The free agency list is out. There are Best XI players, MVP candidates available. There are “final pieces” out there for good teams who just need a little push, veteran knowhow or just some quality depth to become great.
Before we talk about the players, probably best to start with the basics.
Players who are at least 28 years old with at least eight MLS service years and either option-declined or out-of-contract are considered Free Agents can negotiate a new contract with any MLS club, including their previous team, subject to certain restrictions. During a given year, clubs may acquire a maximum of two out-of-contract players via Free Agency.
The elephant in the room is the phrase “certain restrictions,” all of which are laid out in great detail in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, starting on page 79.
For the time being, let’s let our collective imaginations run wild. No personal preferences or financial limits, just “that might not be realistic, but damn it sure would be fun” destinations for five of the most intriguing names. This is, and I cannot emphasize it enough, NOT a serious list of predictions. This is strictly in the name of fun. Please soccer gods, let people read this introduction.
Drop your fantasy free agency signings in the comment section. Here we go, in no particular order…
Landing spot: Chicago Fire
Toronto is home to Bradley and his young family – and I don’t expect him to go anywhere – but Chicago is his home, too, or at least it was for a few formative years. Think about it … the Fire rebrand and move downtown is fronted by Chicharito and Bradley (let’s say on a TAM deal, so the club can ink two more Designated Players). Let’s just make the 32-year-old a player-assistant for the as-yet-unnamed head coach, too, and groom him to take over the full-time job when he retires.
Again, this is all pure fantasy. He’ll stay in Toronto.
Landing spot: New York Red Bulls
Right now, you’re thinking, “This idiot is just trolling me,” and you’d be partially right. But this is my fantasy world, and I’m making it interesting. Logic tells you that Luis Robles is out because it’s Ryan Meara’s turn. Logic is right, but I want to revitalize the Atlantic Cup and I know just the goalkeeper to help light the fuse. Hamid is Mike Petke, just going the other way 15 years later. Both fanbases will be confused. The games will be weird. The quotes will be juicy. You can’t hold me back, c’mon!
Landing spot: Inter Miami
Robles is heading down the Atlantic coast to Miami, where he can be the starter and help get the club off on the right foot. This is a person who asked to attend the “WHY DID YOU FIRE MIKE PETKE?” Red Bulls town-hall meeting. He’s a stand-up guy, a true pro. Put him in the media. Put him in the community. Put him between the pipes. Build a solid foundation. Hell, maybe Robles will be an executive with the club one day.
Landing spot: LAFC
Kljestan’s older brother, Gordon, is at the Galaxy, but I’m sending the veteran to LAFC to reunite with Bob Bradley. It’s like the old Chivas USA days, but way cooler! That was serious, but also a joke! Right now, it’s Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing and Alejandro Guido in that midfield. Benny Feilhaber was the veteran cog two years ago (and could be again), Lee Nguyen filled that role last year and, according to this reality, Kljestan takes the mantle in Year 3.
He’s 34, but his game has never been about explosive athleticism. He’s versatile, at different times in his career one of MLS’s top No. 10’s and the force in the Anderlecht double-pivot. He could play any of the three midfield spots for Bradley. He knows the counterpress. He could win a job from one of the young bucks or serve as an insurance policy should one of them get injured or sold.
Landing spot: Philadelphia Union
Ben Baer says Ernst Tanner already has younger targets in mind, but I don’t care. I want the Union to have some real MLS grit and a Cup winner in the midfield. The 36-year-old brings 15 years of experience back to the city where he was a high-school standout. He brings some quality, too. Even if Tanner does get Jamiro Monteiro and another d-mid signing done, Larentowicz is going to find a way to get on the field. He can play a little center back, too, if needed. He can be part of the offseason that elevates the Union from good to great.
Landing spot: Minnesota United
OK, so this makes six, and it is purely for podcasting reasons. Two-thirds of BSI: The Podcast would now reside in the Twin Cities.