WIWFC(IJ) Part IV - Makin' a List, Checking it Twice

Alright, let's begin to pick our way through this tangled web I've woven. We'll start by summarizing the shopping list items from each of the preceding three posts in this series, after which we'll weed out the duplicates and ruthlessly prune the downright unlikely (can you tell I've been out in the garden this evening?) . . .

Part I - WIWFC Carryovers
  • A keeper to challenge, and possibly (hopefully) displace, Wells.
  • Trade up for a better central defender
  • A tricksy, speedy winger
Part II - The Boys at the Back
  • A keeper of MLS-starter quality
  • One more center back, preferably of significant size
Part III - The Dangermen
  • One more viable option up top
  • A speedy winger with good control

So right off the bat, we've got some duplicates and overlap. Tossing all these wants in a blender leaves us needing (in no particular order): a starting-quality keeper, a backup/upgraded central defender, another forward, and a classic wing wizard. Now, in an ideal world, that's a pretty realistic shopping list, but we all know that MLS is marginally dystopian at best when it comes to fleshing out rosters. With that in mind, let's address the viability of those acquisitions and see if we can reach some sort of conclusion.

Reality Bites

Right off the bat, we've got to take a hard look at what was going on in the Open Cup and assume that Marc Burch playing in the center when Martinez and Pat Carroll were available means that he's being groomed as cover at center back. We got a bit screwed when Curtin had to retire due to injury, because he looked to be the ideal cover--young, cheap, big, and with MLS experience to boot. Well, Burchy's got those qualities as well. The only problem is that he's a converted attacker who's still getting used to defense. Regardless, I'll give the FO a pass and say that between Burch and the few positive signs we saw from Pat Carroll (kids make mistakes--let's hope he learned his lesson against the Fire), blended with the unlikely event that we'd be able to find a quality center back without having to give up a valuable piece of the puzzle, we can stand pat (not a pun, I swear!) on this one.

Likewise the speedy winger. Though I desperately, desperately want one, they don't just grow on trees--at least not good ones. In order to acquire one, we're going to need to give up something big, and I don't think we're that desperate yet. The other option is to find somebody overseas and use the Niell money, but I think we've got more pressing needs for that salary space. Namely . . .

A keeper has got to be well up there, and the FO knows it. How else to explain the trialists and the downgrading of Carvallo's contract? The question is: how high up on the proverbial cherry tree are we willing to reach? If we're going to be bringing in a keeper from another MLS side, we'll be dealing significant draft picks or a fringe starter at the very least. So do we place our trust in Wells and bring in a young, talented kid to push him, or do we go whole hog and look to land a veteran starter, either already in the league or returning from abroad?

Finally, let's look up top, where I think we all heaved a massive sigh of relief when Doe put one in the net. If he can start spelling Jaime in preparation for the playoffs and post some numbers in the process, that's fantastic. Unfortunately, he's really the only other option up top outside of shifting Quaranta, which leaves a hole on the right. We really do need another forward as we head into the land of Massive Fixture Congestion. The question is, can we find one cheap enough that's going to be able to stick the ball in the net? Reliable forwards aren't exactly a stock MLS commodity.

The List

So we've wound our way at long last to the conclusion. A month ago, this list probably would have been the size of the one Osorio's drafting for the Red Bulls. But the turnaround and solid play in the intervening weeks has cut it down significantly. There really aren't too many pieces that we desperately need to add, but my list runs like this . . .

  1. Keeper. We need a new one. I don't think we'll be able to get a veteran who's going to automatically push Wells to the bench, but I think there are enough decent young American keepers that we can at least land one with the ability to really push Zach for playing time.
  2. Forward. This isn't quite so necessary as #1, but I think we'd be foolish to embark upon the number of competitions we're going to be involved in from now to November with only three legitimate forwards on the roster (Quaranta not included as he's starting elsewhere).
  3. Winger. This falls more under the "nice if you can get it" category. We've got some decent starters in Quaranta and Fred out wide, and can call upon reasonable depth in the form of Mediate, Burch, hopefully Benny when he's back from his latest bout of surgery, and young Cordeiro. Kirk hasn't shown me much, but he's young and has the physical tools, so I hope he gets a chance to prove himself.

So what do you think out there in blog-land? What's on your United shopping list for the upcoming transfer window? What do we need to ensure some more silverware finds its way into the already-crowded RFK trophy cabinet?


  1. I think you're right on most counts, but maybe priorities should be shifted a little bit. I understand it might be harder to find a decent speedy winger than a competent 3rd/4th forward, but I think we've already got one in Quaranta. Why not concentrate on upgrading the wing?

    Here's another idea: I don't know about you, but I really liked the overlapping play of Martinez at left back and Burch at left wing/mid (the Galaxy game, I think). Can we find a central defender, then, to take Burch's place on the back line? He doesn't have the speed that one could hope for ideally, but it seemed to be a solid pairing on the left and he can certainly cross the ball a bit better than Quaranta. That puts Fred/Quaranta on the right with the other backup to Jaime.

    Just tossing around ideas, let me know what you think.

  2. Hi Andy--thanks for dropping by and for your well-reasoned comments.

    I'd agree that Tino is a more than adequate option up top and is most likely the natural replacement for Jaime when the latter retires. The problem I have is that while Tino may not be the fastest, the best crosser, or the most competent defensively, I think moving him to the bench when he's rediscovering himself as a player again might not be the most savvy of long-term moves. Nor do I think you can put him as the starter and use your captain as a super-sub (despite how well he played the role in the Open Cup), not at the moment anyway.

    As for Burch--he's certainly showing signs lately that his benching may have shaken him free of the "second season syndrome". After a breakout 2007 (which was his second season, but since he didn't see much time in his first season with LA/Columbus, I'm not counting it), his start to 2008 was not a particularly good one. The problem with him on the wing is that, while he's a good crosser, he's entirely one-footed and doesn't have the speed or trickery to free up that left when a defender knows he wants to use it. That makes him a pretty limited weapon unless you're going against pathetic/inexperienced defenders (eg. the Galaxy ;-)

    The one thing that keeps me coming back to the speedy winger is that I think Gallardo becomes more effective given such a target to pick out with balls through (and over) the defense. The problem, as you noted, is where to find such a player? Houston might deal Ashe, but what would we need to sacrifice in return? The Bulls are even more unlikely to deal Richards. Who else fits the bill? Khano Smith? No thanks. This is where I rely on the FO's network of South American spies to uncover something useful. Unfortunately, that route boils down to a gamble on whether you get a Martinez/Gomez or a Niell/Filomeno.

    It's a lot tougher to play this roster-dance game on the relatively cramped floor of MLS than say, the wide, flashing, disco-tiles of the Premier League, isn't it?

    Any further thoughts?