A club’s transfer business can make or break their entire season. Whether breaking the bank offering a global superstar a lucrative deal, snapping up the next wonderkid, or even offering a wily old veteran one last swan song before their career comes to close. Managers meticulously scour the globe in the hope of finding the perfect fit for their game plan for the upcoming season. Sometimes these transfers pay off and the player becomes an instant sensation, delivering expectational performances to the delight of the fans as they chant his name. But sometimes, these transfers don’t work out. A player’s previous success was a flash in the pan, as they now become a curse on a team, succumbing them to failure and becoming a cult legend for all the wrong reasons.
Today I’m going to give you a rundown of the 5 Best and 5 Worst signings of the 2017 MLS Season. Some have taken some careful consideration as to make the list, while others have given me no choice but to include them. We shall start with the 5 worst, get the negativity out the way early.
So, let’s begin;
5) Bismark Adjei-Boateng – Colorado Rapids
Described as a ‘powerful player with the drive and energy’, Adeji-Boateng has powered his way into the top 5 worst signings. Sadly no prizes for his fantastic name, the former Man City trainee came with some real promise. Sure, he has some ability but limited to just 18 games this season and an unfortunate injury, the between $750,000 to $900,000 fee hasn’t been money well spent. When Adeji-Boateng did play, he just never wowed anyone or stood out in any real way. But, being only 23 there is plenty of time for the central midfielder to turn it around for Colorado Rapids.
4) Jay Simpson – Philadelphia Union
The Philadelphia Union splashed out $360k on Leyton Orient frontman Jay Simpson. The former Arsenal academy player was reportedly unsettled at his former club and Philadelphia saw an opportunity. Upon his arrival the club’s Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, was quoted as saying “Jay brings goal-scoring prowess to our team, in addition to a valuable veteran presence, as he has demonstrated with multiple clubs in England.” Now I’m no expert, but Simpson’s 80 goals in 330 appearances don’t make him prolific, but Stewart must have been in dreamland when Simpson got his first goal on only his second outing for the club. Could this be it? Could this be the start of something amazing? Well, no. That was the end of Simpson’s goalscoring feat and he bounced in and out of the side, making sporadic substitute appearances for a few minutes at a time.
3) Christan Colman – FC Dallas
Signed by FC Dallas on January 26th as a young designated player, Colman came with a decent reputation from his homeland of Paraguay. Still, only 22 at the time the young forward had a keen eye for goal and FC Dallas fought off competition from teams in Liga MX and the French Ligue 1, to secure the player they wanted to spearhead them to glory. But, seeing as he has made our list of 5 worst signings, that clearly wasn’t the case. Dallas made a sizeable $2million investment in Colman and his return of just two goals and one assist in 20 games has been far from enough. Despite the hierarchy in Dallas making their disappointment public, they have backed the Paraguayan to make an impact in the league in the future.
2) Vadim Demidov – Minnesota United
Being an expansion team is never easy. Coming into a season with a whole new squad of players is an instant uphill task. It certainly makes signing players increasingly difficult as it’s hard to say whether that will settle into your system. To counter that, Minnesota Head Coach, Adrain Heath, set his sights on a well travelled, 30-year-old, reliable, international defender, in the shape of Vadim Demidov to sure up his back line. Heath was so impressed with Demidov he even handed the Norwegian international the captain’s armband for the start of Minnesota’s very first MLS season. The season began with a heartbreaking 5-1 defeat to Portland Timbers. This was followed by a 6-1 trouncing to the fellow expansion team, Atalanta United. Demidov looked completely out of his depth the entire time, his leadership qualities virtually non-existent. For their third game of the season, Minnesota’s luck changed with a 2-2 away to Colorado. It would be unfair to suggest this was due to Demidov being on the bench, but after he started the next game and his side lost 5-2, you can see why he could be considered a bad omen. Heath hasn’t played the defender since that day and strangely enough, Minnesota’s form improved slightly as they had a respectable end to their first season.
