There are a lot of moving parts to monitor as the summer transfer window cranks into gear. MLS sides adjusted accordingly in the buildup to the start of the period on Tuesday and continued to tweak their squads during this week to create opportunities to supplement their squads.
Most teams focused on culling around the periphery of the side, though there were some low-profile incoming transfers as well. LA Galaxy ended Samuel’s loan deal to open an international slot for another potential acquisition during the summer. New York accomplished the same goal by parting ways with Jonny Steele by mutual consent to facilitate a move elsewhere. Chicago (Matthew Fondy) and Sporting Kansas City (Michael Kafari) bucked the trend by signing players to help fill out their rosters.
These types of moves – coupled with previous decisions made before the semi-guaranteed contract deadline on July 1 to avoid potential budget charges and the Designated Player-related movement in Chicago (Juan Luis Anangono dispatched to LDU Quito on loan), Montréal (Ignacio Piatti lined up for arrival after San Lorenzo exits Copa Libertadores) and Portland (Liam Ridgewell secured on a free transfer) – provide a fuller picture of the resources available as teams look to strengthen. They are the initial salvos required to increase flexibility and set the board for potential additions down the line.
It takes a bit of foresight to make the best use of these opportunities. Budget and squad restrictions require constant monitoring. The possibility of signing a player advances only so far without the requisite combination of roster and salary space within the current ranks. It isn’t a matter of finances for most moves. It is simply a matter of ensuring all of the pieces fit together properly to facilitate the next swoop.
Some of those transfers will come further down the line as teams decide whether to improve their lot now or wait until the winter instead. Other needs — Philadelphia’s quest to bring Carlos Valdes back to MLS to shore up its central defense, for example — require more immediate attention.
In all cases, it is important for the clubs to position themselves adroitly for the possibilities at hand. The wheels are just starting to turn. The next month will determine exactly where they will take each of these teams heading into the stretch run.
Five Points – Week 18
1. Seattle, Portland meet again after Open Cup thriller: Both sides will weigh the fallout from Sounders FC’s 3-1 victory over the Timbers after extra time in their quarterfinal tie on Wednesday night. The exertions — and the number of first team players used in that tie – could prompt a change or two, though fitness isn’t a massive concern given the extra day of rest for this Sunday night encounter. Portland must cope without the services of Diego Chara (suspension), while Seattle will have Clint Dempsey back in the fold after his World Cup exertions. Expect a similarly tight affair between the sides with the Timbers – particularly given their precarious perch in the table – in rather acute need of a result.
2. Can Real Salt Lake complete unbeaten run against LA Galaxy?: RSL has claimed four points in its first two meetings with the Galaxy this season. The Claret-and-Cobalt will attempt to build upon the scrappy 2-1 victory over New England last weekend against a Galaxy side unbeaten in its past six league matches (3-0-3).
3. Chivas USA visits Vancouver in battle of in-form sides: Whitecaps boss Carl Robinson preached the need for diligence against Golden Boot contender Erick Torres, but his side must also devise a way through a suddenly defiant Red-and-White rearguard (three shutouts in the past three outings). Expect the hosts to ramp up the tempo at B.C. Place and use their pace to unsettle a Chivas USA side without much speed in its defensive ranks.
4. Houston welcomes back defensive trio for Toronto FC visit: Corey Ashe, David Horst and Jermaine Taylor are all back in the frame as the Dynamo attempt to cure their defensive concerns (34 goals conceded, most in MLS) at BMO Field. TFC might have to do without Michael Bradley (nagging injuries make him a doubt, Reds boss Ryan Nelsen told the Canadian Press on Friday), but Gilberto could return as the home side attempts to exploit Houston’s frailty in defense.
5. Step forward, Andy Gruenebaum: Sporting Kansas City will turn to its reserve goalkeeper for the next couple of months after Eric Kronberg fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand during a training session on Wednesday. Kronberg’s injury paves the way for former Crew starter Gruenebaum to assume the number one role ahead of the visit to Montréal on Saturday. This game against the Impact offers an intriguing first test for Gruenebaum as he adapts to his new place in the pecking order.
BONUS: Armando, Sanchez suspended by Disciplinary Committee: New York defender Armando and Colorado forward Vicente Sanchez received two-match suspensions from the Disciplinary Committee on Friday. Sanchez constitutes a significant loss for the Rapids given his incisiveness ahead of the date with Philadelphia on Saturday, but Armando is a replaceable figure in the Red Bulls’ defense with Matt Miazga and Jamison Olave entrenched as the starting duo at this point.