February provides an opportunity for players in search of MLS gigs. Most coaches adopt a big tent approach to their training camp rosters in a bid to assess the available options and see whether they can find a way to improve their squads prior to the start of the season.
Most of the hopefuls carry little cachet. Those players – college products bidding to make the leap to the pros or lower league stars trying to climb up the ladder – usually increase the competition at the bottom of the roster. Some earn modest contracts for the upcoming year. Others fail in their quest and move elsewhere.
Not all trialists fall into that category, however. A handful of established players usually make their way into camps to vie for a place in the upper half of the squad. These players bring their own financial implications within the strictures of a salary budget, but they can also provide a boost to the starting XI in most cases.
The Friday Five scoured those training camp rosters to offer up a few of the more notable trialists seeking to win a roster spot:
1. Mikael Silvestre (Portland/Seattle): Seattle placed a discovery claim on Silvestre earlier in the offseason to obtain his MLS rights, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid told the Seattle Times on Thursday. Portland brought the ex-Manchester United defender into camp on trial, but the Timbers released him from their camp without a contract in hand. Schmid and the Sounders included Silvestre in their training sessions for a couple of days before also releasing him from camp. His future – for the moment, at least – remains uncertain.
“It was something we worked out,” Schmid told the Times. “We have the discovery (rights) on him, but they had brought him in. So we felt since he was here, let’s make sure that we get a look at him, as well. They really didn’t talk to us before they had decided to bring him in, and in deference to the player, we didn’t want to cause an issue with his trial with them. But we wanted to have a look at him, so we saw him in that game and we’re able to have him in with training with us, as well, and play a game for us.”
2. Djimi Traore (Seattle): The former Liverpool defender impressed Schmid during his two appearances with Sounders FC during preseason and presented himself as a possible solution to the vacancy in central defense. Whether the out-of-contract Mali international will ultimately land in Seattle hinges on the available budget room and his contractual demands.
“Obviously, he’s a player that we’re looking at and I think that he’s done well in the two games that he’s played,” Schmid told the Seattle Times. “We’ll continue to look. I know there are talks that are in the process, but what the results of that will be, I’m not sure.”
3. Pascal Chimbonda (Chicago): Chimbonda participated in the NASL combine earlier this month to keep his dreams of a move to North America alive. Fire coach Frank Klopas invited the former France international fullback to join the team in Charleston, S.C. this week to see if he could strengthen a MLS squad instead. Chimbonda must prove his fitness and his utility in order to win a deal with Jalil Anibaba and Logan Pause already available to feature at right back.
“I’ve spent eight years in England,” Chimbonda told the Fire's official website. “I’ve had a good time and played well there but you also want a new chapter in your life. MLS was a league that I’ve always wanted to play in and the Fire gave me this opportunity to come and show my ability.”
4. Ramón Núñez (FC Dallas): Leeds United manager Neil Warnock deemed the Honduran international surplus to requirements in January and ushered him out of the Championship club. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman invited his former college star to train with his team in Cancún despite Núñez's ongoing recovery from a torn ACL suffered during a reserve team match in September.
“I really don’t even know if he’s 100 percent ready to play yet, but looking at our needs still he’s someone who can definitely be an option instead of David [Ferreira] or be an option instead of Jackson or Fabián [Castillo] on the wings,” FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo told MLSsoccer.com last week. “He can help us in many positions, but it’s somebody who we’re paying very close attention to right now.”
5. Jan Frederiksen (D.C. United): The former Brøndby left back reached an agreement to terminate his contract with Polish side Wisla Krakow in January. United boss Ben Olsen took the 30-year-old on trial in a bid to strengthen his fullback options, but the recent arrival of James Riley (acquired in a trade with Chivas USA on Thursday) now means Frederiksen must carve out a place in a rather crowded setup in order to earn a contract.
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