The purpose of this thread is to take a look at how the Earthquakes can improve their squad through the MLS market; that is, through trades. While free agency could be a wonderful thing for the league, with the current salary cap it is impossible for this to exist. Instead we're left with a trade system. I'm going to take a team-by-team look at available players that the Earthquakes have a realistic ability to acquire. (Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake will both be excluded from this list.) Forward: It's very clear that this team needs to acquire more depth at the forward position. With an in-limbo Dwayne DeRosario, we're currently left with two forwards, Brian Ching and Roger Levesque. While two target forwards is a possiblity, Levesque is relatively unproven at the MLS level, and that still leaves Coach Kinnear very few options off of the bench. So what players should Alexi and Dom pursue, and what would we have to give up? Chicago Fire It seems as though the only player that would possibly be available at this position is Ante Razov. This could be a positive move for the Quakes, but it's also one fraught with plenty of risks, and no doubt the price for a player with Razov's MLS pedigree would be quite high. Positives: Has scored an impressive seventy-six goals in his career in MLS. He has proven that he can score goals (except against the Earthquakes). At age thirty, Razov is a veteran experienced in MLS play, and, as Earthquakes fans know, has also experienced some big game situations, including MLS Cup 2004. Razov might pair nicely with Ching, who could win balls in the air that Razov could finish. It's a tandem that could conceivably work very well, but one that could just as easily fail. Negatives: Age could also be construed as a weakness for Razov. Not only is he injury prone but he is likely on the downside of his career. He scored only four goals for the Fire last season before his season was cut short by injury. Razov does have a reputation for being a locker-room cancer. The Earthquakes tried to pick up a proven goal-scorer in 2002 in Ariel Graziani, but that didn't work out under Yallop, and I suspect it couldn't work with a similiar player in a similiar situation under a very similiar coach. What would the Earthquakes have to give up? It seems as though the Fire would only part with Razov for the right price. I'd suspect that they'd want some defensive help, as well as immediate midfield help. I expect that the asking price could conceivably be Dunivant and Alvarez/Cochrane, or Brian Mullan. Colorado Rapids None Columbus Crew It seems clear that Columbus is willing to part with long-time Crew member Jeff Cuningham. He seems to have fallen out of favor with Greg Andrulis (who it looks will remain Crew head coach next season.) I base this not only on visible arguments between the two, but also Greg's decision to not only not start Cunningham in the playoffs, but to not insist he take any Penalty Kicks against the Revolution. This displays a lack of confidence that could be cause for an exit. Positives A very speedy forward. Of course, Jamil Walker was also speedy, but Cunningham possesses not only a better first touch, but better skills on the ball. Cunningham has also proved a potent finisher. He has sixty-two career goals, and last season scored nine with only limited playing time. Negatives Cunningham may also be a hot-head in the way of a Razov or a Graziani. He seems to have fallen out of favor in Columbus for this reason, and has had visible spats with coach Greg Andrulis. Prone to excessive dribbling and a lack of vision. He may not be exactly what the Earthquakes need in a partner for Brian Ching, especially given that he and DeRosario play very similiar games. What would the Earthquakes have to give up? While Columbus is potentially looking to offload Cunningham, their front office would likely also attach a big price on his head. This could be a classic case of price inflation, with Cunningham being valued at a price far greater than what he is in fact worth. I'd suspect the Crew would want help on the wings in midfield and would likely ask for a player of Brian Mullan's caliber, or the Earthquakes would have to give up their first-round draft pick. D.C. United While United doesn't seem to have any players that would be available and provide an immediate impact, they do have a player who, while not yet having reached his potential, may provide depth on this squad and blossom under Dominic Kinnear. Yes, I'm talking about Santino Quaranta. Positives Santino has tremendous upside. He could really blossom into a great player given the right opportunities, and he shouldn't come at too great a cost. He could at the very least provide more depth, and with expanded rosters, could still get time on the reserve team. Negatives If he does nothing, but we squandered a high draft-pick or another player that could provide a spark off the bench, then the organization will look rather foolish. What would the Earthquakes have to give up? A deal for Santino could rest on as little as a lower-round draft pick or a young talent, perhaps Arturo Alvarez. This trade would only be worth it if it cost the Earthquakes a draft pick. Trading unproven talent for unproven talent is ridiculous and dangerous. F.C. Dallas None Kansas City Wizards It's hardly likely that either Josh Wolff or Davy Arnaud would be available via a trade. There's also very little that the Earthquakes could offer Kansas City apart from draft picks. LA Galaxy None Metrostars This could be the deal that could best benefit the Earthquakes. It appears that the Metrostars are willing to depart with Mike Magee. If this is true, Dominic and Alexi would be crazy to not make an offer. Positives Magee makes good runs off the ball and has a nice touch. His passing is deft and his skill first-rate. It's really just a matter of him blossoming into the kind of player that MLS fans saw flashes of during the 2003 season. He could prove a great partner with Brian Ching. As I mentioned above, his passing and work rate would lend itself well to the kind of player that Ching is. But can he take advantages the way that Landon could? Negatives Despite his age, Magee still poses question marks. Last season he was injured and was part of a five man striker rotation. His rookie year was solid, but he'd still be a question mark given the price he'd require. Magee is young, but he still hasn't proved that he can be the kind of finisher he needs to. In the two years that I've watched him, his finishing has been at times suspect. Can he be a consistent performer and starter? What would the Earthquakes have to give up? For a player of Magee's quality and potential, I'd mostly likely suspect we'd have to give up Dunivant and a draft pick. Mulrooney would be off the table (with good reason), but the Metrostars still need more defensive help, especially with the departure of Craig Ziadie. Dunivant could fill a hole for them at left back, and there are few players we could draft that could have the kind of immediate impact that Magee could have. Questions still abound, but Magee could be a very good pick-up under the right circumstances. Again, I started this thread to generate discussion about who is available and at what cost. I only addressed our deficiency at forward, but there are plenty of other positions (including utility roles) that could be filled through trades with opposing MLS clubs.