This time last year, Danny Califf was the Philadelphia Union's captain, Juan Agudelo was poised to be the next great American star and Heath Pearce was leading a revamped Chivas USA defense. Oh, how far we've come.
While the pair of trades that sent Califf and Agudelo to Chivas USA, Pearce to the New York Red Bulls and Michael Lahoud to the Union were all at least several days in the making, the news came as a rather sudden shock to many MLS observers. Even in a league with as much turnover as ours, that three seemingly cornerstone players were all swapped at virtually the same time was hugely unexpected.
It somewhat of a rarity, these trades really do seem to have the potential to work out in everyone's favor.
Without a doubt, no team was affected more than the Goats. Born, bred and basically forgotten in the shadow of the LA Galaxy, they will definitely grab whatever headlines are available to them in the wake of today's transactions.
In Agudelo, Chivas USA have a forward around whom they can really build. For all the talent they've had over the years -- and despite their relative lack of succes, they've definitely had some good players -- none of them were the kind of players you design an ad campaign around. That should be changing.
Agudelo is far from a finished product, but it can certainly be argued that he's got as much potential as any player in MLS. There's also the very real possibility that he can form a nice longterm partnership with Erick Correa, the 19-year-old Colombian who recently made his debut with Chivas USA. The two of them also stand to learn much from veterans Alejandro Moreno and Juan Pablo Angel.
Of course, that was only half of their haul. Califf is hardly a bargain, and was one of the highest paid defenders in all of MLS last year, but he's supposedly healthy and should be able to provide some toughness to a Chivas USA defense that has clearly been lacking in that area.
As much potential as Agudelo has shown over the past two seasons, he just wasn't earning playing time from Hans Backe. Agudelo's development was stalling and his frustration was starting to build. Trading him away is hardly the end of the world, either now or in the future.
Pearce, while failing to live up to his expectations at Chivas USA, should help bolster a defense that has been decimated by injuries. As well as the Red Bulls' defense has played in the last few weeks, it's hard to see them keeping it up forever. Pearce should help and his flexibility will be an asset.
To boot, the Red Bulls picked up some allocation and reportedly retained a percentage of any transfer of Agudelo.
You know I love to needle the Union whenever I get a chance, but I can honestly see the logic in this move, at least from a very specific perspective. Whether or not Peter Nowak made a longterm mistake by shoving yet another veteran leader out the door, that ship sailed weeks ago. Nowak was not going to mend fences with Califf and that he was able to unload a significant salary, bring in a useful player like Lahoud and pick up a little allocation money for his troubles is certainly not the worst move he's made.
I'm not saying the Union are better than they were at the end of last year -- that's clearly not the case -- but they are probably better than they were yesterday. When you're grading on the Nowak curve, that's a big win.