Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top 5 MLS Signings: July edition

So I'm back. That's your cue to rejoice zealously (or brazenly gnash your teeth, whichever response seems most apropos). New Orleans nearly took my life twice and I shot a Romanian AK-47 at empty beer cans on a ranch in south Texas. 'Merica.

With all-star week upon us, figured we'd get a midseason update on this list, and then we'll go back after the MLS Cup and dissect where we ended up. I'm not including drafted players. It's partly because none fully deserve it (though some *Will Bruin* come close), and partly because rooks rarely make the biggest ripples. This list is by no means meant to be comprehensive, but it does chart a few 2011 signings (or trades) who've put a stamp on their first year in a new place.

Which does remind me, don't forget to scope out MLS' best in action tomorrow night against Manchester United, which ripped William Sherman's scorched earth policy from the history books for their summer US tour. 7-0? Really?

5. Dwayne De Rosario, DC United

Have to include him here since he's made his impact with two teams this year (double dip!). After starting the year with New York, DeRo is now with DC, which needs a lift. I'd expect them to get it from the Canadian midfielder with loads of creativity. If nothing else, he gets the nod for helping DC drop hated rival and former trade partner New York in a derby match earlier this season. DeRo has a goal and an assist already in four matches with DC. He can move higher once he secures more appearances in the nation's capital.

4. Dominic Oduro, Chicago

Oduro's journey here fascinates me. He unsuccessfully shopped for a contract abroad in the offseason, and Houston took him back a few weeks before opening kick. In the first game of the year, Oduro made a mess of a Brad Davis cross that landed at his feet inside the 6-yard box with nothing but netting in front of him. So Houston traded him. Aside from the fact that Oduro pulled out the dreaded "It is what it is" hook to describe the trade (ergggggg), the Fire came out like pocket-padded bandits. Chicago has been putrid in stretches, which makes Oduro's form all the more impressive. A full 25 percent of his MLS goals (20) have come this season (5). And he's almost reached his goal tally in Houston (6) in 25 fewer appearances. Calen Carr, the man the Fire gave up, has yet to appear in a Dynamo shirt.

3. Omar Bravo, Sporting KC

Yes, KC technically slapped the DP tag on Bravo in 2010, but I make my own rules, yeah? And Bravo didn't get his first KC call-up 'til '11, so there. Quite a call-up, though. The former Mexico international scored a brace to open his account in KC on the first day of the season, and he now sits on six goals and a pair of assists despite an injury-flattened year. He was a commissioner's pick for the MLS all-star squad this week as well. If he keeps on this trajectory sans injury, a 13-14 goal season isn't out of the question. Bravo's fingerprints will be all over KC's turnaround if they force their way into the playoffs.

2. Luke Rodgers, NY Red Bulls

I've heard a few English footy diehards who are puzzled by Rodgers' success in MLS and use his inability to consistently rise above the English third tier as a stick with which to poke MLS. I don't fully follow that logic. Different league, different team, different Rodgers. His goal total (6) matched with his appearance total (15) is the most obvious marker of his success (check out the vid below), but New York's struggles without him are telling. If Rodgers' injury issues don't cut too deep to the bone this year, he'll continue to force his English top-tier doubters to take notice.

1. Faryd Mondragon, Philadelphia

It is difficult to call luring a 40-year-old keeper away from the Bundesliga a coup, but then why does this feel like one? After 94 appearances for Cologne, Mondragon came to Philly this year and aided in a complete reroute of its fortunes. After an expectedly awful expansion season, the Union are now a steel trap at the back with Mondragon serving as its titanium-browed conductor. Philly's offense has perked up in recent weeks, but when it was swooning the defense was a constant. To date, the Union have conceded 16 goals, tied with LA for second fewest in the league. Doff your cap to Mondragon next time you see him for guiding the most immense turnaround in MLS this season.

Honorable mention: Eric Hassli (THE GOAL), Jack Jewsbury, Charlie Davies, Carlos Ruiz

Jury's out:

Torsten Frings/Danny Koevermans, TFC

Toronto is so horrible that even these two vets might not be able to salvage the smoldering remains. But alas, I am an eternal optimist, and I will assume that Toronto's recent run of four straight losses will buckle once these two are fully injected into the MLS vein. How long that takes? This season is probably a lost cause, but there's always next year.

Pavel Pardo, Chicago Fire

Given that he hasn't been given DP status, it remains to be seen what plans the Fire have for the former Mexican international (b-day was Tuesday... 35 candles bro!). It continues with the theme of aging holding mids coming to MLS to die, meaning the Fire will get no quicker and only more creative due to the fact that they've completely lacked inspiration for huge chunks of the year. Chicago fans no doubt hope this is more Blanco than Castillo, but the latter will no doubt make the Fire faithful immediately skeptical.

- Will Parchman


florean said...

How is Sounders FC's Mauro Rosales not on the list!? He has arguably been Seattle's most dynamic offensive player, a mirror to Osvaldo Alonso's defensive performances. He has two goals and six assists. He's played in 17 of the Sounders 22 league games and started in 14. Only his fitness problems at the start of the season and newness to the team prevented him from getting more time. He's only 30 and the best part is, he amazingly only counts the league minimum of $42k against the cap! You'll be hard pressed to find a signing that is anywhere close to him on a talent per dollar basis.
I know everyone has their favorite player to add to this list, but I truly think based on the objective facts that Mauro deserves at least a mention.

Will Parchman said...

There are a ton of first-year impact players. It's impossible to mention them all. But you're right, Rosales is enjoying a nice year.

jon said...

I realize Mondragon is a talented keeper and Philly has only conceded 16 goals (a certain diminutive GK might disagree with your "fewest conceded" stat though), but Mondragon is way, way, way down the list as far as # of saves made and shots faced. If Philly's defense holds up for the rest of the year, you might be better served picking Valdes as your difference maker on that team.

Jack Savidge said...

You can't evaluate a keeper based on few saves or shots blocked. As a former college keeper and now coach, I tell young keepers that a commanding your defense in positioning and movement is 80%. A great keeper stops shots before they ever happen.

Will Parchman said...

Agreed, Jack. That was kind of my idea. Mondragon wears the armband for good reason. That he's been at the center of the best turnaround in the league (thus far) was why I tabbed him No. 1.