Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

2023 Primary Transfer Window grades for every MLS club


As of Monday night, the MLS Primary Transfer Window is over. Let’s hand out some grades for how all 29 clubs fared.

This is real simple, taking stock of key additions and key departures over the last few months. While teams can still add free agents for the time being, expect another flurry of moves in the Secondary Transfer Window (July 5 to Aug. 2). The summertime market is always active, often with higher-profile players arriving from Europe.

Here’s the letter breakdown we used, including the number of teams listed in each tier:

  • A range (great): 6
  • B range (solid): 15
  • C range (passable): 5
  • D range (poor): 3

Key additions: Luis Abram, Derrick Etienne Jr., Giorgos Giakoumakis

Key departures: Alan Franco, Josef Martínez, Marcelino Moreno

This boils down to two things, in my view:

  1. Clearing out some bad contracts as new president/CEO Garth Lagerwey starts to recalibrate the club.
  2. Bringing in Giorgos Giakoumakis as, ostensibly speaking, a Josef Martínez replacement in the No. 9 role.

There’s more to Atlanta’s transfer business, of course, but it’s really that simple in many regards. And it all adds up to a more coherent, complementary attack for Atlanta, wherein Giakoumakis has the potential to be a 20+ goalscorer for the club.

The biggest question of all looms for the summer: What happens if Thiago Almada gets sold? It’s increasingly likely the Argentine World Cup winner leaves for Europe at some point, possibly breaking the current league-record outbound transfer from when ex-Atlanta star Miguel Almirón joined EPL side Newcastle United for a reported $27 million in the winter of 2019. To state the obvious, replacing Almada wouldn’t be easy.

Key additions: Leo Väisänen, Gyasi Zardes

Key departures: Ruben Gabrielsen, Felipe Martins, Jared Stroud

Ruben Gabrielsen returning to Norway for personal reasons certainly isn’t Austin FC’s fault, but that move, as combined with Julio Cascante’s injury, has really taken a toll on their center back situation. And that’s not to suggest Finland international Leo Väisänen (Gabrielsen's replacement) has played poorly since joining from IF Elfsborg in Sweden’s top flight.

The other critique surrounds Gyasi Zardes, who hasn’t yet come good for the Verde & Black’s stale attack. The former US international signed a three-year guaranteed deal with an option year, so there’s a long-term investment as Austin bet on his goalscoring track record.

Key additions: Enzo Copetti, Bill Tuiloma, Ashley Westwood

Key departures: Jordy Alcívar, Christian Fuchs, Daniel Ríos

How productive can Enzo Copetti be in MLS? I think, as time elapses, that’s how Charlotte’s winter window will be evaluated.

The Argentine striker arrived from Racing Club on a fee that approaches club-record territory. Copetti’s got two goals through nine games, and while it’s still early, it’s fair to expect more production from your DP No. 9 given the resources spent.

For the time being, Charlotte’s grade is slightly dinged, though I'm bullish on the Bill Tuiloma acquisition at center back (trade from Portland). That flew under the radar.

Key additions: Alonso Aceves, Maren Haile-Selassie, Kei Kamara, Georgios Koutsias, Arnaud Souquet

Key departures: Jhon Durán, Jhon Espinoza, Boris Sekulic, Gaga Slonina

Chicago never got that much-talked-about DP striker, huh? Said player still could arrive in the summer, but fans are rightly wondering why that didn’t get over the line.

In the meantime, acquiring 38-year-old Kei Kamara from CF Montréal was a solid move – and he’s closing in on Landon Donovan for second in the MLS all-time goals chart. But the Fire’s ceiling, at least in theory, would be higher if they had the type of striker the Windy City club should be able to attract.

Elsewhere, they brought in a pair of U22 Initiative players in defender Alonso Aceves (from Mexico) and Georgios Koutsias (from Greece). And Ligue 1 veteran Arnaud Souquet looks like a solid add at right back.

