MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

One roster need for every MLS club during the Secondary Transfer Window

The Secondary Transfer Window opens next week (July 7). It was only a five week break between the Primary and Secondary windows, and as always, the work never stops at all clubs.

Let's take a look at potential spots each team could upgrade. The variations of suggestions are rooted in realism, by salary cap/roster restrictions and expectations. Sure, every club could use another star goal-scorer, game-changing No. 10 or a dominant defensive midfielder, but not all clubs have the roster/cap ability or appetite to do so.

Could use: Another midfielder

In the midst of a transition under Gabriel Heinze, the first third of the season hasn't gone totally smooth for Atlanta. Time is needed, and they could use some upgrades, but realistically they don't appear to have a ton of flexibility unless someone leaves.

With Emerson Hyndman out for the season, and Matheus Rossetto and Mo Adams combing for 11 total minutes played, perhaps they could use another option in central midfield. The best thing Atlanta could get this summer is a fully fit and in-form Josef Martinez, truth be told.

If the European interest in George Bello turns into a can't-miss offer, then they'll need another left back as well.

Needs: Center forward

***Update: Minutes after this was published, Austin announced the signing of Senegalese youth international Moussa Djitte, so, this has mostly been taken care of, unless they opt to add another striker in addition to Djitte***

Danny Hoesen has not been the answer up top for the expansion side and is now out for the season as he's set for hip surgery, while veteran backup Aaron Schoenfeld has missed the entire season to date, leaving Josh Wolff opt for Jon Gallagher or winger Cecilio Dominguez playing through the center. It is not how they drew it up.

Austin are:

  • 17th in expected goals, but 26th in goals scored
  • Underperforming xG by 6.91 goals, worst in MLS
  • Created 3rd most chances from open play in MLS
  • Created 13 big chances, only scored three. 20% conversion rate, worst in MLS

This one is pretty straightforward.

"We continue to explore players from all regions, be it from Mexico, South America, Europe," sporting director Claudio Reyna told The Striker Texas' Chris Bils. "I think there will be opportunities to sign a player from Mexico if it’s the right one, but there’s nothing to the rumors that I can really share."

Wolff was more direct last week.

"We need a striker," he said after their 2-0 loss to Minnesota on June 23. "We're looking and zeroing in on a couple."

Reports broke Wednesday morning from The Striker Texas' Chris Bils that 21-year-old Senegalese forward Moussa Djitte has been signed from Ligue 2 club Grenoble. Will he be the answer?

Needs: Center back

This season has not quite gone to plan for Chicago. That much is obvious. Pointing towards the defense for a team who have scored just seven goals in 10 games (thanks to scoring three against Philly last weekend) is not obvious.

Robert Beric has struggled, but his track record and quality suggests he'll be fine. They have significant roster resources tied into Ignacio Aliseda, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Chinonso Offor and Stanislav Ivanov, the last of which is still awaiting his season debut as he recovers from a preseason knee injury. They also have wonderkid Jhon Jader Duran arriving in the winter. Does it really make sense to sign another attacker?

Instead, let's look at the defense. Chicago conceded 39 goals last year, third-worst in MLS, including a penchant for odd individual mistakes time and time again that cost points. It's been more of the same this year, again sitting third-worst in MLS.

Needs: Defensive help (DM and/or backline)

More of the same for FC Cincinnati: They could use some further defense-minded additions.

Cincinnati have conceded 17 goals after nine games — only Toronto FC and the San Jose Earthquakes have leaked more goals per game — and already are staring up at a sizable distance towards the playoff line. The good news? Latest signings Geoff Cameron and Gustavo Vallecilla have shown at least a bit of defensive improvement. They held Colorado to just 0.4 xG, Chicago to 1.6 xG and Toronto to 0.7 xG. They have kept two consecutive clean sheets. A small sample size, of course, and they still need more, but encouraging nonetheless.

Last summer's defensive midfield acquisition, Kamohelo Mokotjo, has started just three games this year, leaving natural attacker Yuya Kubo often playing a box-to-box role next to natural box-to-box midfielder Allan Cruz. They've moved on from Jurgen Locadia, which opens up a DP spot, or at the very least more cap room to maneuver if they opt for multiple signings.

A source tells that's the plan this summer, to bring in one or two defensive reinforcements.

Could use: Cover for Vines, Bassett

One of the deepest teams in the league with plenty of options across all positions, the Rapids' depth may be tested this summer.

