The off-season has been busy for the teams in Major League Soccer with players moving in and players moving out. This is the first part of a three-part look at the league's transactions. Today I'll be taking a look at the teams on the East Coast and how they stack up for the upcoming season.
Besides a simple 'IN' and 'OUT' look for players, I'll be using the terms 'Minutes XI Returning' and 'Minutes Gameday 18 Returning'. Minutes XI is the eleven players that lead the team in minutes in 2011 and Gameday 18 obviously refers to the top 18 players in minutes played. Toronto might be far from the Atlantic Ocean but they are in this group that also includes D.C. United, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact. It all begins after the break.
IN: Robbie Russell, Nick DeLeon, Maicon Santos, Danny Cruz, Emiliano Dudar, Hamdi Salihi, Marcelo Saragosa
OUT: Santino Quaranta, Marc Burch, Charlie Davies, Clyde Simms, Blake Brettschneider, Joseph Ngwenya, Jed Zayner, Devon McTavish, Steve Cronin
Minutes XI Returning: 9/11
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 12/18
A lot of movement out of D.C. so far this off-season as fifty combined starts walk out the door between Quaranta, Burch, and Simms alone. Simms is the biggest loss from this list as he started 29 games and logged 2404 minutes and was very effective holding the midfield during his time at D.C. Another story to add here is the waiving of Blake Brettschneider and as Matthew Doyle noted he should find a place to play and be productive somewhere.
However, D.C. still looks to be in decent shape for the upcoming season considering they are bringing back 10 of their top 12 players with the most minutes including Dwayne De Rosario as contract talks seem to be going well. Furthermore, the additions of Robbie Russell and Emiliano Dudar at the back should provide immediate impact. Russell is a right back that has already won a championship with Real Salt Lake, and Dudar is a 30-year old 6'4" center back from Swiss club BSC Young Boys that adds size and experience to a previously young back line from last season.
United also added Danny Cruz, a two-footed 22-year old wide midfielder with four years of league experience as well as Maicon Santos who will likely add depth to the forward position as he brings 14 goals and five assists from 62 league games. Hamdi Salihi is the big addition to D.C. as he will be United's newest Designated Player. The Albanian forward brings international credentials scoring nine goals in 37 appearances and recently played for Rapid Vienna from Austria.
D.C. United did well this off-season to make impact signings and cut unnecessary salary cap money from their roster. D.C. offloaded $371,000 by dropping Burch, Ngwenya, and Quaranta who weren't in the top 12 of D.C.'s total regular season minutes played and Simms was making an additional $179,250. D.C. could have a strong team this season.
New England Revolution
IN: Danleigh Borman, Nate Jaqua, Clyde Simms, John Lozano, Fernando Cardenas, Kelyn Rowe, Tylar Polak, Jose Moreno
OUT: Milton Caraglio, Ryan Cochrane, Franco Coria, Pat Phelan, Kheli Dube, Rajko Lekic, Monsef Zerka
Minutes XI Returning: 8/11
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 12/18
After New England's hilariously awful 2011 last place finish, the Revolution and Steve Nicol mutually decided to part ways leading to Jay Heaps to take over as the head villain. Nine of the Revolution's 12 players with the most minutes will return to the team with Lekic, Cochrane, and Phelan as those who won't be back. Even though Lekic played the most minutes out of any forward on the team, he still only tallied six goals and one assist while making $275,000. The Revolution brought in Nate Jaqua from Seattle through the re-entry draft to make sure they won't have to rely on Zach Schilawski for goals from the forward position. Leading goalscorer from 2011 Shalrie Joseph will have help holding the midfield from the underrated Clyde Simms and Danleigh Borman will try to strengthen the left side of the field that was continuously overrun throughout last season.
The draft picks may be able to make a difference this season, but as Joe Mauceri points out Kelyn Rowe may have a hard time fitting in as a playmaker with Benny Feilhaber already in that position. Tyler Polak will probably battle for time at left back with Borman who may or may not play left back instead of in the midfield.
In other words, New England is still going through a major transition phase. With almost half a million dollars dropped just by cutting Lekic and Monsef Zerka (who I have never even heard of before writing this article but still somehow made $226,000 while playing for only 511 minutes), they could afford to splash some cash and bring in another impact player (or start saving for a stadium). So far they have brought in Jose Moreno, a 30-year old Colombian striker from Once Caldas, 27-year old defender John Lozano and 23 year-old attacker Fernando Cardenas all with experience in the Colombian league. If these signings can make a difference, New England may be on their way back to gaining some respectability within the league.
