Major League Soccer’s Western Conference played second fiddle in terms of the acquisitions of high-profile players compared to the Eastern Conference.
While household names aren’t littered across the Western Conference transaction board, there are a few intriguing squad rebuilds going on.
Colorado, San Jose, Minnesota and Vancouver have experienced the most turnover to their squads after struggling throughout the 2018 season.
Some of the teams at the top of the West remained relatively quiet, putting an extra dose of trust behind their returning players.
Below is a look at the additions and departures from the 12 Western Conference teams, as well as grades based on each squad’s set of acquisitions. See Eastern Conference offseason grades here.
Additions: M Nicolas Mezquida, F Kei Kamara, GK Andre Rawls, GK Clint Irwin, F Diego Rubio, D Keegan Rosenberry, M Benny Feilhaber, F Andre Shinyashiki, D Sam Raben, F Matt Hundley
Departures: D Kip Colvey, D Mike da Fonte, F Giles Barnes, M Sam Hamilton, M Enzo Martinez, M Ricardo Perez, F Caleb Calvert, F Jack McBean, GK Andrew Dykstra, F Yannick Boli, GK Zac MacMath, D Edgar Castillo, M Marlon Hairston
Anthony Hudson’s first MLS roster build simply didn’t work.
As the Colorado Rapids prepare for the 2019 season, Hudson has brought in more players with MLS experience to improve a squad that lacked a ton of punch in 2018.
“This preseason has been really good for me,” Hudson said during an interview with MLSsoccer.com. “There were some areas we all felt we needed to improve in the team. … Last season we were in desperate need of strong characters in the locker room. I’ve really enjoyed seeing some of the personalities we have now being very vocal, asking questions that weren’t getting asked last year, helping others, instructing others—all things that have been taken to a higher level than last year”
The forward pairing of Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio is one of the most intriguing positional partnerships for the 2019 season since both players are proven scorers in MLS.
Benny Feilhaber adds a veteran presence to the midfield, while Keegan Rosenberry provides a stable force to the back line after a bounce-back season for the Philadelphia Union in 2018.
If the new additions combine well with Kellyn Acosta, Shkelzen Gashi, Axel Sjoberg and the other holdovers from the 2018 season, the Rapids have the potential to be one of the surprise teams of the 2019 campaign.
Additions: F Zdenek Ondrasek, D Bressan, D John Nelson, M Bryan Acosta, M Edwin Cerrillo
Departures: M Abel Aguilar, D Jordan Cano, D Maynor Figueroa, M Roland Lamah, D Kris Reaves, F Adonijah Reid, F Tesho Akindele, F Maxi Urruti, M Victor Ulloa, D Chris Richards
FC Dallas’ roster from the 2018 season remains mostly the same with a few adjustments.
After trading Maxi Urruti to Montreal and Tesho Akindele to Orlando City, FC Dallas reinforced its forward line by bringing in Zdenek Ondrasek from Wisla Krakow in Poland.
Ondrasek is expected to combine with Cristian Colman and Dominique Badji to lead a revamped forward line.
Bressan brings an experienced presence to the back line that should receive a step up in form from Reggie Cannon, who is vying for regular call-ups to the U.S. Men’s National Team.
In Bryan Acosta, FC Dallas has a central midfielder capable of running the show in the middle of the park to combine with experienced players and help bring along the talented collection of Homegrowns on the roster.
“I think the base is very similar to what it has been, and yeah we’ve lost some pieces, but we’ve also gained some pieces. So, it’s a retool, an evolution, an exfoliation — because the core is there and these pieces are adding,” FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez said in January.
Additions: D Erik McCue, D Chris Duvall, M Matias Vera, D Aljaz Struna, M Tommy McNamara, M Marlon Hairston, D Sam Junqua, D Maynor Figueroa
Departures: D Conor Donovan, D Leonardo, D Adolfo Machado, D Dylan Remick, D Jared Watts, F Mac Steeves, M Arturo Alvarez, D Philippe Senderos, D Andrew Wenger, M Luis Gil, M Eric Alexander, GK Chris Seitz
Houston fended off outside interest in Alberth Elis to keep the Honduran forward around for the start of the 2019 campaign, which began Tuesday with a foray into the Concacaf Champions League that ended in a 1-0 victory over CD Guastatoya.
With a strong forward group already on the roster, the Dynamo brought in a few defensive reinforcements in Chris Duvall, Aljaz Struna and Maynor Figueroa.
Adding Tommy McNamara, Marlon Hairston and Matias Vera brings a good amount of depth to the Dynamo midfield, and they’ll need to rely on that during the summer when some of their top players are away at the Concacaf Gold Cup.
“They’ve made some good additions to the team, and they’re going to help us,” Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley said last month. “I think we’ve got a lot more depth this year to give some break time for the three up top.
The pieces are in place for the Dynamo to take a step up in the Western Conference, but they have to prove that on the pitch.
