MLS Week 19 Power Rankings: Trade season gets off to fast start
Sebastien Le Toux likely to be more productive, vesatile than Dane Richards
Justin Braun should rediscover his scoring prowess in move to Real Salt Lake
David Beckham put on scoring display after snub from Olympic soccer play
Trade winds blew fiercely, Beckhamania hit Portland and a major transfer hit a potential snag in a wild Week 19 in MLS:
1. Breaking down the trades
The opening of the summer transfer window has coincided with some big international signings, but it also sparked the trade juices in front offices across the league. Five trades were made in the past week that included some of the league's more notable attacking players changing addresses. Here's a breakdown of the deals and what they mean for each team:
New York sends Dane Richards, allocation money to Vancouver for Sebastien LeToux
This is a blockbuster that seemingly came out of nowhere. With both players out of contract at the end of the season, and Hans Backe of a mind that Dane Richards is Europe-bound next season, the Red Bulls essentially swapped wingers and sent allocation money to Vancouver for the greater likelihood of resigning Le Toux. The Red Bulls will miss Richards' pace but will embrace Le Toux's work rate, productivity and versatility. The move already paid off as Le Toux scored in his debut Sunday, which matched Richards' goal output this season in just 24 minutes. The move will also crawl under the skin of Philadelphia Union fans, who will see their former beloved star first-hand this coming weekend when the two regional rivals do battle.
For Vancouver to deal away Le Toux while receiving allocation money in addition to selling playmaker Davide Chiumiento to FC Zurich gives the club financial flexibility to add some major pieces (former Rangers striker Kenny Miller is on his way), but are the Whitecaps over-thinking things? Chiumiento had been the team's most reliable creator since its entry into MLS (14 assists in less than two seasons), and Le Toux's track record of production speaks for itself. Instead of working with an already-capable unit that had underachieved through four months, the Whitecaps are taking a major risk by stirring things up in a big way.
Toronto FC sends Julian de Guzman to Dallas for Andrew Wiedeman
For the De Guzman Era to end in Toronto is not all that surprising, and this move figures to be one that not only signals the end of an overall failure but also acts as a cash dump for TFC and should lead to more defensive reinforcements. Torsten Frings and Terry Dunfield have proved to be capable of holding down central midfield, and De Guzman had lost his place in the starting lineup of late as well. The fact that TFC found a trade partner in MLS is probably the most shocking development of all.
If what TFC coach Paul Mariner said last week was accurate and Dallas is assuming the majority of the cap hit for De Guzman's sizeable salary (in the $1.9 million range), then FCD is taking a massive gamble on an experienced player who just has never really found his footing in MLS despite his lofty resume. As for Wiedeman, the one-time Generation adidas forward signing is a complementary piece for the Reds and enters with low expectations -- which gives him an advantage over De Guzman from the start.
Real Salt Lake sends a conditional 2014 draft pick to Montreal for Justin Braun
Unhappy and unused in Montreal, Braun was sent to his hometown team for next to nothing. For a team that will be competing in CONCACAF Champions League play and needs reliable depth, Real Salt Lake got an absolute steal in Braun, who has had his spurts of productivity in MLS (17 goals in the last two seasons) and just two Januaries ago was a U.S. men's national team candidate. The change of scenery and newfound support system should be ideal for Braun, who before the season considered himself a double-digit-caliber goal scorer and is in need of a confidence boost. This has all the makings of another RSL steal.
Los Angeles sends Bill Gaudette to New York for a 2014 supplemental draft pick
With Ryan Meara's hip injury forcing the rookie out of the lineup for the first time and New York lacking a third goalkeeper on the roster, the move certainly made sense for the Red Bulls. It just goes to show how little faith the club has in backup Jeremy Vuolo, who has been with the club since the preseason but hasn't played a minute and lost out to Gaudette, who showed up a day before stepping into the lineup. The Galaxy replaced Gaudette by signing former UCLA starter and league pool goalkeeper Brian Rowe as their third netminder, and now both high-spending, big-market clubs appear set at the position.
Montreal sends Tyson Wahl to Colorado for a 2014 international roster spot
The signing of Italian veteran Alessandro Nesta and young Swiss left back Dennis Iapichino signaled the end of Wahl's time in Montreal. He will provide tested depth behind Colorado center backs Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne and left back Luis Zapata, but will not be a starter. It's a worthwhile gamble for the Rapids and signifies another swing-and-miss on expansion draft day for the Impact, who parted with precious allocation money to pry him from Seattle.
2. Beckham puts forth Olympic-worthy display
The only way David Beckham could have topped his night Saturday was by following up one of his highlight-reel goals with a medal-podium-themed celebration.
