FOX Soccer Exclusive
One man's trash is another's treasure
For all the publicity that Designated Player signings have gotten in Major League Soccer, the high-priced acquisitions of star talent isn’t the only way MLS teams have found a way to revamp their squads with difference makers.
In fact, some of the most important players in MLS this season have been those acquired off the MLS scrap heap, or unloaded in trades that seemed minor at the time. Smart general managers have made a killing in the past year, landing players who have been every bit as impressive as the million-dollar DP signings.
MLS: June 23-25
|Thursday, June 23|
|Saturday, June 25|
|San Jose||0-0||LA Galaxy||Recap|
|Real Salt Lake||3-1||Toronto||Recap|
|Sunday, June 26|
|MLS Scores | Table | Fixtures|
Whether you needed an all-star caliber goalkeeper, or a goal-scoring machine, chances are you could have had one for nothing or next to nothing in the past season and a half in MLS, and the clubs that took advantage of those bargains are being rewarded with better seasons than most would have expected.
Here is a look at some of the best player acquisitions in MLS over the course of the past season and a half:
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
A bench player on the Houston Dynamo championship teams of 2006 and 2007, Wondolowski never quite established himself in four seasons in Houston, managing just four goals. Something changed though after he was dealt to San Jose in June of 2009 for forward Cam Weaver.
All he has done since then is become one of the most clutch forwards in MLS. Wondolowski has scored 12 goals this season and has registered a league-best seven game-winning goals. He is starting to draw MVP consideration and is a key reason San Jose is poised to reach the playoffs for the first time since returning to MLS in 2008
Sebastien LeToux, Philadelphia Union
The Seattle Sounders have done plenty of good things since joining MLS in 2009, but one of the few major mistakes they made was leaving LeToux unprotected in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft. The Philadelphia Union were happy to snatch up the French forward and all he has done is become one of the league’s best attacking players.
LeToux has recorded 12 goals and 10 assists, giving him a league-best 22 goals contributed to. His dynamic play has helped the Union turn PPL Park into one of the tougher places to play in MLS and his name has been mentioned in MVP discussions.
Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas
How does one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history wind up unemployed? Only the Kansas City Wizards know, having unloaded Hartman before the season started. The Wizards trash became FC Dallas’ treasure as the holder of most MLS goalkeeping records took the starting job from Dario Sala and promptly put together the best season of his career.
Before hurting his knee in a freak play involving Thierry Henry, Hartman was on pace for a record-breaking shutout streak. He has also been instrumental in FC Dallas’ record-setting unbeaten streak and his return from a sprained knee will be crucial to Dallas’ hopes of making a deep playoff run.
Marvell Wynne, Colorado Rapids
An inconsistent performer who never quite lived up to expectations in Toronto, Wynne was dealt to the Rapids at the start of the season for midfielder Nick LaBrocca. His arrival was vital to helping the Rapids defense put together a strong first half of the season that has now put Colorado in position to qualify for the playoffs.
A right back by trade, Wynne has helped Colorado in central defense as well, using his incredible athleticism to make a smooth transition to the middle. The former No. 1 draft pick and U.S. national team prospect will be crucial to Colorado’s first playoff appearance in three seasons.
Chris Albright, New York Red Bulls
Acquired from New England in a draft day trade last January, Albright came to New York as an injured player with an uncertain future, having been sidelined for more than a year with various injuries. It was a classic gamble deal, one that has paid off handsomely for the Red Bulls.
Albright has turned a problem position into a stable one at right back for New York, which had experimented with out-of-position players at right back ever since getting rid of Chris Leitch in 2008. Albright has been a steady and reliable presence on the right, defending cleanly and providing an effective threat going forward. While he is overshadowed by all the other big-name additions on the team, Albright has quietly been one of the team’s most important additions.
Jon Busch, San Jose Earthquakes
Much like Hartman, Busch was unceremoniously dumped by his former club, the Chicago Fire, but landed in San Jose, where he figured to back-up long-time standout Joe Cannon. Busch had other plans, eventually winning the job from Cannon and helping the Earthquakes stay in the playoff race.
He briefly lost his job back to Cannon, but when Cannon went down with a serious injury, Busch went right back into the lineup and re-asserted his position as one of the league’s better goalkeepers. Busch didn’t fare too well against his former club in Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to Chicago, but he could have the last laugh if he helps San Jose hold on to its playoff spot while the Fire misses the post-season for the first time since 2004.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.