This article by Brendan Doherty appeared in SWOL (Soccer Without Limits). We normally don’t follow soccer, but this opens a fresh perspective on the possibilities open to Caribbean players in USA soccer (football) clubs. See the link to the original report below.
A number of high-profile player transactions this MLS off-season have included players from the Caribbean. These deals include well-known players signing contract extensions, being traded to other teams, or becoming free agents. Let’s take a look.
Here’s a recap of the transactions involving Caribbean players in MLS (and the American leagues below) while I’m personally recovering from Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
The number one pick in that draft, which is the highest ever for a goalkeeper and highest ever for a Jamaican player, is Andre Blake. 23 year old Blake, who has already gotten training experience with the national team, is a junior coming out of the University of Connecticut is ready to challenge for a starting spot at Philadelphia Union with 22 year old American Zac MacMath.
Other promising prospects from this draft class from the Caribbean are versatile attack-minded midfielder Romena Bowie, Generation adidas defender Damion Lowe, Jamaican youth international invitee Andre Lewis, and Quinton Christina and Stefano Rijssel (of Curacao and Suriname, respectively) who impressed during the first ever MLS-Caribbean Combine earlier this month. For those who don’t know about special MLS roster distinctions, Generation adidas is a program used to incentivize top talent to leave college early and sign multi-year contracts with the league. These players’ contracts don’t count against a team’s salary cap and are therefore more appealing than similar non-GA players.
Andre Lewis, a young midfielder from Portmore United, was drafted by Vancouver Whitecaps where he can link up with Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks. Lewis, who is stronger than his small frame would suggest, at just 19 years old will develop into his best position in midfield if he is signed by Vancouver.
Damion Lowe will join Seattle Sounders for their pre-season training camp. If Lowe, who projects as both a centerback and a fullback at the next level, moves forward with the Sounders he will face compatriots Donovan Ricketts, Ryan Johnson, and youngster Alvas Powell who all play with fierce rivals Portland.
The remaining Caribbean prospects (Cristina and Rijssel) may still be chosen during the third and fourth rounds of the MLS SuperDraft which will take place on Tuesday, January 21. If not, these guys will probably have offers from lower division professional clubs in the United States which would still be an upgrade in their development.
Atiba Harris, St Kitts and Nevis, was the subject of the biggest trade so far this MLS off-season. The forward/winger was traded from Colorado Rapids to San Jose Earthquakes in exchange for Honduran left winger Marvin Chavez.
Jamaican defender Shaun Francis was somewhat of a success story in 2013. The Mandeville native impressed scouts with solid performances in the American third division with Charlotte Eagles, earning him a short-term contract with Chicago Fire in MLS. The 27 year old left back only made one start for Chicago before his contract expired, making him available to other clubs in a bulky, confusing player acquisition mechanism called the Re-Entry Draft. San Jose Earthquakes picked Francis in this draft and signed him on December 18.
Jamaican fullback O’Brian Woodbine is still on the books at MLS club New England Revolution despite not yet making an appearance for the first team. The 26 year old was brought in for depth in defense at the end of August last year and played in WCQ just a week later against Panama. As the Revolution shed two defenders at the end of the season, Woodbine looks to be in the picture as a back-up for the Northeast club.
Seattle Sounders offered a new, highly improved contract to their talismanic defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. The Cuban ball-winner now sits in the top echelon of MLS player with his Designated Player contract over $400,000 a year.
Also earning himself a new contract is French/Martinican striker Frédéric Piquionne. While not as cozy as Alonso’s big-money deal, the new contract will keep Piquionne at the club as an attacking threat going forward for at least the next season.
New York born Haitian goalkeeper Steward Ceus saw Colorado Rapids decline the option to extend his contract but the 26 year old could still capture the starting job at a lower level after only 10 total appearances in all competitions across 5 seasons with the MLS club.
Real Salt Lake’s unique position:
Real Salt Lake’s off-season house-cleaning led to saying goodbye to four Caribbean players. The Utah club allowed the contracts to run out for Cuban midfielder Yordany Álvarez, Jamaican midfielder Khari Stephenson, Puerto Rico goalkeeper Josh Saunders (who suffered an ACL injury in July), and defender/midfielder Lovel Palmer of Jamaica.
By way of odd MLS contract rights rules, RSL was able to trade Palmer’s rights to Chicago Fire for Allocation Money (basically, funds that only have value within MLS; like Monopolu money). Primarily a right back, though also adept at defensive midfield, Palmer looks slated for a starting role in defense for the 2014 season with the trade of starting right back Jalil Anibaba to Seattle.
Former Jamaican U-20 goalkeeper Ryan Thompson recently signed with American second division club Tampa Bay Rowdies. Thompson played in Ireland and Sweden after a collegiate career and a season in an American amateur league in 2010. The 29 year old signed a deal for one year with a club option to pick up a second.American second division club Minnesota United FC announced in December that they had reached an agreement to extend the contract of Jamaican veteran midfielder Omar Daley. The midfielder started his short tenure at Minnesota well with 3 goals and an assist in five appearances. Daley received a call-up to the national team while with Minnesota, which the team promoted through social media as a source of pride.
Current USL-Pro champions and 2015 MLS-expansion side, Orlando City, recently announced that they had signed Trinidad and Tobago international Kevin Molino to a two-year contract. This deal not only ties Molino up for the team’s final season in the third division but also makes the attacking midfielder the first ever player added to Orlando’s MLS roster. Molino has consistently been one of the top performers in USL-Pro over his three seaons with Orlando and will continue that form into 2014 and beyond.
MLS squads will fill out in the time between this week’s draft and the start of the season in March. NASL and USL-Pro teams will announce player signings on a slightly later timeline; NASL begins its season on April 12 and USL-Pro hasn’t released its 2014 schedule yet.
Caribbean players will undoubtedly be a part of many U.S. clubs’ training camps as the seasons approach, which is a close relationship that benefits all parties involved.For the original report go to http://www.swol.co/tracking-the-moves-of-caribbean-players-in-mls/32423#mkKTd5UYmYU7khWw.99