New York Red Bulls
IN: Connor Lade, Johnathan Borrajo, Markus Holgersson, Kenny Cooper, Ryan Meara, Jeremy Vuolo, Wilman Conde
OUT: John Rooney, Carlos Mendes, Chris Albright, Bouna Coundoul, Tim Ream, Frank Rost
Minutes XI Returning: 9/11
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 12/18
Not many players have left New York this off season, but those who have certainly carry league experience and have greatly contributed at some point in their MLS career. Carlos Mendes was a mainstay in the Red Bulls backline during the 2006 season and has started at least 10 games every season in his career. Chris Albright has bounced around the league and did not feature for New York very much this season after playing less than 500 minutes. Bouna Coundoul started only 11 games in 2011 after making numerous mistakes in goal resulting in the Red Bulls bringing in Frank Rost for over $500,000. The big loss here is obviously Tim Ream who anchored the Red Bulls backline for 28 games and went overseas to Bolton.
What's interesting about New York is how they are filling those gaps. Markus Holgersson is a 26-year old Swedish centerback from Helsingborg. This 6'3" addition recently earned his first call-up to the Swedish national team and has appeared for Helsingborg 80 times since 2009. Clearly, this is not a depth signing. New York has brought in another centerback by the name of Wilman Conde. Maybe you remember him. With the Holgersson and Conde signings, this may move Rafael Marquez to midfield or to the bench.
The biggest question New York must answer is what they are going to do about their goalkeeping situation. The Red Bulls might be the first team in MLS history that hasn't had goaltender finish in the top 15 players in minutes. Bouna Coundoul, Frank Rost, and Greg Sutton all finished with 12, 11, and 10 starts respectively. Alex Horwath started a game. League Pool goaltender Chris Konopka even started the August 13th match against the Chicago Fire despite not being a team member. I thought the league pool goaltender system was dead before that game.
None of those guys will be back in 2012 leaving only Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo as the only goalkeepers currently on the roster. Meara is the 31st overall draft pick in the 2012 SuperDraft and Vuolo is a signing from AC Oulu (my preferred Football Manager team) in the second division of a very weak Finnish league. Both of these players are a complete crapshoot and not signing a proven goalkeeper may come back to hurt New York.
The other main addition by New York is the trade to get Kenny Cooper for a 2013 first round draft pick and allocation money. Still unable to replicate his blazing form while playing for FC Dallas, Cooper joins a team with the firepower of Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, and Juan Agudelo already on the roster.
Overall, the Red Bulls look good for next year with the exception of goalkeeper. Jan Gunnar Solli and Roy Miller will continue to be solid fullbacks and New York haven't lost any midfielders. By dropping Rost, New York has cleared up cap space and a DP spot and the cuts of Albright, Coundoul and Mendes clear up almost another $380,000. With this amount of talent, there should be no reason why New York can't make a strong run to the playoffs. The big question is if they all can keep their heads on straight. There was no reason why New York couldn't make a strong run to the playoffs in 2011 either.
IN: Nizar Khalfan, Josue Martinez, Jimmy McLaughlin, Gabriel Gomez, Porfirio Lopez, Chandler Hoffman, Greg Jordan, Raymon Gaddis
OUT: Justin Mapp, Stefani Miglioranzi, Veijko Paunovic, Faryd Mondragon, Sebastien Le Toux, Kyle Nakazawa
Minutes XI Returning: 7/11
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 9/18
Talk about a team that has gone backwards during the off-season. Philadelphia will begin the season without their leading man in games played, games started, minutes, shots, shots on goal, goals, game winning goals, and assists in Sebastien Le Toux. The closest players Philly had in terms of offensive production was Carlos Ruiz's six goals (now off the team), Justin Mapp's three goals and four assists (now off the team), and Danny Mwanga's five goals and four assists who has only started 13 of the 28 games in which he has appeared.
Not only have they lost Le Toux, but they also lost Faryd Mondragon who started 27 games in goal and commanded the Union defense into allowing only 28 goals in those 27 games. A large, experienced presence like that will not be replaced easily, but they will try with Zac MacMath. In fact, seven of the top 15 minutes leaders will not return to the team in 2012. As the main man Tweed already pointed out with the Fire's roster turnover of 2011, any time a club loses a considerable amount of minutes, hard times are ahead.
Looking at who has been brought in though, Josue Martinez has the potential to fill in those attacking outputs missing by the loss of Le Toux. Martinez is 21 years old and already a Costa Rican international, Gabriel Gomez is a midfielder who had a large role with Panama in their 2011 Gold Cup run , and Porfirio Lopez is another Costa Rican who plays left back.
These roster changes depend on mostly on goalkeeper MacMath and the ever mercurial Freddy Adu to lead the attack for Philly. As Adu already makes DP money, almost $500,000, it is well past time for him to earn it. Thankfully for the Union, they have managed to clear up almost a million dollars of cap space from all of their departures and prevented spending more on Le Toux as he wanted a DP contract. Whether or not these moves pay out in the long term remain to be seen, but for now it looks like Philadelphia will have a long season of adjusting and gelling ahead of them.