Younes Namli is out a few months with injury and the likes of Sam Vines, Cole Bassett and/or Jonathan Lewis could be gone on international duty in July at the Gold Cup. Vines is the likeliest of the trio to be called up and is the most difficult to replace. When he missed time early in the season, center mid Kellyn Acosta surprisingly was called on to cover left back. Acosta was on national team duty for the Nations League and is unlikely to also be called into the Gold Cup squad, but could theoretically be gone too.

Bassett is all the more important after Namli's injury, as it opened a clear spot in the starting XI for the rising American. He also has European suitors chasing him this summer.

Could use: Veteran third forward?

There are not any obvious needs for the Crew, both by quantity and quality. There are not any "needs" at all, even with further inspection.

Columbus are two-deep at every position. Even while dealing with a lengthy injury list this season, including a season-ending injury to rotation midfielder Aidan Morris, Kevin Molino missing the first seven games plus the likes of Milton Valenzuela, Eloy Room, Artur, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Derrick Etienne and more missing time, they have stayed afloat without much worry.

One concern if you squint: With Wright-Phillips battling an injury and Gyasi Zardes a strong candidate to go to the Gold Cup, perhaps a veteran center forward could be useful.

Could use: Another defender

They were in need of a defensive mid, but recently signed Argentine Facundo Quignon, so they deleted that from the to-do list. This offseason they shook up their winger depth chart and have plenty of cover there, production notwithstanding. They opted to look internally to fill the minutes left by Bryan Reynolds after his transfer to AS Roma.

Honestly, they're most in need of improved performance from previous key signings.

For the sake of continuity, though, perhaps they could use another defender with Matt Hedges injured. Justin Che returning and apparently staying despite Bayern Munich's interest could solve that, though. They don't seem to have a ton of roster/salary flexibility, anyway, but it also appeared that way last summer yet the club signed a handful of players so we shall see.

Could use: Center back

Injuries to Steven Birnbaum and Bill Hamid in preseason were an unfortunate curveball to kick off the Hernan Losada era, cobbling together a defensive unit on the fly without its two cornerstones.

With Hamid back, and Birnbaum not long to follow, D.C. have performed admirably well on the defensive side of the game. They have the fourth-best xG against in MLS (10.76 compared to 13 goals conceded) suggesting they could improve further. Adding another option to the three center backs wouldn't hurt.

They haven't scored goals with regularity, but it seems unlikely they'd sign another attacker unless one leaves. Edison Flores has missed the last month and Erik Sorga has missed the last eight games. Paul Arriola recently returned from injury, too. Ola Kamara and offseason addition Nigel Robertha are the main options through the center with Sorga out.

Could use: High-level DP

To be fair, what team couldn't use a high-level DP?

Houston don't have any obvious holes by way of quantity or depth. They got their hopeful center back partnership sorted for years to come, signing Tim Parker to a contract extension and officially acquiring Zimbabwe international Teenage Hadebe to a DP deal this week. They have a number of options in attack, which rendered Christian Ramirez expendable ahead of his transfer to Aberdeen and which has limited Darwin Quintero to a total of 89 minutes played this season.

Fans in Houston have been hoping for splashier signings for a while. New owner Ted Segal said there's no reason the club should be near the bottom in spending and he "intends to provide the resources necessary for us to succeed."

Needs: Brian Rodriguez resolution

Does Brian Rodriguez stay or go after the Copa America?

If he goes, is it another loan or can a permanent move be found? What will the club do with his DP spot or will they focus the resources to the U-22 Initiative?

If he stays, how can Bob Bradley get the best out of him in the same starting XI as fellow DPs Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi? Or is that on the back-burner as LAFC try to pick up form and climb the Western Conference table?

Those are just a few rambling questions surrounding LAFC and Rodriguez.

“He’s under contract here, so as Copa America finishes up, if we don’t find as an organization a deal that makes sense then we’re excited for Brian to come back," Bradley told media on June 18. “From the beginning we’ve spoke of his talent and we believe that there’s a lot more there for him to do here. So, no big update other than we’ll wait and see how things play out for the rest of Copa America and then a little bit into the transfer window.”

Rodriguez, 21, has two goals and seven assists in 26 MLS appearances after joining during the summer of 2019. He has shown flashes of the talent and potential that made him such a highly-rated youngster and rapid advancement to the senior national team, but hasn’t quite reached the consistent level expected.

