Grading The MLS Off-Season, Part 2: Real Salt Lake Still Looks Like Team To Beat

The re-signing of Alvaro Saborio is a major reason Real Salt Lake looks to be one of the big winners during the off-season, despite their relative lack of activity. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

The MLS off-season has been full of action, with five different drafts that has seen an unprecedented level of movement. Players have switched teams, in some cases multiple times, and been added to the league at a remarkable that makes it hard to follow. With training camps now opening, it seems as good a time as any to review what MLS teams have been doing since November.

We're going through the teams in alphabetical order. On Thursday, we shared Part 1. Today, we bring you the second half of our review.

New York Red Bulls

Key additions: Corey Hertzog, John Rooney. Key losses: Mike Petke, Seth Stammler, Jeremy Hall, Luke Sassano, Juan Pablo Angel.

Take Angel out of the equation and this has been a surprisingly quiet off-season for the league's most free-spending team, especially compared to last year when it seemed like the whole roster turned over. Angel is the only player they lost that started as many as half the Red Bulls' games, and the Red Bulls' have a ready replacement in buddy star Juan Agudelo. That said, neither Hertzog nor Rooney are probably going to be game-changers anytime soon. Basically, if you liked the Red Bulls team that finished atop the Eastern Conference standings, but didn't get out of the first round, you'll like this one. If you didn't like that team, prepare to be frustrated. Grade: C.

Philadelphia Union

Key additions: Brian Carroll, Zac MacMath, Faryd Mondragon, Carlos Valdes. Key losses: Alejandro Moreno, Shea Salinas, Chris Seitz, Fred.

As much fun as I've had at the expense of the Union's roster management, the off-season doesn't actually look that bad when viewed as a whole. Sure, a lot of the individual decisions seem odd: Leaving Salinas unprotected, not knowing what to do with Seitz, using their No. 1 pick on a 19-year-old goalkeeper. But when viewed in the context of everything else they've done, mainly the twin signings of Mondragon and Valdes, there's some sense to it all. Throw in the maturation of Danny Mwanga, the continued emergence of Sebastian Le Toux and maybe even the promised gelling of that defense that supposed to be the backbone of the team, this could be a team ready to make some noise. Grade: B+.

Portland Timbers

Key additions: Ryan Pore, Kerrea Gilbert, Troy Perkins, Kenny Cooper, Darlington Nagbe. Key losses: Dax McCarty, Arturo Alvarez, Steve Cronin.

It seems weird that a team that has not yet played a game has so many "key losses," right? But what else would you call the trades of McCarty, Alvarez and Cronin if not losses? Considering none of them brought appreciable returns, at least not yet, it does seem strange. Yet, there's a lot to like about the players they've picked up. Pore was the best player in Division 2 last year, Gilbert was the property of Arsenal not so long ago, Perkins was once a very promising keeper, Cooper is only two years removed from scoring MLS goals in bunches and Nagbe was probably the best college player. Right now, it seems like this team has a lot more in common with the expansion-year Sounders than the expansion-year Union. I wouldn't bet on them making the playoffs, but I wouldn't be surprised either. Grade: B, and it could still get better.

Real Salt Lake

Key additions: Arturo Alvarez. Key losses: Robbie Findley.

Not much here, but there really didn't need to be. Re-signing Alvaro Saborio was easily their biggest move, but bringing in Alvarez wasn't bad either. Findley probably won't be missed much as Fabian Espindola seemed to be at least his equal. The defense that set a MLS record for fewest goals allowed returns intact, backups and all. This really seems to be a team that seems capable of winning multiple trophies this year. Grade: A-, and the minus is really just because it doesn't seem quite perfect.

Sporting Kansas City

Key additions: Omar Bravo, Luke Sassano, C.J. Sapong. Key losses: Jonathan Leathers, Josh Wolff, Jimmy Conrad.

The name change and the new stadium don't really count as off-season moves, but taken along with the addition of Bravo as a Designated Player, this team has undergone a massive transformation. Most of that change has more to do with perception than reality, though. For the most part, this team will be very similar to the one that missed the playoffs. The only question is whether you choose to view that team as one that was unlucky (best shot-difference in the league) or one that simply didn't know how to score (10th in goals scored). Grade: C+, but there are still some promised additions.

San Jose Earthquakes

Key additions: Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Steven Lenhart. Key losses: Arturo Alvarez, Joe Cannon, Khari Stephenson, Geovanni, Eduardo, Cornell Glen.

There's a lot more names on the way out than on the way in, as the Earthquakes only picked one player in the SuperDraft and two more in the Supplemental Draft. Lenhart could be a nice addition, and they'll of course have Chris Wondolowski and Bobby Convey back, but Frank Yallop can't really be expecting them to repeat their production of a season ago, can he? All three players had career years, and this is a team that really didn't get production from any other sources. There's still some time, some roster space and some cap room so maybe there are some big moves in the works. Until those moves come to fruition, though, we have to go with what we have and what we have is not looking too great. Left as is, it's hard to see this team repeating their successes of a season ago. Grade: D+.

Seattle Sounders

Key additions: Julien Baudet, Danny Earls, O'Brian White, Erik Friberg, Michael Tetteh. Key losses: Sanna Nyassi, Nate Sturgis, Peter Vagenas, Tyrone Marshall.

There's no question the Sounders lost more starters than they gained. Thing is, this off-season was more about getting healthy than anything else. Of the additions, Friberg is the only one expected to vie for a starting position. But the Sounders should also have Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Nate Jaqua close to full health and Designated Player Alvaro Fernandez for an entire training camp. Those four players were all missing for large chunks of last season. Throw in the re-signing of Fredy Montero and Kasey Keller and the off-season has been just fine for the Sounders. Grade: B.

Toronto FC

Key additions: Nathan Sturgis, Demetrius Omphroy. Key losses: O'Brian White, Joseph Nane, Mista, Nick Garcia, Chad Barrett, Jon Conway.

When a second-round draft pick is your second biggest off-season acquisition, you know it's been quiet. (Well, maybe quiet is the wrong word as the Dwayne DeRosario situation created plenty of headlines, but you get my drift.) Maybe that's by design, though, as the Reds only recently put their new front office in place. At least they have plenty of cap space to work with as they spent most of the off-season clearing about $2 million of salary off the books (and in the process got rid of almost a third of their goal-scoring). But we can't very well grade them on moves yet to be made, can we? Until we start to see what magic Aron Winter has up his orange-lined sleeve, we have to grade them on what they have done: Almost nothing. Grade: D, but expecting that to improve.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Key additions: Jay DeMerit, Jay Nolly, Atiba Harris, Shea Salinas, Joe Cannon, Jonathan Leathers, Omar Salgado, Michael Nanchoff. Key losses: Alan Gordon, Alejandro Moreno, Sanna Nyassi, O'Brian White, Nathan Sturgis.

For all the activity in Vancouver, they still are a ways away from having anything close to a complete team. Just 19 players are currently under contract despite the Whitecaps participating in three major drafts (and that doesn't include the two phases of the Re-Entry Draft in which they did not select any players). We know there are some signings yet to come, more than a few of which are likely to be Division 2 call-ups, but this must be getting worrisome for followers of the team. After all, there's only so much talent one team can reasonably bring from overseas. As it stands now, this team has just five players who were in MLS last season and none of them are real goal-scorers. Right now, it looks like a 17-year-old who has never played first division soccer and might not be eligible to play until he turns 18 in September is their top scoring option. I'm expecting this grade to improve, but right now this does not look good for 2011. Grade: D+.

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