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From dumped to dazzling: The best MLS reclamation projects

Lee Nguyen (USA Today Images)


Signing big-ticket superstars is one way to improve your team in Major League Soccer, but another, more efficient, way is to uncover hidden gems and reclamation projects on other teams in the league.

All across MLS you can find players who are thriving after having been cut loose or dealt away by somebody else, and you also have some teams that have seen more than their share of former players thriving on other teams.

I recently put together a piece for on the Top 10 best players to have been unloaded by other MLS teams in the past three years, and it reads like a who’s who of the league’s most in-form players. From New England playmaker Lee Nguyen, to Real Salt Lake speedster Joao Plata, there are plenty of current MLS standouts who were cut loose by other teams not too long ago.

While I did name 10 players, the league is filled with plenty of others who can be considered uncovered gems. Here is a rundown of some other players enjoying good 2014 seasons after being let go by other MLS teams in recent years:


Should have been on my initial Top 10, an oversight on my part. Hard to argue against his impact on the Sounders defense. An MLS Defender of the Year candidate.


Not quite a reclamation project so much as a big acquisition by the Red Bulls, he’s still on this list because he has managed to continue playing at a very high level even after being let go by Real Salt Lake for salary cap reasons after the 2012 season.


Let’s face it. Chad Barrett has been around the block, and has been let go by a total of four MLS teams before he joined Seattle this season. After a two-goal season with New England in 2013, Barrett has enjoyed a renaissance, netting seven goals for the Sounders this season in mainly a substitute’s role.


Nobody pulls off more successful reclamation projects than Bruce Arena, and his latest one is Gargan, a journeyman fullback who has played for five other MLS teams over the course of nine seasons before joining the Los Angeles Galaxy. All he has done is given the Galaxy a rock-solid right back, starting 22 matches and recording five assists in the process.


The player Gargan replaced in LA has found a new home with D.C. United and has been, arguably, the best right back in MLS this season.


Keeping with the right back theme, Beitashour was inexplicably let go by San Jose, and landed in a comfortable spot with the Whitecaps, starting 20 matches and also playing in the World Cup for Iran.


Lasted only six matches with Chivas USA before being dumped earlier this year. He has found a home with Toronto FC, and has produced five goals and four assists in the 19 games he has played in. Both numbers would be good for second-most on Chivas USA.


What player are you most disappointed to have seen leave your team? Which reclamation project do you consider the most impressive pick-up? Anyone not on this list (or in my story) that you feel deserved mentioning?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Sean Franklin was not a castoff from the Galaxy …. as he was a solid starter until he left. Sean was a victim of the awful MLS salary cap that constantly requires successful teams to purge veteran players due to cost; and we wonder why MLS teams continually get demolished in CONCACAF tourneys. Bottom line, the current salary cap forces teams into a constant rebuilding process.

    • Please tell me more about this “constant rebuilding process” the Galaxy have been going through, because I have not noticed during the many seasons I have been attending games. :

      How does the squad turnover compare to other teams in other leagues? I would say 5+ years with the same team is practically an eternity in today’s game.

      Can you show me that the Galaxy would not have upgraded Sean Franklin a long time ago if the league were uncapped? (I would’ve– until recently he was quite forgettable and it crossed my mind many times that he only had a job with the Galaxy because of the cap).

      Sean Franklin stayed with the Galaxy as long as pretty much any starter of mid-level quality has with any team I can think of in world football.

      Bring some statistics, son. This is highly disputable and hardly a “bottom line”

  2. If you add Chris Rolfe, DCU is the recipient of 5 such players (Rolfe, Franklin, Silva, Espindola, and Boswell). This theme of bringing together a bunch of cast-off players resonates throughout the club this season. It motivates them. DCU’s success is why Olsen should be the coach of the year.

  3. Could Nguyen be the next Kyle B in the 2018 WC team? Both started out as a highly touted prospects and finally see their full potential realized in MLS of all places. That would be nice to see.

    • No chance whatsoever. But it’s not a slight against Nguyen. The timing just didn’t work out for him… I would have no objection to seeing him in a USMNT shirt, but he is a playmaker that you build around and he doesn’t even have one cycle you could count on in front of him.. Right now, an older guy only gets on the field as a band-aid and that is what Beckerman’s role has been, not to belittle the quality of the work.

      • Beckerman may have started out as a band aid for klinsi but in the WC he became a pretty crucial piece to the American defensive plan. I only say that to suggest that Nguyen could play his way in with improvement every year

      • I don’t disagree, and when I call Beckeman a “band-aid”, I am really talking about the role he was selected to play rather than the player himself. It was a last minute adjustment to accomodate a system that just wasn’t quite right defensively. Keeping that system around is almost certainly not in the plans, and I don’t think JK will be looking for a “replacement Beckerman” nearly so much as he will be looking to eliminate the need for a third DM entirely.

        Obviously, it’s a bad analogy sine Nguyen would not be joining in a DM role, but I think the clock just isn’t on Nguyen’s side. As a playmaking mid, he is in the worst possible position for a barely-capped player of his age. I feel for him, as he has really come into his own and there have been times in the last 5 years when he would’ve found a very nice opportunity on this form.

        I would not object to seeing him get a look, but I just don’t find it to be likely for Gold Cup, let alone World Cup. I

        Prove me wrong, Lee! If he can contribute, I will eat that crow like it was Thanksgiving turkey

      • You may be right Diego. In the end we all want a quality squad that will take the US to the next level. Bring on the fresh faces if that’s the solution.

  4. Letting a local kid like Beitashour go when he was playing at a high level has got to be one of the worst decisions made by an FO in MLS in recent years. The kid was born in San Jose, was a ball boy for the quakes, and played in the frickin world cup this summer. How do you let someone like that leave?

  5. Before this season is over, Charlie Davies will make the honorable mention list, if not push to be included in the top 10. The Revs now have all the pieces they need to go toe to toe with anyone in the East, and CD’s mobility and ability to create chances for himself and others is just what is needed to tip the balance in New England’s favor. Too much talent to double team the difference makers anymore.

    • also rumor is that Shalie Joseph is coming into his best form since he was best player on revs. if that is even half true, Joseph and Jones combo would potential make revs favs for MLS cup.


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