The Secondary Transfer Window is closed and the stretch run is here. With that in mind, I want to take a look at what I reckon will pan out to be some of the smartest moves of the month that was – ones likely to have an impact on the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race in 2022, 2023 and beyond.
Before I do that, though, I’m going to warn you I will not be talking about these three teams, because the moves they made have been covered to death:
- Toronto FC: Five new starters, including the highest-paid DP of all time. They’re playing at a higher-stakes table than any other MLS team in history.
- LAFC: Technically not playing with the same kind of stakes, but certainly collecting the same kind of talent.
- Columbus: Cucho Hernandez is their record signing – a $10 million striker – and he’s doing exactly what you’d expect a $10 million striker to do.
Instead, let’s take a look at a few potentially large moves that have stayed under the radar:
Raveloson was supposed to be a true d-mid when they signed him, but it turns out the dude had himself a Frank Lampard streak. He was a lot of fun and actually quite good at those late, box-arriving goal-scoring runs, and I think in the right set-up, he’d have been an asset.
With the Galaxy, though, he was too much of a freelancer. Greg Vanney needs a No. 6 who will settle in and actually be a No. 6, especially with the defensively limited Riqui Puig now likely to be the creative focal point of the midfield.
Brugman sees the ball, wins the ball, and then passes the ball accurately to a more advanced, attacking teammate. He does not turn the ball over cheaply and does not get pulled out of position at all. Every good team needs a d-mid like that.
This move made me giddy because of how opportunistic it was. Toronto desperately needed to move Pozuelo, who’s a former Landon Donovan MLS MVP at the tail end of his prime with quite possibly three or four more excellent seasons left in him, because 1) they had to make room for Federico Bernardeschi, and 2) because Pozuelo just did not fit Bob Bradley’s system (which does not feature a true No. 10).
Phil Neville’s system (a basic mid-block 4-2-3-1 for the most part) does require a true No. 10. We know Miami’s ownership is willing to go out there and spend – more willing than they should be, at times – but I just love the fact Chris Henderson was able to serve them up an MLS-proven, MVP-caliber midfield solution for all of $150k GAM and add-ons.
It’s just such good and clever work. They get to kick the tires on Pozuelo and see if he fits as snugly with Gregore and Jean Mota on grass as he does on paper (so far so good), and have the potential to answer a massive question without needing to go out and spend eight figures in the transfer market.
This move set Miami up to be positively terrifying next year.
And yet, over the span of four months, Albright was able to trade down to the No. 2 spot in the order three separate times, collecting GAM from his trade partner each time. That includes what I imagine must’ve been a hilarious late-window game of chicken against Toronto, who needed to get Richie Laryea in somehow. Albright, up against the clock, was able to squeeze an extra $125k GAM out of the Reds and then still push the Miazga acquisition over the line.
In all, Albright got his club at least $350k worth of GAM and their No. 1 target. They should teach his Allocation Order maneuverings in GM school.
• The Revs used the GAM they got for Lletget to acquire winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who should fit perfectly as a goalscoring inverted right winger in their new 4-2-3-1. This is potentially the best move I’ve seen absolutely no one talk about.
• Kyle Duncan was arguably RBNY’s best playmaker last year as a right wingback. They got him back on loan, and while his re-debut didn’t go great (as a matter of fact it went real bad), if they can get him back to last year’s form he should help on both sides of the ball.
• I actually think Carlos Bocanegra has had two pretty good windows in a row (Atlanta’s winter window was very good – it’s just been submarined by injuries). It’s not perfect, mind you, but swinging a loan for JJ Purata when there were virtually no other options to patch the hole in the middle of the defense was very good work.
• LAFC very quietly might’ve gotten Jose Cifuentes’s replacement already (Cifuentes will be sold this winter, folks), when they shipped just $300k GAM to Orlando for Jhegson Mendez. There could be another $450k going to central Florida if Mendez re-signs and hits certain thresholds, but $750k for a talent like Mendez is well worth the risk, especially if they can get the best out of him the way they’ve gotten the best out of Cifu.
• The Whitecaps added what I think will be two high-level starters in wingback Julian Gressel, via a trade with D.C. United, and central midfielder Alessandro Schopf, who signed a TAM deal. Vancouver’s talent has been somewhat of a mismatch with Vanni Sartini’s system, but as these two guys get up to speed, that will become much less of an issue.
• And finally, I love RSL breaking new ground with their purchase of 18-year-old USYNT playmaker Diego Luna from El Paso Locomotive of the USL Championship. It is, I think, the most significant USL-to-MLS transfer ever, at least from a perception standpoint. And Luna has the talent to make it significant from a “we finally found the next Javier Morales” standpoint as well.