So, here's what we know of. United is looking at an Argentinean forward with Franco Niell, a potential Peruvian keeper with Jose Carvallo (with a green card, which short circuits one planned rant), and a Columbian defender with Gonzalo Martinez. If all three deals go forward (and let's assume that they will, since we all know the caveats that come with anticipating international transfers) then we'll have a new center back to replace Bobby Boswell, a speedy forward to supplement the attack up top, and a keeper to pair with Mr. Wells. Where does that leave us?
On the whole, about even. The big remaining question is the status of Christian Gomez. If I had to take a guess, I'd lean toward the feeling that he is re-signing with United right now. But that's only a 60-40 feeling, not a 90-10 feeling. And if he re-signs, is United better off than we were a year ago? Let's break it down:
KEEPERS: The story so far is Perkins out, Wells in, Crowe and Nolly invited to camp, but a distinct lack of confidence vote with the story surrounding the pursuit of Carvallo for that second keeper slot. While I'm not ready to say that Wells is as good as or better than Perkins, we have the potential at least for better depth at keeper with Carvallo + 1. Throw in some salary cap room, and I think the transactions can be values as no worse than a draw. We're not better, but the play between the pipes wasn't what cost us many points last year, so I'm fairly pleased by what I see.
DEFENDERS: The story so far is Boswell out, Vanney uncertain, and potentially adding Martinez. Ultimately, we still have little defensive depth. On the outside are Burch and Namoff, and inside is Martinez (if the transfer happens), Vanney (if he renegotiates at a lower salary), and McTavish. In terms of depth, the only other player to have seen minutes at the back is Mediate. Last year I felt that the defensive depth was a constant convern. Namoff is a decent defender on the outside, but can be prone to injury. Burch was very good for being a player off the radar screen, but the end of season shows other teams were starting to figure out his game. Vanney will some day be a great coaching staff addition, but I can never say that his play really impressed me. McTavish is serviceable, but hardly intimidating. Even if Martinez is a good to great center back, I still feel that this is an area that United could do more to upgrade. Also, while I'm concerned about Martinez at age 32, it's more that I look at him doing what Vanney couldn't deliver: strong positioning, dependable and solid marking, and smart passing out of the back. We need better speed in the middle, and at least one decent option on the bench for the outside positions. Even reverting back to the 3-5-2 doesn't really gain us much.
MIDFIELD: The story here is the departure of Brian Carroll, who was beaten out for the holding midfield spot by Clyde Simms. Additionally, we have Josh Gros taking the year off. Ben Olsen had a terrific year on the wing, but I can see him joining Clyde in the middle of the park if United mixes the 3-5-2 in with the 4-4-2 it adopted at the beginning of last season. United needs a #10, as the 2004 B.C. (before Christian) season showed, and while Dyanchenko seems to be the second option in terms of substitute depth, I think the departure of Christan Gomez would more likely feature Fred moving into that role than Dyachenko inheriting it. As for Fred, he's decent (but frustrating at times) on the wing. I would love a fast and dangerous winger, someone who could fulfill the promise of Casal or Moose. We may also need someone to step up in the marking and annoyance role. Josh Gros filled that function a bit after the departure of Dema Kovalenko, and perhaps a return of Ben Olsen to defensive midfield would mitigate that deficit. All in all, I'd say we're slightly diminished right now in defense, and the departure of Christian Gomez could reveal significant planning challenges.
FORWARDS: I'm really not worried here. Emilio is around for another year, and while I think his goal scoring is likely to be closer to 12 than 20, I think the second forward will show well. Kpene couldn't find the net, but I think that's a factor of circumstance rather than talent. Moreno is still an option, and the addition of Niell (fast, quick, could probably earn fouls before he develops a Ruiz reputation) could nicely complement the toughness that Kpene and Emilio have shown. We're fine here.
So, all in all, I think we're about even on the transfer front right now. There could be issues, but I feel overall better about this time now than I did about last year's team at the same time. What's more, this team even if it makes the signings that are planned will probably have money to spend still. The failure of Veron coming to town may have felt like a defeat, but it frees up at least $400K under the cap in addition to the space that was already added with the departure of Perkins and Carroll (and to a lesser extent, Boswell). There are options. This team could be very different next year, but it could be different in a good way.