Reinforcements are on the way for Austin FC as the expansion side gets their summer started early.
A week before the Secondary Transfer Window opens, Austin announced the acquisition of Senegalese youth international forward Moussa Djitte from Ligue 2 side Grenoble on a U22 Initiative deal. The 21-year-old had 15 goals in 67 appearances (47 starts) in France as he becomes the latest player to swap the French system for MLS this year.
Austin can't wait to get him into the squad.
“Moussa played at a really good level, Ligue 2 is a breeding ground for top talents," sporting director Claudio Reyna said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "Development in France is as good as anywhere in the world, it gives us a good feeling for where he’s at in this stage of his career.”
Djitte caught the club's eye with good mobility, hold up play and the ability to score in different ways, Reyna added.
Another desirable quality is the fact that he's a natural center forward, something that has turned into a desperate need for the club in recent weeks. They have scored just once in the last seven games, with no natural players fit and available to play the position following injuries to Danny Hoesen and Aaron Schoenfeld. Winger Cecilio Dominguez has filled in as a lone striker of late.
Despite the lack of goals, Austin are confident in their attack. Not only can Djitte provide for himself, but being the central point of the attack should make life easier for talented wingers and midfielders, including Designated Players Dominguez and Tomas Pochettino.
“It’s not about just him being the guy scoring goals, it’s about having a true No. 9," Reyna said. "It’ll help our team. It’s pretty obvious through injuries that we’ve missed out on our No. 9s playing. Him playing there is a natural fit.”
Djitte arrives at a good age. He's still a young, improving player not yet near his prime, but has a valuable few years of professional experience in Switzerland and France.
“It’s a challenge, it’s why typically [forwards] are most expensive in world football. ... We need to identify players who we believe are just at the next step away from breaking out," Reyna said. "Looking at what positions they get into, different ways they score and create chances. Movement, how hard they work off the ball. These are the attributes we like about Moussa.”
Djitte may not be the only attacking addition this summer.
What's next? Plus roster mechanisms/cap minutiae
Austin FC are expected to remain busy.
While Djitte is the club's third U22 initiative signing, to go along with their two senior DPs in Dominguez and Pochettino, Reyna was direct in saying they still have the cap/roster flexibility to add another DP.
“We’re always evaluating options in terms of bringing in players, we do have another DP spot that we continue to have conversations about," Reyna said. "It’s ongoing. We’re hopeful to add the right guys. Every decision needs to be not only for the short-term, but beyond into 2022, 2023. We can’t react, we have to stay calm and bring in the right players.”
The number of U22 initiative signings each individual club can make is fluid, ranging from one to three. Teams with three senior DPs above the TAM threshold are restricted to just one U22 initiative signing. Teams with two senior DPs and a young DP, or a DP that is below the max TAM threshold, can sign three U22 initiative signings. That is the category Austin falls under.
Reyna also noted the possibility that Hoesen returns towards the end of the year, despite the initial inclination being he was out for the year after hip surgery.
“We’re still working to see other additions we can bring in," Reyna said. "We feel the team has performed well, but we just need to score goals. Obviously that’s a big focus.”