I’ve been burying the lede, though: transferring out young talents like goalkeeper Gaga Slonina and striker Jhon Durán to English Premier League clubs is highly commendable. We’re talking about roughly $37 million (depending on incentives) in combined deals for a homegrown goalkeeper who’s possibly the USMNT’s future No. 1 and a rising Colombian international who came to MLS on a U22 Initiative deal. Now if Chicago can couple those outgoings with Audi MLS Cup Playoffs/trophy contention…

Key additions: Marco Angulo, Santiago Arias, Yerson Mosquera

Key departures: Brenner (summer), Geoff Cameron, Allan Cruz, Ronald Matarrita

The biggest headline from Cincy’s transfer window isn’t gone just yet. We’re talking about Brenner’s impending move to Serie A side Udinese, which goes official in the summer and includes a July 1 send-off for the DP striker. The reported $10 million fee + incentives + sell-on % is really solid business from Cincy’s new regime, even if it’s not recouping the full reported amount ($13 million, arguably an overpay) the old regime initially negotiated with Brazil’s São Paulo to land Brenner ahead of the 2021 season.

As for incomings, U22 Initiative midfielder Marco Angulo’s transfer from Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle and center back Yerson Mosquera’s loan arrival from English side Wolverhampton Wanderers jump off the page. Mosquera’s deal runs through June 30, with an option to extend until the end of the 2023 MLS season. Surely Cincy will exercise that option given how integral he already is.

Key additions: Cole Bassett, Kévin Cabral, Andreas Maxsø, Connor Ronan

Key departures: Lucas Esteves, Felipe Gutierrez, Gyasi Zardes

The Rapids made some classic Rapids moves during the Primary Transfer Window.

Take forward Kévin Cabral, who they got in a trade with LA Galaxy. He’s a talented player, but clearly wasn’t reaching his potential after arriving from France. Then they also brought homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett back from his unsuccessful loan spell in Holland, and landed US youth international midfielder Danny Leyva on loan from Seattle. They’re all mutually beneficial situations for club and player alike.

From the international market, center back Andreas Maxsø (transfer from Brøndby) and midfielder Connor Ronan (transfer from Wolverhampton Wanderers) stand out as immediate starters. They’re solid examples of how Colorado, even if they’re not the league’s biggest spenders, still add quality pieces who succeed in MLS.

Summed together, Colorado hope this squad revamp is enough to turn around a slow start to their 2023 campaign (1W-3L-5D, 12th in the Western Conference).

Key additions: Malte Amundsen, Jimmy Medranda, Christian Ramírez, Gustavo Vallecilla

Key departures: Artur, Derrick Etienne Jr., Jonathan Mensah, Pedro Santos

None of the Crew’s signings thus far are huge needle-movers, though the Christian Ramírez addition (transfer from Scotland’s Aberdeen) has considerably improved their No. 9 depth. Instead, it's a collection of solid players who fit the system.

This grade is so high for another reason: Wilfred Nancy. The France-born head coach was essentially a wintertime transfer, as Columbus compensated Montréal to acquire his services. Player development, young and old, is massively important in elevating an MLS team, as Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle shrewdly notes with frequency. Arguably no MLS coach is better in that regard than Nancy.

Key additions: Sebastien Ibeagha, Geovane Jesus, Jesús Jiménez

Key departures: Matt Hedges, Franco Jara, Brandon Servania

The best move of FC Dallas’ offseason was buying out Argentine striker Franco Jara, opening a DP spot. Losing center back Matt Hedges, their all-time appearances leader, was another significant departure.

I focus on those exits because there haven’t been any huge additions from the club, even as impactful as U22 Initiative right back Geovane Jesus looks to be since joining from Brazil.

Maybe FCD have something cooking for the summer?

Key additions: Mateusz Klich, Tyler Miller, Lewis O'Brien, Ruan, Pedro Santos

Key departures: Bill Hamid, Ola Kamara, Brad Smith

D.C. United are all-in on head coach Wayne Rooney, largely shaping their offseason transfer policy around the legend’s vision for the club. That’s meant mostly MLS experience sprinkled with some Premier League additions, as well as elevating homegrown products.

