Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Where MLS Eastern Conference depth charts & rosters stand for 2022

The offseason is in full swing. Lots of rosters have been torn down, and a few have been steadily built up.

With that in mind, here’s the updated Eastern Conference installment of our annual Offseason Roster Build compendium. The Western Conference updates will come out tomorrow.

In we go:

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Their depth, especially in the back, took a big hit as Franco Escobar was traded, Anton Walkes was lost via the Expansion Draft, Ronald Hernandez’s loan option was declined and Josh Bauer's option was declined.

The Five Stripes are still four-deep at CB, though, thanks to the development of Homegrown George Campbell – good in limited minutes in 2021 – and the potential of 17-year-old Homegrown Efrain Morales, who in truth is probably two years away from real minutes. Add in Andrew Gutman, who’s now in Atlanta after a successful year-long loan to RBNY, and Gonzalo Pineda has the numbers and flexibility to toggle between the back five he mostly played in 2021, and the back four that I think he’d like to play in 2022 and beyond.

They also lost all their goalkeeper depth, including local kid Alec Kann, who’s finally going to get starter’s minutes after signing with FC Cincinnati as a free agent, and CCL hero Rocco Rios Novo, who has at least temporarily returned to Lanus after tearing it up in the USL with Atlanta’s reserves. Dylan Castanheira was signed and is nominally the No. 2, but he’s basically been a replacement-level USL ‘keeper the past few years, so this is an area of need.

I have buried the lede, though: Atlanta did a very smart thing and signed Ozzie Alonso as a free agent just before Christmas. Ozzie’s on his last legs and probably shouldn’t be asked to play more than 1500 minutes, but when he was rested and fresh down the stretch last year, he still looked like the old, fearsome Ozzie who dominated the middle of the pitch for more than a decade.

I don’t think he’ll play every game. But I bet he starts damn near all the big ones.

What's next

Time to sell! While Gutman exists on the center back depth chart, I don’t think he’s here for that reason – he’s here to succeed George Bello as the starting left back/wingback. There is significant overseas interest in Bello (Watford’s the latest name to be linked) and Atlanta have always been happy to sell when the price is right. I wouldn’t bet my life on the kid being gone this window, but I’d be 0% surprised if he was.

The bigger story, though, is the lack of any story regarding Ezequiel Barco. We’ve been promised for months Thiago Almada was on his way, which even led to a bizarre back-and-forth on Twitter between the official team handles for Atlanta and Velez Sarsfield.

That’s great and fun, but there is literally no room for Almada either on the roster or in the XI if Barco’s still around. Atlanta have to open a Designated Player slot in order to get him into the team, so Zeke’s got to go. That’s the long and the short of it.

A month ago Carlos Bocanegra spent some time touting “quite a bit” of overseas interest, but it’s been crickets since then. Bet that changes soon.

For what it’s worth: I do not think they will sell Miles Robinson this winter, but you never know. If that move happens, a lot of priorities need to get rearranged real quick.

Feb. 7 update

One by one Bocanegra has checked off most of the above over the past month, including signing a veteran backup goalkeeper (Bobby Shuttleworth), adding some depth at both fullback slots (Caleb Wiley as a Homegrown and a permanent transfer for Ronald Hernandez from Aberdeen), as well as finally pushing a Bello sale (to Arminia Bielefeld of the Bundesliga) and a Barco loan-that-will-become-a-sale (to River Plate) across the line.

The one thing that has not been completed: Almada is not yet officially a member of the Five Stripes. It still seems like he’s going to be, but it’s not clear why it’s taking this long to get him into camp.

Even when that’s done Bocanegra still has some pieces to clear, as it’s been made pretty plain that neither Erik Lopez nor Jurgen Damm will have any sort of role with Atlanta in 2022. Whether that means buyouts, sales, loans, trades, or any combination of the above remains to be seen.

Feb. 22 update

Literally the day after the previous update went live, the Almada deal was officially completed. He's still working on his visa, though, so don’t expect him to be in the XI on opening day.

Also, Dom Dwyer (!!!) is now in line to become Josef’s back-up. It’s a two-year deal for the veteran in free agency after he was in preseason camp.

I’m a little bit more skeptical about reporting out of Argentina that Luca Martinez Dupuy is on the way, but given the source, it at least bears watching.

ATL preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: The opening-day XI is going to look different, as a couple of starters above are hurt and a few others are awaiting paperwork to be completed.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

The defining aspect of Charlotte’s roster build right now is how willing they are to toss allocation money around in pursuit of international roster slots. At last count they’d acquired three at $250k a pop, which is… I mean, that’s a lot for what are essentially one-year rentals. But the bet, I’m guessing, is they’ll be able to get green cards for most of the guys using those slots, and thus won’t have to go back to the well in 2023.

In the midst of all that they’ve been methodically building out the defense, which probably has at least three of the four starters in place, as well as goalkeeper and midfield. They have spent most of that time shopping in Spain and South America, which is not surprising given the success their Spanish manager, Miguel Angel Ramirez, had while coaching in South America. And given the scouting department sporting director Zoran Krneta (from Serbia) has amassed. I am not a genius for connecting those dots.

Anyway, it’s all very clearly pointed toward a 4-3-3. I’m looking forward to seeing how this one functions.

What's next

They currently have zero DPs, just one U22 Initiative signing (forward Vinicius Mello) and zero starting-caliber attackers.

I could see them adding another center back at some point – in fact, I think they should take Kipp Keller with the first pick of the upcoming SuperDraft – and a little bit more defensive midfield depth, but the primary focus of the next six weeks will be burning up those international roster slots by filling out the attack.

Big money. Big signings. Big, happy fanbase.

Feb. 7 update

It’s been a busy month for Charlotte. As of now they are up to two DPs, one of whom was already on the roster during the first installment. That’d be Ecuadorian international d-mid Jordy Alcivar, who will occupy a Young DP slot (at least for the time being; he can be bought down if necessary).

They also then went out and got a full DP center forward in Karol Swiderski who, for the moment, is the largest outlay Charlotte have put forth on any of their signings. Swiderski is not exactly a household name, but he’s a full Polish international with more caps and goals than Adam Buksa. If he’s as good in MLS as Buksa has been, then Charlotte have done well here.

A primary playmaker arrived last month as well, as they brought aboard Argentinian winger Cristian Ortiz on loan from Club Tijuana. He has the resume of a journeyman rather than a foundational piece, but he and Ramirez go back a bit – their paths crossed at Independiente del Valle a couple years ago. Ramirez keeps referring to Ortiz as his No. 10, so you can do the math there.

