Training camps have only been going for about a week for most teams, but rosters are definitely starting to take shape. Although most of the European leagues have their transfer windows close on Feb. 2, that could be when it gets really interesting in MLS as the window here remains open until April 15. That means players who failed to land gigs in Europe can still head to MLS.
With that in mind, it's as good a time as any to grade the jobs MLS teams have done so far. Keep in mind, these grades are based on the offseason, not on how good I think the team will be. The transaction page at MLSSoccer.com was the main source of information. We'll start with the Eastern Conference today and will follow up with the Western Conference on Tuesday.
The tandem losses of Yamith Cuesta and Josip Mikulic came as a bit of a surprise and leaves a rather significant hole in the Fire's defense. What was once a strength is suddenly a very thin position as Jalil Anibaba and Cory Gibbs are the only two centerbacks with MLS experience on the roster. Clearly, that's a position that needs to be upgraded. Diego Chaves is not a huge loss, but the Fire were already struggling to score goals and his output (six goals, one assist) will have to be replaced somehow. Grade: D+
Just looking at the balance of talent-in/talent-out and you might be inclined to think this has been a rough offseason for the Crew. Gardner, Mendoza and Rogers all played at least 1,800 minutes and contributed 17 goals and 11 assists. But I really think they've more than made up for their losses with the additions, especially if we can assume some maturation from the younger players. Mirosevic may prove to be one of the more significant additions of the offseason. Grade: B+
United needed to add some veteran leadership, and in Russell that's exactly what they got. He might not be as good as he was a few years ago, but his presence should really help settle a defense that was a bit lost -- and very young -- at times last year. Santos is a bit of a wild card, but could be useful. Cruz, for my money, is a tad overrated but should provide some nice depth at an already deep position. Grade: B-
Key losses: Brian Ching, Carlo Costly, Danny Cruz
No offense to Nathan Sturgis, but if he qualifies as your biggest offseason addition there are problems. The good news is that there should be plenty of money to spend as both Ching and Costly were expensive players, but cap room is only as valuable as you make it. That said, you just have to assume some big moves are on their way. Grade: Incomplete.
As expansion teams go, the Impact seem to be taking a lot more cues from the Seattle Sounders than any of the previous three teams. There's a lot of proven MLS talent on this team, as well as some interesting international signings. They are also continuing to make noise about signing a big-name Designated Player. Grade: B+
The most significant move of the offseason was probably the signing of Jay Heaps as their head coach. None of the players they've brought in so far appear to be real difference makers right away, and they looked poised to lose Rajko Lekic. Re-signing Shalrie Joseph was nice, but he's too old to carry this team by himself. Unlike the Dynamo, it's hard to have faith a big move is still in the making. Grade: D-
The sale of Ream could really open up some doors, and one has already been filled as the Red Bulls picked up defender Wilman Conde. He'll make an imposing partnership alongside Holgersson. That's a huge step in the right direction, but the goalkeeper situation still needs to be addressed. As of today, Vuolo is probably the starting goalkeeper, but that is absolutely going to have to change. Grade: B-.
Key losses: Justin Mapp, Veljko Paunovic, Faryd Mondragon, Sebastien Le Toux
Say this for Peter Nowak: When he commits to a youth movement, he really commits. A day after allowing Mondragon to leave to Colombia, he traded Le Toux to the Whitecaps. Still, give Nowak credit for adding some talent. Martinez is the real wild card and could easily turn take this from a solid offseason to a spectacular one. The real question mark is what they do about goalkeeper. Zac MacMath proved a capable starter last year, going 3-0-3 in six starts, but there are no other goalkeepers on the roster and no MLS goalkeeper has ever won a playoff round before they turned 24. Grade: C-
Key losses: Davy Arnaud, Jeferson, Omar Bravo
Despite the loss of two Designated Players, Sporting owner Rob Heineman has indicated no such big-ticket player will be joining the team before the start of the year. The good news is that the places Sporting lost players were areas they were already reasonable strong. Convey could be a huge plus, but that's very much an open question. Grade: C+
TFC's biggest moves were made toward the end of last season, so most of these have focused on the fringes. Still, Aceval seems to be a nice pickup and the re-signing of Richard Eckersley was a solid move as well. This might not be a championship side yet, but you can definitely appreciate where Aron Winter is taking this team. Grade: B-
Be sure to be on the lookout for my Western Conference offseason report card on Tuesday.