MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs Orlando City

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Friday, March 13 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT )

Match Odds: Houston Dynamo 19/20 – Draw 11/5 – Orlando City 11/4

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo welcome Orlando City to the BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday evening for the first match of gameweek two in the 2015 MLS season.

Houston Dynamo enjoyed a successful start to the season last weekend as a 66th minute Giles Barnes goal earned Owen Coyle‘s men a hard fought 1-0 victory in a tight game at home to the Columbus Crew.

Orlando City’s first ever competitive encounter at home to fellow MLS debutants New York City provided late drama as they came back from 1-0 down to secure a draw thanks to a 90th minute deflected free-kick by star man Kaka, despite being down to ten men for the last seven minutes after Aurelien Collin saw red for a dangerous tackle on David Villa.

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The Dynamo will be pleased that they have the comfort of being able to enjoy the home advantage for the second week running. They fared considerably better on home soil in the 2014 season (P17, W8, D4, L5) than they did on the road (P17, W3, D2, L12).

Adrian Heath‘s Orlando team head to Houston for what will be their first away game in MLS history, so they’ll be hoping to begin life on their travels with a good performance and positive result.

Houston Dynamo recorded a convincing 3-0 win over Orlando City in their final preseason game at the end of February with goals coming from Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis, although Orlando finished the game with only nine players after Collin and Carlos Rivas were sent off.

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With the competitive element now being introduced, that will act as a key motivational factor and we can expect to see a much tighter contest between these two sides compared to the one we saw in preseason.

Houston will of course be hoping for a repeat performance and result but Orlando showed some promising signs in their opening game last week and the Lions will provide a stronger attacking threat this time around.

Team News

Houston Dynamo have no injuries or suspensions, so Owen Coyle has a full squad to choose from as they hope to make it two wins on the bounce.

Orlando City defender Aurelien Collin will be suspended following his red card last weekend. Forward Martin Paterson may be unavailable after he missed the game with New York City because of a groin strain. Goalkeeper Tally Hall remains out with a long-term injury.

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Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s form: W

Orlando City’s form: D

Key Stat: Houston Dynamo haven’t earned a point when conceding the first goal at home since November 2013 when they came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls. They have conceded the first goal four times on home soil since then and have gone on to lose on each occasion. So if Orlando can get themselves into the lead, they may fancy their chances of seeing it out.

Key Player: Tyler Deric – The Houston Dynamo goalkeeper was given a chance to shine and was kept busy by the Columbus Crew attack last weekend as he made six saves on the way to securing a clean sheet. He can expect more of the same on Friday as Orlando boast an array of talent in offensive areas so Deric will need to be on top form.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Orlando City – Houston Dynamo edged out a win in their last game while Orlando City showed great spirit to fight back from a goal down late on, so both will be confident. This should be another tight contest.

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MLS opening weekend delivers after months of anticipation

Major League Soccer is back. The opening weekend of the 2015 campaign was nothing short of spectacular as over 258,000 fans were out in force across the United States and Canada to watch their teams in action for the first time this season.

There were 10 games over Friday, Saturday and Sunday with 16 goals scored and although there was only an average of 1.6 goals per game, MLS sprung into life in fine style.

All the drama surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks seem like a thing from the distant past as soccer took over and proved exactly why we’ve all been so excited for the new season.

There were new stars, new stadiums, new kits, goals and drama as we saw three red cards over the course of the weekend.

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It all kicked off in Los Angeles on Friday where the reigning champions, LA Galaxy kicked off the new season with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire. Last year’s MLS MVP, Robbie Keane sealed the victory with the second goal and looked as hungry as ever.

Saturday night saw six games take place across the league and although two of the games ended 0-0 (Philadelphia Union vs Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake) there was lots of excitement in Canada as a new-look Toronto side beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

New Toronto DP’s Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco both impressed in the win as Altidore bagged a brace much to the anger of the home crowd, who soaked him in beer as he celebrated his panenka penalty in front of the Whitecaps faithful late on.

DC United, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo all recorded 1-0 wins in front of their own fans in the other three games on Saturday.

And just to add to the excitement, the first MLS Soccer Sunday of the season saw three key clashes played out to cap off a fine weekend.

Orlando City and New York City played their first ever MLS game against each other in front of a huge crowd of over 62,000 supporters at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Florida.

New stars, Kaka and David Villa both led their teams out in a game that exploded into life late on as there were two goals, a red card and a penalty shout waved away inside the final 15 minutes.

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Mix Diskerud scored NYCFC’s first MLS goal with a fine curling shot in the 76th minute before Aurelien Collin was then sent off for a foul on Villa after 83 minutes.

