The past few days have altered the landscape of MLS, the Western Conference and, specifically, Cascadia. While many of us have always believed that the West was much stronger than the East, the amount of talent that has flooded in during the past week alone has only strengthened that belief.
Let's review: The Portland Timbers have added Kris Boyd, the leading scorer in Scottish Premier League history; the Vancouver Whitecaps traded for Sebastien Le Toux, who's contributed to 45 goals over the past two seasons; and the LA Galaxy brought back Edson Buddle, who scored 19 goals during the 2010 season. Those three moves would have qualified as the most significant of any one week this offseason, but all happened during a three-day span.
The Seattle Sounders, for my money, still have the deepest and most balanced team of the bunch, but these moves have at the very least closed whatever gap previously existed.
"I think the West has always been tougher and the West certainly got tougher," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said during a Wednesday conference call. "The teams in the West, especially in the Northwest, are going to be aggressive. They want to be successful and they have good, solid fan bases that want to see their teams be successful."
Interestingly enough, Schmid acknowledged that those very moves that made his rivals stronger could open up some opportunities for the Sounders to improve. Schmid mentioned the Galaxy and Whitecaps, in particular, as potentially having players available, who may have been pushed out by these moves.
Might the Sounders be interested? After the jump, I'll look at some of the more intriguing players that could be available and at what price.
Why he might be available: The Galaxy forward is owed somewhere close to $250,000 this year and, right now, is poised to be nothing more than a reserve. The Galaxy may be free spenders, but spending that much money on a player who might only be used while Robbie Keane is with the Irish national team or during U.S. Open Cup seems to be questionable cap management.
Would the Sounders want him: At the right price. Barrett is probably overpaid even if he was a starter, having never scored more than seven goals in a season. That said, he's a similar player to Mike Fucito, in that he plays bigger than his height, but with a more proven track record. Is that worth paying nearly more than $200,000 for? Probably not. The only way I can see the Sounders being interested in Barrett is if the Galaxy somehow absorb part of his salary cap hit.
At what price: Even if the Galaxy were eating part of Barrett's salary, I can't imagine the Sounders sending much to the Galaxy. Maybe a 2013 second-rounder, similar to the one the Galaxy just sent the Union in exchange for Kyle Nakazawa.
Chances of this happening: Low. The more I talk it through, it only makes sense if the Galaxy are desperate to move Barrett and nothing tells me they are.
Why he might be available: The former No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick is currently a man without an obvious position. Sal Zizzo seems to have the inside track at right mid. Kalif Alhassan seems to be the choice at left mid. Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza are almost certainly starting at forward. To make matters worse, none of those players are much older than the 21-year-old Nagbe.
Would the Sounders want him: I sure hope so. It's still not entirely clear what position Nagbe would be best used at in MLS, but there's no denying his talent. I could definitely see him forming a nice partnership with Fredy Montero.
At what price: If there's one thing I'd hope the Timbers learned last year, it's that defense is one area where MLS experience matters. They entered the 2011 season without a single player who had significant MLS experience as a defender and it showed. Only four teams gave up more than their 48 goals last year. Patrick Ianni might not be an automatic starter there, but he'd definitely improve their depth. The Sounders could probably throw in a couple first-round picks, too.
Chances of this happening: Low. As much as I'd like for this happen, I just don't see the Timbers willing to give up on Nagbe just yet. Heck, maybe I'm misreading this and they are planning for him to break into a starter's role this year. A boy can dream, though.
Why he might be available: The former No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick sure seems to be the odd man out in the Whitecaps' plans. Even before this offseason, when the Whitecaps added Le Toux, Etienne Barbara and Darren Mattocks, he was struggling for playing time. The Whitecaps have never seemed to know what to do with the United States youth international.
Would the Sounders want him: I would think so. They've never come right out and said it, but I got the impression they liked Salgado leading into the draft last year and were quietly hoping he might fall enough for them to move into a position to get him.
At what price: I really wonder if Salgado might be kinda cheap at this point. He wasn't picked by new coach Martin Rennie and even though Tom Soehn picked him, Salgado didn't see much time when Soehn was coach, either. Might the Whitecaps be willing to flip him for a draft pick and one of the younger Sounders?
Chances of this happening: Of all the players I've suggested, this seems the most plausible. That said, I'm still skeptical this gets done and, realistically, Salgado is no more of a proven commodity than any of the other players on the roster. But a player like him would certainly be intriguing.