1) Matt Van Oekel – Real Salt Lake
And so, the top bottom prize goes to the Real Salt Lake stopper, Matt Van Oekel. Virginia native, Van Oekel signed for Real Salt Lake in December 2016 and has so far made 7 appearances for the club. His first came in a respectable 0-0 draw with New York Red Bulls in March. Van Oekel pulling off 3 saves during the game to keep his side in it. Sadly, for van Oekel his heroics went unrewarded and he was dropped for the next game. Clearly distraught, van Oekel vowed if he ever got back into the side he would exact his revenge and thus set out on a one-man mission to concede as many goals he possibly could. On 23rd April he got his chance, with a four-game run in the side due to injuries, van Oekel managed to concede 11 goals. Again, miraculously he was taken out of the side again. Well, nobody puts van Oekel on the bench without some kind of vengeance. On June 1st he got another opportunity, 2 more games in succession and another 11 goals conceded. That would be the last we’d see of van Oekel. With a record of 7 games played, 22 goals conceded. Well played Matt van Oekel, Mission complete!
Now onto the star signings of MLS 2017;
5) Albert Rusnák – Real Salt Lake
23-year-old playmaker Rusnak was signed from FC Groningen in January for just over $500k. On arrival, the former Manchester City youngster was handed the number 11 shirt which was being vacated by former stalwart, Javier Morales. Rusnak hasn’t missed a beat this season, with the Slovakian international contributing an impressive 7 goals and 14 assists as Real Salt Lake narrowly missed out on a playoff place. Rusnak settled into the league quickly and his form has even surprised his fellow teammates, with RSL captain Kyle Beckerman stating “Just more on being only 22 and how he plays in the ways he’s finishing chances, setting up assists and just making plays like he’s a lot more mature than a 22-year-old.”
4) Alberth Elis – Houston Dynamo
Ok technically, this is only a loan deal. But it’s still a signing and Elis has been impressive. Nicknamed “La Panterita, the Honduran international has wreaked havoc on defenders throughout the season. Pacey, a great dribbler and fearless, Elis can play anywhere across the front but is most effective on the right wing. Helping himself to 3 assists and 11 goals, Elis has been the main threat for Houston as they have reached Conference Finals for 2017. It still remains to be seen where Elis’ future lies. His transfer value would be sure to have risen after this impressive campaign. If you ask me, Houston should break the bank to secure him on a permanent basis. It’s been a great season so far, could it end on an even higher note with the MLS Cup?
3) Nemanja Nikolic – Chicago Fire
Born in Yugoslavia, plays for Hungary, bags goals for fun. Chicago Fire finished last season bottom of the Eastern Conference and needed goals. Well, goals are what they got. Nemanja Nikolic arrived in Chicago from Legia Warsaw for $3m and hit the ground running with 8 goals in his first 10 games. Toward the halfway point of the season, Chicago hit a slump and so too did Nikolic. But when the side bounced back Nikolic followed suit and helped fire Chicago into the playoffs, making the previous, dismal campaign a distant memory. Nikolic has a conversation rate of 40%, netting 24 goals from his 59 shots on target.
2) Romain Alessandrini – L.A Galaxy
LA Galaxy coughed up $1.75 million for the French winger before the start of the season, ending a 3-year stay at French side Marseille. Alessandrini made 12 assists and scored 13 goals, but what makes this even more impressive is he did this while playing in a squad that finished bottom of the Western Conference. Alessandrini was the silver lining in a very poor season from Galaxy and next year you can fully except the team to be revamped, focusing around the Frenchman.
And the winner is…
1) Miguel Almiron – Atlanta United
Now, this entire Top 5 could have been taken up with Atlanta players alone, let’s be honest. Their impressive debut season as a team was only outdone by impressive individual performances. I’ve gone for attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron as the top prize. Now, I know his incredibly hefty transfer fee should work against him, but the Paraguayan has been nothing short of magnificent all season. Registering 9 goals and 8 assists and described as the “heartbeat of the team” Miguel Almiron has shone in a team of stars. To add to this award, Almiron has now also overtaken Andrea Pirlo for the best-selling jersey in MLS. Atlanta will have to fend off a lot of interest from Europe for their main man. I sincerely hope Atlanta keep hold of him as they try to go out and improve on that impressive debut season.