From the first group, goalkeeper Tyler Miller, right back Ruan and left back/winger Pedro Santos stand out. They also just acquired forward Cristian Dájome from Vancouver in a deadline-day trade.

From the second group, midfielders Mateusz Klich (transfer from Leeds United) and Lewis O'Brien (short-term loan from Nottingham Forest) are leaving their mark. Klich is one of three DPs, joining ex-Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke and Greek international forward Taxi Fountas in that roster category.

Now, I don’t think anybody is saying D.C. United are an MLS Cup favorite. But they’re an improved side, and their busy offseason/transfer window is the decisive factor.

Key additions: Artur, Amine Bassi, Franco Escobar, Iván Franco, Erik Sviatchenko

Key departures: Tim Parker, Fafà Picault, Memo Rodríguez, Darwin Quintero

The Dynamo have brought in over half a team, no joke. They’ve acquired 16 new players this winter and spring, overturning the roster for head coach Ben Olsen’s first year at the helm.

The standouts are attackers Amine Bassi and Iván Franco, midfielder Artur, and defenders Franco Escobar and Erik Sviatchenko. That’s a combination of MLS experience and international additions, who have Houston looking on the up and up.

We should also note U22 Initiative winger/Nigerian youth international Ibrahim Aliyu joined from the Croatian top flight just before the deadline, bringing an interesting profile to the position. TBD on his impact.

Have Houston, in their second year under general manager Pat Onstad, turned a corner?

Key additions: Stipe Biuk, Mateusz Bogusz, Aaron Long, Sergi Palencia, Timothy Tillman

Key departures: Cristian Arango, Gareth Bale, Latif Blessing, Eddie Segura, Cristian Tello

It’s really hard to keep championship teams together, often leading to some tough decisions. For LAFC, one of those calls was transferring 2022 leading scorer Cristian Arango to Liga MX side Pachuca, a move that – on paper at least – would hamper any club. Then layer in a handful of other departures, including superstar Gareth Bale’s retirement, and things could slow down.

Not for the Black & Gold.

I honestly can’t recall an MLS club that’s enjoyed such a high success rate with signings, year over year over year. Sure, there have been some misses under GM/co-president John Thorrington, but that number pales in comparison.

Highlights this spring and winter include fullback Sergi Palencia, center back Aaron Long, midfielder Timothy Tillman, winger Stipe Biuk and attacker Mateusz Bogusz. LAFC’s depth remains the envy of the league, and they’ve still got an open DP slot (it’d need to be a Young DP given their current roster makeup). Pretty, pretty good.

Key additions: Julián Aude, Tyler Boyd, Lucas Calegari, Chris Mavinga, Memo Rodríguez

Key departures: Julián Araujo, Kévin Cabral, Samuel Grandsir, Derrick Williams

The Galaxy, unlike their MLS counterparts, had a time crunch to work under. That’s because of the sanctions they’re facing, where they can’t sign players from abroad during the summer window but can maneuver in the domestic markets if they can find deals/a willing partner.

Facing those parameters, I think it was an okay period from LA. Nothing horrible, nothing great. But the challenge is this is largely their squad for 2023 now. There likely won’t be any huge, game-changing signings coming during the summer.

I think it would’ve made sense to buy out DP winger Douglas Costa, who’s underwhelmed since joining last year and was repeatedly linked with a return to Brazil. Had LA opened that slot, the possibilities increase.

Now, there’s some good stuff. They brought in U22 Initiative fullbacks Lucas Calegari (loan from Fluminense) and Julián Aude (transfer from Lanús) as players for the here and now, as well as the future. Former USMNT winger Tyler Boyd can be productive as a stretch-the-field player, too.

But it still feels like LA could’ve made a bigger splash or two, given all the factors at play.

Key additions: Dixon Arroyo, Sergii Kryvtsov, Josef Martínez, Kamal Miller, Franco Negri, Nicolás Stefanelli

Key departures: Gonzalo Higuaín, Damion Lowe, Alejandro Pozuelo, Indiana Vassilev

Come on, we all know how Miami’s 2023 transfer story will be evaluated. It’s about if they get Lionel Messi or not. And while PSG and Barcelona remain in the mix for the game’s best-ever player (there’s no debate, folks), so is MLS’s team in South Florida.

