It’s been exactly a month since the NASL named its champion and a flurry of player transfer news since then has made things very interesting. After only a month, it looks like we have clear winners and losers in the offseason and a few surprising non-contenders.
Across the last month:
Atlanta’s existence continues in question and the only news has been the departure of leading scorer Jaime Chavez.
Carolina declined their option on nine players, re-signed Steven Miller, and secured the services of Kareem Moses, with the Eddies in 2015. Though it happened before season’s end, securing Tiyi Shipalane, who had been approached by the Cosmos, was also a smart first move by the new ownership.
The Eddies released five players at the end of their season. This included the aforementioned Kareem Moses, and John Smits, the 2014 Golden Glove winner who lost his starting spot and spiraled down the depth chart this season. They re-signed key players like captain Albert Watson and Eddie Edwards, both from the backline. Daryl Fordyce, who was tied for most goals in the club last season, was also re-signed. Lance Laing, the Jamaican international, departed the club. While many saw this as a negative due to losing his offensive prowess, his call-ups to the Jamaican national team became a disruption and a serious draw on the Canadian side, and this may help stabilize them in the long run.
Ft Lauderdale announced no player acquisitions, although rumors and reports from Brazil popped up due to new coach Caio Zanardi’s trip there. One of the most prevalent rumors is the possibility of Ronaldinho joining the side. The only known player move so far, however, is the departure of Stefano Pinho, last year’s Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner.
Indy cleaned house under new coach Tim Hankinson. Options were declined on eight players, including starting keeper Kristian Nicht and standout center back Erick Norales. Two additional contract expirations along with loan expirations on six players, including the speedy Dane Richards, followed. However, options were exercised on nine players. This included three of four starters on the back line and midfielder Dylan Mares, who led the club in goals.
Jacksonville released eight players under new coach Tony Meola. Their only additional move was to re-sign center back Mechack Jerome who joined late last season, but had an immediate impact.
Miami FC’s kit unveiling also showed off three of their supposed ten signings. Wilson Palacios, a Honduran international with a wealth of EPL experience, highlighted those signings. Joining him were former Silverback, Jaime Chavez, and former Eleven loan, Dane Richards.
Minnesota released back-up goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt and defender Tyler Polak and made a massive signing in former Striker Stefano Pinho. They currently possess the Golden Boot winners from three of the last four years.
Coming off a strong run to the championship, many wondered how Ottawa would follow it up in the offseason. The announcement of the re-signing of Romuald Peiser came in the days after the final. The club also announced that options were picked up on four players, including Best XI center back Rafael Alves, and that they had re-signed Brandon Poltronieri. But under new coach Paul Dalglish, the story has mostly been one of exodus. Between contract expirations, loan expirations and options being declined, eight players left the NASL runner-ups. This included Tom Heinemann, who scored all four of their play-off goals, including two while a man down. His contributions to the offense will be difficult for them to replace.
San Antonio? Nobody seems to know what‘s going on over there, but defender Brad Rusin announced his departure and the club announced the re-signing of Billy Forbes.
Tampa Bay saw some turnover as seven players had their options declined, including the starting goalkeeper at the beginning of 2015, Kamil Contofalsky. Options were picked up on four other players like Darnell King who was crucial for chance creations, Zac Portillos and Keith Savage, both of whom spent most of 2015 injured, and young player Darwin Espinal. But the biggest news was the signing of Tom Heinemann from Ottawa. This should help address their primary issue, finishing.
Today – Signing-geddon:
A series of moves happened today which appear to have shifted the balance of power in the NASL.
An article from AS indicated that the Strikers have signed 35-year-old Adrianinho in Brazil, who currently plays for Ponte Preta. Nothing official has been released by the club yet.
Miami formally announced the signing of Brad Rusin after his Instagram post a few weeks back disclosed his plans to join them. They also announced the signing of Blake Smith, an American winger who spent time with Yverdon-Sport of the Swiss third division and was loaned to Indy in 2014 by the Montreal Impact.
Tampa Bay announced a new contract with Freddy Adu for 2016 with an option for 2017, in lieu of picking up his option for the 2016 season. With his and King’s creative efforts added to Heinemann’s finishing, the Rowdies might give themselves a look at the postseason.
Minnesota continued the quest to become a super team by announcing the signing of Lance Laing. Between Christian Ramirez, Pablo Campos, Stefano Pinho, Kalif Alhassan, and Laing, firepower will be in much supply.
But the biggest surprise came from Soccer Bowl finalist Ottawa Fury. A day after indicating that Ryan Richter and club captain Richie Ryan were under contract for the 2016 season, they announced that both players and midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic had handed in transfer requests. Their loss has been the gain of other clubs.
Jacksonville Armada signed Ryan. Indy secured the services of Ubiparipovic, and Empire of Soccer announced that Richter would be joining Tampa, though no official release has arrived at time of writing.
To add insult to injury, the Strikers announced new members of their technical staff. Headlining the list was Phillip Dos Santos, assistant coach of the Fury in 2015, now assistant coach of the 2016 Strikers.
As for the Cosmos? Nothing to announce yet.
At the moment, the winners look like United and the Rowdies. The losers are the Strikers and Fury. And the non-contenders include the Cosmos. Obviously, there is plenty of time for this to change.
While I’m not freaking out yet, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a fair amount of concern. Minnesota has built an offensive force to be reckoned with and kept their core together so far, for a second consecutive offseason. The Rowdies are addressing the issues with finishing that kept them out of the playoffs and allowed the Cosmos to clinch Spring 2015. Meola has made a good choice with his signing of Ryan and this looks encouraging for his tenure with the Armada. Miami seem serious and look to have the pockets to make a splash. Indy have made wide, sweeping changes to the team and Ubiparipovic is a solid start to rebuilding.
I eagerly await some signing news from the Cosmos, especially with the loss of talent from the departures of Marcos Senna and Raul and the uncertainty surrounding the potential returns of Leo Fernandes and Walter Restrepo.
But there’s still a lot of offseason left, Cosmos Country. And plenty of time for the Cosmos to refill their ranks. We’ll be looking forward to it.
Minnesota made the biggest moves, in my opinion, especially when you consider they now have 28 of the 453 goals scored in NASL last year in two players alone: Pinho and Ramirez. That is a little over 6%. While that might not seem like a large amount, United now have the top two scorers in the league from last year. Add on a dynamic player like Laing and their already strong fullbacks, they will score early and often in 2016.
The interesting stories to me are in Indianapolis and Jacksonville as both of these young teams seem to have fresh ideas coming from the manager roles.
Tom Hankinson seems to have a good understanding of the challenges that you face when coaching in the United States and does not seem afraid to take it on. He has stressed the importance of improving on the goal productivity for the Eleven and it should be fun to watch how he continues to turn over that roster.
Tony Meola, on the other hand, seems a little more patient in his approach. He stated in an interview that he knows they will not win the title in year one but is well aware that the fans will want to see a product on the field that is building towards something. The Armada were more of an attack-minded team in 2015, but with a former goalkeeper now at the helm, could we see a different strategy on the field?
As for the Cosmos, clearly there still are a lot of questions regarding the midfield and it does not look like Leo Fernandes is going to be returning, so there are a lot of goals missing from this team going into the new year. However, world football is a very large pool of players and while I do not expect us to replace the two big name midfielders, the Cosmos will most likely add some tools to set us up for the new campaign.