MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

Insider notebook: Toronto reinforce defense, Orlando & Portland look for strikers


The offseason springs eternal. Here’s the latest of what I’m hearing in the world of MLS…

Toronto FC reach agreement with Matt Hedges

Toronto FC have reached an agreement to sign free-agent center back Matt Hedges, sources tell

Hedges, 32, was among the top free agents on the market. He had interest and talks with FC Cincinnati, San Jose Earthquakes and others. Hedges is the all-time leader in appearances for FC Dallas, who declined his 2023 contract option and couldn’t reach an agreement on a new deal.

The center back will be a significant addition as part of Toronto’s defensive makeover. The Reds are seeking new starters in at least three spots in defense (goalkeeper, left back and at least one center back).

Earlier this week, Toronto re-signed their own all-time leader in appearances when homegrown midfielder Jonathan Osorio inked a new deal to remain in Toronto rather than depart in free agency. The club will remain active as they enter year two under head coach/sporting director Bob Bradley.

Hedges won the Supporters' Shield and US Open Cup double with Dallas in 2016. Hedges was named MLS Defender of the Year that season as well as to Best XI, one of two career Best XI selections. He's a three-time MLS All-Star. The defender made five appearances with the USMNT and was part of the 2017 Gold Cup-winning squad.

Toronto are reportedly still in talks with center back Chris Mavinga about a potential return. Mavinga is out of contract. Starting left back Domenico Criscito announced his retirement earlier this offseason, while the club moved on from goalkeepers Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg.

Portland Timbers look to add forward

The Portland Timbers are in the market for a meaningful addition at center forward and one option has become public: Danish No. 9 Kasper Junker.

Sources confirm Portland are interested in a potential loan deal to acquire Junker from J-League club Urawa Reds. Junker is not the Timbers’ only option for the position, but is one of a few they're considering. They could still potentially pursue a Young DP or other targets instead. Junker would likely be a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM)-level signing if a deal gets done.

Reports from Japan highlight that Junker is expected to leave Urawa after a coaching change, while the J-League club will sign another forward.

Junker, 28, has 27 goals and three assists in 62 appearances in Japan across two seasons. He had a career year in 2020, tallying 27 goals and 11 assists in 25 appearances (goal contribution every 52.7 minutes) with Bodø/Glimt in the Norwegian top flight. Before that, he hadn’t scored more than six goals in a single league campaign.

Portland still have Felipe Mora and Jaroslaw Niezgoda as options up top. Earlier this month, they set a new club-record transfer when acquiring Brazilian midfielder Evander from Danish Superliga side FC Midtjylland.

Chivas "very close" to signing Charlotte's Rios

Chivas are in advanced talks to sign Charlotte FC forward Daniel Rios, sources confirm to Sources say a deal is very close to being finalized.

TUDN’s Erik Lopez first reported the Liga MX club’s interest. Rios is a former Chivas academy player and Mexican youth international. revealed this week that Chivas had a $7 million bid for forward Brandon Vazquez rejected by FC Cincinnati. Chivas moved on to other targets and have identified Rios.

Charlotte are finalizing a deal to sign Racing Club (Argentina) forward Enzo Copetti to a DP deal, giving the club plenty of options up top for 2023.

Rios, 27, had 7g/2a in 27 expansion-season appearances (1,417 minutes) after arriving in a midseason trade from Nashville SC. The center forward has 12g/3a in 2,483 career MLS regular-season minutes.

Elsewhere, Charlotte have agreed on a deal to sign Polish-American midfielder David Poreba from Stal Mielec, sources confirm to and initially reported by Przeglad Sportowy. A source adds the deal would be for Charlotte's MLS NEXT Pro team rather than the first team.

Poreba, 20, was born in Chicago. The central midfielder has made four appearances with Stal Mielec, who sit seventh in the Polish top flight (Ekstraklasa).

AEK Athens bid again for San Jose's Kikanovic

The San Jose Earthquakes have received another bid from Greece's AEK Athens for forward Benji Kikanovic, sources tell

Sources describe the bid as north of Athens' rejected $1 million offer from last summer. San Jose are in no rush to make a move, with new head coach Luchi Gonzalez taking over this winter and wanting to get a chance to assess the squad during preseason camp. The Greek transfer window is open from January 1 through January 31.

AEK Athens are managed by former Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda, who left San Jose in April after a turbulent few seasons in MLS. Athens currently sit second in the Greek Super League table.

Kikanovic, who turns 23 in January, was given his MLS debut under Almeyda in 2021 and continued to earn playing time even after Almeyda was dismissed, winning a starting spot for much of the 2022 season under interim head coach Alex Covelo. He had 6g/3a in 1,370 minutes last season, split across 30 matches (16 starts).

The forward is a local product, one who played college soccer at Sacramento State for two seasons, and joined the Quakes in 2021 after a season with Reno 1868 (USL Championship).

Kikanovic is also eligible to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina in international soccer.

