Analysis

MLS matchmaker: Where we want these nine free agents to play in 2018

MLS free agency is weird. Why not have a little fun with it? 

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DaMarcus Beasley – Los Angeles FC

The 35-year-old left back says the Houston Dynamo is giving him time to determine his future moving forward, and has suggested in interviews that even he hasn’t decided where he’ll wind up in 2018.

With that in mind, the perfect move for Beasley is to reunite in LA with his former U.S. men’s national team and Chicago Fire boss, Bob Bradley, who took Beasley to the 2010 World Cup. LAFC will have a lot of youth heading into its first MLS season, and while the aging Beasley may not have a full slate of games in his legs, he would serve as a perfect mentor to young players like Latif Blessing, Rodrigo Pacheco and Diego Rossi, who are all 21 or younger.

Steven Beitashour – San Jose Earthquakes

With a title under his belt, Beitashour has very little to prove to MLS, and a return to San Jose would mean going back to his hometown, where he was a ball boy for the Quakes in 1996.

But Beitashour moving back to San Jose, where he played from 2010 to 2013, wouldn’t just be a feel-good move. The Earthquakes declined the options of several defenders in November, and head into the offseason with Nick Lima as their only rostered fullback. Not only could Beitashour be helpful in the 23-year-old’s development, but he would offer a steady hand at right back for a San Jose team trying to return to winning ways.

A.J. DeLaGarza – LA Galaxy

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DeLaGarza is one of the most likeable figures in all of MLS, and became a well-regarded figure with the Galaxy between 2009 and 2016, when he was traded to the Houston Dynamo for allocation money. The decision never sat well with Galaxy fans, who watched a revolving door of defenders allow 67 goals in 2017, just three fewer than expansion side Minnesota United.

Bringing DeLaGarza back to LA would bring back a fan favorite and add a seasoned defender to a roster that was sorely missing one in 2017.

Brad Evans – Portland Timbers

It seems unlikely that Evans – who is still recovering from a herniated disc – will be back with the Sounders in 2018. What better story would there be than for the the former Sounders captain to move to their bitter Cascadia rivals?

Seeing Evans as part of a Timbers gameday squad at Century Link Field would be a fascinating moment for the rivalry, and new Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese will likely take all the veteran MLS leadership he can get in his first season.

Alan Gordon – Columbus Crew SC

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Good look in gold? (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Columbus Crew SC is not as cross-happy as it once was when Kei Kamara was jumping through the roof of MLS stadiums in 2015, but with Alan Gordon in the fray, the battering-ram style would return to Columbus.

Not only would Gordon and all of his antics be a nice change of pace for the typically conservative Gregg Berhalter squads, but the physical Gordon could provide the “plan B” for Berhalter’s free-flowing style that fellow tall striker Adam Jahn couldn’t provide in 2017.

Andrew Jacobson – Minnesota United

Jacobson has been a solid MLS midfielder for almost a decade, but has rarely been handed the reins to a midfield.

In Minnesota, for a team still building its core, Jacobson could be an important, solid piece on a team in dire need of veteran MLS quality. Jacobson may be best known for scoring ridiculous golazos every now and then, but it’s his ability to pace a midfield that would be most useful to Minnesota.

Javier Morales – Real Salt Lake

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It was always a little weird to see Javi Mo playing for an MLS team other than RSL, and a farewell tour at his longtime MLS home would feel right.

Morales, who spent 10 years in Salt Lake City, said “this goodbye hurts” in a farewell message on Twitter as he departed in 2016. After an unsuccessful season with FC Dallas in 2017, a 2018 swan song in RSL might help Morales make peace with the team before his retirement. And at 37 (38 in January), he would likely be doing more teaching of Albert Rusnak than contributing on the field.

Lamar Neagle – Toronto FC

So far, Neagle has largely been unable to figure out exactly what his position is, and his fourth stint with the Sounders didn’t make things much better for the 30-year-old attacker.

Who better to get the best of Neagle than a coach who rarely has rigidly defined positions? A trip to Toronto FC with Greg Vanney might finally allow Neagle to flourish the way other veterans have come into their own in Toronto. Vanney may be able to use Neagle as a nominal striker or a winger on occasion, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he turned him into a wingback or a midfielder out of nowhere.

The move might also give Neagle the chance to win the first MLS Cup of his career.

Chris Pontius – Atlanta United

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

After 215 regular-season MLS games, Pontius has earned the right to be a title-chaser in his 10th MLS season.

Pontius has been a familiar name in American soccer for a decade, but has never been on a championship-contending team. With Atlanta United’s free-flowing style, the winger/forward would need to find his spot in the rotation, but Atlanta’s dynamic attack would be an upgrade from the Union’s conservative roster.

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