The other super significant moves of the past month were taking midfielder Ben Bender No. 1 overall in the SuperDraft (he’s Cole Bassett-ish), and the sale of Aussie central midfielder Riley McGree to Middlesbrough of the English Championship before he’d ever played a single game for Charlotte. That gave a team already swimming in allocation cash a little bit more to play with.

They are not done yet, however, and are strongly linked to Venezuelan and Granada (La Liga) attacker Darwin Machis for that final open DP slot. Machis is a 29-year-old goalscoring winger who has the profile of a guy who should be very, very good in MLS. That will likely be the last of Charlotte’s big moves this window when it’s finalized.

There’s been an understated assuredness to this roster build that really makes me think they know what they’re doing in the big picture even if it’s fair to quibble with individual moves. Some additional depth is probably called for – another center back; another central midfielder; another winger – but even if they take their time with that, it’s tough to spot any glaring weaknesses with this roster.

That’s assuming, of course, that the guys they brought in are as good on grass as they are on paper. As with all expansion teams, you never know until you see it unfold once the ball is kicked.

Feb. 22 update

Ok, so maybe I was too sanguine about their roster build? Ramirez disabused me of my optimism on Feb. 10 as, when asked about the roster, he answered (more or less) “We are screwed.”

That was right after the Machis move fell through. Swiderski, meanwhile, has arrived, but hasn’t made much of a dent and didn’t start Charlotte’s final preseason game, a 2-1 loss to Inter Miami, for reasons I have not been able to divine. I will also say the backline showed a very, VERY troubling lack of pace in that game.

There are tons of FC Cincy-style red flags here.

Charlotte depth chart preseason 2022

Worth noting: While I think Ramirez would prefer to trot his guys out in a 4-3-3, he’s actually had them playing out of a 5-4-1 the past two weeks and said he intends to adjust his lineup to neutralize opponents’ specific strengths and styles of play.

In other words, expect some very low-block, reactive soccer. At least at the start.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Obviously the biggest move of the offseason was naming Ezra Hendrickson the new head coach. He’s been paying his dues basically everywhere for the past decade and I’m glad he’s finally getting a shot at the big chair.

As for the roster itself it’s not quite a complete bloodletting, but damn near it as seven* starters were shown the door since season’s end, including a pair of DPs. I’m genuinely surprised it wasn’t eight starters and all three DPs, but they brought back central midfielder Gaston Gimenez and renewed his DP status.

*Depending upon your point of view, anyway. Certainly most of those seven weren’t starting by the end of the year, I will grant.

The teardown has not come hand-in-hand with an immediate rebuild, though. Obviously Chicago will add pieces over the next six weeks (two DPs at the very least), but clearly they are going to be counting on their raft of Homegrowns to provide real depth. Chicago’s got 11 on the roster right now, two of whom are starters and many of whom will have to play real minutes. It is a new era for a club that once struggled to keep the fruits of their academy investment.

Broadening the scope a bit, there are two new, significant additions: 18-year-old Colombian center forward Jhon Duran, a manchild the Fire actually signed last year, but couldn’t bring to the US because of FIFA prohibitions against transferring players age 17 or younger; and veteran center back Rafael Czichos, a 31-year-old Bundesliga veteran who should fit snugly at left center back.

I actually like this offseason quite a bit so far, though Hendrickson’s willingness to use and ability to develop the Homegrown kids will go very far in determining whether or not it’s been a successful one.

What's next

If they use those two open DP slots to sign a Best XI-caliber No. 10 and a Best XI-caliber winger, then it’ll probably go down as a successful offseason no matter what Hendrickson does with the kids.

Everything I’ve seen and heard suggests Fire owner Joe Mansueto wants to go big. So now it’s up to sporting director Georg Heitz – he’s got to get these two right or it’ll be more pain and suffering for a fanbase that’s been pummeled into submission over the past dozen years.

Feb. 7 update

Xherdan Shaqiri! The Swiss international is one hell of a splash from the Fire (it’s not official yet, but by all accounts it will be soon) and could fit either as that very necessary Best XI-caliber winger, or potentially as a Best XI-caliber No. 10. I think I like the idea of him inside as the 10 a little bit more, because that’d give Heitz a chance to get a stretch-the-field winger this club badly needs

Shaqiri is one of two new goalscorers in town, with the other being Philly’s veteran No. 9 Kacper Przybylko. Przybylko’s been consistently pretty good over the past few years, though only rarely better than that and never when it’s mattered most. He can, at the very least, provide reliable target-man play while Duran gets his feet under him in a new country and a new league.

Chicago’s depth chart looks a lot better than it did last year, though bear in mind a lot of that depth includes unproven kids, foreign and domestic alike. And they are still in need of at least one more significant attacking addition, so Heitz’s work isn’t done yet.

Feb. 22 update

They got that “one more significant attacking addition” on the 19th, when they added 21-year-old Mexican international winger Jairo Torres on a transfer from Atlas. They’ll have to wait a bit, though – as part of the deal he won’t be arriving until May 1, which would give him enough time to help Atlas get back into the liguilla.

Torres will arrive as a Young DP, which appears to be a good bit of roster management. The Fire now almost certainly have the ability to buy down Gimenez off his DP slot this summer and add another full DP, but still keep all three U22 Initiative slots. If you’re confused, I highly recommend a dive into the roster regs.

Anyway, the Fire had themselves a really good window.

Chicago preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: Ezra seems really locked in on that 4-2-3-1 with Shaqiri as the No. 10, which I think is a good idea.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Nine options declined and three others allowed to expire. New sporting director Chris Albright is not wasting any time, as is appropriate when taking over a club that’s won three Wooden Spoons on the trot.

Albright has been joined by former Philly Union comrade Pat Noonan, who moves up from assistant to head coach. We can expect Cincy, then, to mirror a lot of the things that we’ve seen from the Union both in terms of how they play (expect them to be a very vertical team) and who they put on the field in the first place (expect them to be mostly young).

It is going to be a long road to get to the Union’s neighborhood. But Albright & Noonan took a big first step by addressing perhaps the biggest need in the entire league:

Alec Kann might not be quite as good as the advanced numbers indicate (he does not do any sweeper-keeper stuff and he’s not great claiming crosses), but even if he’s just above average that is a MASSIVE improvement over what Cincy’s had in net for three years – three years of, I think, the consistently worst goalkeeping I’ve ever seen a team trot out in MLS history. In fact, I’m not even sure anyone else comes close.

