MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

2021 Secondary Transfer Window grades for all 27 MLS clubs

A quick explainer to this extremely straightforward, silly and unscientific exercise below: Everything in question is about relativity. Everything in question is about expectations, needs and flexibility.

The Supporters’ Shield-leading New England Revolution not making a major signing is different than, say, the lack of movement from a team clawing far below the playoff line.

Also, projecting moves into the future naturally lends to optimism. You can talk yourself into plenty of moves on a computer screen. There are, admittedly, a lot of grades in the B-range. The benefit of the doubt is strong.

As always, please direct all complaints to @MattDoyle76 on Twitter.

Atlanta are taking swings. While results and #vibes have significantly dropped in the last two years, the ambition remains. Even when they’ve got things wrong, they still take big swings. That should not be overlooked, even as we become expectant to reports of eight-figure transfer bids from Atlanta.

They were linked with a handful of big talents for huge fees and eventually landed on Luiz Araujo, a 25-year-old Brazilian winger who was a regular contributor with Lille in their Ligue 1 title campaign last year.

The deal could be worth around $12 million — sources say it is $9.5 million upfront and a potential to climb to $12 million after incentives — which one well-connected European source described to me as much more than Lille expected to get, but sometimes you have to overpay to get deals over the line particularly with the deadline fast approaching and a number of other targets having already fallen through. They had money to spend, a need to add a big-time attacker and faced a deadline.

Atlanta also acquired midfielder Amar Sedjic via trade from CF Montréal on July 6, not a club-defining move but an important depth piece nonetheless.

If Araujo performs, no one will be saying well I mean they should have only paid $9 million instead of $12m. Nor will they complain about triggering the bonuses.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

Adding Sebastian Driussi this summer is a huge signing, a player who's only a few seasons removed from a reported $17 million transfer from River Plate to Zenit. He’s just 25 years old and heading into his prime.

The Argentine attacker had 24 goals and 22 assists in 138 appearances in Russia. Austin FC desperately need a center forward…

…though, as Greg Seltzer wrote on, "Driussi is not a prototype center striker by any means," and may be best utilized as a second striker, while Chris Bils of The Striker Texas has written that Driussi might not play as a No. 9. It would seem an odd decision to invest so much on a player if the intention wasn't to use him to fill the team's obvious area of need at No. 9.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of it if those plans don’t change. Hopefully Moussa Djitte, a 21-year-old forward who hasn’t played in months and finally flew to Austin this week after being signed more than a month ago, hits the ground sprinting.

The deal to transfer Przemyslaw Frankowski to RC Lens made sense financially for the club and for the player to continue his career back in Europe, though he was a very useful player for a Chicago side that needs all hands on deck if they’re to mount a playoff chase.

As it stands, Chicago sit seven points below seventh place in the East.

The Fire did replace Frankowski on the squad, adding Federico Navarro from Talleres for a reported $5 million fee on a U22 initiative deal. No word on when the 21-year-old defensive midfielder will be available to debut, though.

Let’s start with the positive: Look, I like the Florian Valot move. It’s the kind of shrew, inexpensive, intra-league addition that's going to be very useful. Valot is a good player when healthy and can fill multiple midfield roles.

But ...

... FC Cincinnati still have defensive holes, even though they're improved on that front. They've often lined up without a natural defensive midfielder playing a regular role, though they have assuaged that a bit when playing with five at the back. They also could have maneuvered another DP spot to address that deficiency or at least landed a significant non-DP signing. Defender Tyler Blackett was acquired, but he underwent groin surgery at the end of July and hasn’t started a competitive game since April 21. Not ideal for a midseason addition joining for a playoff push.

The club parted ways with GM Gerard Nijkamp a day after the window closed. Peculiar timing, to say the least.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

The trade to acquire Mark-Anthony Kaye from LAFC for $1 million GAM and an international roster spot was a big move for the Rapids. He immediately vaults an already strong midfield group to one of the best, alongside Kellyn Acosta, Jack Price and Cole Bassett. DP Younes Namli will soon figure into the mix when he returns, though he can also play on the wing.

Anyhow, Kaye is an All-Star talent and adding him to a team that was top four in the Western Conference is great business. Perhaps quietly to some, exciting things are happening in Colorado.

