Photo courtesy Steven Christy/OKC Energy FC
In a USLSoccer.com fan poll, fans are on the whole pleased with their Head Coaches, and pleased with their teams moves in the transfer market, something which should have club presidents feeling very happy. With signing season in full swing, fans still had some positions they were looking for more players for before the season begins in March.
Head Coaches will certainly be breathing easy, with 69 percent of fans in favor of keeping their Head Coach. Of that 69 percent, the great majority believe their club had the best Head Coach in the league, with 42 percent of fans casting a strong vote of confidence behind their club's sideline general.
Goalkeepers will be even more excited with 43 percent of fans giving top marks to their resident shot-stopper out of an overall positive rating of 69 percent. Of those voting for need a goalkeeper in the transfer window most weren’t looking for a replacement but rather a back-up, with 18 percent of fans of the opinion a solid second option was all their club needed at this point.
Most goalkeeper signings so far this offseason have seen teams ensure sure their goalkeepers stuck around, but that is not a universal truth. The most notable team for goalkeeper signings has been FC Cincinnati, which restocked its group three new goalkeepers ahead of 2018 after losing Mitch Hildebrandt to Atlanta United and Dallas Jaye to Phoenix Rising FC. As it stands, former USL Goalkeeper of the Year finalist Evan Newton and Vancouver Whitecaps FC loanee Spencer Richey look set to battle it out to take over between the sticks for FCC this season.
Perhaps the most notable goalkeeper move so far has been Matt Pickens, who was the first signing for Nashville SC, joining from the Tampa Bay Rowdies. With some starting positions up for grabs as preseason gets underway, there will be some battles that will be worth monitoring over the next couple of months.
While the majority of fans (52 percent) voted that they didn’t need any new defenders, with 28 percent voting their back line was unbeatable, the most popular single response was that defensive depth was needed. 40 percent of fans voted that their side needed to add to their defensive corps, with 8 percent thinking a big investment was needed.
That attitude from fans may reflect the movement of defenders, with 40 defenders having already found new homes this offseason within the USL, including marquee Fresno FC signing Mickey Daly, pictured above at his prior stop with OKC Energy FC. Only midfielders outrank defenders as players on the move, with 42 midfielders having found new homes throughout USL. With 17 of the defenders added to new rosters this offseason coming from outside the USL, fans will have some exciting players to get to know, but the fan reaction likely reflects the reason for defenders being a need given the fact that some are unknown commodities to many.
Midfield was considered an area of strength for most teams, with 34 percent of fans voting that they felt their club’s midfield was strong, part of a 53-percent positive vote for midfielders. Those that did want more investment in midfield voted more for depth than for an overhaul, with 29 percent of fans voting that one more midfielder would help their team.
The emphasis on midfield has been most felt with the league's expansion teams, who have picked up 15 midfielders already this offseason. Most notably, Fresno FC has recruited four of them in their current 11-man squad. Fresno led their inaugural signing class with an experienced USL midfielder with Agustin Cazarez joining from Sacramento Republic FC, while Nashville SC's additions of Michael Reed (San Antonio FC), Matt LaGrassa (Reno 1868 FC) and Lebo Moloto (Swope Park Rangers) appear to have the club in strong standing.
Fans were most split over their front lines, with a very tight vote, just edged by fans wanting another forward. 33 percent of fans voted that they could use another option up front, while 27 percent felt they had enough quality in their forwards. The total wanting more forwards was 53 percent, while 20 percent said that a forward should be a priority for their club in the coming weeks.
FC Cincinnati has been leading the way in recruiting forwards, with the trio of Daniel Haber, Tommy Heinemann, and Emery Welshman joining the club. Add in the re-signing of Danni Konig, and only one departure so far of Kadeem Dacres heading to Saint Louis FC, and FCC looks in good shape as it builds its front line.
Reno 1868 has also been active, picking up former Tulsa Roughnecks FC player Christian Thierjung and Swope Park Rangers' Mark Anthony Gonzalez to join four returnees on the front line that include Antoine Hoppenot. The need is probably most felt in Tulsa, with the Roughnecks losing both Ian Svantesson (to Charleston Battery) and Thierjung (to Reno 1868 FC), although the additions of Christian Rodriguez and Jhon Pirez from overseason do look like intriguing possibilities.
The most positive response came for the overall evaluation of the transfer window so far, with 43 percent of fans saying not just that things had gone well, but that their team is looking better in 2018 as a result. By comparison just 13 percent of fans felt that their team needed a lot of work going into the 2018 season, but with two months to go in the offseason there's still plenty of time for deals to get done for all.
Keep up with all the latest transfers, and how your team is going coming into the 2018 season with the USL Transfer Tracker.