So just in terms of year-over-year improvement at one particular position, Kann is likely to represent the single most significant signing anyone makes all winter, unless he loses an arm or something.

Cincy will be a much better team next year just based on that. It’s a very good, low-risk first step from the new brain trust.

What's next

One of the reasons we haven’t seen much movement from Cincy is that they just don’t have much flexibility, given they’ve filled all three of their DP slots and two of the U22 Initiative slots. Let’s cut-and-paste from the roster regs (though bear in mind the max TAM salary listed there is the 2021 version, not 2022):

Each MLS team will have up to three U22 Initiative Slots that will each occupy one of the 20 existing Senior Roster Slots. The number of U22 Initiative Slots available to each team will be based on that team’s use of its third Designated Player slot.

If a Club has a vacant third Designated Player slot, the Club will have available three U22 Initiative Slots.

If a Club elects to sign a third Designated Player, the number of U22 Initiative Slots would be impacted in the following way:

  • If the third Designated Player is a Young Designated Player, the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots
  • If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older, yet is at, or below, Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have all three U22 Initiative Slots.
  • If the third Designated Player is age 24 or older and is above Maximum Targeted Allocation Money Amount ($1,612,500), the club will have one U22 Initiative Slot.

Cincy need a No. 6 in the worst possible way – almost as badly as they needed a goalkeeper. Can they once again buy Yuya Kubo and Allan Cruz down off their DP slots with xAM and thus open the chance to sign a DP d-mid? Can they trade or sell either of those guys? Are they willing to put their chips in on a U22 Initiative d-mid? Are they committed, at all, to the U22 wingers, or are those guys being shopped? Can Albright take a page from Ernst Tanner’s book and find the Cincy version of Jose Martinez?

There are other issues for this team to address (left back depth in particular), but now that they have an actual goalkeeper on the roster, the primary goal has to get a real No. 6 in there as well. It could end up being a simple, straightforward decision about signing one particular player, or it could end up being one in a series of moves that reshapes damn near the whole roster by first kick.

Feb. 7 update

It has been a weirdly understated past month from Albright. He chose to retain veteran CB Nick Hagglund and super-duper veteran d-mid Haris Medunjanin in free agency, and also added veteran center forward Dom Badji via that same acquisition device. He talked Ray Gaddis out of retirement. Then he tossed a curveball at the SuperDraft, passing on center back Kipp Keller at the No. 2 spot (it is almost always the correct decision to take the best domestic center back available if that’s an option) in favor of goalkeeper Roman Celentano.

Celentano is just the third goalkeeper ever to go in the top two of an MLS draft, with Andre Blake (No. 1, 2014) and Brad Guzan (No. 2, 2004) being the other two. By all accounts Celentano is a good prospect, but I haven’t ever heard anyone suggest he’s a Blake/Guzan-level prospect. I remain pretty surprised by that selection.

Cincy remain 3/3 on both DPs and U22 Initiative signings, and I’m going to assume they’re capped out or something close to it. This definitely feels like the start of a multi-year teardown and rebuild.

They still need that new No. 6 in the worst possible way, for what it’s worth. And even after that acquisition – assuming that acquisition gets made – the midfield remains thin. Both Kyle Scott (mutual contract termination) and Kamohelo Mokotjo (offseason buyout) are gone.

Feb. 22 update

I’m pretty shocked to say there have been no moves since the last update. About the only personnel stuff that’s on the radar is what seems to be the imminent signing of second-round SuperDraft pick Nick Markanich, who started and got himself a Kobe Assist in Cincy’s final preseason game.

Cincinnati depth chart preseason 2022

Worth noting: I expected a lot more roster turnover.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Ten players gone, with the most notable being right back Harrison Afful. The veteran really did hit the wall last year and finally showed his age, though Frenchman Steven Moreira, acquired last summer, did a nice job of softening that particular blow.

As it stands, Moreira is the only right back on the roster and there are no true left backs on the roster (though they’re still in negotiations to bring Milton Valenzuela back). There are just three center backs, and the oft-injured Eloy Room has no back-up in net.

The midfield depth chart is robust barring a repeat of last year’s cascade of injuries, as is the striker depth chart even with Bradley Wright-Phillips’ departure. The winger depth chart looks good on paper, and the entirety of last year’s group is back. But none of them were particularly good or productive in 2021.

What's next

I assume resolving the Valenzuela situation is the No. 1 priority at this time, and that adding depth along the backline and in goal will be a slow build over the course of preseason.

The thing I’m curious about is whether Columbus will buy down Gyasi Zardes’s DP slot to open up a chance to add a DP winger. They need more from those spots than they got last year – much, much, much more – and it’s hard to see that happening with this group.

Feb. 7 update

I didn’t have to spend long being curious as to whether they’d add a winger, as they went out and got Ghanaian international Yaw Yeboah two days after the first installment of this column went live. Yeboah’s not a DP and doesn’t have the profile of a star, but you don’t need to be a star to outperform what Columbus’ wingers managed last year.

There are two other potential starters who also just arrived: big center back Milos Degenek, last with Serbian side Red Star Belgrade, and Nigerian central midfielder James Igbekeme on loan. Degenek is almost certainly strolling into the XI immediately, while Igbekeme seems like a guy they took a flier on just in case neither Artur nor Aidan Morris can truly return.

They’ve made a bunch of other acquisitions over the past month, some being veteran depth (goalkeeper Evan Bush and center back Jalil Anibaba), though most are youngsters with potential. The most interesting of those is Will Sands, twin brother of James, who played as an attacking left back for Georgetown and projects well at that spot in MLS.

I’ve heard from a few folks that they’re very high on him, and I wonder if his presence explains the fact that Milton Valenzuela is officially gone after signing for Swiss side Lugano. Caleb Porter has basically never made time for rookies during his tenure as an MLS head coach, but there’s a first time for everything.

Two departures worth noting during the past month: Homegrown center back Aboubacar Keita was traded to Colorado for a bunch of GAM and Homegrown d-mid Seb Berhalter was shipped to Vancouver for just $50k GAM (guaranteed).

There are no real holes on this Crew roster right now. It’s just a question of whether they can stay healthier than last year, and whether their best players will play better.

Feb. 22 update

Nothing new since the Berhalter trade. It looks like the Crew are pretty set with this group.

Columbus depth chart preseason 2022

Worth noting: While Sands is likely going to get minutes, it’s actually Pedro Santos who’s going to be the starter – at least at the beginning of the season – at left back for Columbus. He played there a bit last year, and his skill set lends itself to the position, provided the Crew can get themselves a lot of possession.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Another team that turned over more than a third of its roster, with a whopping 13 players gone via one mechanism or another. The most significant of those departures is probably long-time center back Frederic Brillant, who suited up 104 times in the Black-and-Red over the past four seasons. The rest of it was just a bloodletting of depth.

