The Major League Soccer season is long finished, but all is not lost for MLS junkies and fans of the beautiful game in the United States. The rumor mill is in full swing and the prospect of potential trades, foreign arrivals and the January SuperDraft is enough to even capture the interest of the growing league’s casual followers.
D.C. United’s expected to sign former Manchester United midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, possibly at the expense of Christian Gomez. Pablo Mastroeni is rumored to be on his way out of Denver. Meanwhile, anyone from Andy Dorman to Eddie Johnson could make the jump across the Atlantic. It’s just the beginning what should be an offseason of significant player movement. But where do the Wizards fit in?
It’s almost a lock Kansas City will bring in some new talent to shore up a roster that faded down the stretch. Team officials have been scouting players in South America and it seems likely that another player in the mold of Carlos Marinelli and Eloy Colombano will join the Wizards in 2008.
Despite waiving four developmental players in preparation for the waiver draft, some first-team players are going to have to find new homes to make room on Kansas City’s senior roster for any major additions, foreign or otherwise. While guessing who will arrive is impossible, it’s far easier to predict which current players could be moving on.
Assuming the Wizards add at least three new faces, here are the three players most likely to ply their trade elsewhere next season.
1. Eddie Johnson
This one is obvious. Johnson has been rumored to be on the verge of a move to England for a while now. Turning Derby County down this summer turned out to be a good decision on Johnson’s part, but he still isn’t getting significantly better against MLS competition.
Now is the time to test his skills abroad and immerse himself in an competitive environment completely different than MLS. He’s no longer an 18-year-old wunderkind. The longer Johnson waits the less his value to potential suitors and the less likely it will be that he can adapt successfully to another country and style of play.
Though a move to the Premiership would be ideal − Reading is said to be interested − even a move to an upper-level Championship club could serve as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things.
2. Jose Burciaga Jr.
Burciaga lost the confidence of Curt Onalfo and his staff during the final half of 2007. Rookie Michael Harrington quickly took advantage by locking up the left back spot after Burciaga committed a few too many costly defensive errors.
Wizards’ coaches conducted a short experiment by moving him to midfield but his performances weren’t enough to convince them he was the answer there either. Despite a cannon of a shot and the ability to push up the left flank into dangerous positions, the defensive liability he posed became too much to overcome.
His $100,000 salary is another stumbling block for the team. By not protecting him in the expansion draft the Wizards made it obvious that the former U.S. youth international is available.
3. Sasha Victorine
In Victorine’s case, salary will make it hard to justify holding on to the former UCLA Bruin. His veteran presence and untiring play make him valuable, but Technical Director Peter Vermes and Onalfo will have to take a long look at whether or not they can get the same value for less.
Victorine made $140,000 last season and unless he takes a pay cut it’s unlikely the Wizards will keep him around. Consider this, Real Salt Lake signed Argentine trio Edgar Espindola, Javier Morales and Matias Mantilla for $240,000 in combined salaries − exactly the figure the Wizards would save without Burciaga and Victorine.
If all three move on, the Wizards would be left with enough cap room to be a major player in the free agent market. With an influx of talent and the time to gel together, it’s not inconceivable that Kansas City could find themselves in a position to make some noise when play kicks of next March.
What do you think? Which Wizards will find themselves playing for another club next season? What players would you like to see signed?