Grading the Top Moves of the MLS Offseason So Far
The Major League Soccer offseason may be just over two weeks old but has seen plenty of player movement since Portland hoisted the MLS Cup on December 6.
In the time since the offseason opened, teams have traded key members of their squads for draft picks, the league's first free agents signed and a big-name defender left the league.
Not all of the 20 clubs in the league have been active on the player market in December, but there have been a few who have constantly appeared in the headlines.
Since there have been plenty of notable moves since the start of the offseason, we decided to break down the key acquisitions and hand out grades to the teams involved.
Here's a look at our grades for the top MLS offseason moves to date.
Philadelphia Trades Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger to Houston
The Philadelphia Union wasted no time turning their roster over, as they dealt midfielders Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger to the Houston Dynamo on the second day of the offseason.
Maidana was successful in his two years with the Union, recording 26 assists in 54 matches. However, his playing style won't exactly fit the new mold sporting director Earnie Stewart and head coach Jim Curtin are going to install in 2016.
With that in mind, the Union shipped off the league's second-best passer in the final third in 2015 to a team that could benefit greatly from his attacking flair.
As for Wenger, he never really found a place on the field for the Union. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft just needs consistent playing time and a consistent position to fully tap into his potential.
By getting rid of a player who lacks defensive skill (despite his strong passing abilities) and one whose career has stalled recently, Philadelphia earned a good amount of praise. With the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 draft in hand along with the No. 3 selection, the Union should be able to build up a young core.
As for Houston, Maidana has a chance to pair with Giles Barnes, Will Bruin and Erick "Cubo" Torres in what could be one of the most dangerous attacks in MLS. With Ricardo Clark sitting behind him, Maidana may not have a ton of defensive responsibilities. Wenger can be used in a variety of roles, and we could see him play defense on the wing if manager Owen Coyle asks him to.
Philadelphia Grade: B+
Houston Grade: B
Portland Sells Jorge Villafana and Acquires Chris Klute
Less than a week after winning the MLS Cup at Mapfre Stadium, the Portland Timbers sold one of the players whose performance helped them earn the championship.
Left back Jorge Villafana was sold to Santos Laguna in Liga MX for a transfer fee around $1 million, according to MLSSoccer.com. Although losing the 26-year-old is a blow to the Portland defense, the Timbers earned a nice profit for the full-back when his stock was high.
The Timbers found a replacement for Villafana right away, as they acquired Chris Klute from the Columbus Crew in exchange for general-allocation money. Klute should receive more playing time in Portland in 2016 than he did during his only full year in Columbus.
Portland essentially traded in a solid full-back for another, and in a league where strong full-back play isn't guaranteed, the Timbers didn't drop in quality by making these moves.
LA Galaxy Acquire Dan Kennedy from FC Dallas
The LA Galaxy needed a veteran goalkeeper for the 2016 season. FC Dallas had to unload one after the emergence of 20-year-old Jesse Gonzalez at the end of 2015.
Those two factors set the wheels in motion for Dan Kennedy to be shipped to the Galaxy for second- and third-round picks in the 2017 draft. In MLS terms, that is a very small return for someone with Kennedy's experience.
The 33-year-old was a stalwart in net during the final four years of Chivas USA's existence and looked to have a starting gig lined up with FC Dallas last season. However, things didn't work out for Kennedy, who didn't make a start after August 15.
The Galaxy were left in a bind in the middle of 2015 when Jaime Penedo left the club over a contract dispute. Donovan Ricketts, who was acquired from Orlando City, was too shaky during the second half of the regular season, which led to a new search for a goalkeeper.
Kennedy will bring a steady hand to the Galaxy defense, but how much he has to do in net in 2016 will be determined by who lines up in front of him, which is currently a mystery.
Sporting Kansas City Sign Free Agent Justin Mapp
Justin Mapp became the first free agent to sign a deal in MLS history on December 14 when he inked a contract with Sporting Kansas City.
Mapp was set to be an integral part of the Montreal attack in 2015, but a fractured elbow kept him out from the majority of the regular season. With Montreal going in another direction and Sporting KC in need of help on the wing, the addition of Mapp to Peter Vermes' side may turn out to be the best acquisition of the offseason.
