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Where Are Our Trialists?

Barry Rice made the team last year as a preseason trialist. Who will be this year's Barry Rice? Apparently nobody.
Barry Rice made the team last year as a preseason trialist. Who will be this year's Barry Rice? Apparently nobody.

The MLS roster deadline is today, meaning that all teams must have no greater than 30 players on the roster.

In most years, this would mean that I would be doing a whole series of stories leading up to cut-day, analyzing the list of players, who is competing for the final spots, who is considered a developmental prospect, who is an international, etc. Most years we spend these days debating the benefits of keeping Shintaro Harada over Two-Boys Gumede .

Not this year.

This year, D.C. United has only 29 players in camp with under three weeks to go before the season. So while other teams like the Chicago Fire will need to cut at least five players today , United is unlikely to make any moves at all. Of the 29 players in camp, four do not yet have contracts, although I’d expect Brandon Barklage , Chris Korb , Joe Willis , and Blake Brettschneider all to receive offers from the club. And one of those 29 (Pat Onstad) will disappear from the roster and re-retire once Bill Hamid and Steve Cronin are both back to full health.

So this creates an interesting question: Why don’t we have any more trialists? Why not invite any undrafted free agents or USL/NASL veterans to practice train with the club with the opportunity to earn a contract? In 2010, Barry Rice was an undrafted free agent who signed with the team in preseason and contributed valuable minutes when other defenders were out with injuries or on international duty. It’s great that we have a younger and hopefully less vulnerable team this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll avoid the injury bug completely. Why not at least fill out the roster?

To United’s credit, the team has taken a look at two young international forwards. Yang Men from China and Sergio Villarreal from Columbia each had one goal in the preseason, but each departed without contract offers. Now I’m not going to criticize United for not inking these two. If they’re not ready, they’re not ready. (Okay, I might criticize them for not signing Yang Men. Only because the supporters groups could have really had some fun with his name at reserve games) But I am going to be somewhat critical of the club for not inviting more players to camp.

MLS gave us extra roster spots this year. Let’s fill them.