It’s difficult to express how impactful Messi coming to MLS would be. Monumental probably isn’t a strong enough word, both for his on-field and off-field impact. We’re, just like you, watching closely to see how this story pans out for the summer.

Hypotheticals aside and returning to measurable moves, I really like Miami’s window even as they’re in a six-game losing streak (yes, I recognize the contradictions at play there). Sergii Kryvtsov and Kamal Miller have the makings of a quality center-back pairing, Dixon Arroyo is a strong add at the No. 6 spot after Gregore’s foot injury, and they’ve got Leonardo Campana around long-term as a Young DP. The bones of this roster are strong.

The main knock from Miami’s transfer window involves striker Josef Martínez, who simply hasn’t reached his old levels. Signing him after the Atlanta United contract buyout seemed like a great fit in the post-Gonzalo Higuaín era, but results aren’t here yet. I do think Josef’s MVP, swaggering, strike-fear-into-defenders days are fading, but it’d be premature to write off the Venezuelan international. He can still be a productive, dependable striker in MLS.

Now, if Miami do indeed land Messi… I’ll just say a player like that solves a ton of problems. And that’s probably an understatement.

Key additions: Sang Bin Jeong, Miguel Tapias, Zarek Valentin

Key departures: Alan Benítez, Romain Metanire, Tyler Miller

I’ll go on the record: Sang Bin Jeong can be a high-impact player in this league, the kind who’s recording 15+ goal contributions. That’s an ambitious mark for the South Korean international, signed from EPL side Wolverhampton Wanderers, to strive for after arriving on a U22 Initiative deal.

I also really like the Miguel Tapias addition at center back, joining from Liga MX side Pachuca earlier than expected. The Loons needed to get younger at the position, and Tapias has the makings of a long-term building block in defense.

So, why a C+? Emanuel Reynoso’s continued absence, which limits (or at the least heavily influences/dictates) what Minnesota can accomplish in the transfer market. Their DP No. 10 has been away from the club, and there hasn't been a definitive update regarding the Argentine’s status for 2023.

The Reynoso situation isn’t necessarily Minnesota’s fault, but it’s the storyline that’s going to define their season. The club also wants answers as badly as fans do, even as everyone’s stuck in this purgatory phase.

Key additions: George Campbell, Bryce Duke, Aaron Herrera, Ariel Lassiter

Key departures: Alistair Johnston, Kei Kamara, Ismaël Koné, Kamal Miller, Djordje Mihailovic, Joaquín Torres

They’ve just lost too much talent, man. This isn’t to critique Montréal for selling players like midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (to Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar), defender Alistair Johnston (to Scotland’s Celtic), or midfielder Ismaël Koné (to England’s Watford). That’s really solid business by everyone involved.

But it doesn’t feel like there were enough quality replacements to build off a second-place Eastern Conference finish in 2022. And when you add in trades that saw striker Kei Kamara (to Chicago) and defender Kamal Miller (to Inter Miami) leave the club, the scales tilt even further.

For a club that’s grown dependent on the MLS trade market and developing from within, plus has recently been on the lower end of DP/U22 Initiative profile and spend, the margins become super tight in the transfer market. These early-season struggles, plus a general adjustment to life under manager Hernan Losada, reflect that.

Key additions: Lukas MacNaughton, Fafà Picault, Jacob Shaffelburg

Key departures: Aké Loba, Dave Romney, CJ Sapong

For the positive: Fafà Picault and Jacob Shaffelburg are both quality signings, bringing speed and dynamism to the wings. Picault arrived in a trade from Houston, while Shaffelburg moved permanently after an initial loan from Toronto.

