The MLS offseason is still churning as teams finalize their last transactions and continue to shape the excess of their rosters in advance of opening day, but training camp has opened and the major business has been done.
There’s no question that MLS improved in the last two months. Even with the loss of stars like Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Jermain Defoe, DeAndre Yedlin, and perhaps the MLS 3.0 era, more and more talent and money has flooded in.
MLS is now the place to be for US internationals, its added European stars, two glamorous franchises, and another soccer specific stadium in San Jose.
The controversy that has gone along with this season hasn’t been bad for the league either. Sagas with the CBA, Frank Lampard, Toronto FC, and the New York Red Bulls have chewed up headlines and sent oxygen flowing to MLS in the offseason months when even its biggest fans could tune out its existence.
On the field, the league looks wide open this year. With LA needed to retool and integrate Steven Gerrard mid-season, the defending champions are beatable. Here’s a review of each team’s offseason signings.
LA Galaxy – B
Any offseason that adds Steven Gerrard is successful. LA couldn’t have done much better with the DP spot vacated by Landon Donovan. Gerrard’s force of personality and will to star – he clearly would rather be a key player with the Galaxy than a bit-part player at Liverpool – will make him a huge hit.
But Gerrard doesn’t arrive until July, and until then, LA will be short of their normal star-power. On the whole, more offseason oxygen was spent on resuming the chase for Sacha Kljestan.
That chase cost Arena Kofi Opare midseason, and then a hefty fine when MLS block Kljestan’s move, and this offseason it cost him the invaluable Marcelo Sarvas to make room for Kljestan, only to be pipped to the top allocation spot by New York.
It leaves LA without their accustomed talent advantage in the attacking third, and a massive hole in their central midfield. While there’s no question that the Galaxy will use their allocation spot to add a starter, there won’t be a fit as good as Kljestan on the board.
LA marches on, but if Arena wants a cup repeat in 2015, he’ll need to produce one of his best coaching efforts yet.