Holiday season? Pssh. Happy silly season, that’s the only calendar I subscribe to.
Onto my latest scoops and info around the wide world of Major League Soccer…
Orlando City SC have reached an agreement to sign Argentine winger Martin Ojeda from Primera División side Godoy Cruz. The deal isn’t totally over the line yet but is being finalized. Ojeda would be Orlando’s third Designated Player.
Ojeda, 24, had 13g/14a in 45 appearances for Godoy Cruz in 2022. The winger has 32g/21a in 97 career appearances for the club.
The player is excited about Orlando’s project and wanted to join the club, a sentiment made clear in talks between the parties. Ojeda is a versatile attacker who should play on the left wing, opposite fellow DPs Facundo Torres on the right and Ercan Kara through the center. The fit looks strong between that attacking trio.
Orlando have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in each of the last three seasons under manager Oscar Pareja. The club also opened a DP spot this winter by re-signing playmaker and captain Mauricio Pereyra to a non-DP deal. That flexibility proved key, especially as the defending US Open Cup champions enter the 2023 Concacaf Champions League in March.
It’s been a busy few days amid a busy offseason for Orlando.
They acquired the No. 2 SuperDraft pick from D.C. United in exchange for right back Ruan, then selected Duke standout Shakur Mohammed and added NCAA leading scorer Duncan McGuire with the No. 6 pick as part of the club’s retool for 2023. Mohammed is a Generation adidas signing, meaning he won’t hit the salary cap.
After Ruan’s exit, highly-rated homegrown and US youth international Michael Halliday now has a chance to earn consistent minutes at right back. Halliday, 19, has made 12 MLS appearances over the last two seasons. Orlando are down their starting two fullbacks from 2022, with João Moutinho leaving on a free transfer to sign with Spezia in Italy’s Serie A.
D.C. United are getting closer to a deal to sign Poland international midfielder Mateusz Klich from Leeds United, sources tell MLSsoccer.com.
Verbal agreements have been reached in principle/structure, but nothing is finalized, signed or over the line. D.C. have been close on a deal for Klich for weeks, as initially reported by MLSsoccer.com, and the complicated deal has continued to move forward. Reports in France suggest a move is "95% there."
Leeds manager Jesse Marsch still wants Klich to remain at the Premier League club and said Klich will be available to play in their next EPL match on Wednesday against Manchester City. Starting midfielder and US international captain Tyler Adams is suspended for the clash.
“There has been an inquiry for Mateusz but from all sides, we’re still cautious about thinking that it might be time for him to leave. He’s still been really important here," Marsch said on Thursday, as he hopes to convince Klich to stay. “ … He’s a guy I still very much like and we think he’s still a big part of this team.”
Klich, 32, has 41 caps with Poland and has been at Leeds since 2017, joining when they were in the Championship (England's second division). The hard-working midfielder was an integral part of Leeds' promotion to the Premier League in 2019-20, appearing in 45 of the club's 46 league games as they won the title.
In the Premier League, Klich was a key player in avoiding relegation over the last two seasons, appearing in all but eight of Leeds' 76 matches between 2020-22. With the addition of Adams this summer, Klich hasn't been as involved. He's appeared in 11 league matches, all off the bench. He remains a fan favorite at Elland Road.
D.C. are in the midst of a transformational winter, following a busy summer transfer window after Wayne Rooney took over as head coach in July.
The Houston Dynamo have reached an agreement with Paraguay’s Club Libertad to sign winger Ivan Franco on loan, sources tell MLSsoccer.com.
The deal is not done yet; final details must be sorted. But the once-capped Paraguay international likely wouldn’t be a DP if the deal gets over the line.
Franco, 22, is a talented winger who had a breakout 2019 season with 6g/3a in just over 1,200 minutes as a teenager but hasn’t quite built off that campaign. Still in his early 20s, Franco is primed for a move to Houston.
Dynamo DP forward Sebastian Ferreira is a fellow Paraguay international and former teammate at Libertad. Ferreira and Franco remain close, a boost for Houston’s push to sign the winger. Franco would fill a big need in attacking creativity to supplement Ferreira's skill set.
Entering year two of a rebuild, the Dynamo named Ben Olsen head coach this winter and have continued to turn over their roster. Houston have opened flexibility by moving on from the likes of Tim Parker, Fafa Picault, Darwin Quintero, Zeca, Memo Rodriguez, Darwin Ceren and more.
Houston traded back three times in the first round of Wednesday’s 2023 MLS SuperDraft, picking up $375,000 in General Allocation Money. They then signed Creighton University midfielder Charles Auguste, who cleared the waiver wire earlier this year and was eligible on a first-come, first-served basis.
Liga MX club Mazatlan FC are in advanced talks with Nashville SC to sign forward Ake Loba, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. A deal for Loba would crucially open a DP spot (and an international spot) for Nashville.