The Rapids did lose Sam Vines in a transfer to Royal Antwerp, and he won’t be easy to replace mid-season, but it was a good move for all parties as Colorado look to lay proof of concept for young players moving abroad. And the boost of GAM from selling a homegrown helped in the Kaye trade. And they moved quickly to sign a replacement, rising Brazilian talent Lucas Esteves on loan from Palmeiras with an option to buy.

Doyle wanted to add to this one, though:

Colorado could be the CLEAR WINNERS if they just made one more move: A DP No. 9. They had a wonderful window. They made money, spent it well, have one of the best coaches, one of the best defenses and best midfields in the league.

They didn’t really have the flexibility to do much, though were in need of a depth boost with a number of injuries. Aidan Morris went down for the year in his season debut, Artur has been in and out of the lineup all year (and will now miss a couple of months) and seemingly every attacking option aside from Lucas Zelarayan has missed time with injury, international duty or both.

Columbus added forward Erik Hurtado, as Bradley Wright-Phillips has been limited to just 419 minutes and Gyasi Zardes could be called into US national team duty in September and October. They didn’t have a ton of space/opportunity to do much more maneuvering, anyway. If their season turns around as many expect for the reigning MLS Cup champs, it’s going to come from the established squad.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

Facundo Quignon was announced in June and debuted before the Secondary Transfer Window opened, so no additions this summer. It turns out they had the answers internally all along.

With a front four of Ricardo Pepi, Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira and Szabolcs Schon, Dallas have lifted themselves from the bottom of the Western Conference and firmly into the playoff chase. Justin Che (before picking up a knock) and Nkosi Tafari helped stabilize the defense while Matt Hedges and Jose Antonio Martinez were out.

Given the deal to send Tanner Tessmann to Venezia FC (then Dante Sealy's loan to PSV), going into the C-range would be churlish, wouldn’t it?

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

No movement in, no movement out. Not much roster flexibility to make moves, as they’ve been juggling players on the injured list and in loans to Loundon United.

They need all the bodies they can with a seemingly never-ending injury report. The latest includes Bill Hamid missing significant time once again this year.

Other than injuries, though, things are looking up for D.C., riding a five-game unbeaten run and surging up the standings.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Three starting-caliber players added, one on each line for #symmetry, is a solid window.

Teenage Hadebe, Adalberto Carrasquilla and Corey Baird were acquired this summer, boosting Tab Ramos’ options across the board. All three are likely to be first-choice options in the club's strongest XI.

The only question is if they’ll be enough to lift the group into playoff contention or if this winless run will leave them too far adrift.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

When Sporting KC rejected a $4 million offer for Gianluca Busio from Fiorentina in the winter of 2020, just before the pandemic, eyebrows were raised. Some thought that figure was fair and, as the global pandemic changed the transfer economy a few months later, there was some fear that a better offer might not come.

When offers came again this winter, again they were rejected. Busio enjoyed a breakout first half of the season and made his US men's national team debut. More offers came that were too good to reject: A deal with Venezia FC was agreed worth up to $10.5 million in “achievable” incentives, per The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio. Tremendous business.

It hurts to lose the midfielder midseason, sure, but it was in the cards for a while. Paolo Mauri was acquired to add to the midfield group, which remains deep and talented.

They got good hauls in outgoing trades for Mark-Anthony Kaye and Corey Baird, plus had replacements ready at both positions. Jose Cifuentes has a clear path to Bob Bradley’s strongest XI now, while Bryce Duke and Francisco Ginella should both earn some more minutes.

But they also got a good haul for Walker Zimmerman and have largely struggled defensively since he left (and won MLS Defender of the Year with Nashville SC). Sometimes deals sending away MLS-proven, locker-room cornerstone types aren't quite worth it.

Baird is replaced by a natural center forward: Cristian Arango from Colombian side Millanaros FC. LAFC’s history in acquiring players from Colombia (Eddie Segura, Eduard Atuesta, Jesus Murillo) is very strong, so I’m excited to see if Arango can essentially be the first player in LAFC history to make center forward their own for more than a half-season.

nandezThe Galaxy, like New York City FC, did some strong work between opening day and the end of the Primary Transfer Window with additions of Sega Coulibaly and Rayan Raveloson. Both have looked quite good in their first MLS games. The French league-to-LA connection is strong.

Their key move this summer was adding Dejan Joveljic while keeping all of their key contributors. Joveljic, a U-22 initiative signing for a reported $4 million from Eintracht Frankfurt, is flying under the radar a bit, but could be quite the coup if he gets minutes and form early.

