Christmas is almost here and after giving you guys our ideas on what Santa might be giving Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference teams, it is time to focus on the West.
Before we begin, I think it's time to address some concerns some readers had with the initial Eastern Conference list. "Too old" was a popular refrain from some readers who don't think the likes of Gaizka Mendieta and Matt Holland are going to help MLS grow as a league.
In an ideal world MLS would be able to draw from a younger pool of foreign talent but that just isn't reality. Even with new designated player slots, MLS teams must still compete with teams with much larger bankrolls for the services of talented foreign players in their prime or in the stage before their prime.
It isn't just about the money though. MLS will continue to struggle luring players in their prime to MLS because the international perception of the league is still a few notches below Europe's top leagues. Even if you tried throwing bags of cash at some European-based talent in their early to mid 20s that doesn't mean those players would leave more competitive leagues for similar wages.
Some MLS teams are taking the extra step of heading to South America in search of undiscovered talent, as well as hoping to buy players who are either just below Europe's radar or are at points in their careers when Europe just isn't calling anymore (as D.C. United did with Christian Gomez). This is definitely a smart approach to take if you are a team with strong connections in South America as well as a knack for scouting.
How many teams in MLS can honestly say that? Not many. Truth is MLS has enough trouble scouting its own country, let alone places like Brazil and Argentina, where foreign clubs have already picked at the talent to the point that some places look like a supermarket the day before a hurricane.
This is why going after 30-something Europeans shouldn't be seen as some sort of misguided strategy. We're not talking going after players in their late 30s, but players in their early 30s who can provide the sort of creative midfield talent the league is in dire need of right now.
With that in mind, here is a look at what Santa could be delivering for the league's Western Conference this Christmas:
Real Salt Lake: What do you give a team that already had its Christmas wish answered by landing Freddy Adu? Some players who would actually address the team's real on-field needs would help.
OK, enough bashing of RSL. What the team needs desperately is a defensive midfielder and a central defender to pair with Eddie Pope. We are talking about a defense that allowed the most goals in MLS. Yes, Pope missed some games for the World Cup but the team's midfield is just as guilty of not helping the back line out. Freddy Adu's arrival certainly isn't helping that.
Who better to provide the toughness and class that RSL needs than Dutch defensive midfielder Edgar Davids. The dreadlocked pit bull would give the team some sorely needed bite and attacking quality. Currently at Tottenham, Davids has fallen out of favor with the London club and could be had for a good price. He is 33, but still has the skill to be an impact MLS player.
Los Angeles Galaxy: We already know what the Galaxy want for Christmas and signs point to that wish coming true.
No, we're not talking about Nate Jaqua. David Beckham has long been linked to a move to the Galaxy and rumors continue to mount about his impending arrival. He would not only turn the Galaxy into a box office draw in Los Angeles, he would also give the Galaxy the league's best midfielder, capable of changing games with his pinpoint crosses and dangerous free kicks. In a league where left back and left wing are two of its weakest positions, Beckham would flourish.
The only question that remains is whether Beckham is really ready to turn his back on Europe. If he is still holding out some faint hope of a recall to the English national team he might decide to return to England. If he has put those thoughts to rest, then a move here seems inevitable. Look for Santa to grant Alexi Lalas' wish as Landon Donovan's name on the marquee gets bumped.
Colorado Rapids: If you asked Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo what he wants for Christmas he would probably say for FC Dallas to bring Colin Clarke back. Since that isn't happening, there are plenty of directions Santa could go to help the Rapids out. One rumor buzzing around is that Mexican international Jared Borgetti is on his way to Colorado. That one seems a bit odd considering Borgetti can make a king's ransom in Mexico. Couple that with what has always felt like a real hatred for the United States by Borgetti and you wonder how he would come here, although the Rapids could certainly use the name recognition to help with their stadium opening.
While the Rapids could use a big-time forward, someone who can post double digits in goals, their biggest need is for a playmaker. That's sad to say considering Clint Mathis is still on the roster but Colorado would be foolish to wait around for him to wake up. The perfect player for the Rapids is Guatemalan Dwight Pezzarossi. Currently playing in Spain's second division, Pezzarossi is versatile enough to playing an attacking midfield role as well as up front. He is also just 27 and while he may not be the big name you would prefer with a designated player slot, he is the type of talent at the right age that could be worth the money.
Chivas USA: The Goats received their Christmas present a few weeks early in the form of Amado Guevara, who should provide an upgrade over Juan Pablo Garcia.
The only problem now is that the team doesn't have a designated slot. That may not matter now that the team will have allocations for the departures of both Garcia and Francisco Palencia. Using the allocations instead of the big money slot should suit a club that may not be as free-spending as some would have thought they would be.
What can Santa deliver without a designated player slot? A good coach would help. Since we are focusing on players it is time to consider what Mexican players may be ready to make the move north. You have to wonder if any are really ready to make the move to Chivas USA considering how quickly players such as Garcia and Palencia have left. Maybe Santa Vergara can deliver Ramon Morales, the Chivas de Guadalajara standout. I know, probably not, but it can't hurt to ask right?
Houston Dynamo: What do you get the team that already won a championship? A trophy case would be a start.
As far as players go, the Dynamo is pretty solid throughout, but forward depth and a central defender are the most pressing needs. Would the Dynamo really break the bank for a defender? Not likely.
So what sort of player would Houston want for Christmas? Not a high-priced one. Having Dwayne De Rosario come back for 2007 is all the present Houston needs. Well, that and a stadium.
FC Dallas: The Hoops are still hurting from yet another first-round playoff exit and you have to wonder where they go from here.
Rebuilding the midfield is a start. With the departures of Ronnie O'Brien and Simo Valakari, coupled with the continued absence of a true playmaker, FC Dallas has plenty on the Christmas list and you would hope that new coach Steve Morrow can call on his U.K. connections to deliver at least one true impact player.
Adrian Serioux, Richard Mulrooney and Ramon Nunez are good parts to work with but the Hoops could use some magic on the right flank to replace the departed O'Brien. The perfect player for the Hoops would be Peruvian winger Nolberto Solano. The 32-year-old Newcastle United star is the type of player who can not only contribute on the field, but who could also help groom Nunez, assuming the Hoops haven't given up on the Honduran midfielder. Though Solano is happy at Newcastle, here's hoping Santa delivers a player that might help end the team's playoff curse.
Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPNsoccernet. He is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.) and also writes a blog, Soccer By Ives. He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.