Free Agency - Zardes-Long

A short three weeks ago, this offseason’s free agency class was revealed.

While some impactful names have found new destinations around MLS, many of the biggest decisions are still in TBD mode. That’s to be expected as internationals return from the World Cup, and we’re still a month out from preseason beginning (Jan. 6).

Who will soon join the likes of Derrick Etienne Jr. (Atlanta United), Tyler Miller (D.C. United) and more in establishing new homes? Here are the top 10 remaining players on the board for 2023.

Callens might be the top free agent in this year’s entire class. The 30-year-old Peru international placed third in 2022 MLS Defender of the Year voting and played a huge role in NYCFC’s MLS Cup 2021 title victory. He can play both center back and left back.

For over a decade, Hedges has been a rock in the FC Dallas backline (he’s the club’s all-time appearances leader). But the 2016 MLS Defender of the Year, now age 32, could take that vast experience to a new city if terms aren’t agreed upon in Frisco. The veteran played over 2,200 minutes last year after shaking the injury bug.

Johnson has captained NYCFC the past couple of seasons, so he may stay in the Big Apple before their new stadium is scheduled to debut in 2027. But the 33-year-old, fresh off representing the US at the World Cup, would fetch a pretty penny as any MLS team’s starting goalkeeper.

Kamara has reached double-digit goals in four of his six full MLS seasons, including in 2021 when he finished as runner-up to NYCFC’s Taty Castellanos in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race (19g/5a). At age 33, the former Norwegian international still has a nose for goal – it’s just likely not featuring in a D.C. United shirt.

The New York Red Bulls have a history of captains moving on, especially in their career’s latter stages. Long, who was the USMNT’s fourth-choice center back at the World Cup, could join that list. Even more, the 2018 MLS Defender of the Year has also reportedly been on the radar of European clubs.

Matarrita is a ready-made starter at left back, especially in an attack-minded system, as shown during his past MLS stops at FC Cincinnati and NYCFC. The 28-year-old subbed into two of Costa Rica’s group-stage matches at the World Cup, continuing his recovery from ankle surgery he underwent last spring.

Europe or MLS? That’s been the question swirling around Osorio for several months, as Toronto FC’s all-time appearance leader now returns from Canada’s first men’s World Cup trip in 36 years. The TFC homegrown probably would have reached 10g/10a in 2022 were it not for a troublesome head injury that derailed his summer/fall months.

CF Montréal are seemingly going in a new direction at goalkeeper, even though Pantemis helped them earn the No. 2 seed in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs and was Canada’s third-string option at the World Cup. He turns 26 ahead of next season and has seven clean sheets in 32 MLS games.

Whether it’s out wide or through the center, ​​Rodríguez has proven to be a busy, technical and effective midfielder during his MLS career. The Houston Dynamo homegrown product has 17g/14a in 136 league appearances – and has plenty of miles left in the tank entering his age-27 season.

Zardes has scored double-digit goals in four of his past five seasons, plus is now three goals shy of hitting the 100-mark in MLS play. Part of the USMNT player pool, Zardes held Designated Player status this past season after being traded from Columbus to Colorado. Where will the No. 9 and two-time MLS Cup champion land?