There is still a good month left before the MLS season kicks off, but D.C. United are fast emerging as the big winner in the winter transfer market. MLS' best regular season team the past two years has upgraded several key positions, while adding international experience and Latin flair--the key ingredients, perhaps, to challenging for the newly-hatched CONCACAF Champions League.
It's true that D.C. has also lost some players (and is due to lose one more, Christian Gomez, before the season kicks off) but these departures are nowhere near as significant as losses suffered by the defending champion Houston Dynamo or runners-up New England Revolution, to name two of D.C.'s chief competitors for the Supporters Shield this year. And let's look at who the black-and-red have brought on in their place:
- Argentine midfielder Marcelo Gallardo, who joins from Paris Saint Germain, has one of the most impressive resumes of any player ever signed by the team: 44 caps (and two world cups) for the albiceleste, Argentine league titles and a Copa Libertadores trophy with River Plate and a French league title with Monaco.
- Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez will more than fill the shoes of the Houston-bound Bobby Boswell. Martinez has been capped 36 times and was part of Colombia's 2001 Copa America-winning squad.
- Gonzalo Peralta, another Argentine and another Gonzalo, will further shore up the defense.
- Franco Niell, yet another Argentine, joins on loan from Argentinos Juniors. Goal.com describes Niell as a "highly-rated striker", whom I can see wreaking havoc with MLS defenders, who--let's face it--are not very good.
- Peruvian goalkeeper Jose Carvallo has played both Copa Sudamericana and Libertadores and been capped for various junior national teams (and once by Peru's senior nats). Carvallo is only 21 and has a Green Card so he won't even count as an international player. I think he'll fill Troy Perkins' shoes just fine, but if not...
- Zach Wells, who was acquired in the Boswell trade, has proven he can be a good, even very good goalkeeper in MLS.