There are no off days in Major League Soccer, not even on major holidays, and this Christmas season brought a pair of signings that make the already-loaded Western Conference look even tougher ahead of the new year.
First, the Houston Dynamo — having already made a splash in bringing in former English Premier League coach Owen Coyle — dropped the news late on the 23rd, Christmas Eve Eve, that it is signing striker Erick “Cubo” Torres on a designated player contract.
Though the terms of the deal keep Torres with Chivas Guadalajara for the first half of the year, Houston is bringing in one of the brightest young talents in the league. Torres, 21, scored 22 goals in 44 appearances for Chivas USA in 2013-2014 and made his senior Mexican national team debut in August.
With a willingness to spend on designated players like Torres and USMNT veteran DaMarcus Beasley, a downtown stadium and a history of success, the Dynamo is unlikely to stay down for very long.
Vancouver showed even less respect for the holiday, announcing on Christmas morning the signing of 22-year-old Uruguayan forward Octavio Rivera on a young DP contract.
The Whitecaps were already stacked with attacking talent as is, reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time under second-year head coach Carl Robinson. Los Angeles and Seattle have established themselves as the Western Conference powerhouses, and recent heavyweight Sporting Kansas City is also on its way over from the Eastern Conference. Portland is just one inconsistent season removed from finishing atop the West, and only Real Salt Lake looks set for regression after a turbulent start to the offseason.
MLS drew plenty of ire when rumors emerged that it would expand the playoff field to 12 teams in 2015 — and rightly so, when you consider there are still only 20 teams in the league and look at the ones populating the East.
But in the West, it’s going to be a dogfight for all six postseason berths.
And that was the case even before Torres and Rivera were placed beneath Houston and Vancouver’s respective Christmas trees.