Could use: U-22 Initiative signing

The Galaxy are another deep team who have checked off new signings recently. Center back Sega Coulibaly arrived and walked into the starting XI while defensive midfielder Rayan Raveloson will be able to debut soon, two more new recruits from the French system. They have a few academy products making waves in the first team, led by Julian Araujo and Efra Alvarez.

Perhaps another exciting young talent to add to the group under the U-22 Initiative then as Greg Vanney's side balances youth and experience?

When they acquired Kevin Cabral, they added him to the roster as a Young Designated Player. This opened further room under the salary cap to sign three U-22 initiative players rather than just one. Josh Guesman of Corner of the Galaxy laid it out well in this article from April.

They have been linked with Gareth Bale, too, despite not having a DP spot for him. Silly season!

Needs: Defensive help

Miami already have Kieran Gibbs on the way once the Secondary Transfer Window opens and he figures to slot in as the starter at left back, but that probably won't be enough.

The partnership in central defense has struggled and Phil Neville has had to deal with injuries and suspensions seemingly every week. Matt Doyle wrote the Miami's defense "is packed with chaos merchants" and there's honestly no better way to convey that information. It's unclear how much flexibility they have for meaningful change, though.

They have had attacking issues too, but unless someone like Rodolfo Pizarro departs permanently (something Neville has repeatedly and strongly denied has any chance of happening) they have too many roster resources and too much money committed to the group that the changes are more likely to come from within.

Could use: Another center back

Another team who seem to have checked off all of their season-long transfer goals after the long-term pursuits of Adrien Hunou and Franco Fragapane got over the line, more than anything is figuring out the team's best XI, as they have a number of options.

With Emanuel Reynoso at the No. 10, only three of Hunou/Fragapane/Ramon Abila/Robin Lod/Ethan Finlay can start. Two of Jan Gregus/Wil Trapp/Hassani Dotson/Ozzie Alonso in the double-pivot, though Dotson provides cover at both fullback spots and on the wing too.

As for additions, perhaps another center back with Michael Boxall heading to the Olympics with New Zealand, but it isn't a pressing issue at all barring injury.

Could use: Another midfield creator

The original draft of this blurb was center back, as Luis Binks never did make his season debut before heading to sister club Bologna earlier than expected. He was going to be a first-choice starter this year before those plans changed. Over the weekend, they acquired 19-year-old Icelandic center back Robert Thorkelsson so that has been addressed.

Even without another center back, Wilfried Nancy's system has been solid defensively, conceding only 10 goals in 10 games. The underlying numbers suggest that isn't a fluke, as they are middle of the pack in expected goals against. Ho-hum so far.

The squad seems more or less set, with a number of options across most positions for Nancy, though they don't have another creative attacker quite like Djordje Mihailovic. The Chicago Fire academy product leads the team with 18 chances created, at least seven more than everyone else on the team. He also leads CFMTL in expected assists and chances created from open play.

Could use: Attacking DP

Less of a need than a luxury, Nashville are looking to make another splash this summer.

The attack this season has leaned on the likes of DPs Jhonder Cadiz and Hany Mukhtar, Costa Rica international Randall Leal, MLS veterans CJ Sapong, Alex Muyl and more. Uruguay youth international Rodrigo Pineiro, former Mexico youth international Daniel Rios and Seattle Sounders product Handwalla Bwana further make up the depth chart that is likely to become even more crowded.

They have space for another DP and have their sights set in Liga MX. CF Monterrey's Ake Loba and Ecuadorian international Michael Estrada are reportedly two targets.

Could use: Another defender

The Revs are another team tinkering to figure out their best XI. Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa have shared the field less and less this season, while Henry Kessler surprisingly seemed to fall behind Jon Bell as preferred partner for Andrew Farrell then working out the best combination on the wings.

Left back Christian Mafla has made just one appearance after his offseason move to New England while things could get light in central defense with an untimely injury.

Could use: Another center back?

NYCFC had a slower offseason than expected, but boy, did that change around opening day.

They acquired highly-rated young attackers Thiago Andrade, Talles Magno and Santiago Rodriguez as well as US international midfielder Alfredo Morales, all after April 1. Morales, with his American passport, was able to come right away while the others took much longer. Given the first three are still finding their feet in the team, as well as Heber continuing his rehab from a torn ACL, this already impressive group has much more to show.

