We're still early in the MLS offseason. The re-entry draft process for players out of contract or with options declined is only now at the halfway point; Stage 2 takes place Monday, but negotiations for any players selected from a less-than-inspiring list will be ongoing. Meanwhile, the college draft and transfer market await.
But it's a short break -- some teams return to the training ground in late January -- and every week counts as 19 MLS clubs shake the bushes for top talent while trying to shed salary judiciously.
Here's a quick rundown of five clubs making hay so far, and five with some catching up to do.
Meanwhile, coach Ben Olsen is doing his part to get younger, discarding "legacy" players and others who simply aren't getting it done. That's harder than it sounds at United, where history counts for so much. So Santino Quaranta's retirement and Clyde Simms' exposure in the re-entry process probably means bigger roles for promising youngsters. The club traded for Real Salt Lake's Robbie Russell, which adds much-needed veteran guidance along with an established right back, paving the way for Perry Kitchen to develop as a holding midfielder.
Finally, choosing not to bring back expensive, mercurial striker Charlie Davies removes one offseason headache.
In terms of players acquired, Marsch and director of soccer operations Matt Jordan have scooped up some interesting names. Ching and Braun could be a handful as forwards. There are promising youngsters like Zarek Valentin to pair with veterans such as Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp (two who are old enough to know, but still young enough to do). And the Impact could do far worse in goal than former Galaxy starter Donovan Ricketts. So, playing hardball may pay off at Stade Saputo in the long run.
Frank Rost (38), Thierry Henry (34), Rafa Marquez (32), Teemu Tainio (32) and Jan Gunnar Solli (30) make for a pretty old lineup backbone. Plus, Luke Rodgers turns 30 in January, too. So it's an important offseason there, one that seems slow out of the gate.