Voices: Greg Seltzer

Top 5 under-the-radar signings of the 2022 MLS offseason

The requirements are very simple: If you were signed as a fresh pick-up by an MLS team during this offseason and that move did not compel widespread fanfare, you qualify for inclusion.

Just for the record, exciting newcomers such as Jhon Duran were not eligible for this list, as they actually put pen to paper during previous offseasons. Usually, all the choices in this list have arrived from foreign clubs, but this time around we've tabbed a player who made his transfer jump from one Western Conference club to another.

Before we get to the top five, let's quickly give honorable mention salutes to a pair of burgeoning Inter Miami attack reinforcements alphabetically sandwiched around the Chicago Fire's new backline marshal: Leonardo Campana, Rafael Czichos and Emerson Rodriguez.

Transaction: Signed from EA Guingamp through 2024 with an option for 2025

Sporting Kansas City needed to find a left back after not retaining Luis Martins, their locked-in starter during the 2021 season. So they went shopping in Europe, a decision that’s suited them well in years past – especially in Spain with current spine leaders Andreu Fontas and Uri Rosell, and the recently departed Ilie Sanchez. Ndenbe, who came up through Belgium’s KV Oostende, could be the next success in that line.

I'm not suggesting the Guingamp transplant is destined to be in the Best XI conversation, but he is precisely the type of player Sporting KC needed this offseason. The left back brings great wheels to a backline with loads of miles on it. His ability to escape pressure and push up the flank should come in very handy for a team whose only other left back (Ben Sweat) is coming back from ACL surgery.

Transaction: Signed from Wisla Krakow through 2024 with an option for 2025

It's no secret a sizable portion of Columbus' downfall last season can be chalked up to the precipitous drop in quality flank play. Their wide backs were hurt and the wingers' chance creation fell off by a decent margin. With the flank crew not up to the level the Crew have grown accustomed to, it simply left too much weight for the injury-riddled spine to bear. All that brings us to Yeboah, who is precisely the type of player needed to help revert the Columbus wide game to its former glory.

The 24-year-old Ghana international has the schoolyard moxie to take on defenders all day, and the ball skills to back up that boldness. Each of his four teams over the last five seasons fared considerably better with him on the field than they did without him, but most were too impatient waiting on his end product to kick in. If the first half of this season with Wisla Krakow is any indication, that wait for Yeboah to turn his danger quotient into goals and assist may be coming to an end.

Transaction: Signed from Górnik Zabrze through 2024 with an option for 2025

It makes sense many observers are underestimating Toronto FC's winter strike signing because he's never played in a top-flight higher than Poland's Ekstraklasa. If MLS opponents do that, it may be a big mistake. Jimenez's bread and butter is feasting upon mistakes, and once Lorenzo Insigne joins Alejandro Pozuelo in the Reds' attack engine room there should be plenty of forced errors for the 28-year-old to punish.

That's not to say this is the Spaniard's only skill. He is a well-rounded forward with lots of tools in his belt who racked up 43 goals and 25 helpers in three-and-a-half campaigns with a middling Gornik Zabrze side. I have little doubt new head coach Bob Bradley will find ways to regularly get him on the score sheet.

Transaction: Re-Entry Draft, signed for 2022 with an option for 2023

Most astute MLS fans will be quite familiar with the veteran midfielder's qualities from his three years with Minnesota United FC. For those not so initiated, let's do a quick recap. Gregus is a high-level traffic director who can pick out a positive pass blindfolded. He doubles as an ace restart delivery man, an area of struggle for new club San Jose over the last couple seasons.

Overall, this addition means team chaos now has someone to help Jackson Yueill provide more tempo control and structural integrity from its midfield base. And whereas the Quakes skipper is more comfortable pinging long diagonals to the flanks, Gregus brings the complimentary M.O. of working up the gut and through the channels on the ground.

If the Earthquakes end up surprising folks this season (and let it be known that I believe they will), it stands to reason this particular pick-up could have a whole lot to do with it.

Transaction: Signed from Deportivo Cali through 2024 with an option for 2025

If you ask me, Austin FC got exactly what they needed most by plucking the 25-year-old central park cop away from Colombian champs Deportivo Cali. He's a speedy, relentless ball hawk who loves to cut off lanes before they open, step up through a receiving player's blind spot to pick pockets and initiate smart two-man traps. And like many of the most successful defensive midfielders in this MLS era, Valencia will often sneakily push his personal point of contention very high to force turnovers deep in the opponent's end to spark lightning counters.

What does this all mean for Matthew McConaughey's favorite hombres? Well, for starters, their oft-shaky backline gets a desperately needed human firewall. The less a backline unit that is still being formed has to do, the better. Beyond that, Valencia's presence can unlock Austin FC's offensive potential. Skipper Alex Ring can now spend much more of his energy supporting the attack. Forward-thinking wide backs Nick Lima and Zan Kolmanic will be free to think forward more freely. Danger drivers Cecilio Dominguez and Sebastian Driussi can enjoy routinely shorter paths to opponents' areas.

If that's not enough to excite the locals, Valencia arrives having worked hard to prepare himself for the physically taxing jump to MLS. Add it all up, and Austin FC fans should be feeling "alright, alright, alright" with this key acquisition in no time.