Mapp will bring a ton of experience to a Sporting KC attack that has plenty of weapons, including Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi.
The introduction of Mapp to the starting lineup will allow Nemeth and Zusi to have more freedom moving forward, which will allow Connor Hallisey to develop for another year before being thrust into a major role.
Toronto FC Acquires Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Will Johnson
Toronto FC reclaimed its title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the offseason on Dec. 16 when it announced the acquisitions of Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and Will Johnson.
Unlike the last two offseasons, the Reds upgraded their defense, which has long been the club's biggest weakness.
With Moor and Beitashour now in the fold, Toronto has a defense that can be relied upon in clutch situations. By adding Johnson, the Reds have a rock in the defensive midfield that will allow Michael Bradley to stay forward more.
Toronto's new-look lineup is one that should rival any squad put out by the rest of the contenders in the Eastern Conference. Justin Morrow and Damien Perquis will start along with Moor and Beitashour in defense, Johnson will be the backbone of the midfield with Bradley in an advanced role and Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco will feature up top.
If everything goes right in 2016, the new additions to the Toronto FC roster should help the Reds advance far into the postseason.
Orlando City Trades for Joe Bendik
Orlando City's decision-making has been questioned quite a bit during the young offseason. In addition to plenty of turnover in the front office, the Lions parted ways with goalkeeper Tally Hall after the 2015 campaign.
On December 21, the Lions acquired Joe Bendik in a trade with Toronto FC in which they gave up a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft.
The 26-year-old Bendik isn't exactly an upgrade from the 30-year-old Hall but is an experienced face who will challenge for the starting spot alongside 23-year-old Earl Edwards.
It remains to be seen who will start in goal for Orlando in its second MLS season, but both options are currently no better than what it originally had.
LA Galaxy Sell Omar Gonzalez to Pachuca
The biggest move to come out of the MLS offseason was announced on Tuesday, when the Galaxy sold Omar Gonzalez to Mexican side Pachuca.
Due to the team's high payroll and Gonzalez's contract with the club, it would've been hard for the Galaxy to retain the defender and keep him happy, despite the introduction of more Targeted Allocation Money.
The switch to Liga MX will benefit Gonzalez as a player, since the Mexican top flight is still regarded as a better league than MLS. When it comes to his future with the United States men's national team, Gonzalez can improve his stock with strong performances for Pachuca week in and week out.
But the transfer leaves the Galaxy in a bit of a pickle for now. Currently, they have A.J. DeLaGarza, Tommy Meyer and Leonardo on the first-team roster at center back. The Galaxy have plenty of impressive youth products waiting in the wings, but given their spending power, it seems likely they'll splash some cash on a center back.
Right now, the Galaxy back line is depleted, and for a club in need of an upgrade in defense this offseason, selling Gonzalez isn't exactly the ideal move right now. Until we find out who Gonzalez's replacement will be, we can't set a solid grade on this transfer.
LA Galaxy Sell Juninho to Club Tijuana
Two days after the Galaxy transferred their top defender to Mexico, they sold their top midfielder to Club Tijuana. The club announced on Thursday that Juninho was sold to Xolos for a fee believed to be around $1.5 million, per Goal.com's Ives Galarcep.
The sale of Juninho is a massive blow to the heart of the Galaxy midfield, which relied on the Brazilian so much during his time at the club. He becomes the second vital cog to the LA midfield to leave in two years after Marcelo Sarvas was traded to Colorado last offseason.
LA will have plenty of allocation money to work with thanks to the sale of Gonzalez and Juninho, but replacing the pair will be a difficult task. Don't expect Steven Gerrard to pick up more responsibilities in midfield given his lack of success in 2015. However, there is some hope for the Galaxy since they have a few young prospects like Andre Auras to bring up and play the holding role.
Just like the Gonzalez deal, the jury is still out on a final grade here, but finding a replacement for Juninho is a bigger concern at the moment. With Bruce Arena at the helm, the Galaxy should be fine in the long run, but right now this move hurts the squad and their fans.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.