There are entirely too many words below for much of an intro here. Plus, you get the bit. It’s offseason grades! Straightforward!
Context and overview info from Tom Bogert, then grades and analysis from Matt Doyle.
Key additions: Thiago Almada, Ozzie Alonso, Andrew Gutman
Key departures: Ezequiel Barco, George Bello, Anton Walkes, Erik Lopez, Jurgen Damm
One (previous) league-record transfer out, one (new) league-record transfer in for Atlanta United this winter.
Ezequiel Barco departed on loan to River Plate, not quite the envisioned ending to his time in MLS when he made the $15 million move as one of Argentina’s brightest young talents four seasons ago. In comes Thiago Almada for $16 million… one of Argentina’s brightest young talents now. He joins Luiz Araujo, Marcelino Moreno and Josef Martinez in a high-priced, high-octane attack for Gonzalo Pineda.
All-time MLS great Ozzie Alonso was signed in free agency, who, even at 36 years old, adds value to the midfield. Andrew Gutman “returns” from a loan to the New York Red Bulls, but never played for Atlanta before being sent on loan after signing from Celtic last year, so I’m counting him here. He is a direct replacement for homegrown left back George Bello, who was transferred to Arminia Bielefeld of the German Bundesliga.
Jurgen Damm and Erik Lopez aren’t key departures in terms of needing to replace minutes/impact, but Damm (on a max-TAM deal) and Lopez (occupying U22 Initiative slot) freed up a lot of cap resources.
Lastly: Franco Escobar also left Atlanta – in a trade to LAFC for $250k GAM upfront plus $350k GAM incentives – but given he was on loan at Newell’s Old Boys last year and he wasn’t expected to return to the first team this year, I left him off the key departures list.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B+
There’s some skepticism about Almada in certain segments of the Atlanta fanbase given how previous big-name signings went, but the same front office folks around the league who warned me four years ago Barco wasn’t that good are saying Almada is actually quite good. So I’m optimistic.
I also think both the Ozzie signing and bringing Gutman back from loan make a ton of sense for a team with a window of title contention that seems to be open with this group. Gutman is, in my opinion, just a clear upgrade over Bello.
I’m going to ding them a letter grade for waiting too long to make the Bello move, and hence not getting as much cash out of it as they could’ve, as well as only finding a loan for Barco.
I’m of half a mind to ding them another full letter grade for even signing Damm in the first place. Just hiring a half-decent data guy for $80k/yr can prevent you from making multi-million dollar mistakes like that one in the first place.
Key additions: Jhojan Valencia, Ruben Gabrielsen, Kipp Keller, Ethan Finlay, Maxi Urruti
Key departures: Tomas Pochettino, Matt Besler
Austin FC’s roster build has been deliberate over several transfer windows. The club saved roster/cap assets for last summer, which they used in attack to sign DP (Sebastian Driussi) and U22 Initiative (Moussa Djitte) spots. It was clear by the summer they needed that boost.
This offseason was spent finetuning the defense, something else that became apparent and needed reinforcements during their inaugural campaign.
Colombian defensive midfielder Jhojan Valencia was acquired from Deportivo Cali and Norwegian center back Ruben Gabrielsen was added from Toulouse, while Austin used their top draft pick on Kipp Keller, the best defender available in the 2022 MLS Superdraft.
Tomas Pochettino’s move to River Plate opened up a DP spot, which Austin used to re-sign Alex Ring to a contract extension and name him their third DP, alongside Cecilio Dominguez and Driussi. The move ensures the team can use all three U22 Initiative slots, two of which are currently filled by Djitte and Zan Kolmanic.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B
They deserve praise for being clear-eyed about their needs at center back and d-mid, as well as for having the courage to move past a failed DP signing in Pochettino. It can’t be easy to say “We got it wrong with literally one of our biggest spends,” but credit to them for avoiding the sunk cost fallacy.
I also like that they addressed the need for center forward depth, though I don’t love the way they did it. Urruti is fine as a placeholder or emergency starter should Djitte not work out, but many, many teams in this league have learned you’re not going to win big with him in the XI.
Key additions: Karol Swiderski, Sergio Ruiz, Jordy Alcivar, Alan Franco, Guzman Corujo, Anton Walkes, Christian Makoun, Jaylin Lindsey
Key departures: Riley McGree
Charlotte FC’s expansion offseason. There are, obviously, too many to name here, but let’s focus on the bigger ones.
The club has one true DP in Polish international Karol Swiderski. The center forward was signed from Greece’s PAOK for a $5 million fee. Ecuadorian international Jordy Alcivar will occupy a Young DP spot for cap purposes, but can and will be bought down whenever Charlotte fill out the top of the roster. So, they can sign two more DPs.
They can also sign two more U22 Initiative players after Brazilian forward Vinicius Mello.
Other key signings include those added from MLS like Anton Walkes, Christian Makoun and Jaylin Lindsey. And there are South American talents like Alan Franco and Guzman Corujo, plus Charlotte’s first-ever signing in Spanish midfielder Sergio Ruiz.
Also: They have a legitimate departure. Not like the Tristan Blackmon/Ismael Tajouri-Shradi Expansion Draft pick-and-trades, but a genuine transfer and need to be replaced. Riley McGree, counted on to be a key starter, made clear his desire to stay in Europe after a successful loan to Birmingham City. The Australian international midfielder almost signed with Celtic, but a breakdown over personal terms doomed that move, before signing with Middlesbrough to stay in England’s Championship.
DOYLE’S GRADE: D
They had multiple windows to fill out their roster and somehow ended up in a place where they have only one true DP – and none who were ready to go in Week 1. And for what it’s worth, Swiderski seems pretty far from a sure thing.
