By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON DC (Aug 11, 2017) US Soccer Players - The close of the Major League Soccer transfer window brought a flurry of activity. Perhaps for the first time ever, deadline day in America’s top division was rife with enough intrigue to keep fans engaged all the way up to the midnight eastern cutoff.
Among the bigger deals to go down were the transfer of USMNT player Paul Arriola from Tijuana to DC United for a $3 million fee and $500,000 in allocation money to the LA Galaxy and a return to MLS for Hungarian attacker Krisztian Nemeth. Nemeth joins the New England Revolution from the Qatar league after a previous stint in Kansas City.
Several transactions were internal to MLS, constituting “trade” rather than “transfer." Given the league's peculiarities, some of these deals involved a player going one way and allocation money going the other.
As is so often the case with player trades, almost all of the transactions involving notable names changing teams within the league felt like “change of scenery” decisions. Good players traded because it was just no longer working where they were. Their value was still relatively high hence demand, but their club saw them as dispensable. Or more accurately, as pieces to obtain something else of value.
Ethan Finlay’s move from Columbus to Minnesota United happened just as the Crew was acquiring the services of yet another winger, Portuguese designated player Pedro Santos. Finlay’s production has tailed off dramatically over the last calendar year, leaving Columbus in need of someone to pick up the load and leaving Finlay short on playing time. It wasn’t that long ago that the Minnesota native had pushed his way into the USMNT conversation on the strength of his speedy, direct play on the Crew's right wing.
Finlay is just 27, which explains the haul of allocation money Columbus received in the deal. Minnesota is spending $100,000 in Targeted Allocation Money for the 2017 MLS season, $250,000 in Target Allocation Money for the 2018 MLS season and $75,000 in General Allocation Money for the 2018 MLS season on Finlay.
Manny Lagos and Adrian Heath are betting that a change of scenery and a different approach will jumpstart Finlay and get him back to his 2015 levels. Finlay arrives in tandem with Costa Rican winger Jose Leiton, meaning it won’t be as simple as walking into the starting lineup.
Finlay trades one Midwestern locale for another, while Dillon Powers and Luis Gil will get much more dramatic changes in the landscapes they call home.
The well-traveled Gil was on loan to Orlando City from Queretaro of Liga MX in 2017, where he made 17 appearances this year. Only six of those were starts. The chances that the former Real Salt Lake man was going to see a dramatic uptick in his playing time seemed remote. With the blessing of Queretaro, Gil moved to the Colorado Rapids at the deadline, with Powers going in the other direction.
This trade has all of the hallmarks of the “change of scenery” thinking. Gil and Powers, while not exactly similar players, fill similar roles on the field. Both are central midfielders, more apt to be a force on the attacking end of the field than contributing much on the defensive side of the ball. While Gil might be the more technically expressive player, Powers has an eye for a pass that makes him equally as dangerous with the ball at his feet.
Powers is the older of the two, 26 to Gil’s 23, though Gil started his pro career at a younger age than Powers. Powers was the MLS Rookie of the Year back in 2013 and was a regular starter for the Rapids up until this season. Gil’s quest for higher levels and regular minutes has cut into his playing time, leaving him stalled in his development.
Orlando shipped $100,000 worth of allocation money to the Rapids along with Gil. That's a surprising element of the trade considering the age of the players and Gil’s still-extant potential. Either there’s something involved in the swap that isn’t public knowledge or the reputations of the two players are different within the offices of MLS GMs than with MLS fans.
Toss Christian Dean and Aaron Maund into the group of players hoping to benefit from their own changes of scenery. Vancouver acquired Maund from Real Salt Lake to bolster their center back depth. Then the Whitecaps shipped a center back, the 24-year old Dean, to Chicago for allocation money. The Whitecaps sold high on Dean, a former first round draft pick who managed just a handful for appearances for the club. Included in the trade is a sell-on clause as a well as an escalator if Dean meets a minimum number of starts for the Fire in 2018.
Bringing in the more experience Maund provides depth behind Kendall Waston and Tim Parker. Maund cost only a third round draft pick.
The trade deadline provided some unexpected fireworks to go along with the usual bit of musical chairs. Clubs swapping similar players, or trading away a player from one area of the field and then immediately acquiring a replacement, speaks to the sometimes obvious need to get a fresh face in a new place.
The circumstances that determine a player’s level of success in a given club are subject to a list of variables too numerous to name. When a talented player finds himself not getting enough playing time or rooted to the bench, there’s bound to be someone out there willing to give him a chance to start over and prove his abilities again.
Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.
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