You know the big outgoings to watch this summer, and it's a certainty that I'll write plenty of words about them in the very near future. Too many words, some may argue.
Daryl Dike. Gianluca Busio. Diego Rossi. Justin Che. The list goes on, and others who we're not thinking about yet will have interest and offers and such come to light this summer. But, again, there'll be plenty of words written on them. This primer focuses a bit more on the incomings than outgoings.
MLS clubs will reach the opening of the Secondary Transfer Window on July 7 with around 11 games played, give or take depending bye weeks and such. That's a third of the season. Some teams did nearly all of their squad building in the winter, others waited a bit and some still have work to do. The season is still young, a ton of points will still be up for grabs. A truism in global soccer: The summer transfer window is a place for hope and optimism.
There are fewer Designated Player spots available around the league than originally forecasted, as those around MLS figured the summer would provide further opportunity as clubs across the globe continue to feel the financial effects of the global pandemic. But, hey, there are always surprises every transfer window, aren't there?
Here are a few teams to keep an eye on.
Portland weathered an injury storm of near-Biblical proportions to limp into the league's break for international play, hovering on the right side of the Western Conference playoff line. They were down two DPs (Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda); experienced injuries to three (!) goalkeepers; and endured knocks to the previously irreplaceable Diego Chara as well as Larrys Mabiala, Eryk Williamson, Jeremy Ebobisse and others at various points. It'll be nice for Gio Savarese's squad to simply get somewhere near full-strength.
The summer, though, could provide further change. Even with Blanco and Niezgoda nearing their season debuts at some point in the next month or so, further reinforcements may be on the way.
Portland have long been hoping for another center back, while there's still a need for another depth piece at left back following Ismaila Jome's season-ending injury. The search for a center back continues in earnest, while a source said a young attacker is in the plans as well. Don't believe me? Fine, take owner Merritt Paulson's tease instead.
There could be outgoings, as well. Ebobisse and Williamson have plenty of suitors in Europe, as previously reported by MLSsoccer.com. Portland turned down offers for both players from various clubs this winter, ones that fell short of their valuations for the rising Americans. It should not surprise anyone if more offers arrive.
Truth be told, the bulk of Nashville's work will likely be done before the transfer window opens. It all revolves around big-money forwards.
The loan agreement for Jhonder Cadiz, a DP center forward, is technically set to expire at the end of the month. Nashville could trigger a previously agreed purchase option or extend the loan agreement to ensure he stays in MLS through at least the end of the season. He is currently on international duty with Venezuela at the Copa America.
Irrespective of their decision on Cadiz, as MLSsoccer.com reported last week, the club are intent on signing another DP attacker. They have a handful of key targets, reported in Mexico to be CF Monterrey forward Ake Loba as well as Michael Estrada of Toluca. The team's interest in Loba precedes their existence in MLS, tracking the player back in Peru and during a loan stint in Mexico before he signed for the Liga MX giants for a reported $9 million ahead of the 2020 season. Estrada is currently at the Copa America with Ecuador, where he is an important player.
The Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 7. Nashville could very well have a club-record signing ready to debut on July 8 against Atlanta United, if things go smoothly.
Nashville currently have two DPs in Hany Mukhtar and Cadiz. Randall Leal is on the roster as a Targeted Allocation Money player while Rodrigo Pineiro is the team's lone U-22 initiative signing at the moment. They have space for another key addition as the second-year club continues to make waves in MLS. They are one of the league's two unbeaten teams, with two wins and five draws from their first seven matches.
I know I said the focus would (mostly) be on incomings, but the nature of transfer business, particularly in MLS with roster rules and a salary cap, the two are inextricably linked. LAFC have two players who could (should?) command eight-figure transfer fees if they move on this summer.
Diego Rossi, MLS' reigning Golden Boot winner, and Brian Rodriguez, who was on loan with UD Almeria this spring, have plenty of suitors in Europe. Rossi has been linked with a move away for a few seasons now, but nothing has materialized. His contract expires after 2022, so perhaps some urgency will start to creep in. Rodriguez has been cryptic about his future.
If either (or both) move on, LAFC will have one (or two) DP spots to supplement superstar Carlos Vela.
Like Nashville last year, Austin didn't fill all three DP spots ahead of their inaugural MLS match. Claudio Reyna and co. preferred to retain flexibility, see how the collection of players, which only existed in theory, looked together in practice. Where in the squad they would most need to invest the capital.
Austin have looked advanced for an expansion side taking its first step in MLS at times. They have also looked much like an expansion side enduring an eight-game road trip to start their inaugural season at times, too. They took eight points from eight games, a reputable tally, as they ramp up the momentum toward opening Q2 Stadium. They could supplement that momentum with a few additions this summer.
They were linked with a number of players from Liga MX, including Club America forwards Henry Martin and Nicolas Castillo. Reyna didn't comment on specifics.
"There’s always rumors out there," he told The Striker Texas' Chris Bils. "We continue to explore players from all regions, be it from Mexico, South America, Europe. I think there will be opportunities to sign a player from Mexico if it’s the right one, but there’s nothing to the rumors that I can really share."
In addition to an open DP spot, they haven't used a U-22 initiative slot yet, either.
There hasn't been much smoke around plans or targets for Montréal, but, they have plenty of flexibility to add a few game-changers if they so desire.
CF MTL have just one player listed as a DP (Victor Wanyama) and one as a U22 initiative (Sunusi Ibrahim). They theoretically have the space for some combination of four new key players, pending their salary cap situation. In losing center back Luis Binks to sister club Bologna, they could use a few reinforcements.
Wilfried Nancy has been led his side to be one of the pleasant surprises of the early season. He inherited the team from Thierry Henry just days before preseason started, a squad picked by many to finish well below the playoff line, and the club have impressed both by picking up points and in performance. Key offseason addition Djordje Mihailovic has been worth every penny, Mason Toye has found his feet at his new club while the likes of Bjorn Johnsen, Kamal Miller and other winter acquisitions have been promising.
What could this team look like with another DP or two?