But that man Kaka was on hand to save the day for Orlando as his deflected free-kick ended up in the back of the net, much to the delight of 60,000 Lions supporters.

Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls played out another entertaining 1-1 draw afterwards before the Seattle Sounders flexed their attacking muscles in a 3-0 win against the New England Revolution in the final game of the weekend.

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Clint Dempsey bagged a brace with Obafemi Martins getting the other in a solid display to once again prove that they are probably the best strikeforce in MLS.

Opening weekend delivered after months of expectation. But there are still 33 regular season games to go in what should be the greatest ever Major League Soccer campaign.

What was your favourite moment of the opening weekend of the new MLS season?

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Orlando City SC

As the 2015 season draws closer, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what Orlando City SC will be hoping to achieve in their first-ever season…

The arrival of Orlando City SC into Major League Soccer is fast approaching and we are excited to see what they have to offer. Expectations to perform will be high, but with Kaka leading the team they stand a strong chance of finishing at the top end of the Eastern Conference in their inaugural season. As it is their first ever campaign people will question how much they can achieve, but their introduction to MLS is exciting and we are looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Last season’s finish: N/A (Inaugural Season)

Orlando City players huddle up in preseason action (Photo: http://www.orlandocitysc.com/)

Orlando City players huddle up in preseason action (Photo: http://www.orlandocitysc.com/)

What to expect this year:

Seeing as it is their initial season we obviously cannot compare previous campaigns, but with the players they have bought in there are high expectations. With big signings Orlando have to reach the playoffs and much comparison will be made between them and fellow expansion franchise, New York City FC. With Kaka at the heart of the midfield we can expect classy counter-attacking play led by a calm experienced head. Aurelien Collin will play a major part into how they perform defensively and his MLS experience is vital. Bryan Rochez has been brought in as a Designated Player up top and he will be expected to score the goals that fire Orlando to success this year.

Key changes to the squad:

As it is their first season the squad building at Orlando was vast. Their key additions are:

Ins: Kaka – Midfielder (Designated Player), Bryan Rochez – Forward (Designated Player), Aurelien Collin – Defender, Brek Shea – Midfielder, Donovan Ricketts – Goalkeeper, Amobi Okugo – Defender

Outs: N/A 

Key player: Kaka – Midfielder

Kaka Orlando City SC

There isn’t much to say about former Ballon d’Or winner that already hasn’t been said. He will play a pivotal role in Orlando’s first season and his experience in the squad is unparalleled. Playing at the top level and wrapping up European honours such as the Champions League, La Liga and Serie A mean he is the star. The 2002 World Cup winner will take the pressure for the Lions’ performances on the field and will improve the players around him. The rest of the Orlando squad can learn so much from Kaka and the number 10 will need to be at his brilliant best to set examples and keep his side composed. The 32 year old is a natural finisher and will show why he is regarded so highly by driving the side on with his midfield surges and range of passing. Kaka has always been a pleasure to watch and don’t expect that to change in MLS.

One to watch: Bryan Rochez – Forward

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The Honduran forward has an impressive goals-to-games ratio for former club Real Espana with 30 in 62 and he could be a dark horse for the Golden Boot this season. He has showed in glimpses what he is about in Orlando’s preseason campaign and will need to prove he is worthy of the DP tag Orlando have given him. The 20-year-old striker will enjoy working with Kaka and the service he should receive gives him a good chance of continuing his impressive scoring record.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 2nd

Orlando should have a strong first season and we are expecting big things from them. With the squad they have we can expect them to put up a good challenge against everyone they face. The team is strong throughout with experienced defenders, and creative midfielders and Adrian Heath has one of Major League Soccer’s strongest team’s on paper. With Kaka at the heart of it all we are just counting down the days until kick off now.

How will Orlando do in their first-ever MLS season?

Sean St Ledger will offer Orlando City vital experience if signed

By Keave Tollington – @KeaveT

Sean St Ledger has been targeting MLS as his next career move since he was released by Championship side Ipswich Town in December and he could prove to be a fine signing if Orlando City offer him a contract in the next few weeks.

St Ledger’s career in England had been dwindling even before Leicester City released him last summer, as he made only 2 appearances last season. He picked up various leg injuries whilst at City, forcing him out of the squad most weeks. His time at Ipswich was also short lived and he made no appearances for the club.

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Things aren’t all doom and gloom for St Ledger, who has spent much of the last month stateside trying to forge a path in MLS. He was unable to impress at his initial trial at DC United and is now looking to secure a spot on MLS Expansion Team Orlando City’s 2015 roster.