Olympic soccer fans will be hard-pressed to find a better pair of goals than what Beckham turned in during the Los Angeles Galaxy's wild 5-3 triumph in Portland Saturday night. Showing Team Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce what he passed up by snubbing Beckham for one of his over-age selections, the original Designated Player turned in one of his finest performances in six MLS seasons. With his curler from distance and trademark free kick, Beckham tied his MLS single-season best for goals with five (three of which have come against the Timbers), while also sending a reminder that his ability to strike a ball from long range is still very much in a class of its own. In hindsight, it was a blessing for everyone (that is, everyone outside of Portland) that the MLS Disciplinary Committee took it relatively easy on Beckham and only levied a one-game suspension instead of matching Brek Shea's three-game ban for kicking a ball at a referee. Had a longer ban -- one that many, including myself, thought was necessary in the interest of consistency -- been issued, fans would have been robbed of a landmark night in Beckham's MLS career.
As for the Olympics, England has a habit of getting in its own way when it comes to international competitions, and Pearce electing to leave Beckham behind is the latest instance. If Beckham had gone to the Olympics and under-performed, nobody would have second-guessed Pearce's call to bring him. Now, if Team GB flounders, or even worse, lacks dead-ball proficiency, Pearce will have to answer to his mounds of critics for turning his back on the UK's Olympic ambassador.
3. Amid transfer saga, Cameron plays
Geoff Cameron may very well end up at Premier League club Stoke City, but his presence in the Houston Dynamo starting lineup Sunday night signified that the highly anticipated move is far from a done deal. Why else would Houston risk a lucrative windfall by putting their national team star in harm's way?
The discussions have reportedly come down to MLS countering Stoke City's transfer fee offer with a greater demand, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Dynamo have been in favor of the move publicly, and Cameron has not hidden his desire for it to be completed, so for the single-entity league to potentially prevent it from happening by getting a bit greedy would be an unfortunate development for all parties.
Credit Cameron, who had sat out the last couple of matches with a hamstring strain, for giving a full effort Sunday and having one of his most influential matches of the season while playing in central midfield. It's a testament to his professionalism and character and a positive advertisement for any overseas scout who saw Houston's drubbing of 10-man D.C. United. And if that was his last act as a member of the Dynamo, he leaves on a high note.
4. All-Star Snubs
The MLS All-Star matchday roster was released Sunday, with D.C. United and MLS All-Star coach Ben Olsen adding five players and MLS commissioner Don Garber selecting two to add to the fan-voted First XI, all of whom made Olsen's cut. As only 18 players get the gameday call, there are bound to be those who are deemed snubs. Keeping in mind that 14 more players will earn All-Star distinction per the collective bargaining agreement (for contract bonus purposes), here are the biggest snubs at each position:
Goalkeeper: Andy Gruenebaum, Columbus Crew -- Stepping in for the injured William Hesmer and playing in back of an ever-shifting lineup of defenders, Gruenebaum has come up time and again with stellar showings. It's hard to argue against the fan-voted Jimmy Nielsen or Dan Kennedy, and with only 18 players making the final cut no more than two goalkeepers were ever going to appear on the roster. That said, Gruenebaum has performed at an All-Star level for the Crew.
Defense: Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake -- The most dominant defender in the league, Olave's combination of size, speed and strength is unmatched. He has missed four games with injury and suspension and did not have his finest showing against San Jose Saturday night, but the 31-year-old Olave -- an All-Star the last two years -- is still the most stable anchor in MLS. Then again, considering that he got hurt in last season's All-Star Game against Manchester United, perhaps his snub is a blessing in disguise for RSL.
Midfield: Marvin Chavez, San Jose Earthquakes -- Perhaps the best in-MLS acquisition of the offseason, Chavez's added dynamic on the wing has made all the difference for the Earthquakes this season. His eight assists are tied for second-most in the league, and it's a shame the right winger won't get to test his pace against Chelsea left back Ashley Cole come July 25.
Forward: Kenny Cooper, New York Red Bulls -- Cooper has tailed off considerably and has not scored in his last six matches, but his 11-goal output came at a time when New York sorely needed him and Thierry Henry to do the heavy lifting, and the club would be in far worse shape without his work. His draft-day acquisition was scrutinized heavily, but Cooper justified the price New York paid during the first half of the season.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Milos Kocic (Toronto FC)
Defenders: Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Victor Bernardez (San Jose Earthquakes), Adam Johansson (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Luis Silva (Toronto FC), Torsten Frings (Toronto FC)
Forwards: Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy)
|Week 19 MLS Power Rankings|