The dust barely settled on 2011 before the winds of change blew in ahead of the 2012 Major League Soccer season. This past week brought some very notable player movement, as the league’s 19th team, Montreal Impact, assembled the first pieces of their inaugural MLS squad in Wednesday’s Expansion Draft.
While most knew that players would be moving to Quebec this week, existing MLS clubs also started their process of roster changes by waiving players, while several signings was made for the new campaign.
It’s sure to be an interesting few weeks…and who says the off-season is boring...
The inevitable became reality for 10 MLS clubs this week, as Montreal made their selections in the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft. There was disappointment for Vancouver Whitecaps FC when youngster Jeb Brovsky was the Impact’s fifth selection. After a promising first season with the ‘Caps, it will interesting to see if the University of Notre Dame product can provide the same versatility to Montreal after showing his abilities in midfield and at right fullback for Vancouver in 2011.
While Brovsky’s departure caught the attention of ‘Caps fans, the big news from the Expansion Draft was the Impact’s bold move to select veteran Houston Dynamo striker Brian Ching, despite the big Hawaiian’s declaration that if selected by Montreal, he would consider retiring. Selecting Ching was a high-risk move by Impact head coach Jesse Marsch. Should Ching follow through and refuse to play in Montreal, then the Impact will need to get value in return for the experienced goalscorer, with Houston likely the only side prepared to do a deal. Yet, it’s important to remember that the Dynamo ultimately left Ching unprotected, so there would be little surprise if the Texas outfit were reluctant to give up that much to reclaim him from Montreal. Only time will tell how this saga will unfold, but there is a chance that nobody - be it Ching, Houston, or Montreal - will win from the Impact’s decision to select the forward.
Wednesday’s Expansion Draft began the process of players being released by MLS clubs, with each team looking to improve for next season. This included a glimpse into the changes that ‘Caps head coach Martin Rennie will make this off-season, as Bilal Duckett and Nizar Khalfan were waived by Vancouver on Wednesday. Khalfan soon found a new home in Philadelphia Union after being selected by the Pennsylvania club in Wednesday’s Waiver Draft.
New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC are set to do some considerable revamping for 2012. New York shedded six players from their roster, while in trademark fashion, TFC let seven players move on from BMO Field. Toronto’s list included Dutch winger Javier Martina and Burnaby, BC, native Gianluca Zavarise.
The next stage of the player acquisition process takes place next month, with Whitecaps FC having the top pick in both stages of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Monday, December 5, and Monday, December 12. Any player chosen in the Stage One draft (December 5) will have to be paid at their last or current MLS salary, while the Stage Two draft (December 12) allows clubs to negotiate new deals with their selections.
Unsurprisingly, Montreal were busy adding more players to their roster after the Expansion Draft. They first used the selection of defender James Riley from Seattle Sounders FC to do a deal with Chivas USA to acquire striker Justin Braun and midfielder Gerson Mayen. The Impact then returned to Seattle to acquire defender Tyson Wahl for allocation money. The Quebec club wrapped up an historic week by signing former D.C. United midfielder Bryan Arguez on Friday. The 22-year-old helped Fort Lauderdale Strikers to the North American Soccer League championship final series in 2011.
Chivas USA also added a winger on Monday, as they acquired English winger Ryan Smith from Sporting Kansas City for first and third-round selections in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft. The 25-year-old comes back to MLS after leaving Sporting KC for undisclosed family reasons back in June.