That depth, thus far, has been replaced by promoting players from Loudoun United or signing academy products (not yet official). That has become a reliable pathway for D.C. over the past few years, and it’s clear they’re doubling down on it as we move further into Lucy Rushton’s tenure as GM and Hernan Losada’s tenure as head coach.

D.C. are still in negotiations with Junior Moreno (starting d-mid), Felipe (back-up CM/DM) and Jon Kempin (back-up GK) and are reportedly in negotiations to bring back center back Brendan Hines-Ike, who was pretty damn good before his season was ended via injury. Hines-Ike is still under contract with Belgian side KV Kortrijk, so I’m guessing that’s the most difficult of these potential negotiations. Though signs point to an imminent return, too.

What's next

Getting those four deals over the line would be a good way to flesh out a roster that needs depth given the demands of Losada’s Maximum Overdrive approach. I was about to say “the roster barely survived last season” but actually, given the number of injuries and the way D.C. absolutely cratered down the stretch, that’s wrong: The roster didn’t survive last season.

So getting more depth and getting more out of it is crucial.

Paramount, though, is health and productivity from the DPs. Edison Flores makes A LOT of money; he has 2g/8a in about 1900 minutes over two years. Paul Arriola’s a really good two-way player, but he’s never really been a match-winner at any level. And… that’s the whole list of seven-figure players on this roster.

They need like 2500 minutes from each of those guys, and I’m hoping – as are D.C. fans, I’m sure – they’ll be joined by another DP attacker.

If all of the above doesn’t happen then this will probably be remembered as an offseason during which D.C. stood pat and eventually paid for it.

Feb. 7 update

D.C. made the Hines-Ike deal permanent, and they re-signed Kempin in free agency. They officially signed Theodore Ku-DiPietro (known as Teddy KDP) as a Homegrown. They rather cleverly purchased young center back Hayden Sargis from Sacramento Republic in the USL Championship, took my favorite player in the draft (French playmaker Sofiane Djeffal) with the 36th pick, and shipped a bunch of GAM to Seattle for left wingback Brad Smith.

All of that is good stuff. I see two starters, three promising young players and a reliable third-string ‘keeper there. But that is not how D.C. have made headlines since the first installment of this column.

No, D.C. made headlines since the first installment of this column with a pair of record sales. The first was the sale (or “trade,” if you must) of Paul Arriola to FC Dallas for $2 million of GAM, a record for an intra-league move. And the second was the sale of Homegrown wingback Kevin Paredes to Wolfsburg for $7.35 million, additional performance-based add-ons and an undisclosed sell-on fee.

It got emotional. I order you to watch this:

That’s the deal, right? You develop players like this to sell them at a profit and create a self-sustaining ecosystem like what the Union have done, and now D.C.’s front office has to show they can plug holes as well as Philly’s has. Smith is the natural fill-in for Paredes, while Greek international Taxiarchis Fountas, who they signed to a DP pre-contract and will arrive in the summer, seems destined to take Arriola’s minutes on the “2” line of Hernan Losada’s 3-4-2-1.

Still, it’s been a lukewarm offseason of acquisitions. United still have an open DP slot aside from Fountas and Edison Flores, three open U22 Initiative slots and a clear need to upgrade given last season’s disappointing ending. And right now they’re being linked to Carlos Tevez for some reason.

Feb. 22 update

Right now, I don’t think this team is better than it was in November.

They made a significant addition just about as the previous version was published, adding big Ecuadoran center forward Michael Estrada on loan from Toluca on Feb. 8. Estrada’s already in town and has already scored – any center forward who’s good in the air will love playing with Julian Gressel, so consider that a box smartly checked.

The Tevez reports, meanwhile, have entirely disappeared. Consider that a box smartly checked as well.

DC United depth chart preseason 2022

Worth noting: They’ve still got an open DP slot.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Fifteen departures so far! FIFTEEN!!! And there’s more to come!

A bunch of these were guys whose contracts weren’t renewed, but Lewis Morgan was traded to the Red Bulls for $1.2 million in General Allocation Cash – $700k of which will come in 2022, and the rest in 2023. Losing Morgan is tough, but that cash haul makes up a good chunk of the sanctions levied against the club (they were docked just under $2.3 million in Allocation Cash) for the shenanigans in their original roster build.

The other big outgoing move – also shenanigan-related – was sending young Julian Carranza to Philly on a loan with a purchase option. Chris Henderson got creative with that one, and I like it. He did not fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy.

While getting creative with the outgoing talent, Henderson has worked on solidifying the midfield depth chart with a few incoming acquisitions. The most notable of those is 28-year-old Brazilian Jean Mota, who’s made over 200 appearances for Santos over the past half-dozen years.

He seems like he’ll be a very snug fit next to Gregore in the heart of that Miami midfield for a while.

What's next

There’s still so much work needed on this roster. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez is rumored to be headed to River Plate on loan, and the man’s out there on social media holding up a River kit with his name on it, so I’m going to assume this is happening. There is just as much reporting saying DP attacker Rodolfo Pizarro is headed back to Monterrey on loan, which would improve the team overall given that Pizarro is not very good).

Then comes another big decision: Do they buy out the final year of Blaise Matuidi’s ill-fated DP deal? I feel like the Mota deal – they play the same position – as well as Phil Neville’s comments that he wants the team to be “younger and fresher” means the writing’s on the wall. And reports from Monday evening are suggesting the French midfielder won't be back in 2022.

Miami obviously have to go bargain hunting wherever they can, and have to do a better job of developing the young talent they have on hand. But whenever you have multiple DP slots open, the answer to “what’s next” is “figuring out how to best fill those DP slots.

They still need plenty of other stuff, of course – a right back, CB depth, maybe some new wingers – but how they address those spots depends largely upon what they do with the two biggest moves at their disposal.

Feb. 7 update

Six more outgoing moves since last month, all of them large. First off, the Pizarro and LGP loan moves (to Monterrey and River Plate, respectively) went through, and Nico Figal was sold to Boca Juniors. Ryan Shawcross retired. Christian Makoun was traded to Charlotte for a handful of GAM. Kelvin Leerdam signed with LA as a free agent.

As for Matuidi, he’s still technically an Inter Miami player, though he’s no longer on their official roster page and a buyout is widely expected (and seems inevitable).

