In common with seven other MLS teams, the New York Red Bulls did not take advantage of the league's half-day trade window (sort of...New England and Colorado were apparently using a different half of the day to everyone else: they didn't announce their business together until several hours after the window was supposedly shut) on Monday, December 8.
Those that stood pat had their reasons. Chicago Fire, one suspects, didn't really have a lot to trade: the club cleared out about half of its squad before the end of November, and has been quietly restocking its roster with international players. FC Dallas picked up a shiny new Dan Kennedy from the Chivas USA fire sale, but has also declined options on a significant percentage of its 2014 squad.
Montreal Impact, San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto FC perhaps qualify as teams coming off the sort of seasons that make their players appear less desirable than most. Seattle Sounders weren't tempted into action. And if the league wanted LA Galaxy to come out to play, it probably shouldn't have scheduled the transfer window to start at 6 am in California. Bruce Arena didn't seem like a man planning on answering too many early morning phone calls during his triumphant post-MLS Cup press conference.
As for the Red Bulls, there was some chat about Ryan Meara maybe moving to NYCFC, but it would appear that move will get made some other time, or will be to a different team, or nowhere at all.
The off-season is long and the events of December 8 are hardly conclusive in deciding how rosters stack up for 2015. Still, who did what? Glad you asked...
The Colorado Rapids threw some allocation money at Portland Timbers for Michael Harrington, the veteran (but still under 30) full back who worked his way into USMNT's January training camp last January. Next, they traded goalkeeper Joe Nasco (he was once a poli...what do you mean you already heard about that?) to New England for two scarcely-used strikers - Dmitry Imbongo and Geoffrey Castillion. The Rapids also got the Revs' second round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft, in exchange for their third round selection. That may have been the real point of the trade, since Colorado promptly declined the options on both Imbongo and Castillion, meaning they'll only be Rapids in 2015 if new contracts can be agreed.
In summary, the Rapids paid for a full back they'll probably use in 2015, and traded up in the SuperDraft. Along the way, they swapped a 'keeper they didn't need for a couple of forwards the Revs didn't want.
Columbus Crew sent the man who looked a lot like their starting right back at the start of the season, Josh Williams, to NYCFC, and utility defender/midfielder Bernardo Anor to Sporting Kansas City. Both trades brought allocation money to the Crew, in excess of the compensation they would have received if the players had been grabbed in the Expansion Draft - per head coach, Gregg Berhalter. No word on whether the trade to NYCFC also brought an agreement to leave Columbus alone in the Expansion Draft; we can draw our own conclusions on Wednesday.
D.C. United had a relatively busy day. The club declined options on five players, most notably Jeff Parke, once a Metro and a man who was having a solid year in DC before surgery curtailed his season. Trade-wise, the club accepted a 4th round pick in the 2016 SuperDraft and Andrew Driver from Houston Dynamo in exchange for back-up 'keeper Joe Willis and Ghanaian international Samuel Inkoom.
Perhaps of greater interest to those wondering about the Expansion Draft, DC traded "international roster slots" for 2015 and 2016 in exchange for allocation money to both NYCFC and Orlando City SC. That might well be a deal struck to get a little relief from the Expansion Draft; again, we'll find out on Wednesday.
Houston Dynamo confirmed the trade of long-time starting 'keeper Tally Hall to Orlando City SC, getting allocation money and an international roster spot in return. Factor in the acquisition of DC's back-up 'keeper, Joe Willis, and a 25-year-old with 46 caps for his country and a U-20 World Cup title (Samuel Inkoom won the 2009 tournament with Ghana) - and Houston seems to have done pretty well out of today's trading.
Trading Inkoom for Andrew Driver is basically swapping an international roster spot for an international roster spot, and the new man is arguably a more defensively capable version of the player leaving. Willis's arrival offsets Hall's loss. And the club has some money and an international roster spot it didn't previously have - at the cost of a garbage-time draft pick in 2016. Not bad work at all.
The Revs, as mentioned, basically let Colorado take a higher draft pick as thanks for letting them offload two players they wouldn't have bothered to protect in the Expansion Draft. And they had to accept a player Colorado wasn't looking keen to keep. Joe Nasco might be a back-up 'keeper for New England in 2015, or he might not (the club declined his 2015 option shortly after the trade was announced). It is not a major roster adjustment for the Revs either way.
Bigger news, that has yet to be fully explained, is the Revs' announcement that their most-prized young player, Diego Fagundez, is "indirectly protected" by a trade with NYCFC and OCSC (allocation money was reportedly used to keep the young Rev in New England).