Ronny Deila has played three at the back at time, dropping James Sands alongside starting partnership Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot. With Callens at Copa America, NYCFC went back to a back four with Sands alongside Chanot. Sands' versatility solves a lot of problems. But if they want him back in the midfield, or if he ever needs a rest, Sebastian Ibeagha and rookie Vuk Latinovich are the only options.

Could use: Center back

With stalwart Aaron Long out for the season with a torn achilles, RBNY need another center back.

Right back (and backup No. 6!) Tom Edwards has spent some minutes filling in, though is better suited to play as a right center back in a back three than a back four. Andres Reyes, Sean Nealis and Amro Tarek are the only natural center backs.

Elsewhere, though, RBNY are deep. They have plenty of options in midfield and attack, allowing Gerhard Struber to rotate or replace unavailable guys, as the midfield didn't crater without standouts Caden Clark and Cristian Casseres Jr.

Needs: An answer at center forward

This is obviously fluid. Daryl Dike is the answer at center forward for as long as he's on the roster, but we do not know how much longer he will be on the roster.

Most assumed he wasn't even going to return to an MLS match following his overwhelmingly successful loan to Barnsley. He has returned and picked up right where he left off with a couple of goals this week. But he could be transferred any day and is on the preliminary US roster for the Gold Cup, so even if he's not transferred, he may miss all of July on international duty.

Alexandre Pato was given first crack at replacing Dike while he was on loan at the beginning of the season. Pato was incredible in preseason, scoring goals seemingly every game, and was encouraging in his season debut, but he picked up an injury on opening day and is yet to return. If they get a fully healthy and in-form Pato, on paper, that would be plenty. But Pato's injury history is pretty fill. Hopefully he gets better luck when he gets back on the field.

Could use: Another striker

Sell two Best XI players in the winter, lose the club's all-time appearance leader in a surprise retirement, only get regular contributions from one new signing (Leon Flach) so far, deal with Concacaf Champions League fixture congestion to start the season and... don't miss a beat? Yeah, sure. Sounds good.

The Union have had a hugely encouraging start to the season, enough to keep them in the Supporters' Shield race. With CCL, visa issues with new signings/international roster spots and working in a new batch of young homegrowns, that was not a certainty. They've remained competitive, very competitive, in fact one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference once again.

They are likely to be active this summer in bringing in a player or two. Once again there aren't a ton of needs: With Flach, they have a dependable second option at No. 6 when Jose Martinez is gone/suspended. They once again have a strong center back partnership and they remain high on Stuart Findlay, who finally made his debut on the weekend. Daniel Gazdag is meant to raise the attacking quality once he gets a run in the team.

A three-striker rotation for two starting spots has kept the strikers fit, but it's common for clubs that play a two-forward system to have four senior options. Maybe another forward comes in? We'll see what their front office has in store.

Could use: Another CB

Portland had intended to sign another defender early in the season as part of their defensive makeover, though it wasn't a pressing need after acquiring starting fullbacks Claudio Bravo and Josecarlos Van Rankin, as well as re-signing Larrys Mabiala. A center back rotation of Mabiala, Dario Zuparic and Bill Tuiloma has held up over the first quarter of the season.

They could sign another attacker, perhaps with a U-22 initiative slot, as owner Merritt Paulson teased about a month ago.

Still, with Sebastian Blanco back from injury, Jaroslaw Niezgoda not far behind as well as Yimmi Chara and Felipe Mora returning from national duty whenever their respective countries are eliminated from (or win!) the Copa America. It's more of a luxury than a need.

The math could change if a respectable bid comes in for Jeremy Ebobisse or Eryk Williamson, of course.

Could use: Another No. 8

Real Salt Lake got a debut from Bobby Wood and will soon have new signings Toni Datkovic (center back) and Jonathan Menendez (winger) as they were one of the many teams who were active over the last month. Getting those three integrated in the squad is the most important summer task.

If they were to go out and add further reinforcements, maybe another central midfielder makes sense.

Needs: Creative attacker

After a few bad defeats revealing some frailty in defense, a key center back would have been the answer here, but San Jose announced the acquisition of Brazilian center back Nathan on a TAM deal on Friday. One player may not solve everything, but it won't hurt.

Better defending is still the chief priority for San Jose, who have fallen to 10th in the Western Conference after a promising start to the season and are tied with Toronto FC for most goals conceded in the league.

