I want to try and convey big-picture thoughts around what the hell just happened on Monday as MLSers and Americans were a huge part of the bi-annual insanity that is deadline day in (most of) Europe.
I want to try and convey bigger points, perhaps lead you to believe I am smarter than I am with a few well-placed polysyllabic words. But, my dumb little brain continues to come back to the entirely overused Ron Burgundy gif.
(Shhh. No one tell Doyle I put a gif into a thing I wrote. That's his beat. I'll owe him some sort of compensation if he finds out.)
Seemingly out of nowhere, there were two handfuls of MLSers and Americans abroad with potential moves on deadline day. Twitter was bonkers. All in all, we got four confirmed plus one reported MLS players on the move and two more MLS academy products changing teams.
- Bryan Reynolds: FC Dallas to AS Roma (loan with obligatory purchase)
- Daryl Dike: Orlando City to Barnsley (loan with purchase option)
- Paul Arriola: D.C. United to Swansea City (loan)
- Brian Rodriguez: LAFC to Almeria (loan with purchase clause)
- Justin Che: FC Dallas to Bayern Munich (loan with purchase option — REPORT)
- DeAndre Yedlin: Newcastle to Galatasaray
- Chris Richards: Bayern to Hoffenheim (loan)
North American flavor to the European deadline day
Three years ago, we'd fawn over just one of those MLSers heading to Europe on deadline day. Three years ago, we'd fawn over just Jordan Morris' loan, which was sealed in the last week of the window. Or just Brenden Aaronson's move to RB Salzburg. Or just Mark McKenzie's move to Genk.
Perhaps it was just timing in that a handful of deals weren't completed earlier, but, there was a huge MLS and American influence on the European deadline day.
We got seven total deals confirmed plus rejected moves from many others, notably Diego Rossi and Aaron Long. Such movements and offers are becoming commonplace around these parts over the last 18 months but don't allow the regularity take away from its impact. This is simultaneously wild yet is a natural progression.
An incredible amount of investment, both monetary and time, has been injected into MLS's academy system for years. The league has undergone a natural evolution towards developmental and selling in recent times. American and MLS exports are excelling in the biggest competitions in the world, smart European clubs have noticed there's still a bit of a market inefficiency in signing MLS talent.
(Hopefully) gone are the days of a few free deals or cut-rate transfers. Take even Reynolds' move to Roma. It's consensus that Dallas are getting an incredible fee for a player that has made just 15 MLS starts, yet Roma have seen Alphonso Davies' explosion at Bayern Munich. If Reynolds is as good as they (and a panoply of other big European clubs think, too), then they still stand to have made a shrewd investment.
MLS academy products Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Reggie Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin and plenty others have paved this path. As more and more of those players succeed, the price for the next export goes up. They are data points in negotiations to show this is becoming a proven market and, as such, a premium must be paid.
Reynolds deal months in the making
In the end, it went all the way down to deadline day, but Reynolds' historic transfer from FC Dallas to AS Roma was months in the making.
People around Dallas were bullish on Reynolds' big potential for a while and knew he'd be ready for more minutes in the eventual transfer of Cannon, which was in the works in August. His age, physical metrics and natural attacking technical ability — he was a winger his entire youth career before switching to fullback — was a perfect concoction for the modern fullback.
They knew if he hit the ground running, he'd catch the eye of European clubs. But even they didn't expect how quickly that would happen.
Club chairman and CEO Clark Hunt admitted the "bidding war between Champions League clubs" was a new (and welcomed) development for them. Roma, Juventus, Club Brugge and countless others were hopeful of his signature for months. Before long, interest turned to serious discussions and those serious discussions led to a move that became more and more inevitable.
Juventus had the inside track for a while. Early discussions with Roma didn't go smoothly, then stopped for about a week at the end of December until they had a new GM starting on January 1. Neither Juventus nor Brugge sealed a deal before Roma revived talks.
The combination of an open non-European Union spot (meaning he could go straight to Roma instead of on loan elsewhere in Italy), a lucrative financial package to Dallas and a plan for Reynolds made their total package too attractive to turn down. And, though it may have taken until deadline day, at long last they closed the deal.
Not just rising talents, but in-prime players on the move
With all of the talk about academies and rising talents, it wasn't just youngsters making big transfers to Europe this January. Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris, both on loan to Swansea, have been identified and acquired as pieces to turn their promotion dreams to reality.
Swansea entered the midweek fixtures second in the Championship, one of the most chaotic and competitive leagues in the world (yes, this is coming from someone who makes a living consuming the chaos that is Major League Soccer). Second place is the final automatic promotion place. They are desperately hoping to lockup a top-two spot, thus avoiding the promotion playoffs. Arriola and Morris will be key pieces.
It's a less sexy headline than rising talents heading to Europe with world-class potential, but another important development nonetheless. With more and more talent coming through, expect more deals like this in the future as some late-bloomers or overlooked players rise.
What's next for Rodriguez, LAFC?
Rodriguez was public in his desire to head to Europe at some point. LAFC have never shirked the fact that their model includes eventually transferring some of their brightest talents, to make way for the next crop.
While Diego Rossi was linked with a move to Reading (which MLSsoccer.com reported was never all that close), it was Rodriguez who got a deadline day move to Spanish second-tier side UD Almeria. The move is a loan with a purchase clause that will be triggered should specific incentives be met.
Rodriguez gets his desire, joining a club pushing for promotion. Depending on what the incentives are and the purchase clause is, LAFC could get a great deal and would open up another Designated Player spot alongside Rossi and Carlos Vela.
They already traded for winger Corey Baird, too, so they're well covered in that area of the field. Plus, having Rodriguez as the third DP next to Rossi and Vela was always a bit of an awkward fit. All three are best on the wing, to have all three on the field at the same time meant moving one out of position. Vela played some false nine and Rossi played some as a direct center forward, but LAFC were at their best with that pair at their best positions.
Additionally, Rodriguez didn't start any one of LAFC's three Concacaf Champions League games in December as the team went agonizingly close to becoming the first MLS club to bring home that trophy.
If a DP spot is opened long-term, where will they use it? And how much more devastating can they be?