I don’t understand trading quality MLS guys in their prime like Blackmon and Tajouri-Shradi, who they did well to get in the Expansion Draft in the first place, and neither of whom require the use of international roster slots, for more GAM when you’re already overflowing with the same. Nor do I understand passing on something close to a sure-thing CB in the SuperDraft in Kipp Keller.
Maybe this will look like a harsh grade in time, but as of now I’m seeing this roster build through Miguel Angel Ramirez’s lens.
Key additions: Xherdan Shaqiri, Kacper Przybylko, Rafael Czichos, Jairo Torres
Key departures: Robert Beric, Ignacio Aliseda, Alvaro Medran, Francisco Calvo, Kenneth Kronholm
The Fire took a huge swing to acquire the Swiss international and former Bayern, Liverpool and Basel attacker from Lyon for $7.5 million, immediately becoming must-watch TV if for nothing else than tuning in to see the Cube.
Shaqiri, still only 30, remains in his prime and if Week 1 is any indication, will be getting on the ball a ton as the No. 10 for Ezra Hendrickson.
Hendrickson was named head coach and, in addition to Shaqiri, he will (soon) be able to call on rising 21-year-old Mexican winger Jairo Torres (when he joins May 1 from Liga MX’s Atlas). Veteran Bundesliga defender Rafael Czichos bolsters the backline while Kacper Przybylko gives Shaqiri and Torres a proven MLS striker to play off of. Oh, and 18-year-old Colombian forward Jhon Duran is officially in the Windy City.
To make room for all that, DPs Robert Beric and Ignacio Aliseda left, as well as veterans Alvaro Medran, Francisco Calvo and Kenneth Kronholm.
DOYLE’S GRADE: A-
If Shaqiri plays at a Best XI clip, Czichos can marshal the backline and Torres comes in as a high-level contributor, this offseason could go down as a turning point for the club.
The important thing, though, is the thinking behind these moves was pretty clear, and plausible: Shaqiri could be a Best XI guy from the jump, and Czichos could be a backline organizer that’s been missing for so long, and Torres could be one of the best young wingers in the league. Przybylko, meanwhile, is a fine starting No. 9 in MLS, and thus these are all absolutely reasonable gambles.
I’ve only docked them a half-letter grade for not getting a speedy, goalscoring winger who excels at running in behind. If they’d gotten a guy like that, it’s an A+ window.
Key additions: Alec Kann, Junior Moreno, Roman Celentano, Dom Badji, Ray Gaddis
Key departures: Kamohelo Mokotjo, Joe Gyau, Przemyslaw Tyton
After three consecutive Wooden Spoons in their first three seasons in MLS, this winter brought further organizational change and need for a rebuild in Cincinnati.
Chris Albright arrived from Philadelphia to take over as general manager, then Pat Noonan was named head coach, also from Philadelphia. In terms of player personnel, though, it’s been more tweaks than a complete teardown just yet.
With so many new players signed in the last couple of years, a lot of multi-year guaranteed deals made it difficult for Cincy to create a ton of room to maneuver.
Alec Kann is, so far, the biggest addition, the starting goalkeeper signed in free agency after time in Atlanta. The club used the No. 2 overall SuperDraft selection to add goalkeeper Roman Celentano, too. MLS vets Junior Moreno, Dom Badji and Ray Gaddis were among further additions.
Still, though, it hasn’t been that busy an offseason for the three-in-a-row Spoon-winners. Albright said it’ll take multiple windows.
DOYLE’S GRADE: D
Awful first weekend aside, I still love the Kann signing – his shot-stopping numbers in both MLS and USL are very, very good. He’ll be an upgrade.
I don’t understand the rest of it, though. Why make your two intra-league acquisitions a pair of low-upside, rotation veterans (and send out a lot of GAM for one of them)? Why pass on Keller, who I will once again say is pretty close to a sure-thing MLS contributor at center back, to reach for a GK?
Celentano is good, obviously, but he’s only the third ‘keeper in league history to go in the top two of the draft. The other two are Brad Guzan and Andre Blake, and it’d be a hell of a surprise if Celentano is that good.
As Tom wrote, it's pretty clearly gonna be a long teardown and rebuild for Cincy.
Key additions: Bryan Acosta, Max Alves, Aboubacar Keita
Key departures: Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett, Younes Namli
Colorado’s midfield will look vastly different this year than last.
USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta was traded to LAFC for up to $1.5 million GAM after the two sides couldn’t close in on a new contract (with Acosta publicly saying his desire is Europe), while homegrown Cole Bassett was moved to Feyenoord on an 18-month loan with a purchase option.
To replace that pair, there’s another Acosta – Bryan, formerly an FC Dallas DP. And U22 Initiative midfielder Max Alves arrived from Flamengo, giving the Rapids another veteran and another rising talent in the midfield alongside Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jack Price.
Lone DP Younes Namli saw his purchase option declined, ending an ineffectual two seasons in Colorado. No DPs have (yet) arrived, with three spots open.
DOYLE’S GRADE: D-
Getting as much GAM as they did for Kellyn Acosta was good, and finding a smart landing spot for Bassett was good, and buying low on Keita was good.
But I don’t understand why their one significant offseason spend was on Max instead of a starting-caliber No. 9. The inability to fill that position with goalscoring quality is, straight-up, the reason they’ve crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League already and never really had a chance to win it to begin with.
You only get so many cracks at continental glory, especially if you’re a small-budget club. That last bit’s obviously not the fault of the front office, but they just as obviously had something to spend this offseason and the most obvious need in the world to fill. And they didn’t do it.
Key additions: Yaw Yeboah, Milos Degenek, Will Sands
Key departures: Vito Wormgoor, Harrison Afful, Aboubacar Keita, Milton Valenzuela
After all of us “experts” said the Crew won the 2021 offseason following their MLS Cup 2020 triumph, the season didn’t turn out to be so rosy. The reigning champs missed the playoffs and entered this offseason at an inflection point: Run it back or big changes?