There have been even more acquisitions in that timespan, with 10 new arrivals. Most of them are young enough to fit into the “prospect” category, including a pair of U22 Initiative attackers in center forward Leonardo Campana and winger Emerson Rodriguez, but two veteran starters were added as well: right back DeAndre Yedlin and center back Damion Lowe.

It’s an almost entirely brand new team. The only significant holdovers from Miami’s debut 2020 season are Pipita Higuain, who might now be a No. 10 with the arrival of Campagna, and former No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick Robbie Robinson.

It’s also a much younger team than the past two iterations, and all the quotes from preseason thus far are about that youth and energy, and how much more competitive it is with spots really up for grabs.

We shall see.

Feb. 22 update

Miami made another low-risk move to bring in a young player with potential since the last update, grabbing former US youth international ‘keeper (and Union Homegrown product) CJ Dos Santos, who’d been with Benfica B. I don’t think they expect Dos Santos to play this year, but taking a chance on a kid with his résumé makes sense.

They went a little bigger in signing 27-year-old Finnish international winger Robert Taylor from SK Brann in Norway for an undisclosed fee.

Henderson has been busy rebuilding damn near the whole roster in the face of those sanctions.

Inter Miami depth chart preseason 2022

Worth noting: I think their personnel fits a 4-3-3 better than a 3-4-2-1, but it’s been the 3-4-2-1 in preseason, so that’s what I’m expecting to see from the start this year for Inter.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Montréal had less work to do than most teams, declining the contract options of just seven players and letting an eighth depart the club. The two biggest names were a pair of center backs in Kiki Struna (option declined) and Rudy Camacho (out of contract).

Those guys were decent MLS defenders who, combined, made more than $2 million in 2021. It’s safe to say Olivier Renard is determined to spend more wisely on that backline henceforth.

He’s made a good start of it so far, bringing in young Italian Gabriele Corbo on loan via the Bologna pipeline, signing 19-year-old Icelandic international Robert Orri Thorkelsson via the U22 Initiative (joined last June, though didn’t play), and then trading $1 million of allocation cash to Nashville SC for young Canadian Alistair Johnston.

I simply love that move. Johnston has been good at both fullback and wingback, and provides cover at both those spots. But he’s probably best suited for the right center back role in a 3-5-2, which is what he’s frequently played for both club and country over the past six months. He’s also a very clear fit there in Wilfried Nancy’s preferred system.

Renard bet big on intraleague acquisitions last year as well – they paid cash for Mason Toye, Djordje Mihailovic and Kamal Miller. All three of those moves turned out to be very, very good, and my guess is the same will go for the Johnston trade.

I also like that Montréal were able to get Lassi Lappalainen on a permanent deal. The Finnish international hasn’t quite popped like I expected him to the past couple of years, but he’s a talent.

What's next

There’s not a lot of holes on this roster, save perhaps for goalkeeper. James Pantemis had some nice moments last year, his first as a regular in MLS, but also had some, uh, not-so-nice moments. I thought Sebastian Breza (another young-ish Canadian) was better, but Breza’s loan from Bologna wasn’t extended. The only other ‘keeper on the roster, currently, is young Jonathan Sirois.

I don’t necessarily expect a move for a starter – Montréal seem committed to developing young players, and Pantemis fits that bill – though I wouldn’t be shocked at it.

Bear in mind, though, they do have two open DP slots, so things could happen. But I don’t think that’ll be the case this winter. I think the vast majority of their work is done, and now it’s a question of getting the other young players to have Mihailovic-esque breakout seasons.

Feb. 7 update

Only two moves of any sort since last month, and both were of the “welcome back!” variety as CFM re-signed center back Rudy Camacho and extended Breza’s loan. He’ll be in town for the duration of 2022 at the very least.

That's it, though. Renard knows that real Gs move in silence and get their work done early, especially with CCL looming.

Feb. 22 update

Two moves since the last update. First they brought in USL ‘keeper Logan Ketterer, and then they went out and signed legend Kei Kamara, who will presumably slot in as the starting center forward while Mason Toye continues to work toward fitness (I am mildly concerned it’s taken him this long to recover from last summer’s injury).

Montréal still have a lot of flexibility to make big moves this window, but I think they’re going to stick on the same path as teams like the Union or Rapids. It’s understandable in a lot of ways, but damn could they have used a final third difference-maker in that first-leg loss at Santos Laguna last week.

Montreal preseasn depth chart 2022

Worth noting: I might be jumping the gun in moving young Rida Zouhir over Sam Piette on the depth chart, but this kid is seriously impressive.

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Obviously the most notable offseason departure is that of the crayon flag. Lights out, it’s closing time:

Logo aside, the Revs largely kept their Supporters’ Shield-winning side intact, with the biggest loss being the one we already knew about: Tajon Buchanan has officially traded in clambakes for moules-frites.

The other notable departures are that of long-time d-mid Scott Caldwell, a Homegrown who’d been with the Revs, first via the academy and then in the first team, for almost 15 years, and attacker Teal Bunbury, who’d been in New England since 2014. But Caldwell had seen his role reduced under Bruce Arena – he played just 198 minutes this past year – and is now a free agent while Bunbury, who was shipped to Nashville for $150k of allocation money, was looking for a bigger role.

New England then spent their Tajon & Teal cash on getting Bruce’s gang back together. First they acquired Sebastian Lletget for up to $1.3 million in GAM, and then they signed Omar Gonzalez via free agency.

What's next

Either nothing significant (this team is obviously good and doesn’t need real upgrades anywhere) or something earth-shatteringly significant (Matt Turner and Adam Buksa sure would help a whole lot of teams in the Big 5 leagues in Europe!).

I have not heard anything concrete on either of those two guys, but nobody would be shocked if one or both departed, I don’t think. And obviously that would rearrange some offseason shopping priorities.

As it stands, though, the Revs probably just need to add a touch of fullback depth and maybe find a U22 Initiative No. 10 to learn at Carles Gil’s feet?

Feb. 7 update

Only one official acquisition since last time: Homegrown midfielder Noel Buck, whom they’re high enough on to start in a preseason game just 10 days before their CCL campaign opens. And just one departure, as they mutually parted ways with left back Christian Mafla.

And oh yeah, that earth-shatteringly significant Big 5 offer for Turner finally came through. You probably know all about it, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock: He’s off to Arsenal this summer for a reported $7 million that is expected to rise to $10 million once all is said and done.

The summer move gives New England a chance to line up a replacement (I doubt it’ll be a promotion from within, but you never know), and a chance to maybe possibly actually win the CCL.