A 21-year-old Serbian international center forward, Joveljic should help alleviate the club’s reliance on Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who is currently out injured. That’s a big boost. He can also play alongside the Mexican legend if Vanney opts for a two-striker system. Options.

He lit up the Austrian Bundesliga last year while on loan and was a top talent when Frankfurt signed him from Red Star Belgrade as a teenager.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Miami needed defensive help this window and they went out and addressed it.

Goalkeeper Nick Marsman and left back Kieran Gibbs are sure to be first-choice starters, while center back Ventura Alvarado should figure for minutes in central defense in a group with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Ryan Shawcross and Nicolas Figal.

They're still far below the playoff line, though. Will it be enough?

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Minnesota’s only move of the summer was acquiring midfielder Joseph Rosales on loan with an option to buy. In an already crowded midfield group, Rosales may find it hard to earn minutes immediately. That’s alright. He’s 20 years old and Jan Gregus — a DP who is two seasons removed from double-digit assists — is finding it hard to get minutes in central midfield.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

Montréal have been the pleasant surprise of the season, with Wilfried Nancy receiving some Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year buzz for how he navigated his first season as a head coach despite little prep time and a squad that many viewed as being toward the bottom of the East.

Their only addition was Icelandic defender Robert Thorkelsson, the only departures Amar Sejdic and Erik Hurtado. Not too much to go with here. Not too much to do, either. That’s a good thing. Ho-hum for Montréal as they chase the playoffs.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville are taking big swings, capping their long-standing pursuit of forward Ake Loba with a club-record deal of $6.8 million to bring him in from CF Monterrey this summer.

Loba is still finding his feet and form, with Gary Smith giving him plenty of time to ramp up in the first team, but the 23-year-old had a solid scoring record in Liga MX with both Queratero and Monterrey. That typically translates very well to MLS.

They are also keeping their options open. DP forward Jhonder Cadiz remains on loan through the end of 2021, instead of either letting him return to Benfica or buying him outright this summer when his original loan expired. They retain a purchase option for the winter as they see how the attack evolves.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

No players in, but more importantly, no players out.

Tajon Buchanan has had a number of European teams chasing him, but New England made it clear they wanted to keep him through the end of the season. As reported, Club Brugge are getting close and it should be sorted soon, whether it’s the Belgian side or someone else. But unless something drastic changes, the deal would be for the winter. That’s a big win (not to mention the club-record fee they’ll be receiving for the Canadian international.)

As for incomings, I’m not docking the Revs because they had no obvious holes or needs for additions. They’re pretty deep everywhere, in addition to their top-end talent. They kept their Supporters' Shield-leading squad together amid plenty of interest and are well poised to chase that and MLS Cup (as long as Carles Gil is fit).

Here’s how I started last year’s Secondary Transfer Window blurb for the soon-to-be Shield-winning Philadelphia Union:

The Philadelphia Union made no official additions for this window (though a trio of Homegrowns got signed for 2021) nor any official outgoings for this window (though Brenden Aaronson will officially depart after the season). Yet they still get an A.

Same deal for the Revs as they chase silverware.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

Not much to talk about with NYCFC, with no additions and just Sebastien Ibeagha outgoing. That’s OK – they took their swings at the end of the Primary Transfer Window, adding Talles Magno and Santiago Rodriguez.

Unlike other teams who didn’t have any movement, NYCFC grab at least a B on the back of those two signings and the fact that they didn’t have many actionable needs. Plus at the beginning of the season, I criticized them for not yet making those signings. So this feels right.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

With Aaron Long’s season-ending injury and Andres Reyes limited to just four starts with injury, the Red Bulls were in desperate need of another center back. They addressed that need by acquiring Uruguay U-20 international Lucas Monzon from Danubio.

Monzon seems a promising talent, but will he be enough? And is it fair to expect a 19-year-old center back to come in mid-season and make a huge difference?

RBNY have slipped to ninth in the Eastern Conference amid a six-game winless run, with four of the six opponents being below the playoff line at the time of playing. They should figure to be around the playoff line for the rest of the season. A veteran addition could have helped stabilize and move the team in the right direction.

Optimistic caveat? No one thought Wiki Carmona was going to be ready to contribute immediately and he broke into Gerhard Struber’s starting XI. So maybe Monzon can do that, too, but it feels perilous to expect that of a 19-year-old center back.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

The biggest news this summer for Orlando is that they have (so far) kept Daryl Dike. The spring came with widespread anticipation that bids would arrive from England this summer, but it’s been quiet.

