Three big winners of the 2021 MLS offseason so far | Andrew Wiebe

Kevin Molino - 2020 - close up

Here are my offseason winners for a transfer window that doesn’t end for a good while yet. What I’m saying is … a fair amount could change without European competition for players! 

In naming three clubs, I readily acknowledge that the Philadelphia Union are staring back at me with a pair of historic, seven-figure Homegrown transfers (and a Supporters’ Shield). Austin FC had to build an entire team, but their expansion mix looks playoff-level promising. Atlanta United or D.C. United could argue for inclusion based strictly on ambitious coaching hires. LAFC didn’t need much, but they filled their gaps. Jordan Morris might turn out to be the biggest winner of all depending on how this Swansea City loan pans out.

Only time will tell. Hit me with your offseason winners on Twitter. Here’s who I’ve got in pole position. And don't forget to keep up to date with the full list of ins and outs for every club on the supremely useful transactions page.

FC Dallas

Weston McKennie. Chris Richards. Reggie Cannon. Bryan Reynolds. All FC Dallas academy products, but Reynolds’ transfer to Roma is a major inflection point. 

According to’s Tom Bogert, the fee is $8.5 million with the potential to rise to $11 million. That’s for a player who only got his shot in the XI after FC Dallas sold Reggie Cannon to Boavista for a multi-million-dollar fee during last summer’s transfer window. Six months and 1,500 often spectacular minutes later, Roma beat Juventus to Reynolds’ signature via a club-record transfer fee. Two right backs in less than a year. Eight figures. 

Inflection point.

“There was a bidding war from Champions League teams for him.” I could read that sentence over and over and never get tired of it. May that be MLS’s present and future.

Though the transfer saga was quite the journey, FC Dallas and Reynolds set another marker in the sand of the global marketplace, and that’s before he even gets a prolonged chance to prove himself on the field. 

What might this fee and FC Dallas’ growing reputation mean for the next kid getting reps in the academy or with North Texas? More immediately, what might it mean for Ricardo Pepi, Tanner Tessmann and Dante Sealy? What could Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira be worth if they bounce back in a big way from bumpy 2020 seasons?

Just being in position to find out the answer to those questions is the win that FC Dallas have been working toward for more than a decade. That they’ve got a huge transfer pool to reinvest is the more immediate win, depending on how they use it. 

They’ve already gone out and quietly signed at least two starters in Colombian forward Jader Obrian (direct, goal-dangerous winger) and Spanish central defender Jose Antonio Martinez (27-year-old who helped Granada achieve promotion and stability in La Liga). Venezuelan Freddy Vargas is an interesting flyer on the wing, too. They filled the obvious holes left by Michael Barrios and Reto Ziegler. 

Is that enough? I’d argue not quite, not to reach greater heights, and it seems the Hunts agree.

Left wing? Forward? Other? Summer? A lot could happen before the end of the window.

Houston Dynamo

It might not win eyeballs in the attention economy and maybe I’m falling victim to preseason depth-chart prognostication, but the Dynamo look like they’re taking sensible, solid steps forward.

Fafa Picault, Maxi Urruti, Derrick Jones and Tim Parker via trade. Joe Corona poached from Austin FC. Ethan Bartlow on a Generation adidas contract. Tyler Pasher signed from Indy Eleven. Mateo Bajamich is the big attacking piece of late, a 21-year-old Argentine winger signed in October. Is there a marquee signing there? Bajamich because the fee inched into seven-figures, Parker because of the potential seven-figure allocation potential?

None of the above. This is a "strength in numbers and MLS experience window" for Matt Jordan and Tab Ramos. I’m not entirely sure what the Dynamo will get from Darwin Quintero, Ariel 
/Christian Ramirez/Urruti; one of Picault, Mateo Bajamich or Pasher; and Memo Rodriguez popping up out of midfield. If they couldn’t figure it out with Mauro Manotas or Alberth Elis, maybe the problems were bigger.

They were! And that’s what this window has been about, even if there isn’t a big splash to build headlines around. Sensible. Solid.

Now, sensible and solid can only take the Dynamo so far. Houston need contributions from every single piece on their roster to pull themselves out of last place in the Western Conference. They need something from every single one of those transfers, too.

Honestly, I could see them getting it. How much of it? That I can’t say. 

Does that mean Ramos’ squad is a put-it-on-the-board playoff team? No, I wouldn’t go that far. It means they’re not a last-place team, which means the playoffs will be within reach.

Columbus Crew SC

Bless Stern John. Kevin Molino said that the Trinidad & Tobago forward’s legend in Columbus helped lead him to Crew SC. Championship ambitions had to help, too.

As for Bradley Wright-Phillips, the Cup journey continues and filling in for Gyasi Zardes during a heavy international year seems like an ideal personal fit. As he proved at LAFC, he’s still a bucket at 35 (soon 36).

In goalkeeper Evan Bush and center mid Perry Kitchen, Caleb Porter got injury insurance and the experience of more than 400 MLS starts (not to mention, a pair of Akron Zips). In short, the champions got better. That’s winning.