Procedurally, last week was a big one in the MLS offseason.
Clubs continued their preseason preparations, with friendlies happening daily. The league officially unveiled the 2020 jerseys and, most importantly, MLS and the MLS Players' Association agreed to a new CBA. All are vitally important checkmarks on the offseason grocery list, knocked down one by one.
Just like that, we're barreling towards Concacaf Champions League (Feb. 18!) games beginning and the MLS regular season following soon thereafter on Feb 29.
Yet, there are still some holes to fill on rosters across the league. Here are some of the biggest.
Cincy's third DP
FC Cincinnati are also in the market for a third Designated Player. With Yuya Kubo and Jurgen Locadia leading a new-look attack, an attacking midfielder could slot into the opening. It was very nearly Gaston Pereiro, a 24-year-old Uruguayan international who ended up signing for Cagliari in Serie A.
Will it happen immediately? Perhaps. But to borrow Gerard Nijkamp's succinct description: A need becomes a wish.
“The needs we had before signing Kubo and Locadia was more a need, but now is a wish," Nijkamp told MLSsoccer.com of adding a No. 10. "We’re working hard to acquire a creative midfielder, and maybe we are talking with several profiles. If we can find him now, good. If the pieces don’t come together, then we will continue to do that over the summer, when the market is bigger, especially in Europe. The need becomes a wish.”
Galaxy center back
But fun and contending for MLS Cup aren't the same thing. The latter requires a boring, run-of-the-mill solid defense. Good positioning, dutiful running and a cohesive unit aren't exactly the stuff of social media managers' dreams, but for the Galaxy to be realistic in their quest for a sixth star on their jersey, the defense will need to be unrecognizable from last season.
Perhaps that can be fixed tactically. Defending as an 11-man unit was never going to happen with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the lines. Chicharito will be an upgrade in that regard. If Emiliano Insua locks down left back, that's a huge boost. The position was a revolving door of disappointment in 2019. But they are dangerously thin up the middle.
Daniel Steres, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Nick DePuy are the only options at the position. The Galaxy were chasing Peru center back Carlos Zambrano, but that never materialized. Who have they got queued up next?
In perhaps the preeminent storyline of the offseason, Inter Miami still have two open DP slots. Let's take a quick look at who they've been linked with across the world:
Realistically, of course, an overwhelming majority of those players weren't genuine targets. However, Monterrey midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro and Club America forward Roger Martinez — as reported by The Athletic's Paul Tenorio — are just that. Following the sagas, though, both could soon become "former" targets.
The latest is that a deal for Martinez may still be alive, while TUDN reports that Pizarro has re-joined Monterrey ahead of their next league match.
So it goes.
D.C. United defensive depth
With just six defenders under contract, D.C. are thin at the back.
There is no obvious backup left back, just one extra at center back and, depending on where Julian Gressel plays, they may also be short at right back. Steven Goff of The Washington Post reports that the club are searching for additions and nearly added a French center back, so they're on the case.
How many reinforcements will be sufficient?
Montreal center back
While it looks like they may need to replace star Ignacio Piatti, Montreal's attack is still in a good place with their panoply of options up front. The back line, which ultimately cost the club a place in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and Remi Garde his job in 2019, remains unconvincing.
Zachary Brault-Guillard was acquired on a permanent deal from Lyon, which is good business. Then Joel Waterman has made the jump from the Canadian Premier League to MLS in a historic transfer. But they could use another body among last season's incumbents.
New head coach Thierry Henry and Co. are nearing their 2020 debut, on Feb. 19 against Saprissa in the Concacaf Champions League.
New England defensive depth
After a deal for Samba Camara fell through, the Revolution are left with some flexibility. The center back would have been a TAM player and, while the club are high on SuperDraft selection Henry Kessler, they may choose to invest elsewhere in the squad.
Kessler makes the club four-deep at center back, but they may be light at right back and defensive midfield. The attack is glittering with talent, led by Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa. Will the defense hold up?
Chicago Fire difference-makers
Here is a thing that is interesting: The Fire are returning the lowest percentage of minutes played in MLS from last season to 2020.
That, obviously, was by design. They created an impressive amount of space for sporting director Georg Heitz to rebuild, with three DP spots, some TAM and a ton of salary-cap space.
But as the season nears, Chicago have added only two no-doubt-about-it-starters in DP forward Robert Beric and midfielder Alvaro Medran. Homegrown midfielder Mauricio Pineda and youthful defender Miguel Angel Navarro might be, too, but it's just a start. With room for two more DPs and other new additions, the club Fire need a few big weeks on the transfer market.
Minnesota fullback depth
It would appear that the primary backup option for Romain Metanire at right back is Hassani Dotson. It would appear Dotson is also the primary backup for Chase Gasper on the opposite flank. That is a welcomed development for Dotson's playing outlook, who will absolutely figure in regularly at defensive midfield. But it's not ideal for depth.
The good news, of course, is there is time for that to be rectified.
Seattle right back depth
Center back may also be an issue, with three senior options on the roster, though they might have an internal solution. Sam Rogers, a 20-year-old academy graduate who has more than 4,500 minutes with Tacoma Defiance over the last few years, seems to be getting a chance this preseason. In a pinch, Gustav Svensson can also drop into the backline should injuries take their toll.