The defender is definitely ready for a change of scenery away from British football and is a bright prospect for Orlando City. Vice President of Soccer Operations at Orlando, Paul McDonough said the club were very keen to get St Ledger’s deal confirmed as quickly as possible.

“Sean is very much first choice at the moment,” he said. “He has the experience and the kind of ability we’re looking for in the middle of the back four.”

Orlando City’s current squad is mostly comprised of young players, who have less than half of the practical knowledge that St Ledger has acquired over the years, and signing him is expected to give Orlando’s backline the experience that it needs to be successful in the 2015 MLS season.

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St Ledger played the first 60 minutes of Orlando’s preseason friendly against Swedish side BK Häcken last week and is said to have impressed head coach Adrian Heath. The veteran defender also spent the first-half acting as an instructor for US-under 20 international player, Conor Donovan, helping him to correct mistakes and improve his play.

If things go to plan and St Ledger joins up with the club officially in the next few weeks, it is fair to say that he will provide invaluable experience to the younger members of the Lion’s roster. Aurelien Collin is expected to be the first-choice centre-back with Orlando this season but St Ledger would prove to be a more than capable partner in what could be a solid defence.

Last year might not have been St Ledger’s best, but could 2015 see him succeed in MLS with Orlando City?

Middlesbrough defender Seb Hines set to seal move to Orlando City

Orlando City are close to adding the final piece of their defensive jigsaw as the Lions are finalising a loan move for Middlesbrough centre-back Seb Hines, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio.

Hines has been with Middlesbrough for the past nine years and has made 87 appearances in that time, scoring five times with four assists, but his contract with the current Championship leaders is set to expire at the end of the current season.

Orlando are prepared to take the 26-year-old Englishman on loan for six months, with the option to sign him for free when his contract with Middlesbrough expires at the end of June.

Hines spent time on loan with League One outfit Coventry City earlier in the current campaign and has only made three league appearances with Boro in 2014/15.

Orlando City’s general manager Paul McDonough revealed earlier this week that the Lions were set to add another defender, with Irishman Sean St Ledger currently on trial with the expansion franchise too.

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“We will be bringing over another English player from the Championship and giving him a full trial as well [as St Ledger]. He can play both at centre-back or on the right, so it’s perfectly possible we could sign both of them.”

The additions of St Ledger and Hines would give Orlando five recognised centre-backs for their debut campaign with Aurelien Collin, Tommy Redding and Conor Donovan already with the team.

Former MLS Cup MVP Collin is the first-choice at the back but St Ledger and Hines will be confident that they have what it takes to partner the experienced Frenchman.

Hines was born in England and has represented the national team at youth levels all the way up to the Under-19’s. Though he is also eligible to play for the US Men’s National Team as he father is an American citizen.

The deal for Hines has not been confirmed by Orlando City yet but an official announcement is expected to be made in the next 24 hours.

Will Seb Hines be a good signing for Orlando City?

Orlando City to bring in English and Irish defenders this week

Orlando City SC are looking set to bolster their backline with the addition of Republic of Ireland international Sean St Ledger and another unnamed defender from England.

The Lions are preparing for their debut campaign in Major League Soccer and have started their first ever MLS preseason in solid form, with two draws and a 4-0 win against FC Dallas so far.

Sean St Ledger played 45 minutes in a goalless draw with Toronto FC yesterday and the Irishman will be hoping to secure a contract with Orlando after failing to impress DC United enough during a short trial with the Eastern Conference champions.

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Orlando City general manager Paul McDonough revealed that St Ledger is likely to be signed in time for the start of the new season, which gets underway in less than a month, while another defender from England could also be brought in this week.

“Sean is very much first choice at the moment,” McDonough said. “He has the experience and the kind of ability we’re looking for in the middle of the back four.

“But we will also be bringing over another English player from the Championship on Monday or Tuesday and giving him a full trial as well. He can play both at centre-back or on the right, so it’s perfectly possible we could sign both of them.”

St Ledger has been without a club since being released by Ipswich Town at the end of December but he will be hoping to find himself playing regular first-team football again if he can earn a deal with Orlando.

The 30-year-old defender looks like he’s enjoying his trial with Orlando so far as he posted a picture on Twitter with Brazilian superstar Kaka on Sunday.

He could form a solid partnership with Aurelien Collin if signed, while it will be interesting to see who the other unnamed defender will be.

Orlando City already have four English-born players on their roster as English coach Adrian Heath is more than happy to bring players in from across the Atlantic.

How will Orlando City do in their first ever MLS season in 2014?

Predicted Orlando City starting XI if the league began today

Orlando City SC now have the core of their squad together ahead of their first ever season as a Major League Soccer franchise after the MLS Expansion Draft helped them to add numbers.

