With the 2014 MLS season fewer than two weeks away, Goal takes a look at which teams have done the best job revamping their rosters this offseason.
Every MLS offseason we find ourselves watching multiple teams undergoing dramatic roster overhauls, with the hope being that the right mix of new talent can help either reach the playoffs or go further in the playoffs.
The past MLS offseason has seen arguably as busy a time as ever for personnel changes, with a wealth of teams in both conferences boosting their squads with foreign signings, Homegrown Player additions and MLS trades.
Measuring the success of team's offeseasons isn't based solely on the players who come in. Figuring out which teams came away with net overall gains is the key because while many teams loaded up with new players, some of those teams did so at the expense of having to shed previously established talent.
Good roster building isn't just about big-money signings, but also smart moves that land bargains and acquisitions that offer clear upgrades.
So which teams have improved their rosters the most this offseason? Here is a breakdown of the 10 teams that have done the best job strengthening their squads:
1. TORONTO FC
No team added the sort of firepower TFC did, with Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe coming on board. Throw in young Brazilian forward Gilberto, fullbacks Justin Morrow and Bradley Orr, and former MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario, and you have a TFC team that looks very capable of securing the first playoff berth in club history.
2. PHILADELPHIA UNION
The Union needed to overhaul their midfield, and John Hackworth did just that with the best collection of midfield talent brought in by any team in the league. Maurice Edu should help provide some sorely needed bite as well as improved passing, while Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana should help create more scoring chances for the Union attack. Throw in the best haul of the 2014 MLS Draft, including No. 1 overall pick Andre Blake, and the Union did very well to revamp their roster. UPDATED- The addition of central defender Austin Berry helps push the Union to the No. 2 spot.
3. D.C. UNITED
Though the team did part ways with Dwayne De Rosario, the sheer number of established veterans the club was able to bring in suggests D.C. could very well go from posting the fewest wins in league history to pushing for a playoff spot. A completely rebuilt defense led by Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke should help considerably, while attacking additions Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola, coupled with veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud, should give D.C. a fighting chance at a postseason berth.4. FC DALLAS
Parting ways with former MLS MVP David Ferreira was a loss, but FC Dallas' on-field and off-field additions have made this winter very much a positive one. The hiring of Oscar Pareja as head coach is one of the best moves of the offseason, while the team also addressed key needs at forward and defensive midfielder. Uruguayan striker David Texeira and Colombian forward Andres Escobar should help invigorate the FCD attack, while the acquisition of Hendry Thomas should give the Hoops some bite in midfield that was lacking last season. Throw in additions such as Brian 'Cobi' Span and Ryan Hollingshead and the FCD attack should have the depth to improve on last year's goal totals.
5. PORTLAND TIMBERS
A team just two points away from the Supporters Shield probably doesn't have to do much to its roster, but the Timbers did enjoy a very productive offseason, landing a pair of Argentines to help address key needs. Gaston Fernandez is the type of attacking talent who could help the Timbers challenge for best offense in MLS, while central defender Norberto Papparatto is seen as the ideal combination of size and passing touch. Throw in the draft-day steal of Schillo Tshuma and the pick-ups of Steve Zakuani and Jorge Flores, and the Timbers have done well to bolster an already potent squad.
6. LOS ANGELES GALAXY
LA lost Sean Franklin and loaned away Jose Villarreal, but re-stocked the forward position with Rob Friend and Samuel, while also adding a quality wing option in Swede Stefan Ishizaki.
7. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
The Sounders parted ways with Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales, Shalrie Joseph, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Michael Gspurning, and Patrick Ianni, but brought in Chad Marshall, Stefan Frei, Kenny Cooper, Jalil Anibaba, and Homegrown Player signings Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar.
8. COLUMBUS CREW
Losing Eddie Gaven to retirement was a big blow, but new head coach Gregg Berhalter has done an excellent job of re-tooling the defense, trading away Chad Marshall and adding a formidable central defense pairing in Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez. New goalkeeper Steve Clark remains a question mark, but if he shines, the Crew could definitely be in the playoff mix.
9. CHIVAS USA
The Goats had nowhere to go but up, but given the team's poor track record of acquisitions, this winter has been a considerable success by comparison. Picking up Mauro Rosales and Andrew Jean-Baptiste were smart moves within MLS, while the signing of Adolfo 'Bofo' Bautista just might surprise people. English forward Luke Moore is also on his way, giving the Goats some serious attacking firepower heading into 2014.
10. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
Quietly put together some quality additions while keeping the nucleus together. French midfielder Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi should help the attack, as should the pick-ups of Billy Schuler and Homegrown Player signing Tommy Thompson. Offset the departures of Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour with the shrewd pick-up of Brandon Barklage. Adding veteran Atiba Harris should also help the Earthquakes make up for the departure of Rafael Baca.