Rampant run on strikers this week underscores the pressure clubs face to firm up their squads for the upcoming campaign.
Proven goalscorers Kris Boyd (Portland), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles) and Hamdi Salihi (D.C. United) all arrived from Europe at significant cost to their new clubs. Vancouver snapped up Sébastien Le Toux in a stunning trade with Philadelphia to bolster its already productive front line, while New England scooped up José Moreno on loan from Once Caldas to address its dearth of forward options.
All of those moves revealed some measure of urgency as clubs attempt to assemble the final pieces of their squad before the start of the season. As the Friday Five , there are still some prominent vacancies to fill around MLS:
1. Los Angeles – central defense: Omar Gonzalez's knee injury leaves the MLS Cup holders without their defensive lynchpin as they embark on a title defense. The continued absence (and inconsistency, for that matter) of Leonardo further complicates the search for A.J. DeLaGarza's partner. Galaxy manager Bruce Arena knows last year's run started with a miserly defense and will likely use all of his salary budget tricks to shoehorn another capable option into this top-heavy roster.
2. New York – goalkeeper: The rotating cast of occasional shotstoppers from last season won't return, and no certain number one has arrived in their stead. Current options Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo (the default starter at the moment) possess just one combined season of professional experience between them. Vuolo's spell with Finnish second division side AC Oulu may have done enough to earn him a move to Harrison, but it still remains unlikely that Hans Backe will want to place his faith in a relatively untested option after last year's tumult between the sticks.
3. Houston – striker: Try as they might, Dynamo executives haven't yet landed an established replacements for the departed duo of Brian Ching and Carlo Costly. Unless Montreal finally reduces its trade demands and belatedly ships Ching back to his former club, Houston looks a reliable figure short with Will Bruin, Calen Carr, Colin Rolfe and Cam Weaver in the mix. All it takes is one prolific number nine – think Boyd, but perhaps fitter to compensate for those hot Texas summers – to address the problem and ensure Brad Davis racks up a boatload of assists again in 2012.
4. Philadelphia – striker: Le Toux's noisy midweek departure leaves the occasionally goal-shy Union in a bind. The Frenchman didn't always play up top or supply goals consistently (check out this split from 2011: one goal in his first 22 games, 10 goals in his final 12 matches), but he always posed a threat teams needed to neutralize with and his high work rate and his timely runs into the penalty area. The current crop of young forwards (including new additions Chandler Hoffman and Josué Martinez) will buzz around plenty. Production in front of goal, however, represents another matter entirely. If Union manager Peter Nowak can scrape together the money somehow, he'll probably want to throw it in the direction of an established goal poacher to offer at least one fixed element in an attack that sees players pop up in all sorts of different spots.
5. Chivas USA – central defense: Some of the defensive displays submitted by the Red-and-White last year must have driven former rearguard stalwarts Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney batty. It is curious then to see one of last year's egregious offenders (David Júnior Lopes) comprise half of the squad's current complement of natural center backs. Heath Pearce figures to slide over from left back to partner offseason signing John Valencia in the middle, but another reliable center back would permit the U.S. international to return to his preferred position and secure the cover required to ensure the side makes its necessary defensive strides.
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 MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.