Loba, 24, hasn’t consistently cracked the starting XI after arriving at the club in a big move from Liga MX’s CF Monterrey. Loba has 2g/2a in 681 minutes (40 games) over a season and a half at the club. The Ivory Coast native joined in July 2021 for a club-record $6.8 million fee, but MLS veteran C.J. Sapong beat him out for the No. 9 post alongside reigning MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner Hany Mukhtar.
Nashville have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in each of their first three seasons after joining as an expansion club in 2020, just the fourth (of 19) expansion clubs to accomplish that feat.
Their other two DPs are Mukthar, who was identified and acquired ahead of their inaugural season from Brondby, and center back Walker Zimmerman, who twice won MLS Defender of the Year and was named to MLS Best XI in each of his three seasons at the club.
Nashville are set to challenge toward the top of the Eastern Conference after returning from a one-year sojourn in the West. They have already added wingers Jacob Shaffelburg and Fafa Picault this offseason, and may soon be able to add another DP.
Mazatlan finished 14th in Liga MX’s Apertura this fall. Loba found success in the Mexican top-flight league with Queretaro, earning him a reported $9 million transfer to CF Monterrey before joining Nashville.
Rios, 27, had 7g/2a in 1,417 minutes during his lone season with Charlotte, arriving in a trade from Nashville SC last February. As part of that trade, Nashville retained a 10% sell-on fee in Rios as well.
Rios is a former Chivas academy player and Mexican youth international, which aligns with Chivas’ policy to only sign Mexican players. The famed club, managed by former Chicago Fire FC head coach Veljko Paunovic, finished ninth in Liga MX's Apertura this fall.
Charlotte have plenty of options at center forward, a situation that will soon improve. They’re in the final stages of signing Argentine forward Enzo Copetti from Racing Club on a DP deal, sources add. That deal has also been previously reported by MLSsoccer.com.
Beyond the likely addition of Copetti, Brazilian forward Vinicius Mello was signed on a U22 Initiative deal last winter but didn’t debut during their expansion season due to injury. Andre Shinyashiki can play through the middle or wide, while star attacker Karol Swiderski is expected to primarily play more of a second-striker role. If needed, Swiderski can also play as a more traditional center forward.
The New York Red Bulls are in talks with Duke University midfielder Peter Stroud about signing a homegrown deal, sources tell MLSsoccer.com. Nothing is agreed upon or done yet. If Stroud was SuperDraft-eligible, he would have been among the top picks on Wednesday night.
The Red Bulls academy product left the club to spend a few years with West Ham United’s U-18s before heading to Duke. Stroud made 15 appearances in the U-18 Premier League and was a constant with the US U-17 national team.
Stroud has been a standout for a few seasons with Duke, earning back-to-back ACC Midfielder of the Year honors in 2021-22. His oldest brother, Jared, plays for St. Louis CITY SC after being traded to the expansion side from Austin FC this winter.
The Red Bulls also added University of Connecticut left back Jayden Reid via a homegrown deal on Wednesday morning as the club further fills out their roster for 2023.
Ahead of Wednesday’s 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, Charlotte FC had a target in mind. They wanted to trade up as high as possible to ensure they got their guy.
On Wednesday afternoon, they reached a deal with expansion side St. Louis CITY to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for $400k GAM (plus $50k in GAM incentives and the No. 20 pick). They then selected Clemson center back Hamady Diop, a Generation adidas player.
“We knew who we wanted,” sporting director Zoran Krneta told media on Wednesday. “It was important to secure that player. Once we had the chance to get the first pick, it made a lot of sense. We wanted to be in control of the choice and, in addition to that, the first pick sends a message about how ambitious this club is, and we want to try to improve the club.”
Charlotte are excited about Hamady being a left-footed center back, with summer CB signing Adilson Malanda already an instant hit in the league. Both players speak French, as does multilingual head coach Christian Lattanzio. Hamady can also play left back, another boost for the club’s pursuit of the defender.
The 20-year-old Senegal native won the 2021 NCAA Division I title with Clemson, plus earned All-ACC honors each of the past two seasons. He is Charlotte's second straight top-overall pick after taking midfielder Ben Bender (2022).
Diop’s acquisition marked the first time the No. 1 SuperDraft selection had been traded since NYCFC picked up Jack Harrison from Chicago Fire FC in 2016. Daniel Pereira (Austin - 2021), Robbie Robinson (Miami - 2020) and Frankie Amaya (Cincy - 2019) are other recent top picks.
Also, this year’s SuperDraft was nonstop in terms of trades.
Twelve of the top 13 picks were acquired via trades of some kind, and nine of those selections involved revolving assets on draft day. It was a wild day reporting the news, as I’m sure it was for everyone following along.
Special shoutout to Andrew Wiebe, Matt Doyle and Devon Kerr for their expert job hosting the draft show, as well as Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits for real-time interviews. All of the unsung heroes behind the scenes, you’re invaluable.
Happy holidays, everyone, particularly all of you special souls out there who are still here at the bottom of this article reading all these 2,000+ words from me. Cheers.