I have been covering this league for a million years, and one thing I can never quite get used to is the Primary Transfer Window stays open for a long, long, LONG time – nearly two-and-a-half months into the season, as a matter of fact. The official end date for this year’s version is May 4, which is a bit over two weeks from now and just a smidge under the 30% mark of the 2022 regular season.
It is understandable the powers that be would keep the window open this long for one obvious reason: most leagues around the world are winding down by early May. Teams that are staying up mostly know it, and teams that are going down mostly know it, and both are more inclined to sell (for some of those teams going down, selling is likely considered a necessity). So keeping the transfer window open this long both gives MLS teams a chance to do some bargain hunting before the summer window feeding frenzy, and gives teams that have started their respective seasons in the torture chamber a chance to make an early enough change to potentially turn the whole damn thing around.
Want a recent example of how teams can make the late-closing transfer window work for them by adding a difference-maker well after the season started? Here you go:
I bet you remember that goal! Did you also remember that almost 10% of the Galaxy’s season was in the books when it happened? Pretty significant roster addition that definitely was not going to happen in January!
We’re also seeing some creativity in how to leverage the transfer window from MLS teams this year. D.C. United signed DP attacker Taxi Fountas from Rapid Vienna this winter with the understanding that he’d come after his contract expired (June 30) and join when the Secondary Transfer Window opened (July 7). But if you’ve watched D.C. you know they need help right damn now, and Fountas was able to leverage a move – by, um, refusing to play, which didn’t go down so great in Austria, but business is business, I guess – and so United are getting their biggest offseason signing two months early.
Chicago Fire FC did something similar but different, purchasing highly-rated winger Jairo Torres from Liga MX side Atlas this winter and then agreeing the kid would show up on May 1 rather than right away. Atlas wanted to hold onto him for as long as possible because they have a title to defend (their first in 70 years!) and needed the kid’s help even getting to the liguilla to defend it in the first place. Torres himself has got roots and loyalty there, and so this turned into a super workable solution for everyone involved, except perhaps for those of us who have already watched three too many 0-0s involving the Fire this season.
And so with that context in mind, let’s jump in and take a look at a few of the teams around the league who have to make a move before the window closes, because waiting until July is just a case of letting a wound fester:
You thought they already made their move with the Torres signing! Well, I’m here to tell you they did, and just bringing Torres back is not enough, even with a healthy Xherdan Shaqiri presumably pulling the strings as a No. 10.
Torres, you see, isn’t a direct, stretch-the-field, run-through-the-lines, goalscoring winger. He’s more of a guy who likes to drop in and be a playmaker instead. While the Fire badly need that, they also badly need someone who can be vertical and threaten in behind, drawing backlines away from Shaqiri and Torres, and making them pay the gravity tax.
The Fire don’t have an open DP slot, so they can’t go too big here. But it is a glaring need, and goalscoring from that spot could push this team into legitimate contender status.
Two bits of good news for ‘Caps fans:
- The current front office has made a series of good moves, from both within the league and beyond, over the past few windows.
- They already have their next good move lined up.
That move will be for Paraguayan international Andres Cubas, a midfield enforcer whose ball-winning numbers are stratospheric (think Diego Chara or the criminally underrated Judson). He is a plug-and-play solution to what has been a glaring need for two months now.
I will add a third bit of good news: Cubas should be ready to step in immediately. He’s not a kid with potential – Vancouver’s made a number of those signings – but is a fully-fledged, in-his-prime international who’s been better than good in two separate leagues, on two separate continents. Guys with that kind of résumé tend to adjust quickly.
Cincy are yet another team that has already taken some advantage of the late-closing window this year, adding Nigerian midfield enforcer Obinna Nwobodo from Turkish side Goztepe earlier this month. He’ll debut sometime in the next couple of weeks, and if he’s as good as the underlying numbers say, he fills a massive need for this side.
But this is still a side with so many holes, and Nwobodo won’t be able to fill all of them. I honestly think they could stand to add another starting-caliber central midfielder, and/or another center back (they’ve added a number of those over the past few years, and let’s just say it continues to be an area of need).
Bear in mind they’ve been sitting on the top spot in the Allocation Order for a while now. They could trade it, obviously, but if Matt Miazga wants to put an end to his Chelsea loan odyssey, or Carlos Gruezo has decided it’s time to come back to MLS, that’d help this team a ton.
Watch poor Remi Walter here:
Sporting – particularly Andreu Fontas, who stepped way off that backline chasing ghosts and then did not exactly empty the tank trying to get into the play – left Walter in a bad spot, and then he made the least of it.
He is not a d-mid. Neither is Roger Espinoza. Uri Rosell is, but Rosell’s been hurt for the better part of two years and has only really looked like a starting-caliber d-mid in MLS in select situations during select times over the past decade.
Injuries may have forced their hand at ‘keeper, where they are reportedly in for Maccabi Haifa goalkeeper Josh Cohen, and forward, where Tommy Scoops says they’re eyeing fringe US international Matthew Hoppe.
Both of these make sense. Cohen was the Player of the Year in the Israeli league last year, and was one of the best ‘keepers in the USL Championship before that:
He’s 29 and he’s a dual national, which means he does not require an international roster slot. With Brad Guzan probably sidelined until 2023, there really appears to be no need to overthink this.
As for Hoppe, he’s barely played for Mallorca and is understandably looking for a new home. While most US fans probably think of him primarily as a winger because that’s the spot he played at last year’s Gold Cup, he’s actually a much more natural run-the-line center forward.
His movement – that relentless drive to stretch the field and get in behind – is something Atlanta desperately need, and desperately lacked this year even before Josef Martinez had his latest setback.
Hoppe makes a ton of sense for this team, even with his limited track record.
C’mon, guys. Sign some DPs.
Nashville and Shaq Moore have reportedly had mutual interest since January, though obviously, it’s yet to come to fruition. Moore has been a regular (though not a regular starter) for his club side CD Tenerife as they push for promotion – they currently sit fourth in the Segunda Division, which puts them into the promotion playoffs if they hold that spot until season’s end – and that probably makes it tough for them to part with him at this point in the season.
But money talks and smaller Spanish clubs are always willing to listen to that particular discussion. Most of them have to in order to survive.
Moore, for his part, probably wants to get this done right away since he’s in like a six-way battle royale for the backup right back job with the USMNT, and playing time is going to be the most valuable differentiator. The incentive for Nashville, meanwhile, is they will need a more reliable crosser of the ball from right back/wingback as they approach the home-heavy part of their schedule. They won’t be able to bunker-and-counter their way through the remaining 70% of the year, and Gary Smith has always prized pinpoint crossing from his fullbacks. Moore checks that box in a big way.