Matt Jordan and Owen Coyle have had a busy week. With just seven days remaining in the transfer window, the Dynamo general manager and head coach have begun to retool the squad ahead of the final homestretch of matches leading into the playoffs.
Last week was kicked off by the signing of Philadelphia's veteran defender, Sheanon Williams - made possible by the allocation money received for Corey Ashe. Then, in the last 24 hours, midfielder Zach Steinberger was loaned to NASL club Indy Eleven while forward Chandler Hoffman heads to Switchbacks FC to join Dynamo defender Taylor Hunter on loan.
On the surface, these loans offer great opportunities for players with potential to get playing time when they would otherwise go unutilized on the Dynamo bench. This isn't entirely unexpected as the Dynamo midfield continues to get crowded and Cubo Torres' arrival signals a bottleneck of forwards, too.
But could Houston be looking to make another move as the window starts to close next week? Let's see how that could work.
First, it's important to think of an MLS roster in two parts. There's the "Senior Roster", the top twenty players who make the gameday rosters and count against salary budget. Then there's the "Supplemental Roster" of as many as eight players typically making around $50,000 - $70,000 that do not count against the salary cap. These are players like Memo Rodriguez, Chandler Hoffman, and Mauro Manotas. They may still play in gameday rosters but their salaries are organized so as to not dink the cap.
By my purely unscientific and unqualified methods, I've dug into the MLS Players' Union sheets and tried to decipher what the Dynamo salary situation is. With that, here's my best guess at a Supplemental Roster (loanees marked with asterisk):
If we're to assume these are the players on the Supplemental Roster, then we can get a figure for what our salary spending looks like. My stab in the dark comes back at $4.2m (with guaranteed salaries), which is about $700,000 over the 2015 MLS salary cap ($3.49m). So, how do the Dynamo get it done?
My guess is allocation money. This is a form of budget relief that can be distributed by MLS or traded and acquired. Allocation can help pay down salary budgets to achieve compliance with MLS roster regulations. Thing is, the amounts are rarely (if ever) reported and it makes the capology a little tough to decipher. Here are five quick reasons that Houston may have received allocation this year (there could also be more ways that are not listed):
- MLS disperses $150,000 to each team at the start of the season
- All teams are given unspecified amounts when expansion teams enter the league
- Money is received when a team loses a player in the Expansion Draft (Houston lost Mark Sherrod)
- Failure to qualify for previous season's MLS playoffs
- Any money acquired from trades or player transfer out of MLS
You can see how determining exact amounts is more of an art. A very secretive art.
We might not know how much allocation money Houston has but it's a safe assumption that they are likely using it to buy down contracts and fit within the salary cap. It's also feasible that, with enough allocation money, they could be providing room to sign another player to the roster.
Darrell Lovell seems to think the Dynamo could be making a move in the next week (although not necessarily an incoming move). With a crowded midfield and the loaning of a capable forward, one possibility is another defender. Jermaine Taylor is facing a potentially season-ending injury and that could open up a need for help in the center of defense. DaMarcus Beasley's return from Gold Cup brings the defender total to 6 with a potential gap at centerback (only AJ Cochran, David Horst, and Raul Rodriguez are available).
We know it's not John McGinn, the Scottish midfielder who has been training in Houston for a few weeks. Unable to find an international slot for McGinn, he's signed with Hibernian FC in Scotland.
So, as the transfer window starts to creep closed next week, the question remains - what are the Dynamo up to?