A lot happened in the world of MLS transfer news, reports and rumors over the last few days.
That is to completely belittle how actual soccer is starting rather than just being talked about. Last week, MLS' five Concacaf Champions League entrants opened preseason camp. This week, the rest of the league will have their first training sessions.
Teams pushed hard to advance negotiations and get deals over the line with preseason here and the 2022 campaign fast approaching. The avalanche of updates has been... overwhelming at times.
Let's dive into some of the biggest news, why it matters and peruse some other key updates as well. Andrew Wiebe wants to call it Transfer TL;DR. That works, too.
The Rapids are undergoing a big midfield shakeup.
Colorado completed a blockbuster trade on Friday, sending US men's national team midfielder Kellyn Acosta to LAFC for up to $1.5m GAM ($1.1m up front), as first reported by MLSsoccer.com. The Rapids hoped to sign him to a contract extension, but an agreement was never reached and LAFC got a deal done. They were not the only MLS team in the chase. As first revealed by The Athletic's Sam Stejskal and sources can confirm, the New England Revolution came very close to acquiring him in December.
Meanwhile, Cole Bassett will soon have his medical, sign the contracts and complete his move to Dutch side Feyenoord. The deal will be an 18-month loan with a potential club-record purchase option. The Rapids transferred fellow academy graduate Sam Vines to Belgium's Royal Antwerp for $2 million last summer, which currently stands as their record fee.
Bassett was with the USMNT at a January training camp but departed to finalize this move. The homegrown midfielder rejected a potential move to Portugal's Benfica last summer – they were among many European clubs hoping to sign him over the last year, including those from England, Belgium and Germany before Feyenoord won out. Feyenoord currently sit third in the Eredivisie, seven points behind first-placed PSV Eindhoven. Former LA Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese is the CEO at Feyenoord and is, obviously, quite familiar with Bassett during his time in MLS.
As far as incomings, the Rapids have already acquired Brazilian midfielder Max Alves on a U22 Initiative deal and have last year's No. 3 overall SuperDraft selection Philip Mayaka as options to challenge for Bassett's minutes. As for more senior options, a source can confirm reports from Diario Deportivo in Honduras that former FC Dallas Designated Player Bryan Acosta will be signing. Colorado selected the central midfielder in the Re-Entry Draft (Stage 2).
Perhaps another USMNT midfielder will be on the move this winter following Acosta and Sebastian Lletget.
Arriola is the subject of multiple bids from Liga MX giants Club America, while a few MLS teams have contacted D.C. United about potentially acquiring the winger as well, per sources. The 26-year-old has made 89 appearances with DCU, adding 20 goals and 16 assists since joining from Liga MX's Club Tijuana.
Returning from an injury he sustained while on loan with English Championship side Swansea City last year, Arriola had six goals and four assists in 20 appearances under new head coach Hernan Losada. Losada's system doesn't feature out-and-out wingers, which is Arriola's natural position.
A move would open a Designated Player spot for D.C. United and could bring an influx of allocation money, which would help the club tremendously this offseason to continue refreshing the squad. The Black-and-Red have made just two senior additions this winter: Ivorian left back Gaoussou Samake, who joined after a successful loan at D.C.'s USL Championship affiliate Loudoun United, and defender Brendan Hines-Ike from Belgian side K.V. Kortrijk.
Houston have made their first big-money move in the Ted Segal/Pat Onstad era.
The Dynamo acquired Paraguay international forward Sebastian Ferreira from Libertad, dishing out a club-record fee worth around $4 million. He was twice a Golden Boot winner. He had 34 goals and 10 assists in 78 appearances with Libertad and also spent time in Mexico, where he had 16 goals in Liga MX with Morelia.
The extra significance is that this (could be) the first of a few big moves. It's been a slow offseason, with Houston focused on their coaching search first and foremost before appointing Paulo Nagamura as head coach, but Ferreira could kick things into gear. Houston had attacking midfielder Darwin Quintero and center back Teenage Hadebe as DPs last year, but Hadebe can be bought down and Quintero returns on a non-DP deal.
So Houston could sign two more DPs. Or if the third DP is under max TAM ($1.612m last year) or is a Young DP, they could add three U22 Initiative signings.
Exciting, and transformative, times for the Dynamo.
The Portland Timbers have reached an agreement in principle to sign Argentine youth international midfielder David Ayala from Estudiantes, per sources. Ayala would be a U22 Initiative player when it gets done. The deal is for $2.6 million plus add-ons, with Estudiantes retaining a sell-on percentage.
Ayala is a highly-rated 19-year-old midfielder who can operate as a No. 6 or No. 8, meaning he can play alongside any one of Diego Chara (who signed a contract extension last week), Eryk Williamson (still recovering from ACL tear), Cristhian Paredes or Andy Polo (just returned from injury) in the heart of Portland's midfield.
