2010 has come to a close in Major League Soccer with the landscape quite a bit different than when Colorado Rapids won MLS Cup in mid-November. Two new clubs have been added, bringing the league total to eighteen, an expansion draft has taken place as well as a re-entry draft for veterans out of contract, and the home openers have been announced for every club in the league.
The biggest move of the offseason, to this point, aside from the addition of Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, is the movement of Juan Pablo Ángel from Red Bull New York to LA Galaxy in the re-entry draft. While the Galaxy continue to try to bring Ronaldinho to the Home Depot Center, Los Angeles bring in the 35-year old Colombian for one final run in MLS. The combination of Ángel, Landon Donovan (who is not going on loan to Everton or anywhere else this winter) and David Beckham (who again appears to be doing everything he can to go out on loan – perhaps to Tottenham?) clearly gives LA the best attacking line in the league, a frightful proposition for the rest of MLS, considering LA were Supporters Shield champions (regular season league winners) in 2010.
Elsewhere, Real Salt Lake continue to build their club with several key acquisitions including Arturo Alvarez, received from Portland Timbers in exchange for a draft pick after the expansion draft. DC United appear to be completely rebuilding after a disastrous 2010, re-hiring caretaker manager and former star player Ben Olsen as full-time boss, trading away keeper Troy Perkins (again, Portland are involved, sending Steve Cronin to DC) and picking up former FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarthy in an expansion draft day trade (would it be surprising if Portland were involved? indeed they drafted McCarthy and traded him for young defender Rodney Wallace).
As for the two expansion sides, roster growth has been slow and steady for both Portland and Vancouver. The former have been extremely active (see above) through a series of trades, stockpiling future draft picks and allocation money with rumors of a big-time South American midfielder coming in the January transfer window. They Timbers also drafted Jonathan Bornstein, the American international defender who is currently at Tigres in the Primera División de México and American international striker Robbie Findley, now at Nottingham Forest. Vancouver have been similarly inclined to bring in top level American talent, especially in their signing of American international defender Jay DeMerit, formerly of Watford. DeMerit’s signing has been the biggest splash for either side at this point as the Whitecaps have been mostly content to bring in players from their prestigious residency program (read, youth academies). Rumors persist at Vancouver that they would like to sign Robbie Keane in the January transfer window as the club have connections to Spurs through CEO Paul Barber, a former Tottenham executive.
Both clubs have developed major sponsorship deals, the biggest for Vancouver coming through EA Sports, who put together this fun creation of Whitecaps legend and current front office member Bob Lenarduzzi scoring against the likes of Colorado, Seattle and Toronto. Portland, for their part, will have Alaska Airlines as shirt sponsor and rolled out their inaugural kits at a hangar at the Portland airport, complete with an Alaska Air jet emblazoned with the Timbers’ logo and a scarf.
In all it’s been an engrossing offseason already in MLS and the January transfer window hasn’t even opened. More than a few clubs are expected to sign international players ahead of training camps, which are due to begin in late January. Other rumors link the likes of Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka to summer moves Stateside, though the likelihood of those transfers are quite low.