Columbus opted to (largely) run it back with that same group, though with a few key changes. In particular: Ghanian winger Yaw Yeboah.
Head coach Caleb Porter has been honest publicly in his assessment that the club didn’t get enough from their wingers last season, leading the Crew to Yeboah from Poland’s Wisła Kraków. This coincides with former DP Pedro Santos moving full time to left back opening further minutes, as well as Kevin Molino’s continued recovery from another long-term injury.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B-
The Crew didn’t go big, but they were very targeted in who they signed and what positions they signed for, and the targets they honed in on kind of matched my perception of what they needed, so I’m generally pretty positive on that.
I’m less positive on the decisions to move on from Keita and Valenzuela, both of whom are quality young players with upside.
Is this a chance for me to say I still think this is their opportunity to sell high on 30-year-old Gyasi Zardes while remaining a contender, and at the same time infusing their roster with more youth, GAM, cap space and an open DP slot? No? Ok, I won’t say that then.
Key additions: Paul Arriola, Alan Velasco, Maarten Paes, Nanu, Marco Farfan
Key departures: Ricardo Pepi, Bryan Acosta, Ryan Hollingshead, Justin Che, Bressan
“Club-record” (or even league-record) was used quite a few times to describe FC Dallas’ transformational offseason.
After appointing former US men’s national team assistant Nico Estevez as head coach, they sorted a club-record $20 million transfer of starboy Ricardo Pepi to FC Augsburg. They then took the proceeds and made a club-record acquisition of Argentine rising talent Alan Velasco for around $7 million from Independiente, with a league-record trade for USMNT winger Paul Arriola from D.C. United, worth $2 million GAM plus incentives, sandwiched in between.
The attack will look completely new with Velasco on the left, Arriola on the right and Jesus Ferreira, who became the first homegrown to sign a DP extension, as the center forward.
They were so busy I haven’t even mentioned another academy graduate, defender Justin Che, was loaned to a Bundesliga club in Hoffenheim, which is currently level on points for a Champions League spot!
DOYLE’S GRADE: A
Any time you sell a $10 million prospect for $20 million, you’ve had an outstanding offseason. It almost doesn’t even matter what other moves you make.
That said, I do like most of Dallas’s other maneuvers, including the record deal for Arriola, the record spend on Velasco (folks around the league think Dallas got a bargain), and the parting of ways with Acosta.
My one gripe – the reason I knocked them down from an A+ – is they seem pretty locked in now on Jesus Ferreira as a No. 9. And while I understand that choice, it’s not one I love.
Key additions: Michael Estrada, Brad Smith, Taxi Fountas (summer)
Key departures: Paul Arriola, Kevin Paredes, Yordy Reyna, Junior Moreno, Felipe Martins
A lot of big changes for D.C. United this offseason.
One DP out (Paul Arriola), one DP in (Taxi Fountas). Homegrown left wingback Kevin Paredes was transferred to Wolfsburg for $7.35 million, and he was quickly replaced in a trade for Brad Smith from Seattle. Ecuador international forward Michael Estrada was signed on loan from Liga MX’s Toluca with a reported $5 million purchase option, too.
The attack will look much different when Fountas, a Greek international, arrives from Rapid Vienna to play underneath Estrada and alongside Edison Flores, who has struggled mightily with injuries since being signed ahead of the 2020 season.
DOYLE’S GRADE: C-
The Arriola, Paredes and Moreno moves left them swimming in GAM and with tons of cap space to boot, but they’ve been slow to spend it/fill it. So while I applaud them for their good work on the outgoing deals, the incoming moves have left a lot to be desired.
That’s not a great thing for a team that fell just short of last year’s playoffs and just needed a little push to get over the top.
Key additions: Sebastian Ferreira, Steve Clark, Zeca, Hector Herrera (summer)
Key departures: Maynor Figueroa, Boniek Garcia, Joe Corona, Maxi Urruti
It wasn’t a crazily busy offseason for Houston in terms of player movement despite new ownership, a new front office and new coaching staff – but things are trending in the right direction.
That got even better this week, as MLSsoccer.com confirmed Mexico international Hector Herrera agreed to join the club in the summer when his contract with Atletico Madrid expires. It’s a huge swing for a current El Tri midfielder to a city with strong cultural ties to Mexico.
Herrera is their second big swing, after acquiring Paraguay international forward Sebastian Ferreira from Libertad. Ferreira is a player with a strong goalscoring record for his previous club, as well as in Liga MX.
It’s a new era in Houston. Fans are excited, and rightfully so.
MLS veteran goalkeeper Steve Clark was signed in free agency after he twice helped guide the Portland Timbers to MLS Cup, while Brazilian fullback Zeca was signed as a free agent. Zeca has extensive experience in the Brazilian top flight and won a gold medal with his country at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Honduran duo Boniek Garcia and Maynor Figueroa were among the departures, as well as Joe Corona and Maxi Urruti, who each spent just last year with the Dynamo.
Are they done? TBD. They could buy down Teenage Hadebe to make room for another DP, too…
DOYLE’S GRADE: C-
Ferreira, in theory, represents an upgrade at center forward, while Clark represents, in practice, an upgrade in goal. They should help, as should the mid-season arrival of Herrera.
But the rest of what was a 30-point team is pretty much still in place, and while Herrera will spark interest, I’d be surprised if he was able to spark a playoff run given this squad’s overall make-up. There is much more work to be done.
Key additions: Kellyn Acosta, Maxime Crepeau, Franco Escobar, Ilie Sanchez, Ryan Hollingshead, Ismael-Tajouri-Shradi
Key departures: Eduard Atuesta, Tristan Blackmon, Marco Farfan
The vast majority of the record-setting 2019 team is gone, including manager Bob Bradley and most of the key protagonists. This offseason, the team truly entered a new era.
