Three MLS Teams with Difficult Transfer Decisions Looming

Written By Harrison Hamm on May 21, 2019

The spring trade window ended a couple of weeks ago, halting most major MLS transactions until the summer. That window, in which out-of-season European players also become available, has grown in importance in recent years.

For some teams, this summer and the following winter window could prove crucial, with possible major acquisitions on the horizon. Holes in their rosters need filled, and tough decisions need made. Without successful windows, their futures could get murky.

Let’s take a look at some of those clubs and how they might navigate their path forward.

Toronto FC

TFC has taken four points from their last six MLS games. It’s becoming an open question in Toronto: Is this simply a case of a talented team with a couple of missing pieces, or is this a fatally flawed roster that should take bigger steps to revamp?

That question will dictate how TFC approach the next couple of transfer windows. It’s likely that general manager Ali Curtis falls somewhere in between the two angles, though I’d bet that he tilts toward the former viewpoint. Toronto still has high-level talent and a fair amount of depth. Tearing it down, amid the prosperous early weeks of Alejandro Pozuelo and the closing years of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, would be an unnecessary step.

But Curtis has to fill big holes, and given the general emptiness in the Eastern Conference, he can act fast this summer with playoff contention as a possible prize. He should put at least one defender on the intra-league trade market (Eriq Zavaleta being the clearest candidate) and spend Targeted Allocation Money on an upper-tier center back. Then, he should seek out a difference-making attacker who fits with Pozuelo and Altidore.

If he has any cash left after that, he should look for full back depth, a defensive-minded midfielder to play the Benoit Cheyrou substitute role, and a striker to back up Altidore (Jordan Hamilton ain’t it).

Easier said than done. But all we can do is speculate, because we have no way of knowing how much money Curtis has at his disposal. All we know is that he has no Designated Player slots available.

It could prove a damning indictment of TFC’s core Curtis fills those spots this summer or winter and Toronto still can’t quite put it together the way they could two years ago. That would be a troubling situation. But the Reds might also be on the verge of legitimate trophy contention, only one or two starting-caliber pieces from a deep playoff run. The next couple of windows could be as important for TFC as any other MLS team.

Houston Dynamo

As an Alberth Elis transfer looms, the Dynamo are winning soccer games. They’re second in the Western Conference on points-per-game, and while they’ve enjoyed a heavy concentration of home matches to start the year, they have showed a promising competence three road games.

Elis could be transferred for a heavy profit as early as this summer — a standout Gold Cup performance for Honduras could fast-track the process. When he leaves, the Dynamo will have to replace him.

Memo Rodriguez dampens some post-Elis concerns. He has been a revelation this season.

With Mauro Manotas and Romell Quioto still around, the Dynamo could toss out a Memo-Manotas-Quioto front three, which doesn’t sound too bad. But Memo isn’t a chance-creator himself, and Quioto is off and on, ruffling some feathers with his attitude. Tomas Martinez, still not much of a No. 10, won’t make up for attacking deficiencies. With a system built heavily on the front three, they need Elis, or a player like him, to stick around.

The process of finding an Elis replacement could start this summer. It will be a big step for a Dynamo organization tasting the potential of sustainable success for the first time in years.

Columbus Crew

The Crew’s solid start to the Caleb Porter era proved fleeting. Columbus have lost seven of their past eight games after winning four of their first six, dropping to seventh in the Eastern Conference.

They don’t have the attacking abilities to stick around the elite, and now they might play themselves into a battle for a playoff spot. Their trade for David Accam at the spring trade deadline will help some, but the Crew know Accam isn’t the long-term answer — they subsequently traded him to 2020 expansion club Nashville SC, so they essentially rented him for the rest of the season.

That shrewd piece of business indicates that club president Tim Bezbatchenko has a bigger bit of maneuvering up his sleeve. The Crew have a DP slot open, so it’s reasonable to assume that it will be filled at some point by a high-caliber winger. A player at the level of, say, Minnesota’s Darwin Quintero would significantly elevate this Crew team. The question is whether they will shell out.

Federico Higuain’s age and decline (he’s 34 and taking steps back) only furthers the need for reinforcements. It seems that the Crew will have a hard time finding much success in the Eastern Conference until they bring in a new talent or two.

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