A number of clubs in NASL and USL-Pro have announced big player acquisitions early in the off-season. All of these players have previously played at a different U.S. club.
Indy Eleven, the most impressive of the three expansion clubs in NASL, announced the signing of two-year Rochester Rhinos goalkeeper Kristian Nicht. Nicht arrived at the Upstate New York club for the 2012 USL-Pro season and started his North American career with 6 straight shut-outs, a professional soccer record in this country. The 6’5” German rode that form to the 2012 USL-Pro Goalkeeper of the Year award.
Orlando City is bringing back several key players (Chin, Watson, O’Connor, and Valentino) and announced November 4 that they had acquired Carl Woszczynski, the goalkeeper for L.A. Blues that past two seasons. Woszczynski joins Miguel Gallardo in the Orlando bullpen which means that the Lions now have the number one and number two ranked goalkeepers from the 2013 season in terms of goals against.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds came to terms in October with striker Jose Angulo and attack-minded midfielder Matthew Dallman, a potent duo from the team’s 2013 season. In back-to-back announcements, the ‘Hounds acquired Anthony Obodai, who played with Phoenix FC, and Joseph Ngwenya, most recently a league MVP candidate with Richmond Kickers.
Perhaps the most surprising announcement to date was that of Ottawa Fury on Wednesday, November 6. The Fury announced that they had come to an agreement with Charleston Battery over the transfer of Nicki Patterson. I have been known to hurl insults at Patterson when he played in Rochester (“Nicki is a girls’ name,” for example), but the Scottish midfielder has been the life and soul of that club for most of his three years in South Carolina.
Signings that are done early in the off-season, especially for expansion sides, set a positive tone. Indy Eleven can now point to Kristian Nicht, a German veteran goalkeeper with experience in Germany and Norway’s top flights, while negotiating with future players. Ottawa Fury can build its squad around Nicki Patterson and use his name to attract other promising talent.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds brought on a new partial owner in Terry Shallenberger and club CEO Jason Kutney is quite serious about building for the future. Signing two veteran players with extensive overseas experience to add to two key returners will go a long way towards assembling a quality squad in the early months of 2014.
While all this is going on, we’ve barely heard a peep from NASL’s Virginia Cavalry or Oklahoma City and Sacramento Republic in USL-Pro since the end of the 2013 season. The Cavalry are probably going to play the spring portion of next season at George Mason University while Sacramento is looking at the feasibility of playing at Cal Expo. Oklahoma City has announced the team will be called Energy FC, its primary colors, and that the home venue for 2014 will be a local high school.
The organizations who complete business early in the offseason by appointing staff, selling season tickets, defining home venues, or acquiring marquee players will be the clubs that hit the ground running in 2014. We’ll have to see about the others and hope that they don’t end up like Antigua Barracuda FC and VSI Tampa Bay FC Flames, both of which are rumored to be folding from USL-Pro.