Steve Cherundolo was named head coach, while the first-team squad was refreshed with a heavy dose of MLS experience. Kellyn Acosta, Maxime Crepeau, Franco Escobar, Ryan Hollingshead and Ismael-Tajouri-Shradi were all acquired via trade, and Ilie Sanchez signed as a free agent from Sporting KC. It was a sharp switch from an import-heavy squad in the last few seasons.
Acosta (US) and Crepeau (Canada) are current internationals and the two biggest outlays in terms of acquisition costs. The two will be pillars for the new-look team, led by a refreshed Carlos Vela after two years of on-again-off-again injury frustrations.
Though Atuesta and Blackmon were the two long-serving members to leave LAFC this offseason, the rebuild/refreshing of the roster began a couple years ago. Diego Rossi, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Miller and many more already departed prior to this winter.
DOYLE’S GRADE: A
Look, it breaks my heart not to watch Atuesta every week, but he was sold to a club that played Chelsea dead even in the Club World Cup final. And he was out there for a good chunk of it! You have to sell players like that in order to prove the pathway you’ve been trying to build exists.
Anyway, here’s what matters more: they strengthened their defensive midfield, their backline and especially their goalkeeper. I’ve said elsewhere I thought Crepeau’s acquisition was the best incoming move of the offseason by anyone, and I’m reiterating that here.
LAFC had an “MLS Knowhow” deficit last year; they don’t anymore. They had a massive weakness in goal last season; they don’t anymore.
They are set to compete for silverware again. It was a great offseason, blemished only by the fact they haven’t officially sold Diego Rossi yet.
Key additions: Douglas Costa, Mark Delgado, Raheem Edwards
Key departures: Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget
Year two for Greg Vanney brought much less change than last offseason, though a few key pieces arrived, namely Brazilian winger Douglas Costa.
Costa, 31, spent the majority of his career in Europe with Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayern Munich and Juventus, winning league titles essentially every year for more than a decade. He had a failed loan to Gremio last year in which the team got relegated and now he’s in MLS. He and Chicharito make up a star-studded attack.
Those moves were facilitated by the departure of Mexico international Jonathan dos Santos (opening up a DP spot for Costa) and USMNT midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who was traded to the New England Revolution for $500k GAM and a bunch more GAM in very ambitious incentives.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B+
Getting Delgado (younger, better positional fit and more familiar with Vanney’s system) for less – potentially much less – than they sold Lletget for is a coup, and while the Costa deal was kind of shrugged off by the general MLS fanbase… man, I don’t know if I can be that blasé about Douglas Costa! He’s been really, really good for a long while, and sure didn't look last weekend like a guy who’s in the “phone it in” stage of his career. And just as important is they’re only committed to him for two years, which basically sets them up for a reboot after the 2023 season.
The Edwards signing, meanwhile, has already paid dividends. He was excellent in the back half of 2021 with LAFC.
It’s weird that this window was the first where it felt like MLS, as a whole, truly joined the global transfer market, and that the Galaxy had a very good window… and that nobody’s talking about it.
I’m not saying they should – it wasn’t a super exciting window from the Galaxy. But I think it’s one that moved them up the standings a bit, rather than their typical “glitz for glitz’s sake” approach.
Key additions: Jean Mota, DeAndre Yedlin, Damion Lowe, Leonardo Campana, Emerson Rodriguez
Key departures: Blaise Matuidi, Rodolfo Pizarro, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Nico Figal, Julian Carranza, Lewis Morgan, Christian Makoun
Welp, where even to begin? Outgoings make sense.
*deep breath* Miami moved on from 17 (!) players this offseason, most of which were their most expensive players from 2020. That includes two DPs and a handful who made more than the senior max charge.
Rodolfo Pizarro was loaned to Monterrey and also… Blaise Matuidi was bought out (and now a club ambassador), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was loaned to River Plate, Nico Figal was transferred to Boca Juniors, Julian Carranza was loaned to Philadelphia, Lewis Morgan was traded to RBNY, Christian Makoun was traded to Charlotte and Ryan Shawcross retired.
Miami has undergone of the most extensive teardowns in one window in league history.
Miami brought in a number of key additions to fill the void, including Brazilian midfielder Jean Mota, USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaican international center back Damion Lowe, Ecuadorian international Leonardo Campana and Emerson Rodriguez. The latter two were added on U22 Initiative deals.
Phil Neville’s Week 1 starting XI included eight (!) players who weren’t on the roster last year. Nine if you include Jairo Quinteros, who spent last year on loan in Bolivia. Two of the three subs were new players, too, so 11 of the 14 players who played for Miami on Saturday were not on the roster last year. Madness.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B-
As Tom said, this is one of the most extensive teardowns in league history. Everything they’ve done thus far seems sane and even smart to me, though obviously with this much turnover you’ve got to wait a good bit before rendering any final judgment.
I think my only real gripe is they couldn’t figure out a way to loan Pizarro out and free up the DP slot, which bumped them down a letter grade in my estimation.
Key additions: Luis Amarilla, Kervin Arreaga, Bongi Hlongwane
Key departures: Osvaldo Alonso, Jan Gregus, Ethan Finlay, Thomas Chacon
Luis Amarilla is back and he’s here on a permanent basis this time. The center forward spent 2020 on loan with Minnesota, a season derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as injury for Amarilla. They tried to get him back last offseason, but finally Adrian Heath has his guy.
Veteran MLSers Ozzie Alonso and Ethan Finlay both left in free agency, while former DP Jan Gregus is out too. Honduran international Kervin Arriaga adds more numbers to central midfield as he looks to have a regular role with the club.
