Training camp provides the perfect chance to evaluate possible additions and MLS coaches are taking full advantage of the opportunity. Kyle McCarthy highlights a few of the more notable names in the Friday Five.
In the cost-conscious world MLS teams inhabit, trialists represent the golden goose.
MLS salary budgets don't absorb mistakes kindly, so a player willing to link up with a side on trial can provide a tempting option to perform due diligence prior to a permanent signing. The price (no initial outlay) fits the tight budget and the risk (none) suits clubs that can't afford to gamble.
Given those positives and the difficulty of assembling enough quality practice players to run an effective session, MLS clubs bring players in for an extended look during training camp year after year.
The Friday Five thumbed through the ample list of the current batch of hopefuls and selected a few notable names in search of a contract.
1. Jorge Andrade (Toronto FC)
Former Deportivo La Coruna and Porto star Andrade boasts the type of experience rarely seen in MLS, but persistent left knee troubles have all but ended his career at the highest level. Juventus released the former Portuguese international central defender last April, but the 31-year-old could instantly shore up the dodgy Reds defense if he can prove his fitness when his trial starts on Feb. 8.
“I am very excited to reunite with my former teammate Julian De Guzman,” Andrade told thescore.ca in January. “I am hoping to secure a contract with Toronto to play in front of a large Portuguese community and in front of a tremendous atmosphere.”
2. Collins John (Chicago)
The twice-capped Dutch international striker's career has hit the skids since scoring 11 Premier League goals for Fulham in 2005-06. Unsuccessful stints in the English Championship and the Belgian top flight led John to evaluate his future and the 24-year-old decided to take Chicago up on its offer to link up with former teammate Brian McBride on trial.
“It says a lot that he's come out here because he's also risking a lot too,” Fire technical director Frank Klopas told Soccer by Ives. “The transfer window is closed in Europe now and he decided to come here and give it a try and with his ability it could wind up being a great move for everybody.”
3. Reinaldo Navia (New England)
Few strikers can match Navia's record of a goal in every other game with Tecos, Morelia and Club America from 2001-2005. The 31-year-old Chilean international hasn't scored as frequently since leaving Mexico in 2007 with stints at Racing (Argentina), LDU Quito (Ecuador) and Santiago Morning (Chile) falling well short of those lofty standards. After Santiago Morning released him at the end of last year and proposed moves to Independiente Medellin (Colombia) and Veracruz (Mexico) faltered, Navia agreed to join the Revolution on a three-day trial starting on Monday.
“He's the kind of guy we're looking for because he's proven,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “Wherever he's been, he's scored goals. We'll see what happens.”
4. Louis Crayton (Kansas City)
With Kevin Hartman out of contract and currently not in training camp, the Wizards are scouring the market for goalkeeping help. Former English national team goalkeeper Ian Walker made an appearance while the team was in Kansas City, but the former Liberian international shotstopper looks like the better fit for the Wizards because Walker hasn't played regularly in years and Crayton, 32, knows MLS after a stint with D.C. United. If Crayton can show well, he may give the Wizards a viable starting option if the contractual difficulties with Hartman continue.
“Like in all of our positions, we're looking to have competition and trying to get the best out of the players we currently have,” Wizards manager Peter Vermes said last week. “He has MLS experience, which is a great thing. He's a Liberian national team goalkeeper, so he has a good pedigree and has some real experience. That could lend itself to us as we move into the future.”
5. Yevhen Bredun [Bredun Yevgen] (Columbus)
The Ukrainian midfielder edges out former Los Angeles defender Michael Umana (Chivas USA) for the final spot on the list. Bredun, 27, played a few games with FC Gomel (Belarus) in late 2009 after shuttling back and forth between Ukranian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk and a series of smaller Ukrainian clubs since 1999. In addition to running the rule over Bredun, Columbus coach Robert Warzycha is also planning to bring Polish striker Kamil Witkowski – a former high-school standout in Rochester, N.Y. – into the Crew's Florida training camp.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page.