Portland intend to use their final vacant U22 Initiative slot as well. Santiago Moreno is on the roster using that mechanism and Ayala is earmarked for the second. Moreno signed in July 2021 from Colombian side América de Cali.
The Timbers remain in talks with midfielder Sebastian Blanco about a potential return, too.
As previously reported by MLSsoccer.com, an announcement on Diego Valeri's impending return to Argentine club Lanus is expected this week. The Timbers legend has 86 goals and 91 assists across 262 regular-season games (230 starts) with the Timbers after joining from Lanus in 2013, winning MLS Cup in 2015 and MLS MVP in 2017. Portland are planning legacy events for Valeri, including talks of a testimonial between them and Lanus.
FC Dallas are looking to take a big swing in the post-Ricardo Pepi era.
They're linked with Independiente attacker Alan Velasco, reportedly offering a deal worth $6.5 million for the 19-year-old Argentine youth international. Sources say there's truth to FCD's chase of the player. Let's see if they can reach a resolution. The deal would easily be a club record if those figures are accurate.
Velasco has 8g/10 in 69 professional appearances already.
FCD already inked homegrown forward Jesus Ferreira to a contract extension, making him a Young DP. They have one DP spot open and multiple U22 Initiative slots open as new head coach Nico Estevez kicks off preseason.
FC Dallas are also working on signing former Dutch youth international goalkeeper Maarten Paes from FC Utrecht, as sources confirm a report by 90min's Chris Smith. Paes was Utrecht's starting goalkeeper this season but got held out of their last match.
As for outgoings: Justin Che is widely reported to be nearing an 18-month loan to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim with a purchase option. Sources say the deal is at the final stage. The US youth international has a German passport and plenty of suitors in Europe, including Bayern Munich and other German/English clubs.
Che, 18, made 15 appearances with Dallas last season after returning from a loan to Bayern's second team last spring. Hoffenheim currently have former Dallas academy standout and USMNT defender Chris Richards on the books as well.
Toronto FC are sending DP winger Yeferson Soteldo to Tigres UANL in exchange for Mexico international defender Carlos Salcedo, The Athletic's Sam Stejskal and Toronto-based journalist Michael Singh report.
It would be the latest change in their massive offseason.
Soteldo has been linked with a move away from Toronto all winter after a tumultuous lone season in MLS. The Venezuelan international had three goals and 10 assists as the wheels fell off for TFC, arriving in April 2021 from Brazil's Santos.
Salcedo, a much-needed defensive reinforcement, will be a DP, according to Stejskal. The 28-year-old has had stints with Fiorentina and Eintracht Frankfurt but made Liga MX's Best XI with Tigres. Salcedo's Tigres beat Bob Bradley's LAFC in the 2020 CCL final, too. Bradley is now the head coach and sporting director at TFC.
After Palmeiras already signed Eduard Atuesta from LAFC, while having another bid rejected by NYCFC for Taty Castellanos, more South American talent from MLS is being linked to Brazil's biggest clubs.
Barco is widely expected to leave Atlanta this winter, coinciding with a deal lined up for Velez Sarsfield star Thiago Almada. Atlanta would need to move on from one of their DPs and given Josef Martinez's status and the fact that Luiz Araujo just arrived in the summer, coupled with Barco being at the club for four seasons now, the 22-year-old's expected exit is likeliest to solve that problem.
Barco has been loosely linked with European clubs during his time with Atlanta, netting 17g/17a in 81 MLS regular-season appearances. He was a then-league-record signing upon arriving ahead of the 2018 season for $15 million from Independiente.
Velez Sarsfield announced Atlanta had signed Almada for $16 million, while Atlanta put out an official statement to say they agreed to an "exclusive option" to sign the midfielder, who is currently under an active sexual assault allegation.
Internacional are also linked with Brian Rodriguez.
The LAFC winger hasn't quite worked out as expected in MLS, notching 6g/9a in 41 appearances after arriving from Peñarol. The Uruguay international has seemingly had eyes elsewhere for quite a bit and even was loaned to Spanish second-division side UD Almeria last winter, but his purchase option wasn't triggered and he returned to LAFC.
If Rodriguez does depart, LAFC would have another DP spot open. They currently have one they can use and intend on doing so this winter (Carlos Vela is their other DP). They made an offer for Uruguay international forward Jonathan Rodriguez from Liga MX's Cruz Azul, but Rodriguez joined Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr instead.
I mean, they were already VeneziAmerica thanks to Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann and their drop-dead gorgeous kits, but if MLS fans needed another hook to tune into Venezia, they got it this weekend: Former Orlando City SC winger/captain Nani landed in Italy to sign with the club.
Nani had an assist on his debut, too. He's the latest thirty-something legendary attacker to jump to Italy from MLS, following Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining AC Milan from the LA Galaxy.
The Portuguese winger had 28g/23a in 77 appearances with Orlando.