Los Angeles FC
Additions: D Eddie Segura, D Mohamed El-Munir, F Rodolfo Zelaya
Departures: GK Charlie Lyon, GK Quillan Roberts, M Nico Czornomaz, M Calum Mallace, M James Murphy, F Steeve Saint-Doc, M Benny Feilhaber, GK Luis Lopez, M Aaron Kovar, D Joao Moutinho
LAFC has been one of the quietest teams during the offseason. Bob Bradley’s side added a pair of defenders and a forward for depth purposes.
From a pure acquisition standpoint, the second-year side didn’t do much to add to the roster it put in place last offseason.
The majority of the key pieces from the club’s inaugural season are back, and LAFC is hoping to receive a boost from Mark-Anthony Kaye’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2018.
Bradley’s side would benefit from adding a bit more depth, especially at the back, but it doesn’t look like LAFC will be making major splashes before the 2019 campaign gets underway.
Additions: M Juninho, GK Matt Lampson, M Uriel Antuna, D Diego Polenta
Departures: D Michael Ciani, GK Brian Sylvestre, F Ariel Lassiter, D Sheanon Williams, D Ashley Cole, M Baggio Husidic
At this moment in time, no one is paying attention to the acquisitions made by the LA Galaxy.
Everyone wants to know what the Galaxy, and possibly the MLS league office, will do about the club’s Designated Player conundrum, which can only be solved by paying Giovani dos Santos significantly less money, or through the league office stepping in.
The Galaxy’s biggest offseason success was re-signing the most notable of those DPs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Now, the club needs to fulfill his demands for a supporting cast that will win titles.
The Galaxy’s offseason pickups should help the storied club make its return to the postseason. Diego Polenta and Juninho will help rebuild a defensive unit that was putrid for most of 2018, while Uriel Antuna is another option to use on the wing for new head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Polenta is the player to watch out of the collection of new players, as the Galaxy desperately need stability in the back four to provide a complement to the embarrassment of riches they have in the attacking positions.
“He has experience playing at a very high level in Uruguay and he will contribute to an area of need in our defense,” Galaxy general manager Dennis Te Kloese said of Polenta. “We are excited to add him to our roster and look forward to integrating him into our team as we prepare for the upcoming season.”
Additions: M Jan Gregus, M Osvaldo Alonso, GK Dayne St. Clair, D Romain Metanire, D Ike Opara, GK Vito Mannone
Departures: D Marc Burch, M Ibson, GK Matt Lampson, M Fernando Bob, D Jerome Thiesson, M Collen Warner, D Bertrand Owundi Eko’o, M Frantz Pangop, GK Alex Kapp, M Harrison Heath, M Johan Venegas, M Maximiano, M Alexi Gomez
Minnesota United has nowhere to go but up in 2019 after struggling through its first two seasons, especially on the defensive front.
Ike Opara and Osvaldo Alonso are two of the most important additions made by any team in the West. They’re expected to be key pieces for a Loons defensive unit that needs to improve in order for the club to achieve progress during the season in which it’s opening the state-of-the-art Allianz Field.
“We’ve been laser-focused on adding starters in key positions of need this offseason and we feel that Ike is an excellent addition to a really good core group of defenders already on our roster,” Minnesota United sporting director Manny Lagos said after the Opara signing.
The Loons did the right thing by focusing on their biggest weakness, and they were able to zone in on the defensive-minded positions because of the attacking pieces they put in place last year, such as Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez.
A majority of Minnesota’s success rides on the defense finally rounding into form. If that occurs, the Loons have the potential to surprise people in 2019.
Additions: M Marvin Loria, M Renzo Zambrano, GK Aljaz Ivacic, D Claude Dielna
Departures: M Victor Arboleda, M Lawrence Olum, GK Jake Gleeson, D Roy Miller, M Jack Barmby, D Alvas Powell, D Liam Ridgewell
The biggest losses suffered by the Portland Timbers came on defense, where Alvas Powell was moved to FC Cincinnati and Liam Ridgewell opted for a return to England with Hull City.
“I loved it. It was great, really refreshing for me. It gave me another lease of life. It was something I needed to do, and I really loved it,” Ridgewell said of his time in MLS.
The good news for the Timbers is they already have players in place to absorb the departures of Ridgewell and Powell, and they brought in a solid depth piece in Claude Dielna from New England.
Coach Giovanni Savarese and his team will once again go as far as the core of Diego Chara, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco takes them. While all three are more than capable of winning games on their own, adding an impact forward would take some responsibilities of their shoulders.
Portland’s grade will improve if it brings in a high-quality playmaker up top, but it won’t sink to the bottom of the West if a deal falls through.
Real Salt Lake
Additions: F Julian Vazquez, GK David Ochoa, M Luis Arriaga, D Donny Toia, F Tate Schmitt, D Erik Holt, M Everton Luiz, F Sam Johnson
Departures: GK Connor Sparrow, D Shawn Barry, D David Horst, D Taylor Peay, D Demar Phillips, M Jose Hernandez, M Sunny, F Ricky Lopez-Espin, F Luis Silva, D Danilo Acosta
Real Salt Lake sprinkled in some intriguing veteran signings while bringing in more Homegrown players from its academy.
Everton Luiz is a central midfielder who should add experience to the middle of the park, where the ageless Kyle Beckerman still resides.
