Monday MLS Breakdown: The Busy Offseason

Kyle McCarthy's Monday MLS Breakdown explains just how busy the offseason is for MLS teams.

By Kyle McCarthy 

The term off-season is a misnomer. 

There may not be any games and there may be players dispersed across the country, but in some senses, the “off-season” is the busiest time in the MLS calendar for everyone else. There are college games to scout, player tapes to watch, and negotiations to conduct.  

While 2008 may be over, there isn't time for a comprehensive review of last season because the preparations for 2009 season have already started.   

With that in mind, this season-in-review package – starting with the Eastern Conference today and ending with the Western Conference next Monday – places the events of 2008 in context with the key issues heading into 2009. 

1. Columbus Crew 

MVP: Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Glue Guy: Brian Carroll.

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Jason Garey

Possible Off-season Departure: Chad Marshall

Pressing Off-season Need: Center back

Pressing Off-season Question: Could and should we have done more to keep Sigi Schmid and Chad Marshall?

Outlook: The Crew didn't have a lot of time to bask in the glory of its first MLS Cup crown. Schmid looks like he's heading to Seattle and Marshall may head to Europe. Without those two in the fold, the Crew's decision to ensure Guillermo Barros Schelotto's return assumes even more importance. General Manager Mark McCullers will likely hand the reins to Robert Warzycha and try to replace his best center back for the second consecutive off-season.  

2. Chicago Fire 

MVP: Cuauhtemoc Blanco

Glue Guy: Gonzalo Segares

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Tomasz Frankowski

Possible Off-season Departure: Bakary Soumare

Pressing Off-season Need: Center back

Pressing Off-season Question: How long is the window for success?

Outlook: The answer to that question depends on who the Fire can keep in Bridgeview heading into next season. Soumare is flirting with European teams and holds a French passport, while Wilman Conde is making noise about moving to Mexico or Europe. Chances are slim that the Fire can replace that duo and maintain the same defensive solidity. Good thing there are plenty of attacking options to help win those 3-2 games. 

3. New England Revolution 

MVP: Steve Ralston

Glue Guy: Jay Heaps

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Khano Smith

Possible Off-season Departure: Taylor Twellman

Pressing Off-season Need: Center back

Pressing Off-season Question: Is it time to rebuild around the remaining parts of the core?

Outlook: Michael Parkhurst's imminent departure shakes up the team's settled defensive core and likely mandates the signing of at least one center back. The Revs will need another one if Gabriel Badilla doesn't produce. There are too many midfielders to accommodate in a four-man midfield, but the Revs may not have a choice. Dealing or selling Twellman would draw a close to an era, but it may be the only way forward after a puzzling and discontented second half of the season for the striker and his team. 

4. Kansas City Wizards 

MVP: Davy Arnaud

Glue Guy: Jack Jewsbury

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Carlos Marinelli

Possible Off-season Departure: Claudio Lopez

Pressing Off-season Need: Experience

Pressing Off-season Question: Are the kids as good as we think they are?

Outlook: The Wizards have built around youth, but aside from Michael Harrington, would teams covet any of those players? The development of players like Jonathan Leathers, Chance Myers, Kevin Souter, and Roger Espinoza will determine how far Kansas City progresses next season. More old heads would help facilitate growth. Jimmy Conrad needs some experienced help at the back, while a proven striker or two is required to cover for Josh Wolff's seemingly persistent injury issues. Lopez may or may not return; this season's performance doesn't merit much more than ambivalence towards the outcome.  

5. New York Red Bulls 

MVP: Juan Pablo Angel

Glue Guy: Dave van den Bergh

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Jon Conway

Possible Off-season Departure: van den Bergh

Pressing Off-season Need: Depth

Pressing Off-season Question: How do we adjust the personnel we have to accommodate the three or four starters we need?

Outlook: New York caught lightning in a bottle to earn a place in MLS Cup final. That berth won't mask the critical flaws next season, particularly defensively. Juan Carlos Osorio wants three or four more starters; why he wants to execute that theory by keeping Jorge Rojas and Juan Pietravallo at the expense of van den Bergh boggles the mind. Replacing the now departed Jeff Parke ranks high amongst the priorities, while Juan Pablo Angel may need a more productive partner than the willing, but often goal-shy, John Wolyniec. 

6. D.C. United 

MVP: Clyde Simms

Glue Guy: Bryan Namoff

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Rod Dyachenko

Possible Off-season Departure: Gonzalo Peralta

Pressing Off-season Need: Defenders

Pressing Off-season Question: Will we regret giving everyone one more chance to get it right?

Outlook: Only those with 20/20 hindsight vision will beat up United for dealing the rejuvenated Bobby Boswell last off-season after his indifferent 2007 campaign. But the moves to acquire the two Gonzalos and Marcelo Gallardo didn't pan out either and a talented team didn't produce for most of the season. Tom Soehn and Dave Kasper enter 2009 with a short leash and a roster that contradicts almost every team-building tenet proven successful over the past five years in New England, Houston, and Columbus. Finding the right parts to fit the team's possession-oriented style -- particularly at the back -- is almost as important as re-signing the out-of-contract Simms and Namoff.  

7. Toronto FC 

MVP: Carl Robinson

Glue Guy: Jim Brennan

The One No One Will/Would Miss: Hunter Freeman

Possible Off-season Departure: Marvell Wynne

Pressing Off-season Need: Striker

Pressing Off-season Question: Will a Designated Player make all the difference?

Outlook: Mo Johnston secured Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's blessing to go out and obtain a Designated Player spot, apparently unaware that only one team in league history has advanced to MLS Cup with a DP and considerably more have ended up outside the playoffs. Johnston will spend most of his off-season trying spend the DP money on a striker to help Chad Barrett. That won't be enough to lead TFC out of its doldrums. Carl Robinson has to stay, while Johnston needs to land at least two defenders. Wingers would be nice to give the team some depth and take some creative pressure off Amado Guevara.  

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and blogs frequently during the week for Contact him with your questions or comments at