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MLS's best late player signings
by Ridge Mahoney, September 17th, 2010 2:22AM
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[MLS] With the passing of the MLS trade deadline/roster freeze date on Wednesday, the deals are done and the teams are what they are with six weeks of play remaining. Many teams simply closed up shop by filling out their rosters with an academy player, and there weren't many major moves pushed through at the last moment. Yet a few players changed teams as components of either short-term needs, or long-term projects, or in at least one case, a bit of both.

These signings come after a fair bit of activity during the summer transfer window that brought Geovanni to San Jose, Andres Mendoza to Columbus, and two rather big names to New York.

Here's how the latest developments rank in importance:

1. NEW YORK. The Red Bulls instead snatched up a wonderfully skilled product of college soccer whose impact has yet to measure up with his ability. With the reorganized, cohesive and skillful Red Bulls, midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy may find the niche that has eluded him with Real Salt Lake and Colorado. Though a much different player, he also steps into a roster that will lose Seth Stammler to retirement. But does Joel Lindpere return to the middle with Ballouchy taking over on the left, or will the newcomer play centrally with DP Rafa Marquez behind him? And where does this put the robustly impressive rookie Tony Tchani?

* On Thursday, Ballouchy played much of the time in the middle against FC Dallas, and relayed a ball to Thierry Henry to start the sequence that produced a Lindpere cross and an equalizing own goal by Marvin Chavez in a 2-2 tie.

* Also brought on board is 34-year-old defender Carey Talley in a trade with doomed D.C. United. He could just be kept around until the end of the season for cover in the middle, but with Mike Petke retiring and those rumors of Jimmy Conrad headed to New York having died down, who knows? He’s also a former teammate of assistant coach Richie Williams.

2. COLORADO. In exchange for Ballouchy, the Rapids picked up Macoumba Kandji, who had played out wide – on both sides – and up top during his three seasons in the league.

Shoved down the depth chart at forward with the arrival of Thierry Henry, experiments with Kandji him as a wide mid frustrated both him and his teammates despite his size, power and pace. The forward ranks in Colorado are also crowded by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings – another tall, fast attacker occasionally stationed wide in midfield – but with Cummings a possible offseason departure to lands unknown (Mexico?), Kandji could be a long-term solution.

The knee injuries and other physical problems that have plagued Colin Clark for much of his career in Colorado are now among the many concerns in Houston, which sent veteran Brian Mullan and a fourth round pick in 2013 north in exchange for Clark and allocation money (reported by one outlet as $100,000). Clark, 26, is recovering from a torn ACL, Mullan, 32, spent part of his early career in Colorado, and the winner of several MLS Cups will add leadership and experience. His legs and lungs will also welcome an escape from the stifling Houston heat.

3. D.C. UNITED. The departure of Talley portends a clear-out and the team also added four players at the midnight hour. Spanish winger Carlos Varela, 33, arrives from Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax and will get some time in the remaining games to earn a roster spot for next year. Brazilian teenager Junior Carreiro, 19, is the younger brother of midfielder Fred and earned a contract after playing for United in friendlies against Portsmouth and El Salvador. Whatever oomph they can bring to United’s attack will be welcome, as would more effectiveness from a previous acquisition, forward Pablo Hernandez.

4. HOUSTON. One would suspect Mullan might be the first of several veterans to depart as Houston (nee San Jose) ponders life without the playoffs for the first time since the 2001 Quakes won the title.

A healthy Colin Clark would aid the cause as the Dynamo sets out to get younger and better. Defender Chad Barrett retired at the start of the season to become an assistant coach, and there’s also assistant Steve Ralston to help Dominic Kinnear turn things around. Danny Cruz has played more than two dozen league and international games in his first two pro seasons. A second academy signing of Francisco Navas Cobos, announced in March, netted him some time in friendlies and U.S. Open Cup games.

5. CHICAGO. Serbian midfielder Bratislav Ristic, who has trained periodically with the Fire this season, has signed a contract, the team announced earlier this week. At age 30, he comes to MLS after playing in Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Bulgaria and his native country. The Fire midfield is being revamped with the trade of Justin Mapp to Philadelphia and the return to fitness of John Thorrington.



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