They’re not favorites or anything, but they’re damn good and with Turner still on hand, they have match-winners on every line, from goalkeeper to center forward. Stranger things have happened.

One other thing to keep an eye on is the Jozy Altidore situation in Toronto. We’re on month four of buyout watch (he has two years remaining on his VERY expensive deal) with no movement that I’m aware of, but if/when it does get done – and it kind of has to, given TFC’s roster composition – reports say Jozy’s next stop is Foxborough.

Feb. 22 update

Jozy’s next step is, in fact, Foxborough. He officially signed with the Revs on the 14th, inking a three-year max TAM deal, which is kind of eye-popping given his age and injury history. I think it’s pretty fair to read into it that the Revs expect him to contribute a lot, and to contribute right away. I’m not sure whether that will mean more in the league or more in CCL, but either way, if he’s healthy he’s going to be out there a bunch.

That is not the case for the other two additions New England made in the past couple of weeks, as they signed one of their SuperDraft picks and a kid from their reserve team. I can’t imagine either are in Bruce’s immediate plans.

New England preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: I think the Revs’ personnel lends itself more to a 3-5-2 than any other formation, and Bruce even talked about formations a bit this preseason (he never does that). But all indicators thus far are that it’ll be a 4-4-2 diamond again.

It’s too bad we didn’t get to see that assumption put to the test this past week in the CCL. Paperwork issues kept Haitian side Cavaly AS from traveling, so the Revs advanced via a forfeit.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

They’ve been busy enjoying the spirit of the season:

As such there have been no new signings just yet (Homegrown defender Christian McFarlane, who is just 14, was inked back in late summer), though there have been major departures: Jesus Medina’s option was declined and he now appears headed to Russia, while Gudi Thorarinsson’s option was declined and he’s off to parts unknown. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, meanwhile, was selected in the Expansion Draft and he's off to LAFC.

They also brought back No. 10 Maxi Moralez below the Designated Player threshold, which further opens space for sporting director David Lee to get to work. He’s turning 35 as the 2022 season starts, and the new deal makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.

Not a lot to worry about when you’re the champs, right?

What's next

Yeah, we all know it doesn’t work that way and we all know why. The latest rumored bid for Taty Castellanos was $12.5 million from Palmeiras, who are currently the biggest club in the Americas. My guess is he will be sold for something closer to $20 million to a team in Europe instead.

James Sands, meanwhile, has a whole host of suitors in Europe himself. The most likely landing spot at the moment seems to Rangers, though that obviously could change.

NYCFC have a deep and flexible roster, which they showed down the stretch and into the playoffs en route to winning MLS Cup. But replacing the likes of Castellanos and Sands is not easy, and my suspicion is their respective departures would be followed by a significant investment in replacing them.

Whether they stay or go, though, the Pigeons absolutely need to start building some center back depth. They’d probably be smart to add another right back, too.

Feb. 7 update

Like Montréal and New England – the two other CCL teams from the Eastern Conference – NYCFC have made minimal moves over the past month. Sands did, indeed, end up going to Rangers on one of those weird 18-month loans that have been all the rage this year, while the only additions were a trio of Homegrown signings.

At least until today. They added a DP center back out of the blue, signing 26-year-old Brazilian Thiago Martins via the City Football Group pneumatic tube system from Japanese sister club Yokohama F. Marinos to the Bronx. Whether Martins comes in as an immediate starter or a top back-up, this move addresses the single biggest need on the roster. And NYCFC now probably have the defensive depth necessary to do battle across multiple competitions this year.

Still, the most significant thing is what didn’t happen (or maybe hasn’t happened yet): Taty is still in town. There was obviously no acceptable offer for the 2021 Golden Boot winner, and with him still in the fold, I reckon the Pigeons have the best shot at winning the CCL of any of the MLS entries. If they do that, maybe they get the offer they want this summer.

And would it be hilarious if NYCFC beat Man City to a spot at the Club World Cup? Yes. Yes, it would.

Feb. 22 update

That Taty move still hasn’t happened, and it doesn’t look like he’s too upset about it: He’s reportedly getting a fat new contract and bagged a brace in the Pigeons’ 2-0 win down in Costa Rica to open the CCL.

So NYCFC have stood pat since the last update. They are, I think, strong favorites to add another trophy of some sort to last year’s MLS Cup.

NYCFC preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: Keaton Parks has spent most of his career as a No. 8, but when Ronny Deila had to choose from among his stable of midfielders to replace Sands with last year, he shifted Parks back into the No. 6 job and pushed Alfredo Morales into the starting No. 8 role.

I wouldn’t be at all shocked if both guys swapped between both roles, and if Nicolas Acevedo finally got himself involved a bit as well, but for now I’m listing Parks at the 6 and Morales at the 8.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

All year long it was obvious this offseason would be tumultuous in Harrison – you can’t have that many players on loan and expect to build season-to-season continuity. To their credit they got Carlos Coronel permanently, but fellow starters Andrew Gutman, Tom Edwards and Fabio are all gone, returned to their teams of origin (though the club’s still reportedly in negotiation with Edwards). Caden Clark, meanwhile, might be loaned back to New York again, at least for the first half of the season.

Even more painful than those losses, though, is right back Kyle Duncan (not technically a Homegrown, but still) left for Belgian side KV Oostende on a free. And Homegrown d-mid Sean Davis is reportedly taking less money to sign with Nashville instead of staying with the club he’d captained for the past two years and been a part of, at one level or another, for the past dozen.

It’s not precisely a clean slate, but there are a lot of holes left to fill. The biggest swing at filling them thus far has been shipping out $1.2 million in GAM to Miami for Lewis Morgan, who’s played both winger and wingback in MLS thus far, but might be slated for a shift at second forward in a 4-4-2 – Gerhard Struber’s preferred formation, but one that never quite took hold in 2021.

They also grabbed Dylan Nealis from Nashville for up to $200k in GAM. Nealis hasn’t quite broken through in his first two seasons, but has a lot of talent and could end up being a savvy, low-cost replacement for Duncan.

What's next

I genuinely don’t know. It’s not clear whether Struber’s going to stick with the 3-4-2-1 that worked so well down the stretch or move to a 4-4-2, for one, and for two it’s not clear how much of a fire has been lit under the front office now that the noisy neighbors are lifting cups.

If that fire has indeed been lit, then, well, RBNY have two open DP slots to play with. If not, then we’ll just have to see how much Struber can get out of what is now an almost absurdly young roster.