Thomas Chacon, originally acquired as Young DP and moved to U22 Initiative last year, was bought out this offseason. The Uruguay youth international made just two starts over three seasons with the Loons.
DOYLE’S GRADE: C+
They got younger, which is good, and they finally got, in Amarilla, Adrian Heath’s white whale of a center forward. Both of those are probably good things (though I reserve my right to be a little bit skeptical of Amarilla as a high-level No. 9 in MLS).
But are they any much closer to lifting an MLS Cup? It doesn’t really feel like it, and for a team with an aging backline (the one place they actually didn’t get any younger), the clock is truly ticking.
So while the moves they made were good, it feels like there were more moves they could – or even should – have made in order to push them up the table a bit.
Key additions: Alistair Johnston, Gabriele Corbo, Kei Kamara
Key departures: Kiki Struna, Ballou Tabla
CF Montréal did a ton of work in the last 18 months revamping the roster, which was one of the pleasant surprises in the league last season under Wilfried Nancy. The TL;DR for this winter was continuity.
The club took one major swing to trade for Canadian international Alistair Johnston, for $1 million GAM to Nashville, then inked the defender to a contract extension. He’ll fit perfectly as a right-sided center back in Nancy’s 3-4-2-1 formation and can also play right wingback. They added another loan from sister club Bologna, with Gabriele Corbo arriving. And MLS legend Kei Kamara is back in the league, giving them another center-forward option at age 37.
Defender Kiki Struna was the lone “key” departure, but he wasn’t even a regular starter last year. Ballou Tabla, who broke out in MLS to the tune of a transfer to FC Barcelona, has seen his development go off the rails since that move.
Most of the work this offseason was about turning successful loans into permanent deals – Ahmed Hamdi, Joaquin Torres, Lassi Lappalainen – or keeping players from last year who seemed likely to leave, like Sebastian Breza (on loan again) or Rudy Camacho (re-signed after he said goodbye).
DOYLE’S GRADE: B-
Every move Montréal made this winter made sense, up to and including bringing Breza back on loan for another year (it’s good to see that Bologna pipeline paying dividends) and re-signing Camacho. There wasn’t much need to tear down what they’d built last year, just to build chemistry and be more economical with what they already had on hand. They achieved that.
Here’s the thing, though: the point of being economical with what you’ve got is so you can go out and go big on one or two upgrades. Johnston is the “one” in that equation. Who/where is the “two”?
Key additions: Sean Davis, Teal Bunbury
Key departures: Alistair Johnston, Jhonder Cadiz, Daniel Rios
Heading to the Western Conference, Nashville went from one of the East’s best teams last season to among the favorites out West. They made only a few moves this offseason to bolster the squad.
Nashville signed free agent Sean Davis, a career member of the New York Red Bulls and midfield stalwart to the tune of playing every single minute for the club last year, wearing the captain’s armband. There’s probably a better analytical or even anecdotal way to put this: general consensus is he’s a perfect fit for Nashville's ethos.
Nashville have an open DP spot, three U22 Initiative slots (with Rodrigo Pineiro gone) and a lot of allocation money. They could certainly make a big move (and high upside ones) if they’re so inclined.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B
Signing Davis was a major move, and I understand moving both Johnston and Rios, whose combined sales brought in close to $1.5 million GAM. That’ll be put to good use keeping the core together for a few years longer, most likely.
That said, I don’t really understand the Bunbury deal – spending money on a 32-year-old center forward who has exactly one double-digit season in his career is a bit of a head-scratcher, and especially so since Bunbury’s arrival makes it even less likely Ake Loba will get on the field.
Nashville will be good anyway, and maybe even better than last year. Plus they’ll have the flexibility to make a big move in the summer window, which seems smart.
Key additions: Sebastian Lletget, Jozy Altidore, Omar Gonzalez
Key departures: Tajon Buchanan
Bruce Arena leaned on his trusted network in the Revs’ three key additions this offseason, having extensively coached all three of Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy, USMNT), Jozy Altidore (USMNT, Red Bulls) and Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy, USMNT) in the past.
Altidore arrives on a three-year deal after a buyout to end his days with Toronto FC, leaving after seven memorable seasons and as the club’s second all-time leading scorer. With Adam Buksa (for now) and Gustavo Bou, Arena will have plenty of high-quality options to juggle CCL and the beginning of the season.
Lletget should be a strong fit, and has spoken often of his respect for Arena and how well he plays under him. He scored on his debut, too.
Losing Tajon Buchanan is impossible to replace in terms of (nonexistent) cap hit + productivity. Buchanan was a generation Adidas signing, meaning his cap hit was literally zero dollars. He finished second in Young Player of the Year voting in 2021 and has settled quickly with Club Brugge in Belgium.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B-
Lletget is not cheap, and giving Jozy a three-year max TAM contract is a massive risk, even for a team that’s clearly all-in on getting another trophy this year to keep last year’s Supporters’ Shield company. And while Omar was not good last year, he’s still got a bit of gas left in the tank and is fine as a third or fourth center back.
Beyond that, the Turner deal is a watershed moment, one made even sweeter by the fact they’ll keep him through the summer and take their time picking out a replacement.
So it was a good winter from the Revs, one that probably put them closer to winning something in the short term. But in the longer term, there’s literally a huge price to pay.
Key additions: Thiago Martins
Key departures: James Sands, Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
Defending MLS Cup champs NYCFC went the non-traditional route to sign another DP this offseason, adding Brazilian center back Thiago Martins from Japanese side Yokohama F. Marinos. None of that is prototypical.
Context clears that up, though: The assumption is Martins’ contract can be bought down off a DP spot (a la Alan Franco in Atlanta or Teenage Hadebe in Houston) and Yokohama F. Marinos flies under the City Football Group flag.
