The flashy signings are nice. However, not every player on an MLS club can be Miguel Almiron or Josef Martinez. It’d be nice, but it’s not possible in this league just yet. With that being said, essentially all MLS teams rely on a core group of players familiar with the league to fill out their respective squads. With every club announcing their end-of-season roster changes, there are a lot of quality players whose options were either declined or whose contracts expired and weren’t renewed. Here are the best available MLS players at every position who fell into those categories.
(Note: Players who have announced their retirement will not be included. Lists will be updated with Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC players on December 10th.)
- Nick Rimando
- Tyler Deric
- David Ousted
- David Bingham
- Brian Rowe
Different than in years past, there are some quality out-of-contract options between the sticks. Rimando is 38, but he still has a couple good years in him after doing pretty well for Real Salt Lake in 2017.
As for Deric, his off-the-pitch issues will be why teams stay away from him, not his play. Signing him would certainly be more of a public relations disaster than anything else. It’ll be interesting to see if teams who are desperate for a keeper take a look at him, or if Deric becomes utterly untouchable due to public backlash.
Ousted was probably the most interesting development of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ season, as the clear-cut #1 heading into the campaign was replaced by Stefan Marinovic late in the season. Still, Ousted’s experience and decent play this year will surely have MLS clubs knocking at his door.
Bingham has been connected to a few top-flight European clubs even after being benched late in the season. We’ll see if he has any interest in returning to MLS or if these supposed European calls are too tempting to turn away from.
Rowe split time with Clement Diop and Jon Kempin in Los Angeles this past season. Oddly enough, all three likely won’t return to the Galaxy next season.
- Ambroise Oyongo
- Maynor Figueroa
- Jordan Harvey
- Ashley Cole
Oyongo wants to play overseas, but MLS teams would do well to try and keep him in the states. He’s quite the talent. Fabinho, Figueroa and Harvey were all consistent starters for their respective clubs, and could certainly continue to do so for others. The only thing that may scare those clubs away are their ages, as all three are in their low to mid 30’s. Cole would certainly have to take a paycut to be a worthy signing. Whether he’s willing to do that is the question.
- Joao Meira
- A.J. DeLaGarza
- Damien Perrinelle
- Victor Bernardez
- Frederic Brillant
It was a bit of a surprise to see Meira left unprotected. A regular starter for a playoff team is certainly no one for MLS clubs to raise their noses at. DeLaGarza is a talent, but the torn ACL that kept him out of the Houston Dynamo’s playoff run will obviously be a long-term injury and one that many teams won’t take the risk on. Perrinelle, Bernardez, and Brillant are all aging defenders that shouldn’t be relied on to be consistent starters, but could still contribute.
- Pele Van Anholt
- Andrew Farrell
- Hernan Grana
- Atiba Harris
- Chris Duvall
In my opinion, this is probably the position with the most depth. Van Anholt is another player whose season was ended abruptly with an unfortunte ACL injury. However, he’s still a quality player with Eredivisie experience and one that shoud be in the midst of his prime at 26. It would just take a long-term investment from a club that isn’t expecting immediate results. Farrell, Grana, Harris and Duvall are all starting caliber right backs.
- Marcelo Sarvas
- Xavier Kouassi
- Mikey Lopez
- Andrew Jacobson
- Amobi Okugo
When a 36-year-old is the #1 option, there’s clearly a depth problem. Sarvas was serviceable for D.C. United and found a spot in the starting XI, but it’s hard to look past that age. Kouassi was a Designated Player signing for the New England Revolution that underwhelmed, especially considering the money spent on him. Still, perhaps it was just the system he was in. A change of scenery could do wonders for the Ivorian.
Lopez could be the diamond in the rough here. The 24-year-old had to fight for minutes at NYCFC, but could certainly be worth an investment in. Jacobson is another potential starter and Okugo could be serviceable at a few different positions.
- Bastian Schweinsteiger
- Mohammed Saeid
- Antonio Nocerino
- Nosa Igiebor
I’m ready for backlash. Schweinsteiger would be a quality addition to any club at the right price. At 33, he’s obviously not what he used to be. However, he stepped into the Chicago Fire lineup and quickly became their most impactful midfielder.
With eight assists, Alex had an attacker’s mindset that could add a spark to any midfield. Saeid is a player that prefers to sit back rather than join in on the attack, which could also bode well for teams. Nocerino is another player that saw consistent minutes for Orlando last season. Igiebor played just 73 minutes for Vancouver, but has a plethora of Superliga and Nigerian national team experience at just 27. There’s talent there. A team just has to get him on the pitch.
- Roland Alberg
- Javier Morales
- Daigo Kobayashi
- Miguel Camargo
Alberg scored seven goals in 24 appearances last season with the Philadelphia Union and was surprisingly left unprotected. Kaka is older and he may be unwilling to come off the bench for a team, but goals like the one he scored against Atlanta(sorry, but that was awesome) shows he can still provide moments of brilliance.
Morales and Kobayashi are also older, but still contributed for Dallas and New England respectively. Camargo is 24 and has a handful of MLS appearances.
- Kekuta Manneh
- Chris Pontius
- Vicente Sanchez
- Patrick Nyarko
- Ricardo Velazco
Manneh is currently on trial with Union Berlin, so MLS teams should act fast. Forced to back up Justim Meram at Columbus, Manneh’s career up to this point is best summed up by this Rob Usry tweet.
Manneh was one the best young players in MLS three years ago. Wonder if there were any transfer offers for him back then? He stayed to secure citizenship and now he's probably leaving on a free. https://t.co/cw8sdoENZ4— Rob Usry (@RobUsry) December 5, 2017
With four goals and three assist in 22 appearances, Manneh tried to make the most of opportunities presented to him. Remember, he’s 22.
Pontius and Sanchez were regular starters, while Nyarko is an MLS veteran that can step in when needed. Velazco is similar to Camargo, younger with a handful of MLS appearances.
- Lloyd Sam
- Christian Bolanos
- Boniek Garcia
- Joshua Gatt
Sam has been in this league for what feels like 40 years, and was still a key figure for D.C. United last season. Ilsinho’s six goals and three assists for the Union showed the value of a quality veteran, while Bolanos, Garcia, and Gatt are all capable starters.
- Teal Bunbury
- Gonzalo Veron
- Jose Villarreal
- Darren Mattocks
- Deshorn Brown
An argument can be made for either Bunbury or Veron to be at the top of this list, with both averaging a goal every four matches last season. It’s not a very good ratio, but getting either to come off the bench, and in Veron’s case for less money, would be a good signing.
Villarreal always seemed to be on the cusp with the Galaxy, and for one inexcusable reason or another, he just didn’t play often enough. He’s not going to wow anyone with his goalscoring, but Villarreal creates opportunities and puts teammates in positions to make a difference almost to the point where he’s really more of an attacking midfielder than a true striker. It’d be great to see Atlanta take a chance on him.
Mattocks had four goals and five assists to his name last season, and Brown could be a solid option coming off the bench.
What do you all think? Who would you like to see Atlanta sign? Let us know in the comments.