The biggest question at this moment, I suppose, is how they’re going to replace Davis. Frankie Amaya didn’t quite fit for this group in attack last season, but he’s played deeper in the midfield in the past and I’ve always loved him as more of a destroyer:

He’d be my first choice for that spot on the current roster.

Worth noting: RBNY Academy product Peter Stroud, who is one of my favorite players in all of college soccer, just had a monster year playing Davis’s position for Duke, which happens to be Davis’s alma mater. So there would be a bit of symmetry if Stroud was to become Davis’s heir.

Feb. 7 update

Right now it seems like Amaya is, indeed, going to be Davis’s replacement, I guess? There is a chance of confirmation bias in this reading of the tea leaves on my part, but I’m going to interpret the state of the roster the way I want to, dammit. It’s my column.

Irrespective of what happens with Amaya, RBNY fans are still hoping for more reinforcements. The past month has only brought in a couple of Homegrowns, some draft picks who are likely to sign MLS NEXT Pro deals, and Venezuelan midfielder Jesus Castellano, who is a literal child.

As of now, they appear to be betting on improvement from within. That’s rarely been a bad bet for this club over the past decade, but MLS plays at higher-stakes tables these days than even two or three years ago. Struber’s going to have to get these guys to buy the hell in from Day 1, instead of taking half the season.

The Edwards negotiations are ongoing, and folks I’ve spoken with are optimistic he’ll return in 2022. That’s important – Edwards was more than useful at multiple spots last year. Clark’s return, meanwhile, is still expected to happen and could be announced as soon as this week.

Feb. 22 update

The front office left it late, but they finally brought in another DP, signing Brazilian attacker Luquinhas from Legia Warsaw on the 16th. That was a week after they officially announced Clark’s return – they had to jump through some allocation order hoops to make that happen – on a year-long loan, and they finally found the right terms for another year-long loan of Edwards.

As calculated by the great Mark Fishkin, the average age of the RBNY roster is just 22. They’re actually younger than last year’s group.

Red Bulls preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: Yes, for now I have them in a 4-3-3 since that seems to be what they’ve been playing in this preseason.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Nani? Gone. Chris Mueller? Left on a free. Daryl Dike? Sold for nearly $10 million to West Brom.

Those are three of the four attackers who were most responsible for dragging Orlando out of the muck and, for the first time in their existence, in the playoffs back in 2020. And then they did it again in 2021.

But they couldn’t drag the Lions any further than that, and when the season ended, this era of theirs ended. Those guys are gone, as is Uri Rosell, as is Alexandre Pato, and as are a host of other depth pieces.

The good news is new ownership is here and they seem pretty serious about opening up the checkbook and bringing in a ton of new talent for Oscar Pareja to play around with. At their disposal they have two open DP slots* and three open U22 Initiative slots.

(*) They retained DP No. 10 Mauricio Pereyra on a DP contract, but my guess is he’s under the “Can buy him down with allocation cash” threshold, which wasn’t the case the past couple of years.

No moves thus yet, but so far they’ve been linked to Argentine winger Gaston Gonzalez as well as – less solidly, it must be said – Uruguayan winger Facundo Torres.

What's next

Obviously filling those slots is what’s next. Orlando City are still solid as hell all over – they could use a little bit more CB depth and maybe some fullback depth – but making five big signings and getting, say, three of them unquestionably correct should thrust this team into the ranks of the elite.

A goal-scoring No. 9 is obviously the biggest one, but the drop-off from the 2020 version of Mueller to the 2021 version was steep. Add in Pereyra’s age and injury-prone-ness, and it’s pretty clear where the focus will be.

Feb. 7 update

They filled those big spots. Giant center forward Ercan Kara is Dike’s replacement, arriving on a reported $800k fee from Austria's Rapid Vienna (they got him just before his contract expired – nice work on that one).

Three days before the Kara signing they spent SIGNIFICANTLY more money on 21-year-old winger/playmaker Facundo Torres, a full Uruguayan international from talent factory Penarol that they are unabashedly hyping up as “one of the three most exciting young talents in all of South America.” The reported fee is more than $7 million. No pressure, kid.

There is substantially less pressure on Torres’s countryman, 20-year-old d-mid Cesar Araujo, whom Orlando used a U22 slot on after acquiring him from Montevideo Wanderers.

Also, it turns out I was premature on bidding farewell to Pato, as they brought him back for a second, hopefully healthier season. Maybe this time he will be that veteran spark off the bench they were hoping for.

The only departure of the past month was that of winger Alexander Alvarado, who was sent to LDU Quito on loan for a year.

Orlando still have one U22 Initiative slot open, and my guess is that they’ll fill it sometime before this Primary Transfer Window closes. Another attacker – a No. 10 to back up/learn from Pereyra, perhaps? – would make a lot of sense.

Feb. 22 update

Nothing new from the Lions other than inking first-round SuperDraft pick Jack Lynn, a forward, and young Homegrown right back Alex Freeman. It’s highly unlikely either contributes this year.

I missed this last time, but the Gonzalez deal appears to be done, with him set to join in May. He would presumably use that open U22 slot. On the face of it, this seems like a good signing to cap off a pretty promising offseason.

Orlando preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: I’ve got Pato listed as Pereyra’s back-up No. 10, but in actuality, if Pereyra’s out it’s much more likely to switch to a 4-4-2 with Pato as a second striker playing underneath one of the other guys.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

There was not a lot of surgery needed on this roster, and thus far the Union have lost only depth pieces. Those depth pieces came in handy during the playoffs, to be sure – they gave NYCFC hell – but this has been nowhere near as jarring an offseason as last year, even if I will forever be on the verge of tears at Ilsinho’s departure.

As for incoming talent, they did something I think is very clever in taking Julian Carranza in on loan from Miami. The No. 9, a former Argentine youth international who’s still just 21 years old, occupies a Young DP slot. While that would handcuff many other teams (including Miami), Philly don’t really use their DP slots, and they weren’t going to go out and spend, say, $6 million on a prospect. Which happens to be what Miami spent on Carranza two winters ago.

So they get to take a flier on a guy with that kind of résumé, and adding Carranza as a Young DP means he only hits the cap at $200,000. There are draft picks that hit harder than that.

Carranza hasn’t been great over the past couple of years (just three goals in about 1300 minutes), but he came into a bizarrely constructed team in a new country during the midst of a global pandemic. I’m gonna let it slide and assume there’s some talent there for the Union to dig out of him!

