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November 30, 2016

MLS chopping block leaves some interesting names on the market

Soccer Union
113016_union_PSP Paul Rudderow/Philly Soccer Page

New Hope native Steve Neumann saw his 2017 contract option declined by the New England Revolution.

MLS roster rules might be archaic and complex, but they certainly aren't boring.

About half of teams in the league have announced their offseason decisions on contract options, loans, and extensions. Some players will go through the re-entry process, some will end up in Atlanta or Minnesota via expansion, and others will come off the market after agreeing to new deals. A few veteran players will qualify for free agency, which only began last season after the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified.

For the Philadelphia Union, prior windows have been relatively pedestrian. The club added Conor Casey in 2012 re-entry and Corben Bone in the 2013 draft. There hasn't been a re-entry selection since.

This year adds a bit of intrigue, with a more manageable salary cap, the addition of Bethlehem Steel roster spots, and better overall talent in the re-entry pool.

Here's an early look at some of the more intriguing players that might be available:

Michael Parkhurst

The veteran defender is out of a contract and will go through re-entry unless he agrees to a new deal with Columbus.

It was a down year for the Crew in 2016, but Parkhurst captained the club through 34 games and only played fewer total minutes than league leader Keegan Rosenberry.

Parkhurst turns 33 in January but probably has a couple of good years left. I think he's a center back starter on most MLS teams. His base salary of $275,000 might ward off some front offices, depending on what the league constitutes as a bona fide offer from a drafting club.

Steve Clark

The first choice goalkeeper did not have his option picked up by the Crew, which probably opens the door for Coatesville's Zack Steffen to play in 2017.

Philly goes into next season with Andre Blake and John McCarthy on the roster. If Blake is sold in the winter, the Union would have a void to fill in goal, and Clark would probably require a salary near $200,000 to acquire in re-entry.

Michael Stephens

The 27-year-old midfielder did not have his option picked up by Chicago.

Stephens is an experienced ball mover with a salary that just scrapes six figures. Plenty of teams could do worse.

He played some meaningful minutes on title-winning Galaxy teams, and also has a year of overseas experience with Norway's Stabaek.

Corey Ashe

For whatever reason, Union fans have been identifying Ashe as a winter target since 2013.

Now 30-years old, the former all-star left back will likely go into the re-entry draft.

Philly has Fabinho locked up for 2017, with Ray Gaddis at number two on the LB depth chart. Ashe made around $95,000 this season, so you can make a play for a left-footed backup or continue to roll with Gaddis as a right-footed depth option at both fullback spots.

Zach Loyd

I would expect to see Loyd re-sign with FC Dallas.

He's out of a contract right now, but serves as a versatile utility player and perennial starter for that team.

Atiba Harris

It feels like this is the 15th time that Atiba Harris has been out of contract, or traded, or subjected to the re-entry process.

But for all of the journeying that the 31-year old does, he always finds his way onto the field.

Harris played 55 games in two seasons for Dallas, filling a variety of roles for Oscar Pareja. Since 2006, he's played 246 MLS games for six different clubs. He'll find his way onto someone's roster in 2017.

David Horst

The Pennsylvania native is currently in contract talks with the Houston Dynamo.

A former Reading Rage player, Horst is probably a decent third CB choice at this point in his career. He's a physically dominant center back who could benefit from a smaller partner with a bit of speed and cognizance.

Steve Neumann

The New Hope native was a standout at Reading United and Georgetown University.

Neumann was the 4th overall pick in the 2014 draft and made 23 appearances during his rookie year. He logged 144 minutes in 2015 and just 62 minutes this season.

If anything, Neumann just became stuck behind a logjam of creative players, like Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez, and Kelyn Rowe. You might be able to get him some bench minutes in Philly, or give him a regular starting role at Bethlehem Steel.

Jose Goncalves

The 2013 defender of the year is out of a contract in New England.

Goncalves made 28 starts for the Revs this year and logged more than 2,500 minutes. He's 31 years old now, but I imagine he'll re-sign on a short-term deal.

If he doesn't, he'll have a long list of suitors. He's excellent when he's on his game and still shows flashes of defensive brilliance from time to time.

Gershon Koffie

See above.

Koffie came to New England in a winter trade with Vancouver. He played about 1,500 minutes this season as a flexible six and eight hybrid. New England has Scott Caldwell as a first-choice defensive midfielder, with Rowe and Nguyen playing a bit further up the field.

Koffie is rangy and athletic with the ability to cover chunks of space, not dissimilar to what you would see from a guy like Warren Creavalle.

Pedro Ribeiro

The former Union first-round draft pick was lost to Orlando City in 2015 expansion.

Ribeiro came out of Coastal Carolina and Reading United as a midfielder, but mostly played as a backup center forward during his time in Philadelphia. It might make sense to get the 6'4" Brazil native back into the Union setup as a member of Bethlehem Steel.