On the other end of the field, 34-year-old rotation midfielder Shea Salinas leads the team in chances created from open play. He has only played 361 minutes. That is an indictment of DPs Cristian Espinoza and Chofis Lopez, who are supposed to be carrying the creative burden (though, to be fair, Espinoza and Lopez are first and second on the team in expected assists.)

Lopez is the team leader in chances created from open play per 90 minutes (min. 400 minutes), but ranks 74th in MLS in that category.

Could use: Another natural option at right wingback?

Alex Roldan has been awesome as a right wingback in his first full season at the new position. The 24-year-old has started all 11 of Seattle's games, playing 983 of their 990 minutes. He entered this season with just 15 MLS starts in three years.

There are other options behind Roldan at wingback, though no natural defenders. Kelyn Rowe can put in a shift there and Cristian Roldan can seemingly play anywhere, but there isn't an obvious answer in the event Alex Roldan would have to miss any significant time. This is nit-picking from the league's best team through the first 11 games of the season, of course.

Seattle have been dominating MLS this season without Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, and mostly without Stefan Frei who is injured. That is not a sentence many imagined would be typed. Many assumed they may start slow with the injuries. Many were wrong.

The Sounders have traditionally made a big splash in the summer transfer window, though. So maybe they have one more lever to pull in addition to the return of Lodeiro, one of the league's best players.

Could use: Loan back included in Busio transfer

All eyes for Sporting KC — and MLS, for the most part — this summer will be on the future of Gianluca Busio. Multiple teams in Europe are hoping to agree a transfer with SKC for the 19-year-old rising star. It seems a matter of time.

From a selfish 2021 view for SKC, Busio is among Peter Vermes' most important players. He has started all 12 games for the club at various roles, an added bonus for Vermes as he juggles the squad. Busio has been able to play — and excel — in multiple positions. SKC are firmly in the Supporters' Shield chase and Busio is a key cog.

There is precedent, too. Brenden Aaronson's long-reported transfer to Europe last summer was agreed for the winter, allowing the Philly Union star to stick around to finish out the season and chase a trophy. They won the Supporters' Shield. Last week the Red Bulls announced Caden Clark would be joining RB Leipzig in the winter rather than immediately now, too.

If such an agreement proves to be impossible, then they'll have to decide whether they'll replace his minutes internally at the club or externally in the transfer market.

Needs: Resolution on Jozy Altidore's situation

Toronto FC aimed to find a resolution for Jozy Altidore during the league's break in play during the first few weeks of June, but that has not yet happened. It's not an easy situation for either party, with Altidore still training by himself after an argument with head coach Chris Armas.

The situation is not easy and there are no easy resolutions. The Athletic's Sam Stejskal and Joshua Kloke went in depth on it a few weeks ago. In the interim, they have a DP away from the team and thus not contributing, which is far from ideal.

Rising youngster and first choice starter Ayo Akinola has dealt with injuries this year as well and he was rotated in the club's 2-0 loss to FC Cincinnati last weekend, with Patrick Mullins and Dom Dwyer starting up top. Perhaps a forward rotation of those three players is enough and, if they can get Altidore's DP spot back, they can re-invest in the team, be it up top or elsewhere.

Needs: DP No. 10

This is so meta. The words "Vancouver will sign a DP No. 10" have been typed ad nauseam, but here we are, typing them again as we are closing in on a year after transferring Hwang Inbeom to Rubin Kazan and no DP No. 10 has arrived.

It is not for a lack of trying. Porto's Otavio, Benfica's Chiquinho, Gremio's Jean Pyerre and now the latest name linked is soon-to-be free agent Ryan Gauld (as per AFTN's Michael McColl). There is legs to this one, a source confirms.

Gauld is 25-year-old attacking midfielder, once dubbed the Scottish Messi after breaking through at Dundee and earning a move to Sporting CP in his teenage years. He didn't quite reach the world-class potential he was tipped for, but has developed into quite a useful attacker in Liga Nos. He had nine goals and seven assists in 33 matches with Farense. He is reportedly being courted by Sheffield United as well, the English club just relegated to the Championship.

This team needs another creative force in attack, they have been honest and straightforward with that. They have a strong foundation in midfield with Michael Baldisimo and key winter addition Caio Alexandre.

Alexandre possess, progresses and pressures the ball at top-tier MLS levels. That's quite the package and would be accentuated with an advanced playmaker ahead of him.

Will they get Gauld over the line or shift to other targets again?