Here's a look at how clubs have used different
mechanisms to positive effect, beginning with domestic moves. (Tomorrow: international moves.)
TRADE (Chris Pontius, Philadelphia). The Union used both forms of MLS funny money -- general and targeted allocation money -- to acquire Pontius from D.C. United, where he spent seven years. He has already scored four goals for the Union, second in the Eastern Conference after eight games. That's more than he scored in each of his last three seasons at D.C. His partnership with C.J. Sapong, who has also scored four goals, gives Union hope that it will be in the Eastern Conference race for the long haul and has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs for the first time since its second season, in 2011.
MLS FREE AGENCY (Drew Moor, Toronto FC). MLS's first free-agent class -- players ages 28 or older with eight or more years of service in the league -- consisted of 26 players. Ten players moved to new clubs, but only a few are getting significant playing time. Moor gets the nod over the LA Galaxy's Mike Magee (three goals and three assists) for turning around a defense that has allowed only seven goals in eight games, the fewest in MLS.
SIGN-AND-TRADE (Jermaine Jones, Colorado). A hybrid between a trade and free agency is the situation involving a player who has played out his contract but is not eligible for MLS's new free-agency mechanism or the Re-Entry Draft. Since New England made him an offer -- a joke is how he termed it -- another club needed to make a deal with the Revs if it wanted to acquire Jones. He finally landed with the Colorado Rapids in a sign-and-trade deal -- the Revs received Colorado’s natural first-round draft pick in the 2017 SuperDraft and general allocation money. Since finishing up his six-game suspension that was carried over from the 2015 playoffs, Jones has two goals and two assists in three games as the Rapids are not only winning -- they have the best record in MLS -- but also scoring -- seven goals in his first three games.
WAIVERS (Michael Ariza, Colorado). Waivers are MLS's way of getting rid of players teams no longer want. They must first give other teams a chance to acquire them before they are free to go their own way. Ariza was the only one of 30 players in the 2015 draft who was picked. All he's done is start all nine games for the first-place Rapids.
RE-ENTRY DRAFT (Maximiliano Urruti, FC Dallas). The Re-Entry Draft, introduced in 2010, was MLS's first stab at loosening the control a team had over players whose contract expired or option wasn't picked up. A player could put his name in the Re-Entry Draft for other teams to select him. Urruti, just one of four players taken in this year's two-stage draft, leads FC Dallas in minutes played through 10 games and is second in goals with three and assists with two.
HOMEGROWN SIGNING (Jordan Morris, Seattle). Few Homegrown signings play in their first year, but there are few Homegrown signings like Morris, who already has nine caps for the USA. It took six games before Morris scored his first MLS goal for the Sounders, but he has now scored in their last three games.
SUPERDRAFT PICK (Keegan Rosenberry, Philadelphia). The Union claimed Homegrown rights to Rosenberry out of Georgetown, but MLS turned down that claim. It used the third pick in the SuperDraft to select him, and he's played every minute of every game at right back. No other MLS rookie has played more minutes.
USL PRIORITY PLAYER (Daniel Steres, LA Galaxy). With more MLS clubs starting their own USL clubs, MLS had to come up with rules for how teams could sign USL players. Clubs have priority for up to three players from their USL affiliate. In its third season, LA Galaxy II is paying big dividends with Steres, who has formed an effective partnership at center back with new Belgian signing Jelle Van Damme. The Galaxy loves his consistency. As a bonus, he scored in the season opener against D.C. United.