Steve Davis
Wednesday July 14th, 2010

The summer transfer window opens on Thursday. This being the first full international signing period since Major League Soccer liberalized and expanded its Designated Player policies, it will the teams' first opportunity to aggressively exploit the new allowances.

MLS rosters may now include up to three Designated Players. The Red Bulls are being bullish with French star Thierry Henry being announced Thursday as a second DP. And they may not be finished at just two.

On the other hand, the Red Bulls' bold ways are balanced by several clubs reluctant to dip their toes into DP waters. So, who else is being aggressive and who is hunkering down for now? Here is a rundown of where each team stands along the MLS Designated Player continuum.

(Remember, each Designated Player counts $335,000 toward the salary cap, but the amount charged is halved for players signed in the summer window -- so that makes July additions a little more palatable.)

Chivas USA: The Goats will add a couple of helpful summer pieces in veteran Venezuelan international Giancarlo Maldonado and former midfield linchpin Paulo Nagamura, who returns after a brief stint in Mexico. But there are no DPs en route, apparently. Nothing new there; Chivas USA has never had a DP to call its own.

Colorado: The Rapids don't have one, have never had one and don't appear in any hurry to add one. Too bad, too, because coach Gary Smith has a decent side, if a little light on offensive might. A creator in midfield could seriously punch up the attack. Or, if a top-tier goalkeeper was out there to be had, Colorado might start looking like a true contender.

Columbus: The Crew haven't been in the Designated Player club since Guillermo Barros Schelotto came off the DP list two years ago. Here, the big market-small market dynamic seems to be at work. The Crew have left millions of dollars on the table in their 11-year inability to sell naming rights to MLS' first dedicated stadium. And being in a smaller market reduces access to local corporate sponsorship cash. With limited opportunity to claim this kind of auxiliary revenue, the organization doesn't have money to burn, meaning a DP acquisition may not add up economically.

Chicago: The Fire could desperately use an impact personality or two, but technical director Frank Klopas has indicated that players currently targeted may not be available until the winter. That's too bad, because the roster has plenty of "good" but only a little "great," and that's reflected in the modest record (4-5-5). Brian McBride no longer looks like a day-to-day starter. And standout center back Wilman Conde always seems to be flirting with the idea of going elsewhere. So, you never know what might happen there. There really isn't a place on the field where the Fire couldn't improve.

D.C. United: They just added 30-year-old Montenegrin playmaker Branko Boskovic as a DP. Already training with United, he could be eligible Thursday against Seattle, contingent on acquisition of his international transfer certificate. United has always been aggressive in DP pursuits, having previously signed Luciano Emilio and Marcelo Gallardo. As for Boskovic, he should pep up a midfield that lacks creativity; the team has used two holding types so far this year. Otherwise, United could still use a quality striker. Did anybody seriously believe Danny Allsopp could be the answer?

FC Dallas: This is one of seven teams sitting out the DP game for now. The team desperately needs a striker but hopes to have addressed it with the addition of Colombian journeyman Milton Rodriguez. He has been training for a month in Dallas and will likely debut Saturday against Real Salt Lake at Pizza Hut Park. David Ferreira, making close to DP money, is as close as Dallas has come to being in the DP club since the Denilson disaster.

Houston: The Dynamo's first spin of the DP wheel has not gone well at all. Luis Angel Landin has been injured, unfit or both for most of his first year in Houston. He stands as a giant, flashing red warning sign for others looking to play the DP game. Landin has two goals in 16 games and has never established a starting spot -- hardly what you want from a pricey, marquee man. Houston, focused on getting that long-discussed downtown stadium off the ground, doesn't appear to have much interest in a second DP.

Los Angeles: Los Angeles already has two DPs in David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the league's only American among Designated Player ranks. Galaxy ownership was bullish on driving the new DP rules, so it might be in the market for No. 3. Then again, teams still need to carve out cap room for a third -- and that's not going to be easy for anyone. Besides, with a league-high 36 points, the Galaxy may not want to upset the carefully built team chemistry.

Kansas City: The club hasn't been a member of the DP fraternity since Claudio Lopez's days of under-performance ended. With a move scheduled into a new stadium in a year's time, the club seems more likely to sit on its DP assets -- especially with the season going south and a coaching situation that may require sorting out.

New England: New England is one of three MLS clubs to have never had a DP. The Revs could use a striker or another central midfielder to partner with Shalrie Joseph. Coach Steve Nicol has proved his ability to get more with less, wringing quite a bit from a fairly chintzy player budget. No telling what he could do with a true marquee player.

New York: Attempting to steal the league's Glamour Boy label from L.A., this team seems ready to go all in. Henry, in all likelihood, will soon become its second DP. Assuming Juan Pablo Angel remains in place -- and there's no reason to think otherwise at present -- the Red Bulls will instantly have the league's best strike duo. Coach Hans Backe says the club continues to explore the addition of a third player. He's talked about an impact center back. Of course, the club could also use a midfield creator who can supply balls into Henry and Angel in good spots.

Philadelphia: The league's expansion team has no Designated Player but did make news over the possibility of adding one not long ago. According to reports earlier this year out of Europe, which were never confirmed by Union officials, the team was negotiating with former Arsenal man Robert Pires. The midfielder slammed the door on the process by saying he was interested in MLS but preferred to play in "a beautiful city." Ouch.

Real Salt Lake: Coach Jason Kreis and GM Garth Lagerwey have made a strategic choice to build around an abundance of mid-level salaried players. It worked to perfection last year as RSL claimed the league title. And since they're second in the West this year, behind the high-flying Galaxy, they're likely to stick with the plan.

San Jose: Another of the league's three teams to have never signed a DP. Stuck in a small, temporary-solution stadium, which means limited revenue opportunities, it's going to be tough until the Earthquakes move into a permanent home.

Seattle: Seattle secured its second DP in the spring, although Swiss international Blaise Nkufo cannot play until the window opens this week. He will arrive in Seattle this week after getting a break following World Cup play. The Sounders' other spot is occupied by Freddie Ljungberg. Is Ljungberg's two goals and 12 assists in 37 matches over two seasons sufficient production for a DP salary? There's a good debate in there and rumors persist that Ljungberg could be traded.

Toronto FC: Director of Soccer Mo Johnston and coach Preki just secured a striker to join Julian de Guzman as the club's second DP. His name is Miguel Angel Ferrer Martinez ... but you can call him Mista, which is what he typically goes by. This is a bit of a gamble as the former Real Madrid, Valencia CF and Deportivo La Coruna forward is now 31. But if Mista has enough gas in his tank, he could seriously spruce up TFC's attack; it would then have Dwayne De Rosario to run at defenses from the midfield, de Guzman to sit deep and orchestrate and Mista to operate inside the 18.

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