First-ever homegrown signing James Sands made his well-earned move to a respectable European team, signing on an 18-month loan with a purchase option at Scotland’s Rangers.
The big surprise is who didn’t leave. Reigning Golden Boot presented by Audi winner Taty Castellanos is still a member of the club despite it looking overwhelmingly likely MLS Cup 2021 was his NYCFC swansong. He’s here for the CCL run and then we’ll see in the summer.
DOYLE’S GRADE: A
If you were to ask me, ahead of the window, what the two biggest priorities for NYCFC had to be, I’d have said:
- Sign another center back
- Figure out a way to keep Taty through the CCL run
They managed both, which makes this a successful winter. Add in they smartly let Medina walk and worked out a promising loan for Sands, and they checked a lot of boxes.
Losing Tajouri-Shradi hurts, but probably couldn’t have been avoided.
Key additions: Luquinhas, Lewis Morgan, Ashley Fletcher
Key departures: Sean Davis, Fabio, Andrew Gutman, Kyle Duncan, Daniel Royer
It was a low-key super busy offseason for the New York Red Bulls, who astonishingly got even younger this year than last.
Club captain Sean Davis, who signed as an academy standout ahead of the 2015 season and played every single minute for RBNY, left in free agency for Nashville. Kyle Duncan also left at the end of his contract, heading to Oostende in Belgium. Fabio’s purchase option wasn’t picked up and he has since signed for Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro. Andrew Gutman’s one-year loan expired and Daniel Royer was allowed to leave after his role diminished.
That’s a lot of key departures. RBNY moved to bring in winger Lewis Morgan in a trade with Inter Miami, plus Brazilian attacker Luquinhas from Legia Warsaw as a DP, just six months removed from being named the Polish top flight’s best midfielder. This week they officially added English striker Ashley Fletcher on loan from the EPL’s Watford, too.
Further offseason work included making Carlos Coronel’s loan a permanent deal, while sorting a loan for Caden Clark, who was transferred to RB Leipzig effective this winter but stays in New York. There’s also a new loan for Tom Edwards from Stoke City.
And on the eve of the club’s season opener, head of sport Kevin Thelwell left to become sporting director at Everton. Got all that?
DOYLE’S GRADE: D
RBNY’s signings all make sense, though I will note Morgan makes more sense, in my opinion, as a chance-creating winger than as an attacking fullback or even wingback (he’s really not much of a defender). And it seems like there will be more additions on the way, which is good.
But this team lost so, so much from last year’s group. The captain’s gone, as are both starting fullbacks, as is one of the starting forwards (the one who was more productive from open play), and the quantity and on-paper quality of the replacements thus far have been underwhelming.
Maybe it won’t matter. Gerhard Struber seems high on the group he’s got, and internal development can patch a lot of holes – it has for this club before. But if this team succeeds this year it’ll be less because they had a great window and more because Struber did excellent work turning potential into productivity.
Key additions: Facundo Torres, Ercan Kara, Cesar Araujo
Key departures: Nani, Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller
It may have only amounted to a few key changes, but it’s a new era for Orlando City.
With new ownership in place, Orlando completely remade their attack. Uruguay international winter Facundo Torres and Austrian international forward Ercan Kara were acquired this winter as DPs, filling the void of star winger Nani and USMNT forward Daryl Dike departing. Nani has since joined Venezia FC and Dike was transferred for a club-record $9.5 million deal to West Bromwich Albion.
Torres, 21, was one of the most exciting young talents from South America. He won a league title with Penarol before joining Orlando, while Kara was a consistent goalscorer in the Austrian Bundesliga and broke into the national team last year.
Cesar Araujo, an Uruguay youth international, was added as a U22 Initiative signing as well.
DOYLE’S GRADE: A-
Orlando obviously had a couple of huge attacking holes to fill with the departures of their wingers and the sale of Dike, and I like the way they filled them. Torres passes the eye test and the “everybody I know in South America DM’d me to tell me what a good signing this is” test, while Kara just seems like a smart, targeted center forward signing. He should be good in MLS and is in his prime, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be around, scoring 15-20 goals a season for the next half-decade.
It’s a balanced, sensible approach where Kara can be a foundational piece not just for Torres, but for the guy they buy after (hopefully) selling Torres for millions more than what they paid. Things rarely work out on grass the way they’re planned out on paper, but still… it’s a good plan, and having guiding principles is a good way to build a consistent winner.
Araujo is a nice pick-up as well, though I’m going to ding them a half-letter grade for somehow staying thin at left back for the third straight year.
Key additions: Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza
Key departures: Jamiro Monteiro, Kacper Przybylko, Ilsinho
Big, big changes in attack is the TL;DR for the Philadelphia Union’s offseason.
Mikael Uhre, reigning Danish league Golden Boot and Player of the Year winner, was acquired from Brondby for a club-record fee. The 27-year-old is something of a late-bloomer, really hitting his peak over the last couple of years. He’s joined by fellow DP Julian Carranza in attack, acquired in a loan with purchase option from Inter Miami.
Carranza is a much better fit in Philly than in Miami, given his defensive metrics and directness. The 21-year-old was acquired by Miami for $6 million just two years ago and was a shrewd low-risk, buy-low option by the Union.
Those players offset the departures of two stalwarts from the Union’s most successful era. First there was the trade of Kacper Przybylko to Chicago Fire FC, Philly’s leading scorer over these last few years, then Jamiro Monteiro to San Jose. The DP midfielder has been on the outs for a while, with both sides looking for an exit last summer that never materialized. The move opens up more minutes for rising talents Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan.
