Seltzer: Top free agent targets for MLS teams before the roster freeze

Cole Grossman - Solo shot - With RSL in 2014

Though the transfer window has shuttered until winter, MLS clubs are still able to sign free agents until rosters are frozen for the season on Sept. 15.

With that in mind, we've compiled a list of players who have run out of contract in Europe that could make for nice late season pick-ups.

Felipe Avenatti

Considering the former Uruguay youth international's cultured all-around game, it's a surprise that he remains out of a job this close to the European transfer deadline. The 24-year-old is a true No. 9, but with added features. Fresh from netting 29 times in four Serie B campaigns with Ternana, Avenatti is wily in the box, outstanding in the air, holds up well, can set up teammates, excels in high pressure defending and has rather tricky feet for a big man. He's been linked with interest from a few Serie A clubs, but no one has pulled the trigger on a deal thus far.   

Who should size him up?

The Vancouver Whitecaps are crying out for a guy just like Avenatti, who would allow Fredy Montero more space to do what he does best as a support striker.

Luciano Balbi

For some reason, Valladolid's new manager did not choose to re-sign the left back after he helped the Segunda División side to a solid seventh-place finish last season. Balbi has terrific pace and is a strong one-v-one defender. While the 28-year-old certainly won't overwhelm anyone with surges up the flank or volume of service, he will cross with deadly accuracy when given space to sneak forward and pick out box runners.

Who should size him up?

Both Colorado and Minnesota could surely use him, but the Argentinean seems a much better fit with New England's quicker front-foot game. And if the 34-year-old Maynor Figueroa won't be returning to FC Dallas, he'd also fit like a glove there.

Cheick Diabaté

Seltzer: Top free agent targets for MLS teams before the roster freeze -


The Mali international is a pure target forward. He loves to do battle in the air, play knockdowns and fire headers at goal. As an added bonus, Diabaté runs well and is an ace penalty marksman. He has 15 goals in his 37 international caps and has bagged another 58 in Ligue 1 play, with eight of those coming in just 14 loan games at Metz over the back half of last season. The 29-year-old reportedly has suitors in France, Russia and England's Championship, so interested parties should act fast.

Who should size him up?

The LA Galaxy could probably make excellent use of Diabaté's strength, both as a fulcrum that their shifty star attackers to run off of and as a playmaking target. Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake ships about as many crosses and long balls as any MLS team, and lacks a big body up top with Yura Movsisyan in the doghouse.


Major League Soccer clubs have a nice track record of signing impactful Barcelona B products, from Ronnie Ekelund to Oriol Rossell straight through to Victor Vazquez and Ilie Sanchez. Any team looking for a strong tackler with a slick passing game might do as well to check out Chico. Though the 30-year-old has spent the last three years cashing fat checks in Qatar, he does come with 172 games of experience gained in La Liga, Serie A and the EPL.  

Who should size him up?

As a team that greatly prefers to play out of the back and is currently paper thin in central defense, New York City FC might want to ring the Spaniard up.

Cole 996884906645596049:to.45">Grossman

The former Real Salt Lake man enjoyed two solid seasons with 996884906645596049:to.46">Stabaek before running out of contract in January. The Norwegian outfit went full youth movement this term, but that could work out to some 996884906645596049:to.47">MLS club's benefit. Once a pure 996884906645596049:to.48">defensive midfielder, 996884906645596049:to.49">Grossman's morphed into more of a two-way soldier while overseas.  

Who should size him up?

Gosh, it sure seems like his old Rio 996884906645596049:to.50">Tinto employers will soon be after a cool midfield head with fresher legs. At the same time, Bob Bradley (otherwise known as the guy who brought 996884906645596049:to.51">Grossman to 996884906645596049:to.52">Stabaek) is now busy building LAFC's team from scratch and will need some good value cogs.

Jan Kirchhoff

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The 26-year-old free agent is taking his sweet time picking a new club after running out of contract with Sunderland. Kirchhoff was a key man in the Black Cats' 2015 survival run, but injuries forced him to watch from the sideline as they fell out of the EPL last season. An avid tackler, he can operate as a center back or defensive midfielder. He's as strong in the air as you'd expect for a guy standing 6-foot-5, but is also pretty comfy on the ball. The trick here is keeping him healthy.

Who should size him up?

Kirchhoff could help to a Montreal side that has needed another option in the heart of defense for a while now. One would assume that D.C. United and Orlando City might also be intrigued.

Conor O'Brien

The 28-year-old left AC Horsens this summer, but nor before breaking Michael Parkhurst's record for the most career games played by an American in Denmark's Superliga. Originally an attacking midfielder, O'Brien was most often used as a No. 8 overseas. He still can work possession and provide a little offense, but now comes with more bite in his game.

Who should size him up?

The Colorado midfield requires a new engine capable of driving their transition game.

Ronald Vargas

Five Venezuela internationals have joined MLS clubs this year, including standouts Yangel Herrera, Josef Martinez and Jefferson Savarino. With his compatriots suddenly en vogue, Vargas could make it a tidy half-dozen. The 30-year-old is currently training with Royal Antwerp, but Jelle Van Damme's new club is dragging their feet on an offer. That may give an MLS team time to jump in for a guy who can play anywhere in attack. While he is a streaky finisher, the veteran beats defenders on the dribble for fun, loves to combine around the area and strikes a nasty restart.

Who should size him up?

The former Club Brugge, Anderlecht and AEK Athens attacker could help the Earthquakes or Red Bulls now, or make for fine Federico Higuain successor in Columbus.