Flip or flop? These are the 5 biggest renovation projects of the MLS offseason
5. New England Revolution
New England isn’t as much of a rebuild as it is a reset. It might have far more talent than Colorado, which faces a massive project and didn’t make this list, but reshaping a team with talent can sometimes be tougher than building from scratch. This Revs group has been together for several seasons and simply hasn’t gotten it done. It’s been one of the most underachieving teams in MLS. It also has a roster that is one of the most redundant.
The Revs are loaded with similar players in the attacking third, and instead of taking those strengths and flipping some of them for assets that will make the team better, New England has stayed put and tried to find ways to fit all of them on the field at the same time. That approach hasn’t worked. Now Friedel should be directing his team to find the best trade offers for their attacking bunch.
The one player who should probably be staying no matter what: Juan Agudelo, who may finally have a chance to prove himself as a starting No. 9 in MLS. Everyone else should be available for the right offer.
If New England makes the right moves and strengthens its defensive midfield, fullback, goalkeeper and center back spots, it has every chance to be back in the playoff hunt. But if keeps whole a group that includes Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara, Diego Fagundez and Krisztian Nemeth … well, then a coaching change might not be the only change New England needed to make.
Friedel has a chance to build this team in his image. How will he do it?
4. D.C. United
Much of the work has already started in D.C.
United made some major steps during the summer window, restructuring as a younger team. The moves showed had an immediate payoff: Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse and Zoltan Stieber all showed promise, as did homegrown rookie Ian Harkes. Those moves are just the first steps, however.
D.C. has work left to do; most importantly, finding a high-end striker that can be counted on for 15 to 20 goals a season. That’s going to cost money, and it’s going to take an efficient offseason of international scouting. United likely will also need to add a center back, goalkeeper competition for Steve Clark and potentially another defensive midfielder.
These are not easy positions to check off the to-do list. With a schedule that is going to present a massive challenge of a potentially months-long road trip, United can’t afford to whiff on the higher-end signings. If Designated Player and TAM money is going to be spent at striker, defensive midfield or center back, they need to hit on those positions.
With a new stadium opening this season, a new era is beginning in D.C. The club needs to get this team right and able to compete right away so it can capitalize on the energy around the new home.
3. Minnesota United
It was a disastrous start to the season for Minnesota, which missed on far too many international signings and suffered greatly for it in the first month of the season. Course corrections and a standout coaching job from Adrian Heath helped pull Minnesota out of those early depths and into ninth place in the West. The Loons’ 10 wins were shocking number, considering what Minnesota looked like in those first few weeks.
Expansion seasons are about how you fix what you got wrong. If you get 50 percent of your signings right, you’re on the right path in a three-year plan. Minnesota might have approached the 33-percent mark by the end of the season after a few trades and late signings.
The “got-it-rights” – Ibson, Marc Burch, Francisco Calvo, Sam Cronin, Abu Danladi, Ethan Finlay, Bobby Shuttleworth, Brent Kallman, Kevin Molino (despite a down season), Christian Ramirez and Jerome Thiesson – now give Minnesota United a base off of which to build. Some jury-still-outs – Michael Boxall, Jose Leiton, Collin Martin and Sam Nicholson – could bring the roster closer to halfway there.
How much cash the team has left to make deals is a big factor, as is the fact that it simply can’t afford to whiff on TAM signings, like Vadim Demidov, going forward. Missing on signings happens. In MLS, missing on “big” signings can be crippling.
Minnesota needs to start from the back and add upgrades at both center back spots, as well as depth at both fullback positions. They also must prioritize a starting defensive midfielder that can pair with or battle Cronin for a starting job and cover plenty of ground. Is a 32-year-old Ozzie Alonso worthy of being Minnesota’s first DP? A playmaker is on the to-do list, but the club might have to see if Molino can improve from his worst MLS season and play that role for at least one more season.
Depth will be crucial in this offseason, and Minnesota needs to be very active in the MLS market adding domestic players that don’t take up international spots and give them known quality on the bench. Guys like Tyrone Mears, David Horst, Arturo Alvarez, Andrew Jacobson and other veterans who may be available should be high on the wish list to pair with any other international signings or moves Minnesota makes.
The work to get back on track started during the expansion season, but there is plenty left to do.