We executed a trade with Orlando and NYCFC which will restult in Diego not being taken in the ex draft. He'll be with #NERevs next year
— Brian Bilello (@RevsPrez) December 8, 2014
The Philadelphia Union made some bold moves, most notably trading away Amobi Okugo to OCSC for allocation money and a second round pick in the 2016 SuperDraft. Okugo is a versatile and highly-rated player, but he was also thought to be on the outs in Philly. If the Union has basically cashed in the risk of losing a player who was rumored to be looking to move on and maybe found a way to reduce its exposure to the Expansion Draft, this is a good deal. If the Union blows its recently gained wealth on another 'keeper and Okugo settles into a ball-winning role in support of Kaka in Orlando - not so much.
Philly also declined contract options on five players, of which Conor Casey is probably the most significant. His loss may already have been accounted for, however, as Philly traded its highest pick of the 2015 SuperDraft to KC for CJ Sapong. The forward has appeared to be in slow decline over the last couple of seasons, but he was the MLS 2011 Rookie of the Year and Sporting's joint top-scorer in 2012. Perhaps a fresh start will bring him back to the sort of form that put him on USMNT's radar a few years back.
The Portland Timbers had perhaps the busiest day of all the teams participating in this mini-window. A flurry of declined options and expiring contracts saw six players teetering on the outs with the club. RBNY fans may want to note Bryan Gallego is among those whose option was not picked up. The US youth international came up through the Red Bulls' academy, but had his homegrown rights traded to Portland in exchange for Kosuke Kimura at the end of 2012. Kimura helped RBNY to a Supporters' Shield in 2013; Gallego has yet to make a MLS appearance for the Timbers.
The club also sold Jose Valencia, son of former MetroStar Adolfo, to Club Olimpo Bahia Blanca, the Argentine team he has playing for on loan since January.
Having traded Michael Harrington to Colorado and loosened its grip on four other defensive players, the Timbers' priority is clear: defense. Some of that help arrived in this window. Portland grabbed Nat Borchers from Real Salt Lake for allocation money, and reached outside the league for a young Brazilian defender, Jeanderson. The Timbers also added a young Colombian winger, Dairon Asprilla, and Ghana's 'keeper in USMNT's 2-1 group stage win over the Black Stars in the 2014 World Cup, Adam Larsen Kwarasey. Fair to say the team ended the day looking stronger overall.
Real Salt Lake's only move was the trade of Nat Borchers to Portland for allocation money. Note RSL's fortuitous entry to next year's CONCACAF Champions League (gifted by LA Galaxy's MLS Cup win) - which also brings allocation money - and it would appear the team is building up a war chest for the off-season.
Sporting Kansas City made three significant moves: Aurelien Collin went to OCSC for allocation money; CJ Sapong was shipped out to Philly for the Union's top draft pick in 2015; Bernardo Anor came in from Columbus at the cost of allocation money. Peter Vermes made clear the trades out of the club were precipitated by the upcoming Expansion Draft. If the "future considerations' from OCSC included in the Collin trade are along the lines of protection from further roster losses, the biggest trade of KC's day may be better value than it at first appears.
The Vancouver Whitecaps made one of the more curious moves of the day: trading Omar Salgado to NYCFC in a deal that will see the player swiftly moved on to a club outside the league. His final destination has not been named, but the 'Caps engineered the trade to ensure they at least preserved a share of the spoils of his transfer, without having to protect him in the Expansion Draft. As with any other club dealing with one of the teams who will picking over rosters as part of the expansion process, it remains to be seen whether Vancouver has also extracted a measure of protection in the Expansion Draft from NYCFC.
Finally, NYCFC and OCSC did pretty well out of the day, as might be expected. The mini-window was essentially designed to allow clubs to do some last minute roster shuffling and try to get some value for players who might otherwise get nabbed in the Expansion Draft for lesser value. The process gives NYCFC and OCSC some leverage, and they used it.
Of the two, it would appear OCSC did a little better. NYCFC's haul from the day's trading was a solid-but-not-exceptional defender (Josh Williams), a player they'll flip for cash in the near future (Omar Salgado), and some international roster slots from DC United. If any or all of those deals also included agreements to spare the teams on the other side of the trades (Columbus, Vancouver and DC) any further sacrifices in the Expansion Draft - well, NYCFC is only one player closer to having a full squad, and may have less to choose from on Wednesday as a consequence.
Even if the club didn't give up anything at all for the Expansion Draft, it is still lagging behind OCSC at this early stage of the roster-building process. Orlando got three starting-quality players - Amobi Okugo, Aurelien Collin, and Tally Hall - and the same deal for international roster spots that NYCFC squeezed out of DC. We won't know until we see how the Expansion Draft plays out whether those moves cost Orlando more or less than NYCFC gave up for its transfer-window bounty, but the purple team seems to have the edge at the moment.
As for RBNY, it has released its list of unprotected players for the Expansion Draft. There are a few surprises. The question of whether the club might have got more value for whatever is lost from the roster awaits on the other side of Wednesday, December 10.