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Clubs invest heavily in frontlines
by Paul Kennedy, February 12th, 2014 9:20PM

TAGS:  mls


[NEW IN MLS: Forwards] Toronto FC (Jermain Defoe, Dwayne De Rosario and Gilberto) and D.C. United (Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola), last and next to last in the Eastern Conference in 2013, have invested heavily in new frontlines. In the Western Conference, the LA Galaxy and fellow contenders Portland and Seattle have brought in new strikers in a bid to overtake conference playoff champion Real Salt Lake.

ADOLFO BAUTISTA (Chivas USA). Is the Bofo the same player he was four years ago when he made Mexico's World Cup team? No. There are a lot of doubts about whether the 34-year-old Bautista can help Chivas USA on and off the field. Yes, he is the only big-name Mexican signing of the offseason, but he has languished recently in the Mexican second division, going scoreless in 12 games in the fall campaign for Atletico San Luis.

FABIAN ESPINDOLA/EDDIE JOHNSON (D.C. United). Johnson asked for a raise from his Seattle employers. Instead, they shipped him to D.C. United, leaving it to deal with the renegotiation of his contract to Designated Player status he wanted. After one season at New York, Espindola was allowed to enter the Re-Entry Draft, where United picked him up. They have scored 108 MLS goals between them, but early indications are they could struggle for United. It lost all three games at its Florida training camp, all three shutout defeats.

ROB FRIEND/SAMUEL (LA Galaxy). The Galaxy returns Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane up front, but it hopes to move Donovan back into midfield in 2014. With concerns about wear and tear on Keane, the Galaxy has brought in two new forwards. Friend, a 6-foot-5 Canadian, attended UC Santa Barbara but spent his entire 11-year pro career in Europe, the last seven in Germany. At 6-foot-1, the 22-year-old Samuel also has size. He comes on loan from Fluminense of Brazil’s Serie A. The track record for Brazilians at the Galaxy is good, as was Samuel's first outing: a goal in Saturday's friendly against FC Shirak.

GASTON FERNANDEZ (Portland). The 30-year-old Fernandez gives the Timbers help up front, where they relied heavily on Ryan Johnson last season. The Argentine is not a banger like Johnson, who was not re-signed, but he is elusive in and around the penalty area, as attests his nickname "La Gata" ("the Cat"). He is not a pure goalscorer -- he went scoreless in 23 games for Estudiantes last season -- but considered good enough that the Timbers paid a $500,000 transfer fee for him.

KENNY COOPER (Seattle). Cooper is something of an enigma. The Sounders are his fourth club in four years, but his 32 goals in the last three years rank sixth in MLS, and he ranks seventh all-time among active players in 2013 with 72 career goals. Cooper has been brought in to replace Eddie Johnson and will complement a frontline corps that includes Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. "Kenny is a proven goalscorer who is extremely active in the box," says Seattle coach Sigi Schmid. "At 6-foot-3, he is a big forward who creates matchup problems for opposing defenders."

JERMAIN DEFOE/DWAYNE DE ROSARIO/GILBERTO (Toronto FC). Toronto averaged exactly a goal a game over the last three years, so it was time for an upgrade. All it did was sign Defoe, the English international, to the largest salary in MLS history -- $8 million a year -- and add De Rosario, the MLS MVP only three years ago --  and Gilberto, acquired for a reported transfer fee of over $3 million from Portuguesa after finishing sixth in last season's Brazilian championship in scoring.

MLS Forwards, Incumbents:
Chicago: Mike Magee (22), *Chris Rolfe (176).
Chivas USA: Erick Torres (15), Matthew Fondy (7).
Colorado: Gabriel Torres (7).
Columbus: Federico Higuain (41), Jairo Arrieta (44).
FC Dallas: Blas Perez (45)
D.C. United: Luis Silva (13), Conor Doyle (14).
Houston: Will Bruin (87), Giles Barnes (37).
LA Galaxy: Landon Donovan (216), Robbie Keane (55).
Montreal: Marco Di Vaio (50), Andrew Wenger (47).
New England:
Dimitry Imbongo (30).
New York: Thierry Henry (92), Tim Cahill (39).
Philadelphia: Jack McInerney (91), Conor Casey (31).
Portland: Frederic Piquionne (21).
Real Salt Lake: Alvaro Saborio (97), *Robbie Findley (121).
San Jose: Chris Wondolowski (133), Alan Gordon (49).
Seattle: Obafemi Martins (20), David Estrada (40).
Sporting KC: Dom Dwyer (17).
Toronto FC:
Bright Dike (7), Andrew Wiedeman (29).
Vancouver: Kenny Miller (34), Darren Mattocks (41).
In parentheses are games played with current team.
*Two separate stints at club.

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