By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON DC (Aug 9, 2017) US Soccer Players - The 2017 MLS secondary transfer window closes on Wednesday. Like any good deadline, this one has prompted a flurry of activity with mere hours to go as clubs looks to strengthen their sides or cash in on the market, whichever the case may be.
Naturally, it’s the clubs at the bottom end of the table who are looking to turn some veterans into assets ahead of next season. It’s very rarely true that a team’s season can be “over” in the beginning of August. Nobody should blame DC United for looking ahead to next year, but they're also refusing to call time on 2017.
To that end, United made moves ahead of the deadline. First, the club shipped attacker Lamar Neagle back to the Seattle Sounders, a trade that looks to be as much about Neagle’s desire to return home as United flipping an asset. Neagle scored nine goals for DC United in 2016, but had just one tally this season. A native of Washington state, Neagle will return to the Sounders for a third stint with the club.
As if to drive home the point that Neagle’s trade was mostly a favor to the player, United only acquired a fourth round SuperDraft in trade. The slow decline of the draft’s importance to roster building effectively makes the pick United a placeholder. You can't trade a player for nothing, so a fourth round draft selection it.
United also sent veteran center back Bobby Boswell to Atlanta United, getting a third round pick back. United will have to eat a portion of Boswell’s salary towards their cap, but moving the 34-year old frees up a bit of cap room and opens up a roster spot. Boswell is a former MLS Defender of the Year who was in his second stint with DC. Thanks to the emergence of Steve Birnbaum and Kofi Opare, Boswell played a reserve role under Ben Olsen. He won’t be challenging for a starting position in Atlanta, either. Still, his presence will give the club an experience veteran as cover behind Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.
Moving the two veterans gave DC room to add 22-year old American midfielder Russell Canouse, last with VfL Bochum of the 2.Bundesliga, on loan from Hoffenheim. DC also brought in Hungarian international Zoltan Stieber from Kaiserslautern.
DC saved the shocker for late in the day, moving for USMNT player Paul Arriola from Club Tijuana. That move wasn't official at press time, but several outlets already report that it's a done deal with United paying a hefty by MLS standards transfer fee. It might be a club record, with reports as high as $3m along with that MLS tweak of needing to pay the Galaxy for Arriola's MLS rights. That changes things right now, with DC adding pressure to perform this season while making a statement of intent for 2018 in their new stadium.
From a playoff perspective, United’s season might already be over. Meanwhile, Columbus made moves with momentum.
Gregg Berhalter’s team sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the last playoff spot. Their lead on Orlando City is just two points and they’ve played more games than anyone in the conference, making reinforcements mandatory. With Wednesday night’s deadline looming, the club decided to pull the trigger on a DP, either leaving defensive additions for the eleventh hour or ignoring the back line altogether.
The new DP, Columbus’s third, is Pedro Santos, a Portuguese winger who moves over from SC Braga. Crew SC has specialized in collecting wingers over the last few seasons. Santos’s signing is a step beyond the previous attempts to fill the production gap on the right side. Justin Meram has been excellent on the left.
The arrival of Santos appears to be the end of the line for Ethan Finlay in Columbus. Reports of an imminent move for Finlay have the 27-year old headed to Minnesota for allocation. Finlay broke out win a 12-goal, 13-assist season in 2015, but hasn’t been able to match that production since. Both Kekuta Manneh and Niko Hansen have seen time in Finlay’s spot in the lineup.
Houston didn’t pass on the chance to add veteran defensive help in this window. The Dynamo have a tenuous grasp on second place in the Western Conference at the moment, with a plus-7 goal difference and a road record we'll kindly call disappointing. With a dynamic counterattacking group ahead of Alex, Juan Cabezas and Ricardo Clark does the job at home, but Wilmer Cabrera’s team could use a dose of experience and nous ahead of the stretch run.
To that end the club went with a low cost option, signing former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos as a free agent. The Swiss international is 32 and has three appeared in three World Cups. He played most recently Rangers in Scotland, appearing in just four games last year.
Far from an answer to their defensive problems, Senderos represents exactly the type of cheap, well-traveled foreign option MLS teams tend to chase down with the secondary window closing. Houston is a middle-of-the-road team financially speaking, so bringing in a bigger name was always unlikely.
The lead up to the deadline has delivered no blockbusters. MLS desperation is typically of a different flavor, more mellow and subdued. The league has already seen a few big trades and signings go down well ahead of Wednesday night. Dom Dwyer landed in Orlando City two weeks ago. Jonathan dos Santos arrived in LA last week.
There are a few players who still could do with a change of address and a few clubs in need of fresh blood to make a playoff push. The last few hours of the window could be busy.
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