Happy New Year!
MLS clubs begin preseason in a few days (Jan. 6). Here's the latest on what I'm hearing...
Long is a free agent after his contract with the New York Red Bulls expired. The shortlist includes two MLS teams, a few teams in Europe (including two in England) as well as Liga MX's CF Monterrey and Cruz Azul. Long rejected advances from Saudi Arabia.
Long, 30, was named MLS Defender of the Year in 2018 and won the Supporters' Shield with RBNY that year. He has made 139 regular-season appearances, including 28 starts last year after recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in May 2021.
The defender was named to the USMNT World Cup squad but didn't feature in the Qatar-based tournament. Long has 29 caps with the national team.
Long is among the consensus top three MLS free agents on the market this offseason alongside the NYCFC duo of center back Alex Callens and goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Neither Callens nor Johnson have made decisions on their futures either.
Smith, 28, was with D.C. United last year but suffered a torn ACL in July after logging 14 starts. He originally came to MLS while on loan with the Seattle Sounders, winning MLS Cup 2019. The Australian international has made 79 MLS appearances, chipping in three goals and 12 assists.
Before joining the Sounders, Smith featured for Liverpool and Bournemouth in England. He has 23 caps with the Australian national team.
Smith is another addition for Houston as they overturn their roster for 2023. Ben Olsen arrived as the club's new head coach, while numerous key players (like Darwin Quintero, Tim Parker, Fafa Picault, Zeca and Memo Rodriguez) have departed as the front office creates flexibility for further additions.
Brazilian midfielder Artur was acquired in a trade (from the Columbus Crew), while a deal is being finalized to sign Paraguay international winger Iván Franco from Libertad, as previously reported by MLSsoccer.com.
Cristiano Ronaldo officially signed with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr just before New Year's Eve, but an MLS club was in the running. And it's not one you'd expect.
Sporting Kansas City held weeks of talks and numerous meetings with Ronaldo's representatives, with the Portuguese icon considering the move after his Manchester United contract was terminated by mutual agreement, sources told MLSsoccer.com.
The financial package didn't quite match Ronaldo's reported salary ($75 million on-field, $200 million total) in the Middle East, but it was competitive. It would have included marketing deals and "name and likeness," not just salary. SKC’s owners were involved in the discussions and a selling point to help convince a global star to live in the Midwest included minority owner Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs superstar quarterback.
SKC started planning details for how life would change if the 37-year-old Portuguese superstar were to sign – including security, gameday operations and more. The club also put Ronaldo on their "discovery list" (essentially meaning they wouldn't need to acquire his rights from another MLS club if a deal got done), signifying how serious they believed the talks to be.
In the end, Ronaldo opted for Al-Nassr. The news of SKC's talks was first reported by ESPN's Twellman. The Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell also wrote at length about the pursuit as well.
Charlotte FC have signed English midfielder Ashley Westwood from EFL Championship leaders Burnley, a source tells MLSsoccer.com.
Westwood, 32, has made 286 career English Premier League appearances with Burnley and Aston Villa, including 26 starts during the 2021-22 season before he suffered a fractured ankle in April. He hasn't featured in a competitive game since Burnley got relegated, but has returned to training.
The defensive midfielder will give head coach Christian Lattanzio another option at a light position, alongside Derrick Jones. Jones excelled down the stretch of Charlotte's expansion year when Lattanzio, then in an interim role, inserted him into the starting lineup.
Chicago Fire FC are finalizing the signing of right back Arnaud Soquet from Ligue 1 side Montpellier, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. The agreement is on a contract through 2025.
Soquet, 30, has 148 career appearances in France’s top flight with Montpellier, OGC Nice and LOSC Lille. He’s chipped in five goals and 11 assists across those stops.
Chicago continue to tweak their roster ahead of 2023, which will be head coach Ezra Hendrickson’s second year in charge. Soquet would be their second international signing after they brought in winger Maren Haile-Selassie on loan from Lugano, who are also owned by Joe Mansueto.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC are finalizing a deal to sign Uruguayan center back Mathías Laborda on a free transfer.
Laborda, 23, spent his entire career with Uruguayan powerhouse Nacional, but is out of contract. The Whitecaps reached an agreement with Laborda amid interest from numerous other clubs, including Argentina's San Lorenzo.
The center back won three league titles with Nacional and made more than 100 appearances with the club.
Vancouver have refreshed options in their center-back depth chart for manager Vanni Sartini's back three, with Laborda potentially joining former CF Montréal homegrown Karifa Yao as new signings alongside starters Ranko Veselinovic and Tristan Blackmon.