Oh, and pour one out for the Ilsinho era. God, it was magical.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B+
They got more than $1.5 million GAM and essentially $1.3 million of cap space for two guys (Monteiro and Przybylko) who were no longer starting. Uhre takes care of half of that cap space and one of the open DP slots, but here’s the clever part: bringing Carranza in as a Young DP means he only hits the cap at $200k, which preserves about $425k of cap space for Ernst Tanner to play with.
I’m giving them an A+ for both their ability to work within the league and for overall creativity. I am less convinced the guys they’ve added will be the pieces they’ve desperately needed to get over the hump, which bumps the whole thing down to a B+.
Key additions: David Ayala
Key departures: Diego Valeri, Steve Clark, Andy Polo
The Diego Valeri era came to an end this offseason, with the club legend returning to boyhood club Lanus. Valeri is among the most successful signings in MLS history. He helped trailblaze the path for Argentines to MLS, something commonplace now, but not as much then. He led Portland to win MLS Cup once, plus another two trips to the final during his time, which included winning MVP in 2017. The beloved attacker will be missed, but not gone forever, as he’ll come back to Portland as a club ambassador whenever he retires from Lanus.
Portland’s lone key signing is Argentine defensive midfielder David Ayala from Estudiantes, a rising talent added via the U22 Initiative. He can play as a pure destroyer or in a more box-to-box role, making him a good fit next to Diego Chara or Eryk Williamson.
The offseason can be better defined by the departures that didn’t happen, namely talisman attacker Sebastian Blanco. The Argentine’s contract was up and after talks broke down, it looked like he would be headed for an exit. Both sides ultimately hashed out a deal for Blanco to remain in MLS.
Portland also sorted another loan for fullback Josecarlos Van Rankin from Liga MX’s Chivas.
DOYLE’S GRADE: C
The Ayala signing looks good, and they clearly parted on good terms with Valeri, which is a plus.
But the Blanco deal took forever and at times seemed to border on acrimonious, and letting Clark walk moves them further from, rather than closer to hoisting that MLS Cup. The central defense, meanwhile, remains one injury from a true crisis.
Key additions: Sergio Cordova, Johan Kappelhof
Key departures: Albert Rusnak, Anderson Julio (for now)
With new ownership in place in January, Real Salt Lake’s offseason hasn’t yet produced many fireworks.
The Claret-and-Cobalt have mostly worked to keep last year’s group together, with Justin Meram and Everton Luiz re-signing after New Year’s Day. Sergio Cordova is the big get so far, joining on loan from FC Augsburg of the German Bundesliga.
RSL tried to re-sign Albert Rusnak, but the star attacker left in free agency for the Seattle Sounders, leaving a big creative hole for Pablo Mastroeni to fill. Anderson Julio hasn’t returned (yet), but they’re in talks over potentially re-acquiring him after his loan from Liga MX’s San Luis expired last year.
New ownership has yet to really put its stamp on proceedings. They have plenty of flexibility – just one DP spot is taken (Damir Kreilach) and none of the U22 Initiative slots are, either. That’s potentially five additions in which acquisition costs won’t count against the cap.
The Primary Transfer Window closes on May 4, so there’s time. Or perhaps we’ll see a big summer when the Secondary Transfer Window opens in July.
DOYLE’S GRADE: Incomplete
I’m giving them a mulligan since their new ownership group only got their wheels on the ground about six weeks ago. Obviously the fans are anxious for the new signings to start flooding in – I am too – and just as obviously, they really do need some new signings.
But I think we can understand why things have taken longer to start moving in RSL than with some of the other teams around the league.
Key additions: Jamiro Monteiro, Jan Gregus, Francisco Calvo, Ousseni Bouda
Key departures: Chris Wondolowski, Oswaldo Alanis, Carlos Fierro, Andy Rios
MLS legend and goalscoring king Chris Wondolowski officially hung up the boots, but traded in his Quakes player shorts for an executive polo, joining the front office staff under general manager Chris Leitch.
Leitch, as he did in the summer as interim GM, looked at the intra-league market for key additions, this time searching for bargains as best he could find. Jamiro Monteiro was acquired as a distressed asset from Philadelphia, picked up for just $250k GAM and an international slot. That’s an in-prime DP! Jan Gregus, also a DP at his former club of Minnesota, was selected in the Re-Entry Draft and signed to a non-DP contract. Francisco Calvo, a longtime MLS veteran, was signed as a free agent after being part of Chicago’s purge and rebuild.
Neither Carlos Fierro nor Andy Rios worked out as one of the (many) Matias Almeyda reunion signings.
Listing first-round SuperDraft selection Ousseni Bouda as a “key” addition may be creating unfair expectations for the young winger, though the Stanford product seems like a good fit and Almeyda has always given young players a chance. Plus, they don’t have a ton of options in attack.
DOYLE’S GRADE: B-
With the departures of Alanis, Fierro, Rios, Wondo and Daniel Vega, the Quakes cleared more than $3 million of salaries on guys who – with the exception of Wondo – really weren’t MLS-quality players. And then they went in and brought in a pair of starting-caliber guys in Monteiro and Gregus, as well as two high-upside draft picks.
They also signed Calvo.
If you look at their two-deep, it makes a lot of sense in a straightforward 4-2-3-1. Chris Leitch has done a good job of putting together a balanced, intuitive roster that should just naturally put the vast majority of their players into their best spots.
Now, about the coach…
Key additions: Albert Rusnak
Key departures: Brad Smith, Shane O’Neill
There is a genuine argument to be made that Albert Rusnak’s acquisition by Seattle is the biggest free-agent signing in MLS history. Given recent changes to free agency eligibility, a player of his quality (DP) at his age (27) has never really been available in MLS this way.
The rest of Seattle’s key moves were keeping players in town. Alex Roldan, Will Bruin and Fredy Montero were all out of contract, but all have returned. Ruidiaz and Joao Paulo signed new deals, keeping the former happy and the latter off a DP spot to facilitate the Rusnak signing. Great cap gymnastics, as usual, in Seattle.
