Commentary

Grading the MLS summer moves: Western Conference

By Ridge Mahoney

No doubt the Galaxy swung the summer’s biggest deal by landing Mexican international Giovani Dos Santos, who could cost upwards of $34 million -- $7 million transfer fee, $27 million in salary over four and a half seasons -- if he plays out his MLS contract. By also adding English midfielder Steven Gerrard, the defending champion threw down a challenge to its conference foes, and they’ve not been inactive.

The Dynamo paid up roughly the same amount to land Erick “Cubo Torres” back in January, Seattle brought in three players with European experience, and Portland bolstered its attack with another Argentine attacker.

Not until the end of the season will it be known if the busiest – and most expensive – summer window in MLS history will also be the most significant. With one-third of the regular season to be played and six playoff spots up for grabs, here’s a rundown of how the Western Conference dealt during the summer transfer window.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
LA GALAXY
(Grade A-)
In: DP-
Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal), DP-Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), David Romney (Galaxy II), Donovan Ricketts (Orlando City).
Out:
 Stefan Ishizaki (released), Jaime Penedo (contract terminated).
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Comment:
The Galaxy tops the midseason class as long as Ricketts can fill the bill as he did with the Galaxy in 2011, when he led the team to the first of its three titles in four seasons. Dos Santos scored on his MLS debut after netting a few days earlier in a friendly, and Gerrard is every bit the class player of his reputation. The Englishman looks fit and energetic and more than capable of powering through the hot months of August and September. And he’s certainly proven in cooler weather as well.

HOUSTON (Grade: A-)
In:
 DP-Erick “Cubo” Torres (Guadalajara), Rasheed Olabiyi (Enyimba), Sheanon Williams (Philadelphia).
Out:
Corey Ashe (Orlando City).
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Comment:
Torres’ arrival gives head coach Owen Coyle a selection dilemma, but considering how lackluster the Dynamo looked a month or two ago, a glut of attacking talent is a good thing. Torres, leading scorer Will Bruin (nine goals) and attacker Giles Barnes (six goals) all have their special characteristics and teams will be stretched to contain them once they get on the same page. But they are not alone. Ricardo Clark is having a career year in scoring (five goals), Brad Davis still serves up some of the most dangerous crosses in the league, and ex-Union back Williams has already picked up his first assist. Coyle’s first few months in MLS were a bit rocky but the team’s identity is entrenched.

SEATTLE (Grade: B+)
In:
Erik Friberg (Esbjerg), Andres Ivanschitz (Rapid Vienna), Nelson Valdez (Eintracht Frankfurt).
Out:
None.
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Comment: The Sounders picked up an impressive array of talent for nothing -- all three players were acquired as free agents -- and management deserves credit for looking ahead: the groundwork for those moves preceded a terrible slump that has dragged Seattle near the cutoff line of the six playoff teams. Friberg adds flank play and his crossing should help spark an offense that has looked lethargic; Ivanschitz and Valdez are also proven attackers. There’s enough season left for head coach Sigi Schmid to get these new elements clicking as the team waits for Obafemi Martins to heal and Clint Dempsey to return from an injury of his own. Otherwise, the biggest shakeup since the team joined MLS in 2009 is looming.

PORTLAND (Grade: B)
In: DP-Lucas Melano (Lanus), Michael Seaton (D.C. United).
Out:
Schillo Tshuma (waived), Gaston Fernandez (contract terminated).
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Comment:
Head coach Caleb Porter has thrown Melano right into the mix. He’s made three substitute appearances -- average length: 24 minutes -- and that’s what you do when you pay a reported transfer fee of $5 million and use Targeted Allocation Money to buy down the DP contract of the team’s top scorer, Fanendo Adi (10 goals). This is a huge gamble by the Timbers, but probably one they must take since Diego Valeri’s penchant for injury necessitates creative alternatives. Fernandez played some very good games, and filled in capably a few times when Valeri was injured, but he’d been used mainly as a backup prior to Melano’s arrival and was destined for more bench time, so by mutual consent he has moved on.

