Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Transfer tiers: Ranking Eastern Conference clubs so far

Doyle transfer tiers - 1.21.24

Even though the Primary Transfer Window doesn’t open until Jan. 31, we are, in fact, in the heart of silly season. That means lots of reports, even more rumors, and some actual moves by teams aimed towards winning a trophy or three next season.

Most teams still have a good chunk of work to do. But now, with preseason starting to kick into gear, it seems apt to take a look at what’s been done already. So I will go, team by team, through the new additions (via trade, transfer, free agency and loan) that I think will be significant this year.

The Eastern Conference is below, with the Western Conference assessment coming tomorrow.

Big Deals Are Done
  • FW: Luis Suárez (free signing from Grêmio)
  • RWB/CM: Julian Gressel (MLS free agent)
  • CB: Nicolás Freire (loan from Pumas UNAM – not official yet)

Inter Miami have added three starters (once the Freire deal is done) to what was already one of the deepest rosters in the league – one that won a trophy last year and came close to another.

They will be among the favorites to win every competition they enter in 2024.

  • GK: Josh Cohen (free signing from Maccabi Haifa)
  • DM: Bartosz Slisz (reported $3.5 million transfer from Legia Warsaw)
  • CB: Stian Gregersen (reported $2 million transfer from Bordeaux)
  • DM: Dax McCarty (MLS free agent)

They seem to have perfectly identified and addressed their weaknesses, and given their success in fixing the attack during the summer 2023 window, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of fixing the defense during this window.

This is pretty clearly the best Atlanta United team in half a decade.

  • RWB: Marino Hinestroza (reported $3m U22 Initiative signing from Pachuca)
  • CM/CB: Derrick Jones (MLS free agent)

I’m not 1,000% certain Hinestroza will be the starting right wingback, but it seems like that’ll be his spot. And while he’s not an upgrade over the departed Julian Gressel in a vacuum, he is probably going to be a better fit in Wilfried Nancy’s system. Jones, meanwhile, still has tons of unexplored upside.

Because of the way they restructured Darlington Nagbe’s contract, the Crew can still make another big move (they can buy Nagbe down from his DP slot and add another DP, is what I’m saying). But I would be surprised if they did that in this window.

  • GK: Henrich Ravas (reported $1.2m transfer from Widzew Lodz)
  • RB/LB: Nick Lima (acquired for up to $300k GAM from Austin)

Those two moves, as well as making permanent the acquisition of winger Tomás Chancalay, seem to have the Revs perfectly set up to play out of the 4-2-3-1 head coach Caleb Porter has preferred throughout his career.

Note I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt on Ravas given their goalkeeper ID history. The other benefit of the doubt goes to the status of DP No. 9 Giacomo Vrioni. I am wary of putting too much trust into a guy whom multiple head coaches have kept on the bench, and there is a strong argument that his continued presence in the presumptive XI should push New England down a tier.

But I’m feeling charitable.

Good Work Done, But More Needed
  • CB: Miles Robinson (MLS free agent)
  • FW: Corey Baird (MLS free agent)
  • CM: Pavel Bucha (transfer from Viktoria Plzen – not done yet)

There’s probably a lot of work left – Cincy might have to sell Álvaro Barreal, they still need to address right wingback, they haven’t pushed the Bucha signing across the line yet, and they might want to go bigger than Baird in replacing Brandon Vazquez. Plus, they are rumored to be in for former Orlando City man and Ecuador international Jhegson Méndez.

Irrespective of all that, last year’s Supporters’ Shield champs remain contenders and the moves they’ve made thus far have improved their standing in that regard.

  • LW/AM: Emil Forsberg (reported $3.3m fee from RB Leipzig)
  • CB: Noah Eile (reported $1m fee from Malmo)

By Red Bull standards this is a great, ambitious start to the offseason. Forsberg, in particular, is the type of signing fans in Harrison have been thirsting for for a decade. He should make everyone in the RBNY attack 15% better.

But with the transfer of Luquinhas, they now have a DP slot open and still have a clear need at the No. 9. A big move for a big talent at that spot would bump the Red Bulls up into the second tier of contenders (and I will mention again how RB Salzburg’s Roko Šimić seems tailor-made to do the job on a season-long loan. Just trying to speak this one into existence).