In the scope of Orlando’s 2021 season, that is good for them. Dike makes them a better team. And now the transfer window is closed, they wouldn’t be able to sign a replacement. Even if they did, there’s no guarantee he’d be as successful as Dike. And given Dike was a SuperDraft selection, the replacement wouldn’t be as cap-friendly.

There is a larger discussion about whether or not this was the time to sell for maximum value. But for now, the positive is that they remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference with Dike.

Emmanuel Mas joined as well, giving Oscar Pareja another option at outside back.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

The Union moved this summer to add Venezuelan midfielder Jesus Bueno and Brazilian forward Matheus Davo, giving Jim Curtin more options and competition in his squad than he had in the beginning of the season.

Bueno adds another option in the midfield, both insurance for Jose Martinez at defensive mid and at either shuttler position behind Alejandro Bedoya and Leon Flach. Davo adds a fourth forward to the group, the exact number teams that play with two up top want. It also allows Daniel Gazdag to fairly exclusively play as a No. 10.

After those additions, and with young homegrowns (Quinn Sullivan and Paxten Aaronson in particular) proving ready for some minutes, the Union feel deep again.

Jamiro Monteiro is on the way out, but they’ll be plenty fine without him given the abundance of midfield talent.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Portland got a solid haul for Jeremy Ebobisse, receiving $1.167 million GAM while also getting younger this summer by adding dynamic attacker Santiago Moreno from America de Cali.

With Sebastian Blanco back and Jaroslaw Niezgoda not far off, the Timbers hope their injury crisis is behind them.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL have been in a tough spot for a couple windows, with the club expecting an ownership change in the near future. They’ve not been one of the league’s high-spending teams as is, but they’ve still maneuvered some improvements.

Center back Toni Datkovic and winger Jonathan Menendez were the summer additions, as Bobby Wood arrived in the spring earlier than planned. They remain in the playoff picture. It’ll be an interesting half-season to see if they can hang on.

It may not have been a cheap price to acquire Jeremy Ebobisse, but getting an in-prime, proven MLS striker is never going to be cheap. San Jose were one of many clubs hoping to trade for him.

Ebobisse gets a run of games as a No. 9 just as he desires, and the Quakes get a big improvement up top. Given his work rate, he should be a good fit under Matias Aleymda too.

They recouped some GAM in the Florian Jungwirth trade to the Vancouver Whitecaps as well.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

The Sounders made a pair of deadline day acquisitions, adding Nicolas Benezet (who started 2019 MLS Cup against them for Toronto FC) on the cheap from Colorado and dipping their toes into the U-22 initiative waters to sign Brazilian attacker Leo Chu.

Chu, 21, can play centrally or on the wing. Same with Benezet. With players returning from injury and now more natural options wide, Brian Schmetzer can continue with the club’s successful 3-5-2 formation or resort back to their title-winning 4-3-3. Options and flexibility are good.

Also: Nicolas Lodeiro is BACK. That doesn’t have much barring in this space other than to note how exciting it is that Nicolas Lodeiro is BACK.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

This is a bit of a tough one. No players in, no players out. Jozy Altidore returned after being frozen out, but get out of here with the like a new signing trope.

They endured a hugely disappointing start to the season, made a coaching change and still find themselves bottom of the Eastern Conference. Their squad is one replete with veterans. These are typically the teams with urgency in the summer window to salvage the season…

… but also, they didn't play a game at BMO Field until July. They acquired Yeferson Soteldo and Kemar Lawrence in the spring, and reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo has missed more games than he’s played. They don’t have a ton of flexibility and, on paper, this squad should be one of the better ones in the East. So there’s potential for natural improvement.

They have quite a bit of ground to traverse and teams to pass, though.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

DP! NO! 10!!!!

At long last, the Whitecaps signed a DP No. 10. Scottish attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld looks like the real deal.

We’ve seen what the right No. 10 can add to a team midseason. Vancouver have nine of their last 15 games at home, their real home at BC Place, their first real home games with fans in 18 months. There’s reason for optimism.

U-22 Initiative signing Pedro Vite looks a talent, too, but given his age (19) and the fact he’s only played 1,200 senior competitive minutes, it’d be a bit misleading to expect a ton from him immediately. They don’t look like they’ll be leaning on him to start at first, anyway, so if he gets regular minutes, he’ll have earned them. Florian Jungwirth could be a shrewd addition as well.