It has been a fascinating couple of weeks in Major League Soccer, as clubs continue to get ready for the 2012 season.
From surprising trades to high-profile acquisitions and notable departures, fans across the league are already getting the feeling that the 17th season of MLS will look very different to the last campaign.
Let’s dive in!
While there was a lot of talk over Frenchmen Sebastien Le Toux’s trade from Philadelphia Union to Vancouver Whitecaps FC, down Interstate 5 in The City of Roses, Portland Timbers filled their need for a big target man by signing Scottish striker Kris Boyd. The former Rangers FC goalscorer – who was signed as a Designated Player (DP) – felt a move to John Spencer’s side was a better fit than Eastern Conference club Houston Dynamo, who had shown interest in Boys up until the week before. The Scotland international’s addition is an important one for the Timbers, who revealed on Friday that their other DP in Colombian striker José Adolfo “El Trencito” Valencia needs surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee and will be sidelined for the next six to 12 months.
Further down the west coast in Southern California, reigning MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy welcomed back the club’s top scorer from 2010 in United States international striker Edson Buddle following his year-long spell with German Bundesliga Two side FC Ingolstadt 04. After scoring 17 goals in 25 appearances during his last season with the Galaxy, Buddle’s return to LA only adds to a highly-potent attack that already includes David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Mike Magee. On the east coast, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen boosted his striking department by making Albanian international Hamdi Salihi the club’s second DP after acquiring the forward from Austrian giants Rapid Vienna.
Acquiring strikers was not the only bit of transaction business that MLS clubs did in the past couple of weeks, as more defenders were brought into the league from around the globe. Toronto FC’s defensive woes in 2011 left head coach Aron Winter with a need to add more quality in his backline. The Dutchman started that process by making former loanee Richard Eckersley a permanent signing before announcing that The Reds had gone to South America to sign two centre backs in Ecuadorian international Geovanny Caicedo and Chilean international Miguel Aceval.
TFC’s Eastern Conference rivals, meanwhile, moved quickly to replace the departed Tim Ream by bringing Wilman Conde back to the league after acquiring the rights to the Colombian defender from Chicago Fire. A former MLS Best XI selection, Conde will be expected to take a starting defensive role in Hans Backe’s side this season.
As with any off-season in any soccer league in the world - players come in, and players move on. MLS was no different over the last two weeks, as the league said ‘farewell’ to some well-known faces. The rise in stock of defender Tim Ream was confirmed by his January transfer to English Premier League giants Bolton Wanderers FC from New York Red Bulls. Even the league’s all-time leading goalscorer made a move abroad, as Jeff Cunningham joined Guatemalan outfit CSD Comunicaciones on a one-year contract.
The past week was a challenging one, if you were a Philadelphia fan. Not only did the Union trade away popular striker Le Toux to Vancouver and midfielder Kyle Nakazawa to LA Galaxy, they also said “adios” to experienced goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón after just one season. The 40-year-old is returning to his native Colombia to finish his career with the club he started with in Deportivo Cali. Last week’s move by the Pennsylvania outfit overshadowed the announcement by MLS that Philadelphia will host this year’s All-Star Game at PPL Park on July 25. Another player to move on after one year in the league is striker Caleb Folan. The Republic of Ireland international ended his time with Colorado Rapids by mutually parting ways with the 2010 MLS Cup champions last week.