1. There's no Nicolas Lodeiro in the 2017 summer class. The Seattle Sounders' fortunes turned around last summer for a variety of reasons, but a big one was the signing of Nicolas Lodeiro a day after they fired Sigi Schmid. The Uruguayan went on to win the Newcomer of the Year award and lead the Sounders to the MLS Cup title. Will any summer signing impact a team like Lodeiro did in 2017? None of the current title contenders came away with a big-name signing. The Sounders' deal for Paraguayan Derlis Gonzalez, a Lodeiro-like impact player, never materialized.
Eastern Conference bubble teams who got attacking help:
6-Columbus: Pedro Santos, Portuguese winger who replaces Ethan Finlay.
7-Orlando City: Yoshimar Yotun, Peruvian winger for which DP money was paid.
2. Big moves are part of re-building programs. The Sounders came back from 10 points below the red zone with 14 games left a year ago to make the playoffs, so anything is possible. Benny Olsen at D.C. United and Schmid at the LA Galaxy won't admit 2017 is a lost cause, but their respective teams are in deep holes -- D.C. United 13 points under the red line with 11 games to play, the Galaxy nine points out of the playoffs with 12 games to play. They signed DPs, though, who could be cornerstones of their teams for a long time -- Paul Arriola at D.C. United and Jonathan dos Santos, reunited with his brother, Gio, at the Galaxy.
Paul Arriola, photo courtesy of D.C. United
3. Teams are doing their major spending in the winter. Tons of TAM was spent during the winter on player signings. Much less in the summer. What that also means is less money was spent on transfer fees -- the acquisition cost of a player has to factored into his budget charge. Most transfers involved players who were free at the end of June, making them affordable. Despite the added financial incentives pumped into the system -- TAM -- MLS clubs still have rather strict spending limits.
4. Teams go for defensive help, both from within and outside MLS. Boring? Depth in the back is always an issue for MLS clubs. Some defenders acquired in trades will offer experience (Bobby Boswell at Atlanta United), others will provide cover (Christian Dean at Chicago Fire). Several imports, though, could fill big holes.
Western Conference teams who got defensive help:
4-Seattle: Kelvin Leerdam. Three shutout wins with Dutchman at RB.
5-Portland: Larrys Mabiala. Some shaky moments at CB, but Timbers have stabilized.
6-San Jose: Francois Affolter. Gives Quakes four CBs for three spots in new three-man backline.
8-Real Salt Lake: Marcelo Silva. Also unbeaten (three ties) since Uruguayan CB arrived.
Kelvin Leerdam, photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC
5. Cost of trading in allocation money has gone up. Everyone was shocked
when Chicago paid $400,000 in allocation money (GAM spread over two seasons) for Dax McCarty in January. That deal proved to be a bargain for the Fire.
Largest Summer Allocation Payments (GAM and/or TAM):
$1.6M Dom Dwyer (Orlando City to Sporting KC)
$500M Paul Arriola (D.C. United to LA Galaxy for rights)
$425M Ethan Finlay (Minnesota United to Columbus)
$400M Krisztian Nemeth (New England to Columbus for rights)