The European transfer window may have slammed shut – if you’re just diving back into league news following the international break, Tom Bogert has a must-read deadline day primer to catch you up on the comings, goings and players staying put (for now) – but that doesn’t mean business is done for MLS teams looking to fill roster holes.

Let’s take a closer look at the biggest gaps around the league that are yet to be filled…

Need: Left Winger

The new boys haven’t rushed to fill their Designated Player spots. Sporting director Zoran Krneta has been adamant that patience is the name of the game for the expansion side, and Charlotte FC’s gone about their business relatively quietly despite the spotlight that comes with a first-ever roster build.

Striker Vinicius Mello is a U22 Initiative player with big-time upside, and defensive midfielder Jordy Alcivar won’t necessarily be classified as a Young DP like when he was signed. But it took until late January for Charlotte to pull the trigger on a DP: Polish striker Karol Swiderski, who arrived from Greek club PAOK for a reported $5 million.

What do they need? A difference-maker on the wing, specifically the left side of Miguel Angel Ramirez’s 4-3-3 formation.

Rumor mill says…

Smoke seems to be turning to fire when it comes to the prospect of Venezuela and Granada winger Darwin Machis filling Charlotte’s biggest roster hole.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old is primarily a left winger for Granada, and his profile appears to be the perfect complement to Swiderski, Cristian "Titi" Ortiz and Ramirez’s system. He’s a dribbler and a crosser, ranking among the top attacking midfielders and wingers in La Liga in both categories. He’s among the most active La Liga wingers against the ball as well.

If Charlotte can get a deal over the line, they’ll feel comfortable heading into MLS is Back weekend with a roster that, on paper, ought to be able to compete from Day 1.

Need: Center Forward

With Alan Pulido out for the year (knee surgery), the depth chart at No. 9 for Peter Vermes is Khiry Shelton and that’s about it, unless Daniel Salloi gets pulled off the wing. Taking Robert Beric in the Re-Entry Draft was a smart flyer, though negotiations ultimately didn’t work out with the former Chicago Fire FC DP, and Sporting Kansas City are still sniffing around trying to find another starting-caliber forward as opening day approaches.

The complicating factor is that Sporting don’t have a DP spot to work with to replace Pulido. The positive spin is that Kansas City were basically the same team in 2021 with and without the Mexican international in the starting lineup. You can see the split below:

Puldio SKC stats split

That’s mostly just spin, however. It worked out, in less-than-ideal circumstances, to give Vermes’ group the Western Conference's No. 3 seed. This time around, Sporting KC need to fill a full season’s production and minutes, and they know they need to make a move ASAP to reach their goals and compete for (win) trophies.

They even explored landing Jozy Altidore after his anticipated contract buyout from Toronto FC, according to ESPN's Jeff Carlisle.

Rumor mill says…

A few weeks ago, Sporting were reportedly sniffing around the Swiss league. More recently, it seemed Chivas Guadalajara and El Tri striker J.J. Macias could be in play on loan, as his previous loan to La Liga side Getafe was cut short.

Here’s what Sporting KC technical director Brian Bliss told on Jan. 31, Google translated from a Spanish writeup:

“We know the player very well. He did well in Mexico, in Concacaf with the [U-17], with the [U-20] team, the Olympic team. We know that he has a contract with Getafe on loan. I’m not sure about the current situation of the player. We know of his abilities. He is a quality player. He is at a very good age, but that is the only thing I can say about it.”

But it isn’t the only thing Bliss said about Sporting’s hole up top:

“We are only looking for one player: the striker, the scorer. We have an open roster spot, budget space for a No. 9 for the season, to help compensate for the loss of Alan [Pulido]. We hope to close the player and have him arrive before the season. Unfortunately, time has passed. We know that we are going to have all the players in the season, not in preseason, so we are doing well.”

Long story short, again per “We hope in the next three weeks to have a new ‘No. 9’ for the season.”

Will that No. 9 be Macias? Don’t get too excited. Mexican media say it isn’t happening, that he’ll return to Chivas. On to the next one for Sporting or just public negotiations?

Need: No. 10/Winger

Chicago have two open Designated Player spots after moving on from Robert Beric, Alvaro Medran, Luka Stojanovic and Ignacio Aliseda this offseason.

So far sporting director Georg Heitz has yet to add any significant attacking pieces outside striker Kacper Przybylko via a trade with the Philadelphia Union. The clock is ticking. The season is three weeks away.

Rumor mill says…

EDIT: The transfer world moves quickly, as in by Friday afternoon's Tom Bogert reported that Chicago are nearing a deal to sign Switzerland international midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri from Ligue 1's Lyon. Well then.

Other than the tantalizing Xherdan Shaqiri (substantiated above) reports, there has been almost no chatter. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. For Fire fans who’ve seen this before, it probably feels like the latter until proven otherwise.

I had to dig back more than a week for this quote from new manager Ezra Hendrickson:

“We have ongoing conversations with prospective players and their clubs, and these are situations that we hope to get across the line as quickly as possible, as soon as possible.”

As soon as possible, indeed. The pressure is on Heitz and the front office to deliver.

Need: Center Forward

Is center forward really a hole for the Colorado Rapids? Sorta? Not really? Does it depend on who you ask?

Put it this way, it’s an area Colorado are looking to improve – right now, Diego Rubio and Andre Shinyashiki are the top players on the depth chart – and it’s hard not to notice that, while they’ve been busy this offseason, they still have all three DP spots open.

“We continue our quest for the No. 9 position,” general manager Padraig Smith said in late January after Jack Price, Danny Wilson, Keegan Rosenberry and Mark-Anthony Kaye signed extensions, Bryan Acosta signed with the team following selection in the Re-Entry Draft and Cole Bassett was loaned to Feyenoord.

“We want to bring in more competition there. We’ve got the ability to do that and maybe bring in more than one at that position.”

Rumor mill says…

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Rapids supporters ought to trust Smith at this point – the team is good enough to compete as is – but it sure would be nice if that No. 9 quest ended with a striker who could help last year’s West No. 1 seed make noise in Concacaf Champions League and beyond.