For the negative, which drops Nashville’s grade: the club’s striker situation has some question marks. They just traded CJ Sapong to Toronto, plus have Aké Loba on loan at Liga MX club Mazatlán. It’s the Loba situation that draws extra scrutiny, since he still occupies a DP spot and simply hasn’t panned out since becoming a club-record signing back in July 2021 for a reported $6.8 million fee. Loba has tallied just 2g/2a in 40 regular-season appearances which add up to just under 700 minutes played.

To reach their potential, Nashville ought to pursue a game-changing No. 9 during the summer transfer window. Whatever that looks like, they need answers to take the final-third pressure off Hany Mukhtar and complement their rock-solid defense.

Key additions: Latif Blessing, Dave Romney, Bobby Wood

Key departures: A.J. DeLaGarza, Wilfrid Kaptoum, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

The key additions were classic Bruce Arena moves. All-action midfielder Latif Blessing (from LAFC) and center back Dave Romney (from Nashville SC) both arrived in trades, while striker Bobby Wood came in the Re-Entry Draft. They all bring MLS experience, a quality the Revs’ head coach/sporting director loves.

With an eye on the summer, can New England hold onto goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic for the whole year? Or will we see another deal like when USMNT No. 1 Matt Turner went to Arsenal last summer? The reports about Petrovic have cooled off, but we’re talking about a rising Serbian international who could play in any top-five European league. He's so damn good.

Key additions: Braian Cufré, Mitja Ilenič, Richy Ledezma, Santiago Rodríguez, James Sands

Key departures: Alexander Callens, Héber, Sean Johnson, Maxi Moralez, Anton Tinnerholm

This grade, over the last two months, has shifted drastically for NYCFC. Their outlook was worrisome back on Matchday 1, as an incomplete squad went to Nashville SC for the first game of the 2023 season and looked far off the standard the MLS Cup 2021 champions have set for themselves. They’d lost numerous high-impact, senior pieces over the winter and had clear holes.

There are arguably still a couple of holes, or options/flexibility to improve in the summer (to phrase it positively). But NYCFC’s work under sporting director David Lee this window is among the best in the league, bringing midfielders Santiago Rodríguez and James Sands back to the club. In Richy Ledezma, they’ve also got a potential USMNT midfielder on loan from Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, and Slovenian youth international fullback Mitja Ilenič has low-key been great for NYCFC.

What do the Cityzens have planned for the summer, particularly at striker? It’s a big question to track given their U22 flexibility, spending power and access to the renowned City Football Group scouting network.

One more to watch: Taty Castellanos' loan to LaLiga side Girona FC is only through June. I don't expect him to return to MLS this summer – the idea always seemed to be to increase his transfer value in a top-five European league, then secure a permanent move. But you never know with these things.

Key additions: Cory Burke, Dante Vanzeir

Key departures: Caden Clark, Patryk Klimala, Aaron Long

From a high-level view, the Red Bulls’ transfer window can be boiled down to USMNT center back Aaron Long departing in free agency and DP strikers coming and going. Let’s focus on the latter part.

Patryk Klimala’s time in New York never worked out as envisioned, leading to an offseason transfer to the Israeli Premier League. So the club brought in a replacement, acquiring Dante Vanzeir from Belgian side Union SG for a reported fee where, if all incentives hit, he’d become RBNY’s club-record signing.

But the elephant in the room is Vanzeir’s six-game suspension for using racist language in a game vs. San Jose. That’s clouded the signing, as well as Vanzeir’s near/long-term future in the league. He’s eligible to return for RBNY’s May 20 match.

Key additions: Ramiro Enrique, Duncan McGuire, Martín Ojeda

Key departures: Benji Michel, João Moutinho, Alexandre Pato, Ruan, Júnior Urso

Did Orlando just have a super busy offseason or was it among the best in the league? The jury’s still out, and the truth’s probably somewhere in the middle, as the Lions looked to refresh their 2022 group that lost several key pieces and won the US Open Cup, the club’s first MLS-era trophy.

Their big-money move was acquiring DP attacker Martín Ojeda from Argentine side Godoy Cruz, a player who has the talent to produce 20+ goal contributions. But is he too similar to Facundo Torres, Orlando’s Uruguayan international who also takes up a DP spot? Surely head coach Oscar Pareja can find a way to get the most out of them.

