TUKWILA, Washington – The busiest trading day of the MLS season kicked off on Thursday, and when it was all over a total of five players were on the move, with two teams having undergone considerable roster transformations.
Toronto FC was the biggest mover, acquiring Canadian national team midfielder Terry Dunfield from Vancouver for cash before dealing Alan Gordon, Jacob Peterson and Nana Attakora to San Jose for Ryan Johnson, allocation money and an international player slot.
The most surprising of the deals saw Dunfield make the move across Canada, leaving his native Vancouver to be part of a TFC midfield that already includes Julian DeGuzman and Torsten Frings, as well as Tony Tchani.
The only Vancouver native on the Whitecaps roster, Dunfield has struggled lately and was considered likely to move due to a less than ideal working relationship with current Vancouver head coach Tom Soehn. Dunfield was brought in by former Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson.
At his best, Dunfield is a capable central midfielder. He saw considerable playing time for Canada at the Gold Cup, but he also endured ups and downs with the Whitecaps. In Aron Wintter's 4-3-3 system, Dunfield is the type of defensive midfielder who could work well.
Ryan Johnson has struggled badly in MLS, having yet to score a goal this season, but his play for Jamaica has impressed and he could thrive in Toronto's three-forward system. He does boast speed, though his finishing still leaves something to be desired.
San Jose scored a trio of players who should help provide depth, though it remains to be seen if any will be true impact players. Peterson played regularly in Toronto, but didn't make much of an impact. As a more natural right winger, Peterson could move into the starting lineup, which would allow San Jose to partner Chris Wondolowski with Steven Lenhart up top, making Gordon a third forward option.
The intriguing newcomer for San Jose is Attakora, who has excelled at times in Toronto, but has spent much of the year in Aron Winter's doghouse and hasn't play in months. He should push for a starting role, but his arrival makes you wonder what that means for Ike Opara's status in this, his second year. The young American standout has been plagued by injury, and the Earthquakes' acquisition of Attakora seems to suggest Opara's recovery from a foot injury has a ways to go.
That Attakora left Toronto FC remains a head-scratcher. Having already lost Adrian Cann to an ACL injury, TFC needs help in central defense, but Winter has long since given up on Attakora and must now look for new options at center back. Nathan Sturgis could be an option there, having played in central defense as well as fullback before.
Will today's flurry of trades really impact the MLS playoff race? It isn't likely to be what helps Toronto climb out of the lower part of the East standings to secure a playoff spot, but San Jose's acquisition of three players could help the Earthquakes move back into playoff position.
The day's big loser? It's tough to understand Vancouver's motivation for trading Dunfield, and with Whitecaps fans already mired in a forgettable debut season, dealing away Dunfield to a rival for what amounted to peanuts could come back to haunt the expansion club.