The Lions now have 20 players to choose from and although more will be added before they kick off in March, we now have a good idea about what the team will look like.

Don’t miss: Predicted New York City starting XI if the league began today

With the current roster, it is likely that head coach Adrian Heath would play a 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate the high number of midfielders in the squad.

Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts

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The Jamaican shot-stopper was selected with the first overall pick of the Expansion Draft and will start the season in goal for Orlando. Tally Hall will battle for a starting job when he returns from injury but Ricketts has the job nailed down for now. He played 32 times for the Portland Timbers last year and is a solid goalkeeper.

Right-back: Tyler Turner

18-year-old right-back Tyler Turner could be set to start the season for Orlando as the club don’t have a more experienced player to fill in on the right side of defence. Turner likes to attack down the flanks and that could be something Heath wants to see from his team. Will be good to see a young player like Turner given a chance.

Centre-back: Aurelien Collin

Aurelien Collin is a vastly experienced central defender and a great signing for Orlando City. He has spent the last four seasons with Sporting Kansas City and brings a wealth of crucial experience to the backline. Collin played 26 times last season and will expect to see more game time than that in 2015.

Centre-back: Heath Pearce

Heath Pearce is another experienced MLS defender. The 2015 season will be his eighth in the league and he will look to form a solid partnership with Collin at the heart of the Orlando defence. Pearce played 23 games for Montreal last season.

Left-back: Luke Boden

English left-back Luke Boden will likely start the season as the teams left-back. He has been with Orlando City since 2011 and made the USL Pro Team of the Season in 2014. The Lions have been linked with Ashley Cole but that move is unlikely at this point and Boden will hope to prove his worth if given a starting job.

Defensive-midfield: Amobi Okugo

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Amobi Okugo was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Union and he will look forward to being a regular in the Orlando lineup next season. At just 23, he has a bright future ahead of him. He has played 32 times in the past two seasons for the Union and will look to replicate that in 2015.

Defensive-midfield: Estrella

Estrella is just 19-years-old but he has the chance to become an integral part of a youthful looking squad with the Lions. He joined Orlando City last July and scored one goal in five games in their USL Pro campaign. Could be one to shine.

Right-midfield: Kevin Molino

Kevin Molino has been with Orlando City since 2011 and has made over 80 appearances for the club in that time. He has plenty of experience and will be looking forward to playing in Major League Soccer. At just 24, he has time to develop as a player and has the perfect platform to do so.

Left-midfield: Tony Cascio

It’s difficult to assess exactly who will start on the left side of midfield for Orlando City but at this stage, Tony Cascio looks the most likely option. The 24-year-old was selected with Orlando’s second pick in the Expansion Draft and will hope to nail down a regular berth in the team after only appearing six times for the Houston Dynamo last term.

Attacking-midfield: Kaka

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The star. Kaka will need to be the key man in this team every time he steps onto the field. The Brazilian playmaker is set to experience Major League Soccer for the first time and will hope to hit the ground running with so much expected of the first, and only current designated player signing.

Forward: Jairo Arrieta

Unless a star striker is signed, Jairo Arrieta is expected to be the man to score the goals in the Orlando team. He was selected in the sixth round of the Expansion Draft after netting five times in 23 appearances for the Columbus Crew in 2014.

Exclusive: An interview with new Orlando City star Aurelien Collin

Aurelien Collin has a new home in Major League Soccer. The dominant French defender joined expansion franchise Orlando City from Sporting Kansas City in Monday’s half-day trading window in exchange for allocation money and future considerations.

Collin spent four successful seasons in Kansas City, making over 100 appearances for the club and although he must now concentrate on the next exciting chapter of his career, the 28-year-old centre-back will never forget his time with SKC.

“The last four years were the best of my life. Winning the MLS Cup and the US Open Cup were special moments for me,” he said.

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Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes revealed on Monday that Collin was only let go as a result of salary cap constraints and the 2013 MLS Cup MVP will definitely be missed at Sporting Park.

But Collin is glad that he has been able to stay in MLS by moving to Orlando, and is looking forward to playing alongside Brazilian superstar Kaka in 2015.

“I’m very happy. MLS is growing very fast and Orlando is a big city with big plans.

“Playing with Kaka will be an honor for me, both as a Christian and a soccer player, and I will learn a lot from him.”

Collin has played in France, Spain, Scotland, Greece, England and Portugal. But he has belonged in MLS ever since moving to the league in 2011.

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He knows the league and what is required to succeed, having won both the MLS Cup and US Open Cup with Sporting Kansas City. His experience will be vital for Orlando in their debut campaign and he will need to be a leader for those new to MLS in the Lions’ locker room, including Kaka.

Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft is another huge day for Orlando City as they have the chance to add some more much-needed depth to their squad.

And although many may assume the new boys will try and ease their way into life in Major League Soccer, Collin is targeting success from the onset.

Aurelien Collin Orlando City

When asked what his hopes for the team were in their inaugural campaign, he simply replied: “We want to make the playoffs!”

It will be fascinating to see how Orlando perform next season. But in Aurelien Collin, they already have a leader in defence. And the three-time MLS All-Star certainly knows how to succeed in the ever-growing world of Major League Soccer.

How good a signing is Aurelien Collin for Orlando City SC?

Trade crazy! All the MLS trades from a busy window on Monday

Major League Soccer clubs across the country have been busy acquiring players today. The half-day trade window gave MLS teams four hours to trade players for the first time this offseason. Clubs could also re-sign their own players.

11 players were on the move on Monday as 10 different clubs were involved with some form of trade in the final opportunity to reshuffle squad’s before Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft.

The Expansion Draft gets underway at 19:00 (UK time) on Wednesday and the offseason trade window will reopen after the draft ends.

Here are all today’s trades in what has been a busy day:

Michael Harrington: Portland Timbers – Colorado Rapids

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The Colorado Rapids acquired defender Michael Harrington from the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money. The 28-year-old made 25 appearances for the Timbers last season and should shore up a leaky Colorado defence that conceded more goals than anyone else in 2014.

Nat Borchers: Real Salt Lake – Portland Timbers

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The Timbers quickly replaced Harrington by bringing in Nat Borchers from Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake for allocation money. The 33-year-old centre-back was with RSL since 2008 and started 32 games last season. Borchers was one of five players the Timbers signed on Monday.

Josh Williams: Columbus Crew – New York City FC

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New York City have bulked up their defence with the addition of Josh Williams from Columbus Crew in exchange for allocations funds. Williams, 26, made 14 appearances for the Crew this season.

Andrew Driver – Joe Willis/Samuel Inkoom: Houston Dynamo – DC United

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English winger Andrew Driver joined Eastern Conference winners DC United from Houston Dynamo in exchange for Joe Willis and Samuel Inkoom. The Dynamo have bolstered their defence by bringing in goalkeeper Willis and right-back Inkoom while DC have added another attacking option in Driver.

Amobi Okugo:  Philadelphia Union – Orlando City SC

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Orlando City brought in three players on Monday. Amobi Okugo was the first as the 23-year-old holding midfielder joined from Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money and a 2016 2nd Round SuperDraft pick. Okugo made 32 appearances for the Union in 2014, scoring and assisting two goals.

Aurelien Collin: Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City SC

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Orlando’s second pick-up was Aurelien Collin. The dominant centre-back will undoubtedly give the Lions a solid defensive leader. He joins Orlando in exchange for allocation money and future considerations. Collin, MLS Cup MVP from 2013, made 26 appearances for Sporting Kansas City in 2014, scoring twice.

Tally Hall: Houston Dynamo – Orlando City SC

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The third acquisition Orlando made was goalkeeper Tally Hall who joins from Houston in exchange for allocation money and an international roster spot. Hall and Collin will need to keep the Lions defence solid in their inaugural season in MLS next season.

C.J. Sapong: Sporting Kansas City – Philadelphia Union

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Philadelphia bolstered their attack with the addition of C.J. Sapong from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the Union’s highest first-round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. Sapong scored twice in 20 appearances for SKC in 2014.

Bernardo Anor: Columbus Crew – Sporting Kansas City

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After seeing Collin and Sapong leave, Sporting Kansas City brought in someone in the form of midfielder Bernardo Anor from Columbus Crew. Anor joined SKC in exchange for allocation money after scoring six goals with one assist in 27 games this year.

Omar Salgado: Vancouver Whitecaps – New York City FC

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New York City also made a move to improve their attacking options ahead of their debut season by bringing in Omar Salgado from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a swap for Future Considerations. The 21-year-old only played eight times for the Whitecaps in 2014.

Joe Nasco – Dimitry Imbongo/Geoffrey Castillion: Colorado Rapids – New England Revolution

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MLS Cup Final losers New England Revolution also made a move in the short trade window by bringing in Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco and a third round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. In exchange the Revs sent forwards Dimitry Imbongo and Geoffrey Castillion as well as a second round SuperDraft pick.

Expansion franchises New York City and Orlando City also picked up international roster slots for the 2015 and 2016 seasons from DC United. Both clubs will now be looking ahead to Wednesday’s highly-anticipated Expansion Draft.

What did you make of Monday’s busy day of trading in MLS?