It was another busy summer in MLS, both for incoming and outgoing moves. On the outgoing side, there were some big and important transfers completed.
Here are the most noteworthy outbound transfers of 2022 and how the selling clubs maneuvered to bring in replacements. And a quick note: This goes live as most European windows close Sept. 1 and Mexico's wraps up Sept. 5.
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Transfer: New England Revolution to RC Lens
To kick off the summer in terms of outbound moves, the New England Revolution transferred Poland international forward Adam Buksa to French club RC Lens for a reported fee that could reach $10 million.
Buksa, 26, had 29 goals and eight assists in 64 regular-season appearances with the Revs, winning the 2021 Supporters’ Shield. In his final 18 months, he averaged a goal or an assist every 99.8 minutes, a simply elite rate.
Dealing with an injury, Buksa is yet to debut with Lens, who sit second in Ligue 1 after four matches.
RC Lens previously signed Buksa’s compatriot Przemylaw Frankowski from Chicago Fire FC and had bids rejected last summer for Canadian international Tajon Buchanan, then still with the Revs before agreeing on a deal with Belgium’s Club Brugge. They clearly have an eye on MLS.
Replacement: Giacomo Vrioni (amid reshuffled attack)
Long assuming Buksa would return to Europe by the summer (at the latest), New England acted swiftly in signing a replacement: Albanian international Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus.
Vrioni never quite broke through at the Serie A giants, but the 23-year-old lit up the Austrian Bundesliga in 2021-22 while on loan with WSG Tirol, tallying 19 goals (tied for the league lead).
The center forward wasn’t the Revs' only attacking move this summer, as they traded away midfielder Sebastian Lletget to FC Dallas and acquired winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi from LAFC, while signing free agent attacking midfielder Nacho Gil (brother of reigning MVP Carles Gil).
Injuries have slowed them down this summer, with Vrioni limited to just 58 minutes so far and Tajouri-Shradi and Gil yet to debut. Meanwhile, livewire winger Dylan Borrero – signed from Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro via the league’s U22 Initiative – has been out injured since mid-July as well.
Transfer: New York City FC to Girona
Reigning MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi and MLS Cup winner Taty Castellanos made his long-awaited move to Europe this summer, taking a loan to fellow City Football Group club Girona in Spain’s LaLiga.
Castellanos, 23, debuted for NYCFC in 2018 and developed into a superstar in this league, regarded among its very best players over the last 18 months. During that latter timespan, the Argentine striker had 32g/10a to lead the lines for NYCFC while providing his elite pressing off the ball.
NYCFC put a $15 million price tag on him that wasn’t met. Rather than accept a lower bid, they’re betting on Castellanos excelling in Spain on loan and then possibly earning a bigger move. He scored in his second LaLiga match, starting alongside longtime Girona forward Cristhian Stuani.
Replacement: Internal (plus added depth of Matias Pellegrini)
Matias Pellegrini (signed after being waived by Inter Miami CF) was the only external attacking addition this summer for the Cityzens, with NYCFC believing they have the juice to cumulatively replace Taty from within.
Namely, continued responsibility and importance for Talles Magno. He’s supposed to be NYCFC's next attacking star, who is most deployed at left wing but can play through the center. Heber is the only natural center forward on the roster, but with Magno moving centrally occasionally, that opens a spot for another of the club's impressive wingers, like Gabriel Pereira, to get into the starting XI.
Transfer: LAFC to Club America
Things never quite worked out in MLS for Uruguay international Brian Rodriguez, who has undeniable talent but was unable to consistently produce an end product. As LAFC kept adding stars in attack, Rodriguez became expendable this summer.
Liga MX giants Club America came and signed Rodriguez, pushing for weeks and eventually agreeing to a $6 million deal with a sell-on clause.
Rodriguez, 22, had only eight goals over 55 MLS appearances, initially arriving in 2019. He spent time on loan in Spain’s second division with Almeria in 2021 as well.
Replacement: Cristian Tello
LAFC already signed Denis Bouanga a couple of weeks before the Rodriguez-to-Club-America reports started to gain steam, so these were separate transactions. Cristian Tello was the ostensible “replacement.”
Tello, formerly of Real Betis and Barcelona, was only able to be signed once Rodriguez left. The 31-year-old winger had 28 goals and 24 assists in 199 LaLiga appearances between Betis and Barcelona. Tello’s contract expired and he was a free agent, meaning he could be signed after the league’s Secondary Transfer Window closed on Aug. 4 – and before the Roster Freeze Date on Sept. 2.