Orlando bid rejected for rising Uruguayan talent

Orlando City SC have had a bid rejected by Nacional for Uruguayan forward Franco Fagúndez, a source told 

Fagúndez, 22, had 11 goals and five assists this year, helping Nacional win a league title. Uruguay legend Luis Suarez re-joined the club in the summer on a short-term deal.

Nacional president Jose Fuentes has publicly said it would take $8 million for the club to sanction a deal for Fagundez.

Orlando City have been busy this offseason and have an open Designated Player spot to use. They have successfully gone to the Uruguayan market in recent years, including club-record signing Facundo Torres from Penarol and U22 Initiative midfielder César Araújo from Montevideo Wanderers. They both signed last winter.

NYCFC reshuffle?

New York City FC are in a continued evolution following their MLS Cup 2021 win. Last summer, head coach Ronny Deila and star forward Taty Castellanos both departed the club.

This winter, right back Anton Tinnerholm left. And he doesn’t appear to be the last.

Reputable Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo reported this week that Racing Club are close to a deal for NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez. He also reported that Bahia are close to a deal for NYCFC midfielder Nicolás Acevedo.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson and center back Alex Callens are both out of contract, standing as two of the three most coveted MLS free agents. Santi Rodríguez, whose loan from Montevideo City Torque expires this winter, is linked with a move to Bahia as well.

From the MLS Cup-winning team: At least two integral players and a head coach have officially left; two more team leaders/defensive anchors are out of contract; three players – ranging from a club legend to a rising talent and a key squad player – are reported to be on the way out. That’s a lot.

The Moralez report was particularly surprising, as the club legend signed a new contract last winter with a club option for 2023. NYCFC have picked up that option and Moralez was among the best players in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs as the Cityzens made the Eastern Conference Final.

There’s no definitive news here just yet, but it’s certainly an area to watch.

Sell-on percentages in trades

As it’s become increasingly en-vogue for MLS trades to include sell-on clauses, those clauses are starting to pay dividends.

In particular, this offseason, a pair of CF Montréal transfers have kickbacks to other MLS clubs. Djordje Mihailovic was transferred to AZ Alkmaar in Holland… 10% of which will go to the Chicago Fire. Alistair Johnston was transferred to Celtic in Scotland… 10% of which (above $1 million) will go to Nashville SC.

A deep-in-the-weeds clarification: Sources say transfer fees received as part of sell-on clauses can be converted to General Allocation Money (GAM).

RBNY to keep Manoel

The New York Red Bulls have reached an agreement with Brazilian side Grêmio to sign forward Elias Manoel on a permanent deal, sources tell The deal is around $1 million.

Manoel, 21, impressed on loan at RBNY at the end of last season, posting 2g/1a in 364 minutes. The Red Bulls didn’t pick up his purchase option from Grêmio and had been in discussions for a while to find an agreement.

The forward scored nine goals across 1,783 minutes in 40 appearances for Grêmio before joining RBNY on loan. He was Grêmio’s leading scorer during the 2022 Campeonato Gaucho, scoring four goals in seven matches to help earn the 2022 Campeonato Gaucho title.

Before sorting a permanent deal for Manoel, the Red Bulls signed free-agent forward Cory Burke (last with Philadelphia). These moves put in question the future of DP Patryk Klimala, who fell out of favor last season. There have been talks around the league about the Polish forward’s departure.

Houston to sign Brazilian center back

The Houston Dynamo have picked up the $500,000 purchase option for center back Micael from Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro, sources confirm to

Micael, 22, was on loan with the Dynamo’s second team in 2022, making 17 MLS NEXT Pro appearances. He made one appearance with the first team.

The center back only made two first-team appearances with Mineiro before heading to Houston on loan.

Houston are amid a reshuffle in defense, after trading Tim Parker to expansion side St. Louis CITY SC earlier this offseason.

FCD in advanced talks to sign Brazilian right back

FC Dallas are in advanced talks with Brazilian side Cruzeiro to sign right back Geovane Jesus, sources tell

Jesus, 21, helped Cruzeiro win Serie B this year. He has made 43 first-team appearances. Dallas declined the purchase option for last year’s right-back addition, Nanu, who was on loan from Porto.

Dallas transferred out homegrown right backs Reggie Cannon (Boavista) and Bryan Reynolds (AS Roma) in recent years.

Revs homegrown training with AZ Alkmaar

New England Revolution homegrown and US youth international winger/midfielder Esmir Bajraktarevic is training with Eredivisie club AZ Alkmaar.

The 17-year-old is the latest MLS youngster to be confirmed on a training stint at a club abroad. AZ Alkmaar recently acquired American attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic from CF Montréal as well.

Bajraktarevic made his MLS debut last season, earning three appearances with the first team. He made 17 appearances in MLS NEXT Pro with the second team.

Fellow US youth international and Revs homegrown midfielder Noel Buck had some interest and talks with EPL side Tottenham to join for a training stint, but nothing materialized.