Signing Sam Johnson as a Designated Player was a bit of a risk. It is debatable whether spending that much money on a striker from Scandinavia is worth it since that strategy hasn’t worked out for a few clubs in the past (See: Magnus Eriksson with San Jose and Kennedy Igboananike with Chicago).
Johnson is expected to add extra pop to an attack that features Joao Plata, Jefferson Savarino and 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year Corey Baird.
San Jose Earthquakes
Additions: M Judson, F Cristian Espinoza, D Marcos Lopez, M Siad Haji, GK Daniel Vega, F Cade Cowell
Departures: D Yeferson Quintana, M Jahmir Hyka, M Chris Wehan, F Danny Musovski, F Mohamed Thiaw, F Dominic Oduro
The San Jose Earthquakes hopefully learned from their acquisition strategy from a year ago and moved on. With Matias Almeyda now in charge at head coach, the Quakes are trying to take the step forward they hoped for a year ago under Mikael Stahre.
Judson and Cristian Espinoza are the two impact players Almeyda hopes can raise the quality of a squad that still holds plenty of players from the 2018 roster that failed to achieve almost every goal it set under Stahre.
The more intriguing story involving the Quakes in 2019 centers on which returners Almeyda trusts and how much he carves up the roster by summer.
Almeyda’s first Quakes side should produce better results than Stahre’s squad, but there shouldn’t be incredibly high expectations for a team that was in total disarray by the time the 2018 regular season ended.
“We have so many goals along the way, that if we hit those, we will continue to get better: having a winning home record, making the playoffs, all these little things are going to add up,” Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski said a few weeks ago.
Additions: D Jonathan Campbell, GK Trey Muse
Departures: GK Calle Brown, D Tony Alfaro, M Lamar Neagle, F Felix Chenkam, M Osvaldo Alonso, M Aaron Kovar, D Waylon Francis
It feels like the Seattle Sounders have been too quiet this offseason.
Don’t blame the Sounders for keeping much of the roster they had last year, especially with the big-money deals they handed out to Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. But all they’ve done is add depth at centerback and bring in a highly-touted Homegrown goalkeeper.
If Morris returns from his ACL injury at full strength, he’ll have a similar impact on the Sounders as a new signing would.
Jordan Morris. BANGER. pic.twitter.com/YMeFJxcv8B
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) February 14, 2019
Sporting Kansas City
Additions: F Tyler Freeman, M Rodney Wallace, F Erik Hurtado, M Kelyn Rowe, D Botond Barath, D Abdul Rwatubyaye
Departures: F Kharlton Belmar, M Cristian Lobato, D Amer Didic, D Brad Evans, D Colton Storm, F Khiry Shelton, F Diego Rubio, D Ike Opara
Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes is one of the best in MLS at getting the most out of working with less.
Sporting KC will never contend in terms of money with teams like Atlanta, Seattle and Portland, but the club has a system that works and Vermes knows which types of players he wants.
The additions of known quantities Rodney Wallace and Kelyn Rowe bring more experience to the squad, and they’ll help with depth at the start of the season, when the club embarks on a Concacaf Champions League campaign.
Not much is known about Botond Baráth and Abdul Rwatubyaye, but they wouldn’t have been brought it unless Vermes vetted their strengths and weaknesses and thought they could both help the club.
Additions: F Theo Bair, GK Zac MacMath, GK Maxime Crepeau, D PC, M Andy Rose, D Derek Cornelius, M Jon Erice, M Lass Bangoura, M Lucas Venuto, D Scott Sutter, M Hwang In-beom, D Jasser Khmiri, D Erik Godoy, F Joaquin Ardaiz, F Fredy Montero
Departures: M Alphonso Davies, GK Stefan Marinovic, D Jose Aja, D Roberto Dominguez, D Aaron Maund, M Marvin Emnes, M Aly Ghazal, D/M Brek Shea, F Myer Bevan, GK Brian Rowe, D Sean Franklin, M Cristian Techera, F Kei Kamara, M Jordon Mutch, GK Spencer Richey, M Nicolas Mezquida, D Kendall Waston, F Erik Hurtado, F Anthony Blondell, M Efrain Juarez, D Marcel De Jong
Vancouver head coach Marc Dos Santos deserves a lot of credit for diving head first into a roster overhaul ahead of his first season in charge.
"If we look at what we want to be as a club in the future, we're very excited and confident in what we're doing."
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) February 14, 2019
While other first-year head coaches are sticking with players that were on their clubs’ rosters in 2018, Dos Santos has shredded the Whitecaps roster to pieces in hopes of achieving success with his own collection of talent.
It’s a bold strategy to put into motion, but shows Dos Santos is only willing to succeed or fail with a group he believes in.
Designated Players Joaquin Ardaiz and Hwang In-beom will be under scrutiny because of the amount of money paid to bring them to British Columbia.
But the most recent addition, forward Fredy Montero, will be under the biggest microscope. He comes back to MLS from Sporting CP in Portugal with one of the better goal-scoring records in the league’s history.
The 31-year-old scored 13 goals in his lone season with the Whitecaps in 2017 and has scored in double figures in each of the five seasons he’s played in MLS with Seattle and Vancouver.