assists.

The headlining addition here is Panamanian forward Blas Perez who has a good track record of scoring goals in Mexico, Colombia, and the Gold Cup. FC Dallas relied on Brek Shea's 11 goals and a wide spread of scorers to provide the offensive production for a team ranked 12th in goals scored. Dallas also added Hernan Pertuz, a young Colombian centerback that can step in in case the George John loan to West Ham United turns into a transfer. At this time, that looks doubtful, as John has not received any first time minutes thus far.

Dallas cleared up some space on their salary cap, but mostly players in the high five-figure range. It does add up, especially Maicon Santos' $126,000. Add in a fully healthy David Ferreira with cap space for a major summer signing? Frisco is looking dangerous in 2012.

Houston

IN: Nathan Sturgis, Colin Rolfe, Warren Creavalle, Macoumba Kandji

OUT: Brian Ching, Carlos Costly, Hunter Freeman Jason Garey, Eddie Robinson, Danny Cruz

Minutes XI Returning: 10/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 14/18

Houston hasn't really lost a whole lot. Their biggest loss in terms of minutes played is Hunter Freeman who is a perfectly acceptable MLS defender, but not someone who is irreplaceable. Eddie Robinson's career has come to an end, Jason Garey hasn't seen the field often in his time at Houston and has been let go, Danny Cruz could have been a solid contributor but was apparently deemed unnecessary by Dominic Kinnear, and Carlos Costly was an expensive mistake. These subtractions will clear up over three-quarters of a million dollars in cap space.

The MLS Cup finalists aren't in desperate need to add much, but with Brad Davis expected to miss a considerable amount of time through knee injury, picking up Nathan Sturgis may come in very handy. Known for his left-footed free kick deliveries, Sturgis will hold Davis' spot until he returns. Macoumba Kandji and Colin Rolfe will vie for the target forward role Kinnear loves to employ with second-year forward Will Bruin and a returning Brian Ching.

In addition to keeping much of their squad intact, clearing cap space and filling in for Davis' absence, Houston will have the inevitable new stadium surge as well as good ol' Calen Carr who will be fully healthy and fit for the entire season. Good things are in store for Houston.

Salt Lake

IN: Enzo Martinez, Diogo de Almeida, Sebastian Velasquez, Leone Cruz

OUT: Collen Warner, Robbie Russell, Jean Alexandre, Arturo Alvarez, Andy Williams, Nelson Gonzalez, Andy Rose

Minutes XI Returning: 10/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 13/18

An initial look at Real Salt Lake's outgoing list may suggest some concern, but they have mostly lost depth players. Only recent retiree Andy Williams contributed to the top ten most minutes to not return to the team. Salt Lake also lost promising youngster Collen Warner through the expansion draft, but they did bring in Enzo Martinez through the SuperDraft, which many pundits claimed was a perfect fit for both parties. The subtraction of Robbie Russell makes sense even though he was a solid contributor to Salt Lake's defense over the past few seasons. Russell is 32-years old and made $128,250 last season, which likely would have increased.

Salt Lake has yet to make a significant signing this offseason. Left back Diogo de Almeida and two-way midfielder Sebastian Velasquez are SuperDraft selections that will likely spend the vast majority of their time on the bench unless an injury crisis develops with the team. Leone Cruz spent the 2011 season playing as a guest player for the Salt Lake and Dallas reserve teams.

The possibility of a significant signing may still be there as over $400,000 of cap space opened up after the departures of Williams, Russell, and Arturo Alvarez. Whether or not Salt Lake management decides to sign another player, they are still strong contenders in the West and MLS overall.

Kansas City

IN: Seth Sinovic, Paulo Nagamura, Bobby Convey, Dom Dwyer, Cyprian Hedrik, Jacob Peterson

OUT: Davy Arnaud, Jeferson, Craig Rocastle, Seth Sinovic, Milos Stojcev, Omar Bravo, Shavar Thomas

Minutes XI Returning: 10/11

Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 13/18

This 2012 season will certainly be interesting for Kansas City as some important names are leaving including team captain Davy Arnaud. In 2011, Arnaud carried a $250,000 price tag, which may have perpetuated his departure, but the fact remained that he was still the team captain and carried a lot of history with the club. Arnaud's departure was one half of the trade with Montreal to bring Seth Sinovic back who started 20 games at left back for SKC last season. Kansas City also dropped Jeferson, which was a wise move considering the DP only played in nine games and 571 minutes and provided just one assist.

Omar Bravo contributed 2,150 minutes as well as nine goals and two assists, but he won't be back in 2012. With an international slot open and more cap space, bringing in Bobby Convey to man the left wing is a natural fit. Paulo Nagamura will likely fill in for Arnaud in a midfield that at times seems unnecessary at times with a forward line of C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury, and Kei Kamara.

The big question with Sporting Kansas City is the ability to repeat the past year's performance. As the boss man Tweed pointed out to me, Kansas City averaged a little over 38 points in the last five seasons before 2011's 51 point total. That's quite a sudden surge in success. And it would be easy to disregard last year as a fluke since they played 17 of their last 24 games at their new stadium, but with the core of a young squad returning and the emergence of Graham Zusi and Soony Saad, there's good reason to think Kansas City will be a serious contender in the East.

The midwestern teams in the Eastern Conference are very capable of taking over the conference through Kansas City and Houston. Columbus seems to be in a transition period and will depend on new signings to offset their major attacking losses. In the West, Dallas may be returning to strong form, Salt Lake continues to be a challenging side as long as they stay healthy and Colorado may be the dark horse if their attack can gel quickly. The midwestern teams have a much better chance of success than most of the Eastern teams, but may continue to find themselves struggling to keep up with the West.

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