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Grading the graders: who were tops in MLS offseason moves?

Feb 3, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

Defoe, Bradley

It’s still a bit early to grade out Major League Soccer’s offseason. Unlike many leagues around the world, January doesn’t bring the end of Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window; MLS clubs may sign foreign players into May.

Still, as preseason camps are well under way, most of the “players in” and the “players out” movement is done for MLS  teams. And the ranking of how they did in offseason roster enhancement are starting to fall.

MLSSoccer.com did the chores here, and it’s difficult to quarrel with their top pick for offseason achievement. Toronto’s splashy signings ruled the day as Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley arrived in the big Tim Leiweke swoop.

There might be a little squabbling after that, however, as the list has Philadelphia second and D.C. United third (followed by Portland and the LA Galaxy). John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union certainly helped itself, mostly on that hard-fought Maurice Edu deal. But did D.C. United deserve just a little more credit?

In my mind, United’s moves put the RFK bunch at No. 2 based on two elements. The players Ben Olsen and Co. signed are known quantities around MLS. Sean Franklin and Jeff Parke will help stabilize the back line. Eddie Johnson (assuming D.C. United gets him signed, which doesn’t seem certain just now) and Fabian Espindola will help fill the desperate need for goal scoring.

No, Espindola didn’t exactly tear it up at Red Bull Arena last year. But playing alongside talented-but-demanding Thierry Henry can’t be easy.

United also did well in ridding itself of (relatively) big money going out to Dwayne DeRosario and Dejan Jakovic. Plus, Olsen’s club did well in the draft.

Again, it’s a little quibble (United ahead of Philly), but one worth quibbling about.

  1. talgrath - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Toronto is definitely the top, barring Michael Bradley and Defoe being absolutely terrible (highly unlikely) Toronto just became a major power in the east, the spots after that get a murkier though and really depends on how those players turn out. DC United picked up Eddie Johnson, but how goo will Johnson look if he can’t get great service? United new midfield isn’t the greatest service group. Portland picked up Steve Zakuani, but he hasn’t been healthy in two years, if he can stay healthy they picked up a major speedster, but that’s a big “if”; their Argentinian pick ups may do welll well or they may flop. Philadelphia’s off-season success relies almost entirely on whether or not Maurice Edu works out. The Sounders lost Eddie Johnson, but they picked up lots of defensive talent and Marco Pappa, but almost everyone picked up has question marks around them, including Pappa who stumbled after leaving the MLS. The Galaxy picked up some interesting talent, without losing anyone from last season…but the talent they picked up aren’t likely to set the world on fire. It’s going to be very interesting to watch MLS this season with so many moves.

  2. mlsconvert88888 - Feb 3, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    The big knock on the moves DCU has made seems to be that, while they have brought in some much needed talent, they may be paying too much for the value of those players. (which is something always easier to judge with hindsight)

    But with that said, I would probably also place DC ahead of Philly at this point (in the winning of the off season moves)

  3. mvktr2 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:21 AM

    I’ll play devil’s advocate for Philly. The Union were one of the best defending teams in MLS and in the pair of Jack Mac and Conner Casey along with a versatile group of backups in Le Toux, Wheeler, and the speedy princeton grad have a largely effective front line.

    However, and it’s a huge HOWEVER, the midfield was a gaping puss oozing maggot filled wound where the offense went to die and opposing teams set up shop. In Edu Philly gets a poor man’s Bradley for a lot less coin. Given Philly’s checkered past with S. American players it’s finger crossing time for the Argentine playmaker and perhaps a bit more ease when considering Nogueira. If those two players work out along with Edu it should combine to be one of the more effective midfields in MLS.

    The gravy on top is Philly now get to deploy many of those former starters in the midfield as depth, a role they are clearly more suited for.

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