MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Best of the rest: Top 2023 MLS free agents still available


MLS clubs have opened their preseasons over the last few days, another key sign that the 2023 season is upon us.

While all clubs would ideally prefer to have transfer business set by day one of preseason… that almost never happens. Six weeks remain until Matchday 1 on Feb. 25 – plenty of time for transfer dealings.

One big part of that puzzle is free agency, and a number of talented players remain unsigned.

Viewed by many as the top MLS free agent on the market this winter, there is still no clarity on where Alex Callens will play this year.

Interest is high around MLS and abroad. Recent reports have linked him with Atlanta United, Liga MX and Argentine giants Boca Juniors.

Callens, 30, was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year last season. He made 164 appearances with NYCFC over six seasons, helping lead the club to an MLS Cup 2021 win. The Peru international has 35 caps for his country, and prior to joining NYCFC was in the Spanish second tier with CD Numancia.

Another longtime NYCFC stalwart, Sean Johnson remains available.

The veteran MLS and USMNT goalkeeper is NYCFC’s all-time leader in appearances with more than 200 games across all competitions. He was named MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi in 2021 when NYCFC lifted the trophy after penalties.

Johnson, 33, remains in talks with NYCFC, but Toronto FC are also pushing for him; he took a visit to Toronto to see the facilities and take in a Toronto Raptors NBA basketball game. There has been interest from the Dutch league as well.

TFC are still searching for a starting GK, while NYCFC have Luis Barraza and Cody Mizell if Johnson indeed departs.

Johnson, Callens and Aaron Long were the consensus top three free agents this offseason. Only Long (LAFC) has signed with a club as preseason is underway.

Ola Kamara was tied for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi just two seasons ago, losing out to Taty Castellanos – who's since left MLS for LaLiga's Girona – in 2021 on a tiebreaker after each striker scored 19 goals.

Kamara’s contract with D.C. United expired this winter and, amid a club rebuild, the forward remains a free agent.

Kamara, 33, has 83g/14a in 175 MLS appearances between D.C., LA Galaxy and the Columbus Crew. In each of the four seasons he’s played 1,500 minutes or more, Kamara has scored at least 14 goals.

Costa Rica international left back Ronald Matarrita remains available.

Matarrita, 28, has made 135 MLS appearances between NYCFC and, most recently, FC Cincinnati. He was part of Costa Rica’s World Cup squad and has 54 caps with the Ticos.

There are reports linking him with a move back to Alajuelense in Costa Rica, but at the time of writing, nothing has been announced.

Veteran MLS forward Will Bruin has left Seattle Sounders FC after spending seven seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

Bruin, 33, has made more than 300 MLS appearances and has scored 77 goals between the Sounders and Houston Dynamo FC. He’s also provided 33 assists.

J. Sam Jones (the J stands for Jealous of the back-to-back NCAA Champion Georgia Bulldogs) theorized that he’d make sense with Atlanta United.

Bruin was signed to the Sounders by Garth Lagerwey, who's since become Atlanta’s president and CEO. The club are in need of at least two center forwards with Josef Martínez about to leave and Dom Dwyer and Ronaldo Cisneros already gone.

After spending most of his career with D.C. United, veteran goalkeeper Bill Hamid is a free agent and looking for a new club.

Hamid, 32, made 279 regular-season appearances for D.C. after signing a homegrown contract. The goalkeeper spent a brief time with Denmark's FC Midtjylland in 2018.

While Hamid and Johnson remain unsigned, goalkeepers such as Tyler Miller, Alex Bono (both D.C. United), James Pantemis (re-signed with CF Montréal) and more have signed new deals in free agency this winter.

Veteran MLS defender Jalil Anibaba left the Columbus Crew this winter.

The 34-year-old made five appearances for Columbus last season, part of his career 245 MLS regular-season games. He has played for six different MLS clubs in his career.

One-time MLS MVP finalist (!!) Brek Shea is a free agent again. The former rising US international spent the last three seasons with Inter Miami CF but is out of contract.

Shea, 32, made 34 appearances with the USMNT after breaking through with FC Dallas and transferring to Stoke City in 2013. Since returning to the league, Shea has featured for Orlando City SC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Atlanta United and Inter Miami.

Winger Ema Boateng is still unsigned, but he’s currently training with the New England Revolution.

Boateng, 28, joined the Revs in 2021 and made 39 appearances over the last two seasons. He made his MLS debut with the LA Galaxy in 2016 and has accrued 160 MLS appearances with 13g/21a.