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The transfer world never truly stops, does it? Away we go…

Houston finalizing deal for attacking midfielder

Houston Dynamo FC are finalizing the acquisition of attacking midfielder Amine Bassi from French club FC Metz, sources tell MLSsoccer.com.

The deal would be a permanent transfer. Agreements are reached for a two-year contract with an option for 2025; Bassi would hit the cap as a TAM signing.

Bassi, 25, spent last year on loan at English second-division side Barnsley, where he had 2g/5a in 15 league appearances. Before playing for Metz, who got relegated from Ligue 1 to Ligue 2 for the 2022-23 campaign, Bassi was a key player for AS Nancy-Lorraine.

Bassi, a former Moroccan youth international, has 24 goals and 16 assists in 109 career appearances in the French second tier. He’s a creative central midfielder who can also play on the wing, giving head coach Ben Olsen another option to help create chances if the deal formally goes through.

Houston have undergone a transformational offseason, chasing the Western Conference club’s first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs trip since 2017. It’s also their second offseason with general manager Pat Onstad calling the shots.

Olsen took over as head coach in early November, while a dozen first-team players have departed. In their place, the likes of winger Ivan Franco (loan from Paraguay’s Club Libertad), midfielder Artur (trade with Columbus Crew), defender Franco Escobar (MLS free agency) and more have joined this winter.

Arango & Opoku’s LAFC future

After winning the Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double in 2022, LAFC have remained center stage with a busy offseason. As is often the case with title-winning teams in MLS, more change could be coming.

Star forward Chicho Arango is looking for a new contract, and if LAFC were to move on from him, numerous MLS clubs would be interested in a likely-league-record trade, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. The current record is FC Dallas’ acquisition of USMNT winger Paul Arriola from D.C. United for $2 million in General Allocation Money (GAM) + incentives last season.

Nothing has been decided yet; Arango is very happy at the club otherwise. The 27-year-old Colombian has 30g/7a in 3,753 minutes (51 appearances) over a season and a half with the club. He’s been an integral part of the Black & Gold since arriving from Millionarios FC for around $2.5 million in August 2021.

Additionally, LAFC have received trade offers from around MLS for versatile forward Kwadwo Opoku. Like with Arango, nothing has been determined yet around the Ghana native.

It’s common for title-winning teams to receive offers for players, particularly at this time of the offseason. It doesn’t necessarily mean the player will leave or that the club is looking for the player to leave – though LAFC have maintained they consider every approach for their players on a case-by-case basis and have made aggressive moves, both incoming and outgoing, over the last few years.

Opoku, 21, had 7g/3a during the 2022 season, appearing in all 34 games (20 starts; 1,770 minutes). He placed ninth on last year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list.

This offseason, LAFC have already signed USMNT center back and former MLS Defender of the Year and New York Red Bulls captain Aaron Long. They’ve also acquired rising Croatian youth international forward Stipe Biuk, Honduran international center back Denil Maldonado and veteran goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic.

LAFC have also seen the likes of superstar forward Gareth Bale (retirement), midfielder Latif Blessing (trade to New England Revolution), defenders Sebastien Ibeagha (free agency to FC Dallas) and Franco Escobar (free agency to Houston Dynamo FC), and more depart. They’re keeping busy.

Orlando closing in on U22 deal

Orlando City SC are finalizing the acquisition of attacker Ramiro Enrique from Argentine Primera División side Banfield for around $2 million plus add-ons, sources tell MLSsoccer.com.

Enrique would be a U22 Initiative signing. CL Merlo first reported talks.

The 21-year-old can play center forward or as a right winger. He has 12g/3a in ~4,000 first-team minutes with Banfield, a club renowned for youth development.

Breakout Uruguayan youth international defensive midfielder Cesar Araujo and Argentine winger Gaston Gonzalez fill Orlando’s other two U22 Initiative slots. Since Facundo Torres is a Young DP, the Lions can use all three U22 Initiative slots.

Enrique is the latest key move in a huge offseason for Orlando. The club added DP winger Martin Ojeda from Argentina's Godoy Cruz, another attacking star alongside fellow DPs Torres and Ercan Kara. Ojeda’s addition was made possible by Orlando re-signing captain Mauricio Pereyra on a non-DP deal. Orlando also re-signed star goalkeeper Pedro Gallese after the Peruvian international's previous contract expired this winter.

Elsewhere, Orlando have also acquired left backs Rafael Santos and Luca Petrasso, veteran midfielder Felipe, and several top SuperDraft picks: No. 2 overall selection Shakur Mohammed (signed because of Generation adidas status) and No. 6 pick Duncan McGuire (not yet officially signed). Mohammad is regarded by many as the player with the highest upside in the SuperDraft, while McGuire just won the MAC Hermann Trophy for college soccer’s best player.