And that’s the fun part from Philly’s perspective: There is a purchase option for them at the end of the loan. So if Carranza really does answer some questions for them – and they badly need goalscoring questions answered – they have the right to just buy him outright from Inter. They will get to acquire a $6 million striker prospect using only intraleague tools.

There’s never been a move like this in MLS before. I’m fascinated.

What's next

Understand that Philly will sell anyone if the price is right. Maybe that means DP No. 10 Jamiro Monteiro, who they shopped like hell last summer but found no takers for, is gone. Maybe that means Kai Wagner, who has expressed a desire to return to Europe and play in the Bundesliga (he’s certainly good enough, and I believe he’d adjust pretty well to the culture) is gone. Maybe it’ll be the perpetually underrated Jack Elliott, or one of the kids like Paxten Aaronson or Jack McGlynn.

When you operate the way the Union do, any and all of the above is on the table. Any of that might be what’s next.

As it stands, though, I haven’t heard of anything that’s imminent, and the roster itself is solid as hell. My guess is they add a couple more depth pieces here and there, and hope that development from within – Aaronson, McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, maybe Carranza – can propel them one step closer to hoisting MLS Cup.

Feb. 7 update

Only one departure, but it was significant: Starting No. 9 Kacper Przybylko was shipped to Chicago for $1.15 million of GAM.

Przybylko’s been a good MLS center forward for the better part of three years. But I think it’s fair to assume that the past two years represent the ceiling on what a team can achieve if he’s the guy who’s leading the line.

And so they went out and broke their club record, spending nearly $3 million on big Danish center forward Mikael Uhre. The 27-year-old is something of a late bloomer, as he only really broke out in the 2020-21 season with Brondby, but he broke out to the extent that he’s worked his way into the Danish national team picture.

Philly were a goalscorer away from a trip to the CCL final and to MLS Cup last year. Thus they went out this winter and added two goalscorers.

Given Tanner’s track record, I have high expectations.

Feb. 22 update

No incoming moves, but Tanner finally found a taker for Monteiro, shipping him to San Jose for up to $450k GAM and an international roster slot to use this season.

Obviously this was all about creating flexibility (they got some GAM and freed up a DP slot) and clearing a pathway for the likes of Aaronson, McGlynn and Sullivan. To Philly, the upside – both on-field and economic – is worth it, and so they will always be willing to move off of veterans who are less than Best XI-caliber in order to get the kids onto the field.

Monteiro got himself a new home out of it, so it worked out for all parties.

Philly preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: I’ve got the 4-4-2 diamond up there because I think they’ll eventually want to get to that shape, but with Uhre not having arrived just yet and Santos, as always, battling injuries, it seems much more likely they start the year in the old 4-3-2-1 AC Milan Christmas tree Jim Curtin had them playing out of to finish 2021.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Offseason so far (Jan. 4)

Ali Curtis is gone, Bob Bradley has arrived and now we’re all just waiting for the fireworks to begin.

It’s all been rumored and much of it has been reported, but none of it is officially done as of this writing.

What did get done is a fairly massive roster purge. The exodus was mostly depth guys, but Justin Morrow retired and Omar Gonzalez left via free agency, while long-time contributors like Eriq Zavaleta, Nick DeLeon, Tsubasa Endoh and Liam Fraser all saw their contracts expire.

So did Homegrown forward Ayo Akinola. I’m going to borrow a paragraph from my colleague Tom Bogert’s offseason compendium:

Rising Canadian international and homegrown forward Ayo Akinola is out of contract. The club's release made no mention of making him an offer ... or being in negotiations ... or that he's off to another team. So this one is confusing and definitely one to watch.

I love Ayo. I think he’s a Daryl Dike/Ricardo Pepi-level talent. The issue, though, is that Ayo has been oft-injured the past few years, and in fact is coming off of a season-ending ACL tear.

I’d still be trying hard as hell to keep him if I were TFC. Kid’s got 13g/2a in 2000 minutes, and getting that from the academy production line is a hell of a thing.

At the moment, though, they’ve made just one signing, picking up veteran CB Shane O’Neill in free agency. I think he’ll be an upgrade over what Gonzalez and Zavaleta brought last year.

What's next

Let me repeat myself:

  • Will Jozy Altidore be bought out?
  • Will Yeferson Soteldo be sold or loaned back to a Brazilian side?
  • Is Lorenzo Insigne on his way?

The next biggest question, after those, is Ayo’s status. After that it’s filling out some depth all along the backline and maybe in central midfield as well.

But the biggest dominoes have yet to fall. Once they do, TFC’s going to start looking very different in a hurry.

Feb. 7 update

Ok, an update on all three of those gigantic questions, and a resolution to the only slightly smaller fourth question:

  • Jozy’s not bought out yet, but it looks like it’s happening soon.
  • Soteldo was essentially traded to Tigres for Mexican international center back Carlos Salcedo, who should be a massive upgrade in a place where they badly need it.
  • Insigne is on his way this summer.
  • They very smartly retained Ayo on a U22 Initiative deal.

They have also signed Spanish center forward Jesus Jimenez, who looks like competition for Ayo as the No. 9. All of that is good, provided they can agree to a buyout number with Jozy.

There were some departures too, though. Mark Delgado was sold to LA for at least $400k of GAM, which settles some of the midfield logjam. Richie Laryea, meanwhile, wanted to test himself in Europe, so when Nottingham Forest came calling, TFC were willing to sell him for $1 million.

That leaves Auro as the only right back on the roster. Left back could also get real thin, real fast if the Kemar Lawrence reports are true.

Feb. 22 update

The roster remake continues apace, and Auro is no longer the only right back on the squad – he was loaned out to Santos on the 14th. That’s the same day they officially completed the Jozy buyout, so the “paring down” part of the roster dance is almost done (Lawrence is still officially on the roster for now, but I don’t think he exists anywhere in Bradley’s plans).

What hasn’t really happened yet, and hasn’t happened at all since the last update, is the building up of the roster. In part I think that’s because Toronto’s pretty well capped out, but in part I think it’s because Bradley just loves working with young players. He is the best developer of young talent of any coach in MLS history, and I don’t think he plans to change his ways now that he’s in Toronto.

So look for a bunch of those academy kids to get serious minutes this year, not just Ayo.

That said, expect them to announce right back Kadin Chung’s signing this week.

Toronto preseason depth chart 2022

Worth noting: Yeah, I’ve got Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty at right back right now, and probably henceforth. He’s widely regarded as the best prospect in MLS of any age or nationality, and there’s plenty of reason to think he’s perfectly suited to make an Alphonso Davies-esque shift from full-on attacker to attacking fullback.