SAN JOSE (Grade: B)
In:
Quincy Amarikwa (Chicago), Marc Pelosi (Liverpool), Matheus Silva (waivers), Anibal Godoy (Honved FC).
Out:
Khari Stephenson (San Antonio Scorpions/loan).
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Comment:
Amarikwa, who started his pro career with the Quakes in 2009, has scored all four of San Jose’s goals since his arrival. Godoy might be seem to be a strange addition, since San Jose already has U.S. U-23 Fatai Alashe to play the holding midfield role, but Alashe is prone to rookie mistakes and was sent off for a second caution in a 2-1 loss at Houston Saturday. The Quakes’ current skid – six games without a win, five of them defeats – is a function of costly breakdowns at critical moments and aside from Amarikwa, the attackers haven’t produced the goals to make up the difference. The Quakes have been blanked in three of those six games and since returning to the team from Gold Cup duty, Chris Wondolowski has also been shut out in his three games.

FC DALLAS (Grade: B)
In:
Ezekiel Cirigliano (River Plate/loan), Bakary Soumare (Montreal).
Out: Kyle Bekker (Montreal).
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Comment: A very quiet transfer window for FCD and with good reason. Three seasons into the tenure of head coach Oscar Pareja, FCD is among the league’s elite teams in both performance and production. The MLS odyssey of Bekker -- a Toronto product drafted by TFC in the 2013 SuperDraft first round -- continues. He had seemingly found the right team, one that prizes skill and possession and flair, but he played just eight games (two starts) and will start over again back home north of the border.

SPORTING KC (Grade: B)
In:
Jordi Quintilla (AC Ajaccio), Amobi Okugo (Orlando City), Herculez Gomez (Club Tijuana).
Out:
Servando Carrasco (Orlando City), Herculez Gomez (Toronto FC).
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Comment: Like former SKC midfielder Uri Rosell, Quintilla is a product of the Barcelona academy program. He’s 21, so his influence may not be immediate, and it will be interesting to see how head coach Peter Vermes uses him on a team that is sailing along with one of the best records in MLS. Okugi played centrally in the back line and in midfield when he broke into MLS with Philly in 2010; he’s 24 yet has already played 133 regular-season games and can provide experienced cover in the middle of the field.

VANCOUVER (Grade: B)
In:
Jordan Smith (Saprissa/loan).
Out:
Erik Hurtado (Mjondalen IF/loan).
-----------------------------------------
Comment:
It wasn’t so long ago (2012) that a significant midseason overhaul criticized as unnecessary by many observers so disrupted the Whitecaps they won only one of their last 10 games, tumbled into fifth place and lost a wild-card game to the Galaxy. Last year, the Caps made just two midseason moves but they were significant; defender Kendall Waston was signed as a free agent, and Nigel Reo-Coker was traded to Chivas USA in exchange for ex-Sounder Mauro Rosales. This time around, Vancouver’s successful season preempted any drastic moves. Smith, 24, is a former teammate of Waston at Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa and has been signed to a loan deal. He’s a solid defender who can also get up into the attack, as is Steven Beitashour, but a heavy slate of league and international matches necessitates as much backup as possible. Smith and Waston know each other well, which should streamline Smith’s adjustment to a new team and a new league.

COLORADO (Grade: D).
In:
Sean St. Ledger (Orlando City), Maynor Figueroa (Hull City).
Out: 
Shane O'Neill (Apollon Limassol), Dominique Badji (Charlotte Independence/loan), Ben Newman (waived).
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Comment: One of the league’s best defensive teams has added two defenders. Okay. Figueroa brings World Cup and Premier League experience, and St. Ledger left Orlando because of disciplinary reasons, not lack of ability. Management must assume there’s enough firepower to grind out wins by shutting out the opposition and getting one goal a game, which it is barely averaging this season. Or its shoring up the back line for next season, when offensive changes will be wrought.

REAL SALT LAKE (Grade: D)
In:
Luis Silva (D.C. United).
Out:
Alvaro Saborio (D.C. United).
-----------------------------------------
Comment:
RSL’s pressing issues of sporadic midfield play and defensive breakdowns weren’t addressed and the team’s all-time leading scorer was jettisoned for a younger and promising -- but often-injured -- attacker. Many significant departures have preceded that of Saborio and though there’s time to turn things around, the shelves are looking rather bare of means by which to re-stock the lineup.

2 comments about "Grading the MLS summer moves: Western Conference ".
  1. Raymond Weigand, August 12, 2015 at 12:18 p.m.

    You have Herculez Gomez arriving and departing from KC ?

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