As contract deadline day in MLS came and went, we found out which players teams wanted to keep, and which ones found themselves no longer officially on a roster.
The four teams still in the playoffs — Seattle, Columbus, Houston, and Toronto — who haven’t released their roster moves yet, since they have a later deadline depending on how far they go into the playoffs.
With transfer season ahead — along with the inevitable start of silly season — we thought it’d be fun to take a look at five MLS players who are now out of contract that might be a good fit at Real Salt Lake. By no means am I saying that RSL should go out and grab solely players from MLS, but with roster moves being announced, it’s never too early to have some fun with speculation, right?
Last club: Vancouver Whitecaps
Look, for now we have to assume that Nick Rimando won’t be back with RSL next season, because that’s the assumption I’m taking with all these other players who weren’t re-signed with their clubs as well. I personally think Rimando will be back, but in the event that he’s not, RSL will have to look elsewhere for a solid goalkeeper to try and fill his shoes.
Enter David Ousted.
The 32-year-old ‘keeper found out earlier in the season that Vancouver wouldn’t be picking up his option, so he’s had some time to think about his next move. He’s been with the Whitecaps since 2013, playing 142 games and putting up some impressive numbers. He racked up 42 shutouts, 432 total saves, and six penalty saves out of 24 faced throughout that five-year span.
Considering that the only goalkeeper officially on RSL’s roster at the moment is Connor Sparrow, Ousted would be a no-brainer — although unfortunately, we’d have to get him through the Re-Entry Draft or the Waiver Draft, as Ousted isn’t quite eligible for MLS free agency. There’s a good chance he could head overseas, since he’s free to sign with any club outside of MLS that he chooses, and he already spent 11 years playing as a professional in his home country of Denmark before he came to MLS in 2013.
Position: Attacking midfielder/forward
Last club: Orlando City SC
While Orlando City declined options on a slew of players — Servando Carrasco, Antonio Nocerino, Hadji Barry, Josh Saunders, Dillon Powers, and Seb Hines to name a few — designated player Giles Barnes appeared on the list as well. Having just sent Brek Shea over to Vancouver in exchange for Barnes this past season, it came as a bit of a surprise to me that Jason Kreis and Orlando declined the option on the 29-year-old Jamaican international.
Barnes spent the majority of his MLS career in Houston until he was sent to Vancouver in 2016. He’s made 157 MLS appearances through seven seasons, with 139 of those in a starting role, tallying 36 goals and 17 assists altogether. He’s a dynamic attacking player who can frustrate opposing defenders and really cause problems when he needs to, in addition to being a solid set piece taker.
Obviously, RSL’s immediate need in the attacking department lies in the target forward area, as Yura Movsisyan’s fate somewhat hangs in the balance this offseason. Combined with losing Chad Barrett, there will be some shoes to fill. While Barnes isn’t a target man, and we already have an incredibly solid attacking midfielder in “King Albert,” he’s also more than capable of playing out on the wing, which could be an area that RSL needs some depth in if they’re not able to work out a permanent deal for Brooks Lennon.
Barnes would be a decent backup for Jefferson Savarino and Joao Plata, and would be more than able to fill a starting role when either one of them is out with injury. The downside? Last year his base salary was $725,000 with Orlando, making him one of their three designated players.
While ideally he would be a fun player to add to the roster, it wouldn’t make much sense to pick up a guy with that kind of price tag just to play second fiddle to the players we’ve already got. Additionally, Luis Silva already kind of fills that role as the “swiss army knife” (sorry Jordan Allen) who’s been filling in as a striker, winger, and attacking midfielder when needed.
Position: Defender (right/center)
Last club: New England Revolution
Starting out as a homegrown player with FC Dallas, Woodberry was signed by the New England Revolution in 2015 after he was waived from Dallas and spent a year with USL club Arizona United. Since his signing with New England, he’s played 46 games with 43 starts and scored one goal.
While he fell down further on the depth charts in 2017 after the signing of Antonio Mlinar Delamea, he only made three appearances this last season, as opposed to being a regular starter in 2016. New England has made it very apparent that they won’t be needing his services whatsoever anymore, as they cleaned house and sent him packing along with a host of others.
Woodberry is a young and versatile defender, capable of playing in both the right back and center back positions. While RSL already has starters locked down in those positions — Tony Beltran on the right, Justen Glad and Marcelo Silva in the center — Woodberry would provide some depth in either spot, which as we saw this last season, can easily come into play when you’re missing almost half your roster.
With his guaranteed compensation set at $69,300 last year with the Revs, he’d be a cheap and decent option, especially since Beltran suffered a terrible knee injury back in October and could see some recovery woes come the start of next season. In addition, RSL just declined options on center back Justin Schmidt and right back Reagan Dunk, so they’ll be looking to add some depth either way.
Woodberry won’t qualify for free agency, but will be eligible for both the Re-Entry Draft and the Waiver Draft in the offseason.
Position: Defensive midfielder
Last club: Portland Timbers
Bear with me here. Like in the goalkeeper spot, this is assuming that none of the out-of-contract players are coming back with their current clubs next year. And yes, that includes Kyle Beckerman — which, again personally, I feel like will be back next season. Assuming that he’s not, though, RSL will need to add some depth in the midfield to help out Sunny and Luke Mulholland. They already have Nick Besler on the roster, but with very little MLS experience, they’ll need some more help. Okugo, whose option was just declined by Portland, could be the right fit.
The nine-year MLS veteran has been around the league, spending the majority of his time in the states with Philadelphia starting in 2010, but jumping around to Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City in 2015 before finally landing in Portland in 2016. He was never a regular starter for the Timbers, only playing a total of 12 games with five starts over his two seasons at Providence Park.
He was a mainstay in Philadelphia, though, making 117 appearances with 101 starts through five seasons, even tallying five goals. His 2017 guaranteed compensation was just over $187k while his base salary was $65,004, which could make him a relatively cheap defensive midfielder. While he’s not superstar status like Kyle, he can easily slot in behind Sunny in the depth chart, or even be considered for regular rotation with Mulholland’s spot depending on performance.
Okugo isn’t eligible for free agency this year, so if he doesn’t re-sign with the Timbers, he’ll be qualified to enter the Re-Entry Draft, and if necessary, the Waiver Draft.
Position: Defensive midfielder
Last club: Vancouver Whitecaps
Heading back to Vancouver, anyone who’s familiar with this league will know the name Matias Laba. He’s been regarded as one of the best holding mids in the league for quite some time. While his option was declined, he’s currently in talks with the Whitecaps to renegotiate his contract, so I’d be extremely surprised if he ends up going to another club.
But just for fun, let’s talk about it.
Just like I mentioned with Okugo, if Kyle doesn’t come back next season, RSL will need some big time help in the midfield. Laba has been in MLS for five years, starting with Toronto FC in 2013 and making the move to Vancouver in 2014. He’s been a staple in their lineup ever since, playing 113 games with 112 starts over the last five years, while notching three goals for the ‘Caps. He’s a young, solid defensive midfielder and in my opinion, any team could benefit from having him on their roster.
He doesn’t come cheap, though, as he’s had the designated player tag in Vancouver, with a guaranteed compensation of $885,500 in 2017. If this were going to be a move RSL would make, it would only be if Beckerman didn’t come back, and even then would take some finagling with the budget, possibly utilizing some TAM if they have it available.
Is there anyone I didn’t mention that you think deserves a closer look? Let us know in the comments!