Neither Bouanga nor Tello have debuted yet for the Supporters' Shield leaders (been awaiting visas). But whenever they are good to go, head coach Steve Cherundolo will have to choose three starters from a group of Carlos Vela, Cristian Arango, Gareth Bale, Bouanga, Tello and Mahala Opoku each game (health willing).
Transfer: CF Montréal to AZ Alkmaar (effective in January)
CF Montréal star attacker Djordje Mihailovic sealed a transfer to the Eredivisie's AZ Alkmaar, for January 2023, with chief sporting officer Olivier Renard saying “it wasn’t an option” for the player to leave immediately.
Mihailovic, 23, has 11 goals and 20 assists in his 56 MLS appearances with Montréal, where he blossomed into a star after a trade from his hometown Chicago Fire FC ahead of the 2021 season.
Montréal sit second in the Eastern Conference table and will be among the favorites in a wide-open conference behind the Philadelphia Union.
Replacement: Nothing yet
With the plan long being that Mihailovic would stay through the 2022 season, Montréal didn’t need to rush a replacement in. They do have the room with a couple of Designated Player spots open, but they (mostly) stood pat this summer.
Transfer: Chicago Fire FC to Chelsea (effective in January)
The outbound saga of the season, Chicago agreed to transfer wonderkid goalkeeper Gaga Slonina to Premier League powerhouse Chelsea, effective January 1. The timing allows Slonina to finish the season as Chicago’s No. 1 goalkeeper before heading to England in the winter.
Slonina, who only turned 18 in May, has been the undisputed starter for Chicago for a year now, a rarity for teenage goalkeepers in a top domestic flight around the world.
This season hasn’t been without its growing pains for Slonina, who also announced his decision to represent the United States in international soccer despite Poland calling him into their senior national team, but he’s played through it all.
Replacement: Likely to be Chris Brady
Chicago are very likely going to replace one teenage prodigy goalkeeper (Gaga Slonina) with … their other teenage prodigy goalkeeper (Chris Brady).
Brady, 18, is a constant with US youth national teams and the Fire have already rejected a transfer offer from Belgium’s Club Brugge for him (in January, per ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle). He has not yet made his MLS debut.
Chicago could add a veteran goalkeeper to either compete with Brady or cover for the potential of more bids coming in, but at this stage, Brady would be my assumption.
There’s also the distant possibility that Chelsea and Slonina’s camp decide the best loan option for him would be remaining in MLS a bit longer. Sporting director Georg Heitz said they’d certainly welcome that option, though Chicago would have to re-acquire his MLS rights via the Allocation Order this offseason to make it happen.
Transfer: LA Galaxy to AJ Auxerre
After about a year and a half in MLS, Rayan Raveloson returned to France, signing with Ligue 1’s AJ Auxerre for around $2 million, according to The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio.
Raveloson had a knack for scoring goals from the midfield with the Galaxy, posting eight goals and five assists in 44 appearances with the club.
Prior to joining the Galaxy, the Madagascar international had spent his entire career in France.
Replacement: Gaston Brugman/space for Riqui Puig
This one is backwards compared to the others: The Galaxy needed to make salary cap space to sign Riqui Puig from Barcelona. They made that space by transferring Raveloson.
A more like-for-like replacement happened earlier in the summer, when the Galaxy acquired Uruguayan defensive midfielder Gaston Brugman. Brugman is a more traditional holding midfielder, providing better balance given the roster. Mark Delgado is more of a box-to-box type (like Raveloson) and now Puig will take over as the No. 10.
Transfer: San Jose Earthquakes to Feyenoord
Lopez joined in 2019 and made 69 appearances with San Jose, as well as earning 20 caps with Peru’s national team.
Former LA Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese is the CEO of Feyenoord.
Replacement: Nothing yet, clearing the deck for Luchi a bit
With the U22 Initiative player’s contract expiring at the end of the year, the Quakes facilitated a move for Lopez to Feyenoord now rather than lose him for free in the winter.
San Jose have long been distant from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race; there was no need to not complete this move if it was clear Lopez wasn’t re-signing. It creates further room (and need for replacements) under new head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who will take over for interim boss Alex Covelo after his assistant duties with the US men’s national team at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.