DOYLE’S GRADE: A+
I think Rusnak is a better fit as a Nico Lodeiro back-up than as a starting winger, but also, he’s pretty good as a starting winger. And there’s no “he’s got to get to know the league” downtime here – it’s plug-and-play.
So for a team that’s trying to win right now (as in, win CCL), and is loathe to dip into the international transfer market in the winter, and already have a bunch of young, high-upside talent on the roster, and also need some Nico insurance for this year and the next few, and is about to spend tens-of-millions on a training complex so probably can’t go out and drop eight figures on a sure-thing DP… it’s just hand-in-glove in so many ways. And I say that as someone who’s always been lukewarm at best on Rusnak.
The Smith deal, though, was Garth Lagerwey’s masterpiece, as they turned a part-time starter into about $1.6 million of cap flexibility.
- $750k GAM for his rights
- $250k GAM for the international roster slot he was using (which they flipped to Dallas)
- $600k of cap space
I just can’t.
Key additions: Uri Rosell, Logan Ndenbe, Robert Voloder, Marinos Tzionis, Nikola Vujnovic
Key departures: Ilie Sanchez, Jaylin Lindsey
Sporting KC sporting director and manager Peter Vermes spoke last season about how beneficial he thought the U22 Initiative can be, though didn’t use the mechanism on his roster just yet. That changed in a big way this winter, with three U22 Initiative signings arriving: Left back Logan Ndenbe, center back Robert Voloder and winger Marinos Tzionis. That made up the bulk of their key additions, with Ndenbe the most likely to accrue regular minutes immediately.
Former midfielder Uri Rossell returned to the club in free agency and Montenegrin forward Nikola Vujnovic was signed on loan from Serbia’s Voždovac in the wake of Alan Pulido’s season-ending offseason knee surgery.
Longtime metronome Ilie Sanchez saw his option declined and was signed by LAFC in free agency, while homegrown defender Jaylin Lindsey was traded to hometown Charlotte FC ahead of their inaugural season.
DOYLE’S GRADE: C-
I like that they got younger, and I like that they moved on from Ilie – who’s still a good player, but whose range and ball-winning limitations were proving to be troubling for a team that struggles in defensive transition.
But their Ilie replacement is, in Rosell, a poor man’s version of the guy who just left. And while the U22s all could work out, it seems like only Ndenbe is expected to make an immediate impact, which probably isn’t enough for this year. They needed to add more than just a left back upgrade this offseason if they’re going to go from where they are (which is where they have been since basically the 2014 season) to the ranks of the A-List contenders.
Key additions: Lorenzo Insigne (summer), Carlos Salcedo, Jesus Jimenez
Key departures: Jozy Altidore, Yeferson Soteldo, Mark Delgado, Richie Laryea, Omar Gonzalez, Justin Morrow
It was quite the offseason for Toronto FC, completely smashing the reset button as they tore down & rebuilt the squad in one winter.
Bob Bradley took over as head coach and sporting director. In came two DPs: Italian star Lorenzo Insigne will join in the summer and Mexico international center back Carlos Salcedo is here now. To make room, Jozy Altidore was bought out and Yeferson Soteldo was sent off to Tigres in essentially a straight swap for Salcedo.
The backline is new. Former USMNT center back Omar Gonzalez is out, as is Canadian international right back Richie Laryea, Brazilian fullback Auro and longtime veteran Justin Morrow, the latter of whom retired. Stalwart midfielder Mark Delgado was traded to the LA Galaxy. A ton of minutes and influence on previous TFC teams are gone.
Jesus Jimenez is key as insurance for Ayo Akinola, who already has an extensive injury history before his 22nd birthday. Akinola missed the first game of the season with an injury, leaving Jimenez starting against FC Dallas.
Toronto are reported to have completed the signing of Italian defender Domenico Criscito from Genoa, with the 35-year-old set to arrive soon, but nothing has been announced yet. Kemar Lawrence will join the list of departures, though nothing has been finalized.
DOYLE’S GRADE: C+
Just a massive reboot. Two DPs gone, one more coming in now and another over the summer. Both starting fullbacks gone, and a starting CM traded. A legendary left back retired, and a starting center back allowed to walk in free agency.
It’s a lot, and what’s coming out of it now is pretty clearly an era in which Toronto expect to lean into their academy pipeline.
It’s a good bet – I like it a lot. That said, two years ago TFC were Shield runners-up. Three years ago they were MLS Cup finalists, and four years ago they were CCL finalists. It feels like they’re miles from any of that right now.
Key additions: Tristan Blackmon
Key departures: Maxime Crepeau, Janio Bikel
The Vancouver Whitecaps were largely quiet this offseason, making one real key addition in trading for LAFC defender Tristan Blackmon, via Charlotte in the Expansion Draft, and one real key departure after Maxime Crepeau conveyed he wanted out for personal reasons, then was traded to LAFC.
Blackmon should be a snug fit in Vanni Sartini’s back three, which was a 3-4-1-2 last year, but a 3-1-4-2 to start the season. It’ll take him a little longer tactically, but if he comes through, it could be a shrewd coup.
The trade that sent Crepeau to LAFC is the most for a goalkeeper in league history. Homegrown Thomas Hasal is the starter for Vancouver now.
DOYLE’S GRADE: D
Getting Blackmon is good, and losing Crepeau is bad. I can’t really blame them too much, though, as from basically all the reporting it seems pretty certain Crepeau was able to force the deal through.
Of course, the real issue is Vancouver had two priorities this offseason: find a taker for Lucas Cavallini, and address the need for a midfield ball-winner in a big way. And thus far they’ve accomplished neither, so it’s been a gloomy winter in British Columbia.