IN: Jeremy Hall, Reggie Lambe, Luis Silva, Aaron Maund, Miguel Aceval
OUT: Danleigh Borman, Nathan Sturgis, Mikael Yourassowsky, Andy Iro, Peri Marosevic
Minutes XI Returning: 6/11
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: 10/18
Another team looking to turn around their dreadful season from 2011 is Toronto who offloaded five of their top 15 players with the most minutes played. Toronto is always a revolving door of on field talent and this time they will be without four of their six most played defenders from last season and considering their defensive struggles last season, that may be for the better. Yourassouwsky and Iro were constantly getting burned and upgrades at centerback are certainly necessary.
Miguel Aceval may be the best chance Toronto has at fortifying their back line. He is a six foot defender who recently earned his first cap with the Chilean national team. Toronto also drafted Aaron Maund from Notre Dame with their 12th pick, but as college soccer wizard Joe Mauceri points out, Maund may take some time to develop. If there's one thing the Toronto fans need right now is immediate success.
At least the attack looks like it will be immediately successful as Toronto added Luis Silva whom Mauceri noted was "the best playmaker in the draft". The Toronto attack didn't need much bolstering, maybe just some depth, and they got it with the Silva pick and Reggie Lambe who is an attacking right winger.
If there's a big question with Toronto's recent signings it will be how long they will last at the club before they are inevitably traded away. Their salary cap situation didn't adjust too much as mostly players in the mid to high five digit range were cut.
IN: Nelson Rivas, Evan Bush, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Hassoun Camara, Jeb Brovsky, Bobby Burling, Brian Ching, Josh Gardener, Justin Mapp, Sanna Nyassi, James Riley, Seth Sinovic, Collen Warner, Zarek Valentin, Justin Braun, Gerson Mayen, Tyson Wahl, Bryan Arguez, Davy Arnaud, Donovan Ricketts, Ian Westlake, Miguel Montano, Greg Sutton, Patrice Bernier, Felipe Martins, Andrew Wenger, Calum Mallace, Shavar Thomas
OUT: James Riley, Seth Sinovic
Minutes XI Returning: N/A
Minutes Gameday 18 Returning: N/A
The most recent expansion team opens their season with a brand new look, brand new players, and soon a brand new stadium. It appears the Impact will hold on to NASL players of goalkeeper Evan Bush, ex-Red Bull Sinisa Ubiparipovic, and midfielder Hassoun Camara. The big signing here is defender Nelson Rivas from Inter Milan at no cost who became the first ever Montreal Impact player. Unfortunately for Montreal, his health has been spotty in the past and he is currently nursing a thigh injury sustained in a pre-season game in Mexico.
As an expansion team, Impact head coach Jesse Marsch filled out a major portion of his roster through the Expansion Draft picking up Brian Ching, Justin Mapp, Zarek Valentin, and Collen Warner as the notable pickups. Valentin was a player that many were shocked Chivas USA left unprotected and Warner is Real Salt Lake that can step right in the starting line up or provide solid depth in the midfield. Justin Braun and Brian Ching will both provide the target forward option, and Sanna Nyassi will likely play on the right wing with Mapp on the left.
Through some nifty trades, Marsch also acquired Tyson Wahl, Davy Arnaud, and Donovan Rickets. These trades are rather solid as they received a left back, center midfielder, and goalkeeper who could start and contribute solid minutes throughout the season. Through Arnaud, they get the captain of Sporting Kansas City who will provide leadership from the center of the midfield. That formula worked well for the expansion Portland Timbers last year.
Montreal also had two picks in the 2012 SuperDraft and used it to get defender Andrew Wenger and midfielder Calum Mallace, two players who will greatly benefit from minutes in their rookie season. Wenger could become an elite centerback in the league and Mallace is a hard-nosed holding midfielder who may outright win playing time right away.
Montreal could do a lot worse than what they have right now. A strong SuperDraft and Expansion Draft with shrewd trades could have Montreal in a surprisingly high position by the end of this season. Expansion teams' first seasons are hit or miss (the Fire's being the ultimate hit, Chivas USA's being the ultimate miss), but Montreal may surpass Vancouver and possibly Portland for success in their freshman year.
No Beast in the East
The East Coast has gone through some changes with Philadelphia looking like a team ready for free fall. D.C. may be on to something with their additions and could finally challenge for a playoff spot after 4 years of no post-season play. Montreal is off to a solid start. New York has too many forwards but they have stayed relatively even in midfield and in defense. If head coach Hans Backe can solve the goalkeeper issue, they could be legitimate contenders like they were in 2010. New England and Toronto may continue their battle out of the Eastern cellar as neither have done much to immediately fix their flaws. Toronto may have the advantage based on pure attacking power, but they look to leak goals and leave Stefan Frei exposed all season yet again. It looks like the East Coast still has catching up to do to produce a serious title contender.