Voices: Joseph Lowery

MLS trade targets: 5 players who could move this transfer window

We’re right in the thick of it, people. By “it”, of course, I mean the Secondary Transfer Window. There have been plenty of players coming in and out of the league over the last couple of weeks, but we’ve also seen a number of trades between teams in MLS.

Toronto FC sent Alejandro Pozuelo to Inter Miami CF. The Colorado Rapids sent Mark-Anthony Kaye to Toronto in exchange for Ralph Priso and a handful of other assets. D.C. United sent Julian Gressel to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Columbus Crew are reportedly sending Miguel Berry to D.C. United.

It’s been busy.

All of these moves got me thinking: If I was an MLS general manager who needed to bolster my squad, who would I be targeting in the trade market? Let’s talk about that.

This one is very, very simple. Tyler Miller is a good goalkeeper, but he isn’t playing for Minnesota United FC right now because Dayne St. Clair is an excellent goalkeeper. At 29, Miller is still more than capable of contributing to a winning MLS team. He was the sixth-best shot-stopper in the league last year as Minnesota’s starting goalkeeper, according to FBref’s post-shot expected goals statistic.

Miller barely played in 2020, but if we set that season aside and look back to his last full season as a starting goalkeeper when he was with LAFC (2019), he had a strong season and helped them win a Supporters’ Shield.

For any team in MLS that needs a quality goalkeeper – and there are plenty of those teams, believe me – trading for Miller could be a season-changing move.

Logical destinations: CF Montréal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Sporting Kansas City

It seems pretty clear at this point Jhegson Mendez isn’t really in Oscar Pareja’s plans, at least not as a key player. So far in 2022, the Ecuadorian international has only played 412 minutes across 13 games for Orlando City.

He’s not first-choice for Pareja, but he could be a useful addition for an MLS team looking for depth in central midfield. With his passing ability and his defensive work rate, Mendez brings value on both sides of the ball. Among central midfielders with at least 1,000 minutes in 2021, Mendez finished in the 93rd percentile in average defenders bypassed per pass and the 85th percentile for progressive passing frequency, per Second Spectrum.

If a Supporters’ Shield contender or a fringe Audi MLS Cup Playoffs team is looking for some depth ahead of the last third of the season, acquiring Mendez would make a lot of sense.

Logical destinations: Austin FC, New York City FC, FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami CF

I’m not sure how open the Houston Dynamo would be to trading away a regular homegrown player like Memo Rodriguez, but hey, everybody has their price. Rodriguez had 12g/8a combined across the Dynamo's 2019-20 seasons, and I can’t shake the feeling he could be a valuable attacking contributor with some better players around him.

According to American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric, Rodriguez was a well-above-average player in 2019 and 2020, adding real value with his receiving and his shooting. He’ll pressure the ball, find space in the attack, and can drive the ball forward on the dribble.

If the Dynamo are looking for additional roster flexibility as they try to figure out what their new era actually looks like, they should be able to find a team looking for another option in the midfield or in the frontline.

Logical destinations: Nashville SC, Columbus Crew

Given some of the recent reports that LAFC aren’t opposed to listening to offers for Cristian Arango, you have to kick the tires, right?

If LAFC truly want to go out and sign a higher-profile No. 9 and use their third Designated Player tag up front, I’m calling about Arango. After scoring nine non-penalty goals in around 1,400 minutes in 2021, the Colombian striker has seven non-penalty goals in around 1,300 minutes this year. Per Second Spectrum, Arango finished in the 97th percentile among forwards with at least 1,000 minutes last year in xG per 90 minutes. He’s dropped to the 85th percentile in 2022, but that’s still a promising figure.

Trading for Arango could be a shrewd way to add a useful No. 9 without dipping into the international transfer market. Again, that’s if LAFC are interested in moving the 2021 MLS Newcomer of the Year.

Logical destinations: New York City FC, Minnesota United FC, Nashville SC, Toronto FC

The number has to be right for me on this one. Ayo Akinola is a very talented player and now that he’s a full-time striker, he’s shown he can be a quality goalscorer in MLS.

However, he’s only shown that for a relatively short stretch due to an ACL tear suffered in July 2021 while at the Gold Cup with Canada. That was back in 2020, when he scored nine goals in just over 1,000 minutes for Toronto FC. So if you’re a team looking to nab a striker, what you’re really paying for with Akinola is potential. At 22, the Canadian international has plenty of time to grow and mature as a No. 9, but there’s no guarantee he's going to be a success.

If I’m an MLS GM, I’m interested in Akinola, but I’m also going to be careful about overpaying. Especially since it sounds like Toronto FC are happy to listen to offers for Akinola as they’re interested in using their last DP spot on a striker, according to Tom Bogert. I’m trying to negotiate Toronto down on this one, and remember he has a U22 Initiative tag as well.

Logical destinations: Minnesota United FC, Nashville SC