Also: They’re not listed above, but bringing back goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and midfielder Mauricio Pereyra (on a non-DP deal) were vital decisions. And landing Duncan McGuire in the SuperDraft could be an absolute steal for a club that has a pretty decent history of developing strikers who are college soccer prospects. That's not to suggest McGuire will reach Cyle Larin and/or Daryl Dike levels, but the trend's there.

Key additions: Damion Lowe, Andrés Perea, Joaquín Torres

Key departures: Paxten Aaronson, Cory Burke, Matt Freese

On the incoming front, Philly’s transfer strategy was super simple: acquire MLS-proven players via trades, all to improve the squad’s depth. Center back Damion Lowe (from Inter Miami), midfielder Andrés Perea (from Orlando City) and attacker Joaquín Torres (from Montréal) were smart pick-ups in that mold – with the Union recognizing they could play 60+ games across all competitions this year.

On the outgoing front, the biggest one is homegrown midfielder/rising US international Paxten Aaronson heading to German Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. The club got a reported $4 million transfer fee, plus incentives and a sell-on fee. This is part of Philly’s DNA, moving players on when the time is right.

Key additions: Franck Boli, Evander

Key departures: Bill Tuiloma, Josecarlos Van Rankin

Portland never got their center back target after trading Bill Tuiloma to Charlotte, a miss that general manager Ned Grabavoy explained in this story in The Oregonian. So by the club’s own admission, their letter grade gets docked.

Long-term, I think Evander’s going to pan out. But let’s not shy away from how Evander, signed for a reported club-record $10 million from Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland, hasn’t fully found his footing and has just one goal in six games. Head coach Giovanni Savarese has tried the Brazilian attacking midfielder in a variety of roles, looking to unlock his talent.

Striker Franck Boli’s on a one-year deal with an option year, so that’s less of a long-term play. The Timbers have options up top and aren’t singularly dependent on him.

Key additions: Andrés Gómez, Brayan Vera

Key departures: Sergio Córdova, Aaron Herrera

RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni is tossing out takes like Andrés Gómez "could be a world-class player." I’m not fully there yet, but I’ll also trust Mastroeni since he sees the Colombian winger at training and is helping oversee his development.

It’s the 20-year-old who keeps RSL in the B-range for their Primary Transfer Window work. He joined from Colombian power Millonarios FC this winter for a $4 million transfer fee, another sizable investment from RSL’s new ownership group after they brought Venezuelan international Jefferson Savarino back to the club last May from Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro

Heading into the summer, it’s reasonable to expect RSL to again dip into their bank account. They’ve got some DP flexibility and could become a locked-in playoff team with one or two more cornerstone pieces, rather than fighting for the last spot(s) like in recent years.

Key additions: Daniel, Carlos Gruezo, Jonathan Mensah

Key departures: Jan Gregus, Eric Remedi

San Jose landing d-mid Carlos Gruezo might be the most underrated signing of the entire offseason. The Ecuadorian international, who briefly played for new head coach Luchi Gonzalez at FC Dallas before moving to German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg, is a top-end No. 6 in this league. 

Then there’s how the Earthquakes returned to the trade market to get former Columbus Crew captain Jonathan Mensah. The longtime Ghana international center back arrived after Nathan’s long-term ACL injury, giving his new club a cornerstone to build around.

The only question mark is Daniel, their new TAM-level goalkeeper from Brazil. At the very least, there’s competition for minutes after homegrown JT Marcinkowski had won the starter’s job in recent seasons.

Key additions: Héber

Key departures: Will Bruin, Jimmy Medranda

Seattle, after a first-ever Audi MLS Cup Playoffs miss in 2022, bet on their veteran-heavy core returning the club to its expected heights. After all, this is the same group that won a historic Concacaf Champions League title last May. 