Sean Johnson latest

Free agent and USMNT goalkeeper Sean Johnson will soon decide on his new club. NYCFC and Toronto FC are the frontrunners, but nothing is decided or agreed upon yet. There's interest from Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht as well.

Johnson, 33, visited Toronto last week to see the facilities and hold further talks. He remains in discussions with NYCFC, a club he’s captained and where he’s the all-time leader in appearances. Johnson has played over 200 games across all competitions for the Cityzens and was named MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi in 2021, when NYCFC lifted the trophy after penalties.

Toronto are still searching for a starting-level goalkeeper, while NYCFC have Luis Barraza and Cody Mizell if Johnson indeed departs.

​​Columbus lead chase to sign Christian Ramirez

The Columbus Crew are leading the chase to sign American forward Christian Ramirez from Aberdeen, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. Other MLS clubs remain interested, but Columbus are the current favorites.

Kristian Dyer first reported the Crew’s interest in Ramirez.

The 31-year-old left MLS in 2021 to join Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen FC. He started hot at the Scottish club, tallying 10g/3a in 33 games during his first season while working under former Atlanta United interim manager Stephen Glass. But Ramirez has started just one game this year.

The forward, who has two USMNT caps, has 35g/10a in 105 career MLS appearances. He was a star for Minnesota United FC, first in the NASL before they joined MLS, and featured for both LAFC and the Houston Dynamo.

Philadelphia in talks with Montréal for Torres trade

The Philadelphia Union and CF Montréal are engaged in talks for a potential trade of attacker Joaquín Torres, sources tell MLSsoccer.com.

No agreement is close since the clubs have differing valuations. CL Merlo first reported the talks.

Torres, who turns 26 this month, has 7g/12a in 55 appearances (37 starts; 3,201 minutes) for Montréal. The Argentine attacking midfielder, who can play as a second striker, has competed for time with former Montréal star Djordje Mihailovic and Honduras international Romell Quioto.

Philadelphia used the trade market for their only key addition this offseason (so far), acquiring midfielder Andrés Perea from Orlando City SC for up to $850k in GAM. Last year, Philly also acquired forward Julian Carranza from Inter Miami CF for $500k in GAM.

Torres could help fill a void left by US youth international standout Paxten Aaronson’s transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt. The Union want to add another attacker as they prepare to play upwards of 55 games across all competitions in 2023.

Montréal are amid a hugely busy offseason. Head coach Wilfried Nancy (to Columbus), Mihailovic (to AZ Alkmaar), Alistair Johnston (to Celtic FC), Ismaël Koné (to Watford FC) and others have left, with Torres potentially another.

Defenders Aaron Herrera (trade from Real Salt Lake) and George Campbell (trade from Atlanta United) are key additions so far, as is head coach Hernan Losada. They also retained midfielder Victor Wanyama as a DP.

Vancouver working on deal for Israeli forward; Bundesliga CB joins training

Vancouver Whitecaps FC are working on a deal to sign Israeli international center forward Tai Baribo from Austrian Bundesliga club Wolfsberger AC, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. Nothing is agreed upon yet, but Vancouver are pushing.

Transfermarkt’s Manuel Veth first reported talks.

Baribo, who turns 25 this week, has 7g/2a across 16 appearances (1,163 minutes) in the Austrian top flight this season. He has three goals in seven caps for Israel, plus 26g/6a with Wolfsberger in 55 total appearances.

This offseason, Vancouver moved on from DP and Canadian international Lucas Cavallini. Brian White is their starter at center forward, with the likes of Ryan Gauld, Pedro Vite, Deiber Caicedo and more offering options in attack.

The Whitecaps also have Bundesliga veteran center back Salif Sane joining them for preseason training camp in Spain. Sane previously played for Schalke, overlapping with Whitecaps CEO and sporting director Axel Schuster at the German club.

Sane, 32, has been without a club since leaving Schalke in the summer. He’s made 159 career Bundesliga appearances with Schalke and Hanover, plus 70 top-flight matches in France with AS Nancy-Lorraine. He’s played 38 times for the Senegalese national team.

Red Bulls finalizing deal for Duncan’s return

The New York Red Bulls are finalizing the return of right back Kyle Duncan on loan from Belgian top-flight side Oostende, with a purchase option, sources tell MLSsoccer.com

Duncan, 25, signed with Oostende for free last winter after spending 2018-21 with New York. The defender then returned on loan last summer, helping them earn a 13th straight Audi MLS Cup Playoffs trip.

Duncan made 81 career appearances with RBNY, supplying 5g/11a as well. A few other MLS teams tried to acquire him, but the Red Bulls got a deal done.

MLSsoccer.com previously reported the Red Bulls are finalizing a homegrown deal for Duke University standout Peter Stroud, a US youth international and back-to-back ACC Midfielder of the Year. He would have been a top talent in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas if the homegrown path wasn’t viable.

New York remain in talks with Belgian club Union SG about a potential transfer for forward Dante Vanzeir as well.