We're now headed to the pointy end of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup, which means there's a fair chance that some MLS teams are currently plotting some summer shopping before the Secondary Transfer Window closes Aug. 5.
It certainly won't be the first time MLS clubs have used the regional championship throwdown as a marketplace. For instance, Columbus snared goalkeeper Eloy Room after Curacao's snazzy 2019 showing. So who might be or might have just been under a scout's watchful eye this time around? We've got a few guesses mixed with some winking suggestions.
One quick note before we crack open this eight-pack of tempting Gold Cup participants: Haiti strike ace Duckens Nazon would have been a lock for the list had he not been snapped up by Ligue 2 returnees Quevilly-Rouen on Monday. And the availability (or scarcity) of international spots offers important context, too.
Qatar's 21-year-old left back boasts a well-rounded game at a position that’s often hard to stock. Ahmed loves to burn foes on the overlap (just ask Honduras), crosses well, hustles hard and is responsible at the back. He's also more cultured tactically than one would expect, having spent 18 months with the second team of Belgian side Eupen.
Do you know what's better than a free agent forward signing? A free agent forward signing with the knack to find soft spots in the defense and an accurate shot he's always eager to let rip. Ali, who tops the Gold Cup strike chart heading into the semis, fits that bill. The 24-year-old is a menace in the open field, but also has the long, lean frame and easy stride that allows him to "dance between the raindrops" inside a more crowded area.
One of several players listed here that’s rolling into the final year of a current deal, the attacker has never actually played for Tijuana. Barcenas is coming off a trio of solid La Liga 2 seasons and carries a unique tactical feature. The Panama playmaker is goal-dangerous when used on the left wing, as more of a set-up man when coming from his natural right side and sliding into the No. 10 slot if needed.
Just like on the pitch, chasing down the Panama midfielder won't be easy. Carrasquilla is signed with Segunda Division outfit Cartagena until 2025, and he's also drawing interest from some big European clubs. However, the 22-year-old certainly looks worth the effort. He's a two-way field general in the making, with the foot speed to separate from central park traffic jams and the passing eye to exploit even small lanes.
The winger celebrated his first Suriname start since March by leading them past Guadeloupe with a pair of set-ups. Comvalius, who’s set to enter the last year of his contract with Slovakian outfit Trencin, almost has a Julian Gressel-like effect in the final third. The 24-year-old finds various ways to help the attack, and has deft command of a full catalog of crossing methods (pillowy, driven, rug-burners, angled entry balls, etc.).
Seeing as how the veteran Canada attacker is available on a freebie after his Cardiff City deal expired, it seems almost obligatory to include him here. Hoilett just turned 31 and is more of a complementary piece than a star man, but still has the wheels and extra gear to pitch in with both play driving and end product. Various UK outlets have recently claimed that he has at least one MLS offer currently on his table, as well as hot interest from the likes of Middlesbrough and Reading.
While it's true that the Jamaica center back failed to see the field during his three years on the Seattle Sounders’ books, that was a long time ago. Lowe's game has come along since then, as Daryl Dike and Joel Campbell each found out during the Gold Cup. The 28-year-old (son of former MLS forward Onandi) has the focus and strength to play in the heart of defense, plus the mobility to help out at right back if needed. Lowe is currently with El Ittihad in Egypt after time in the USL Championship and Norway.
I'm not actually sure if this is allowed, but here goes: I've long been a big fan of the El Tri right back. Rodriguez does everything you could ever ask for up and down that starboard side. The man they call "Chaka" will turn 31 in January, but you'd never know it with his high level of get up and go. And he just so happens to be nearing the end of his Tigres contract (the pre-deal window is now open!).