Well, that's that. The Western Conference has itself another MLS Cup champion, the scum of Lower Cascadia have bragging rights for a whole season and all meaningful soccer on these shores is now on the other side of a myriad of drafts, waivers and arcane boardroom chicanery. (Prediction: "Provisional Allocation Money", to be given to teams that MLS would like to sign a DP because marketing, yo.) You know what that means: it's silly season!
Yes, with transfers, trades and whatnot comes rumour and speculation a-plenty. This year gives us a new bone to chew on: the 2015 class of free agents. In order to earn the status of "free agent", a player must be aged 28 years or older and have at least eight years of service in Major League Soccer. There are further details but, according to the Roster Rules & Regulations, we're still waiting on ratification of the CBA for them to be released. Or, y'know, for somebody to update the website. Whichever.
More to the point, there are 26 MLS veterans - prized commodities in a league that still seems to attract blissfully unaware neophytes - for us armchair managers to salivate over as roster adjustments begin in full. They are:
DF Corey Ashe (Orlando City SC)
DF Bobby Burling (Colorado Rapids)
DF Ty Harden (Chicago Fire)
DF Michael Harrington (Colorado Rapids)
DF Stephen Keel (FC Dallas)
DF Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids)
DF James Riley (Colorado Rapids)
MF Eric Avila (Orlando City SC)
MF Brian Carroll (Philadelphia Union)
MF Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo)
MF Ned Grabavoy (New York City FC)
MF Nick LaBrocca (Colorado Rapids)
MF Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire)
MF Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact)
MF Paulo Nagamura (Sporting Kansas City)
MF Nathan Sturgis (Houston Dynamo)
FW Chad Barrett (Seattle Sounders)
FW Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy)
FW Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
FW Kenny Cooper (Montreal Impact)
FW Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy)
FW Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)
The first name that immediately jumps out at me is Drew Moor. Moor is as rock-solid a defender as you can ask for in this league and his stewardship of a Colorado backline was the only thing saving it from total disaster. Heck, Colorado only conceded two goals in the first five games of the season, at which point everyone else got better and Colorado, well... yeah. My point is, if Pa Modou Kah and Steven Beitashour are both in contract limbo (both are eligible for the Re-Entry Drafts unless a new contract is signed) and end up leaving the team, Vancouver would do well to snap up Drew Moor.
Looking up and down the rest of the list, there are names that jump out as recognizable and more or less serviceable pickups, though not necessarily game-changers: Ashe, Clark, Grabavoy, Larentowicz, Mapp, Nagamura, Gordon and Magee, by my reckoning. The one who straddles that line between game-changer and not, owing to his age, is Kenny Cooper. Cooper didn't get a heck of a lot to do in Montreal and, with Didier Drogba now the star attraction, likely won't again with L'Impact. Still, Cooper is a veteran striker and a proven MLS talent, sitting 18th on the all-time goal scoring charts with 75 in 211 games played. Here's Cooper's full all-time stat line:
Since MLSSoccer.com doesn't do the math for us, allow me to do so:
Considering Cooper had 18 goals in 2012 with Thierry Henry as his running buddy, is it too far a stretch to imagine him linking up with, say, Octavio Rivero or Robert Earnshaw in 2016 for ten goals? Cooper is 31 and likely doesn't have much gas left in the tank, so signing him would be a rental and nothing more. If the price is right, I wouldn't be upset with a one-year deal with a club option for a second.
Which free agents would you like the Vancouver Whitecaps to take a run at signing?