That bet’s paid off, with health and a rebound to form driving Seattle’s place near the West’s mountaintop. Their only main addition is Héber, landing the Brazilian striker in a trade from NYCFC. He’s an overqualified backup who fills in well if Raúl Ruidíaz can’t go or Jordan Morris plays out wide.

Key additions: Tim Leibold, Nemanja Radoja, Dany Rosero

Key departures: Nicolas Isimat-Mirin

So far, Sporting KC’s season has been an MLS version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” 

Is their winter transfer window to blame? No, not necessarily. I don’t think it’s fair to pin that on a small handful of moves that includes three possible starters in the back six.

But it’s not going too hot for SKC in 2023. They’re bottom of the league and have scored just three goals in nine games. At times, it seems like they’re beating themselves with mistakes, be it red cards, slow buildups or a lack of quality shots. 

That makes the grade more reflective of the cumulative nature of everything listed above.

Key additions: Roman Bürki, Nicholas Gioacchini, João Klauss, Eduard Löwen, Tim Parker, Jared Stroud

Key departures: N/A

St. Louis had a blank canvas to work with, as MLS’s 29th club assembled an entire roster from scratch. And while there were doubt-filled questions during the offseason, the tone has done a complete 180 across the season’s first two months. The newcomers have enjoyed the best-ever start for an MLS expansion team, and seem like a legit contender in the Western Conference.

I think their roster build can be broken down into three groups:

  1. European signings
  2. MLS-proven players
  3. Development/second-chance options

The first bucket has a couple of home runs in goalkeeper Roman Bürki, midfielder Eduard Löwen and striker João Klauss. Löwen, in particular, has Best XI presented by Continental Tire potential. The second group is led by center back Tim Parker and right back Jake Nerwinski, two veteran defenders. The third has those like forward Nicholas Gioacchini, center back Kyle Hiebert, winger Jared Stroud and more. 

Maybe there are more apt labels, but it’s been a fantastic union of players from all sorts of backgrounds (ranging from MLS NEXT Pro to the Bundesliga). They’re thriving in CITY SC’s system and are entirely bought in.

One note: St. Louis have an open DP spot to possibly explore this summer. So if they deem fit, the club would make a big splash to raise their ceiling even more.

Key additions: Adama Diomande, Matt Hedges, Sean Johnson, Raoul Petretta, Sigurd Rosted, Brandon Servania, CJ Sapong

Key departures: Alex Bono, Domenico Criscito, Jesús Jiménez, Chris Mavinga, Jayden Nelson, Quentin Westberg

Toronto’s roster overhaul continued in the offseason, leading to a new starting goalkeeper, two new starting center backs, and a new starting left back. They’ve also bolstered the midfield and brought in two veteran strikers.

So, why only a B- grade? Their depth still feels precariously thin, and like an injury or two has the potential to provide a major speed bump. There’s arguably no more top-heavy roster in MLS.

The good part is if Toronto are healthy and in form, they have trophy-potential talent that can take them far. That’s a combination of Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi doing their thing, plus “winning” the free agent market in the winter by getting Sean Johnson and Matt Hedges, plus keeping Jonathan Osorio around.

One note: The third DP spot Toronto talked about during the offseason? That’s currently occupied by Osorio, so a marquee signing didn’t arrive. TFC made clear any addition wouldn't be of Insigne or Bernardeschi's financial profile anways.

Key additions: Sergio Córdova, Yohei Takaoka

Key departures: Lucas Cavallini, Cristian Dájome, Jake Nerwinski

Much of Vancouver’s work was completed in previous windows, so this winter was about fine-tuning the squad.

Japanese goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka arrived from reigning J1 League champions Yokohama F. Marinos with an impressive résumé. He’s looked the part so far.

DP striker Sergio Córdova is a known commodity, spending 2022 on loan at RSL from German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg. But he’s been injured since mid-March with a hamstring strain, so we haven’t seen his full potential yet.

Let’s also shout out how Vancouver are getting contributions from MLS NEXT Pro-developed players in midfielder/defender Ali Ahmed and striker Simon Becher. That shouldn’t be overlooked as teams continue to develop from within.