  • LW: Hannes Wolf (free transfer from Borussia Mönchengladbach)
  • CM: Andrés Perea (acquired for up to $800k GAM from Philadelphia)

NYCFC have been busy already. Wolf is probably a starter and Andrés Perea, who they acquired outright from Philly after having him on loan for the second half of 2023, gives a level of depth in central midfield that mostly didn’t exist for last year’s Pigeons until August.

Now they have multiple players rumored as incoming and outgoing. I suspect most of what’s been reported (Talles Magno out; Matías Arezo, Agustín Ojeda, Jovan Mijatović in) will come to pass.

If that all happens, and they add some center-back depth, and maybe a starting left back, then this team’s a contender… I think? While they’re in much better shape than they were 12 months ago, they’re still stacking a lot of ifs.

  • LW/RW: Tyler Boyd (acquired from LA for two int'l roster slots and up to $775k GAM)
  • CM: Dru Yearwood (acquired from RBNY for up to $150k GAM + occupies a U22 Initiative slot)

Boyd should be very good in Nashville as both a secondary creator and a tertiary goalscorer. I actually like this move quite a bit.

I also like the Yearwood move. He never really fit in the RBNY system because he’s not really a front-foot ball-winner (he was billed as Tyler Adams’ replacement when he was brought in, but has a completely different skillset). What I do like Yearwood as is a sit-deep-and-spray sort of regista, because when the game’s in front of him, he can consistently break lines. That should work well in Gary Smith’s system.

However, even if both end up winning starting jobs and maxing out their talent, it still feels like Nashville are a piece or two short of the apex contenders.

  • LB: Andrew Gutman (trade from Colorado for Miguel Navarro, $450k GAM and sell-on%)
  • CB: Tobias Salquist (transfer from Silkeborg for an unreported fee)
  • RB: Allan Arigoni (loan from sister club FC Lugano)

Taking a stab at fixing the defense is good, and I wouldn’t be at all shocked if the Fire gave up fewer goals in 2024 while getting more meaningful contributions from the fullbacks (especially left back, where Gutman’s a legit weapon).

Fixing the DPs is what could get the Fire into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, though. And they haven’t done that as of yet.

  • FW: Matías Cóccaro (reported $2m fee from Huracán – not done yet)
  • AM: Dominik Yankov (reported $2m fee from Ludogrets – not done yet)
  • CB: Joaquín Sosa (loan from sister club Bologna)
  • RWB: Ruan (acquired, along with $500k GAM, from D.C. United for Aaron Herrera)
  • LWB: Raheem Edwards (trade from Galaxy for $400k GAM)
  • GK: Sebastian Breza (transfer from sister club Bologna)

Montréal have a new coach and new game model, plus as many as four new starters based on the work they’ve done already. Provided they get the Cóccaro and Yankov moves over the line, it’ll be six. If that happens, this will go down as a super-aggressive and possibly club-redefining offseason from chief soccer officer Olivier Renard.

I don’t think it pushes Montréal back up to the contender tier they were in two years ago. But it at least should help pave a path in that direction.

  • RB/RCB: Aaron Herrera (acquired from CF Montréal for Ruan and $500k GAM)
  • RM/RWB: Jared Stroud (acquired, along with Lucas Bartlett and $300k GAM, from St. Louis for Chris Durkin)

If they go to a 3-4-1-2 with Herrera as a marauding right center back and Stroud as a front-foot, pressing wingback, I will absolutely love it. These guys are a pair of the most underrated players in the league, and getting them in their best spots would pay real dividends for a D.C. United side that was rudderless under Wayne Rooney. Bartlett’s also shown some things in his limited MLS minutes thus far – I like him as a rotation piece on that backline.

But they still have to do a ton of work to make themselves a playoff team, let alone a contender.

We’re Waiting…
  • AM/CM: Nico Lodeiro (MLS free agent)

Lodeiro represents a minor upgrade over the departed Mauricio Pereyra. He’s probably not, at this point in his career, a starting No. 10 for a team that wants to win everything.

I’m still waiting for Orlando to make that move, but the rumor mill is dead and it’s looking more and more like either Lodeiro or one of the DP wingers – Facu Torres and Martín Ojeda – will slot in as the 10 (my vote goes to Ojeda). I think Lions fans would be mildly disappointed by that, though Ojeda has the talent to be an All-Star in this league and bury fan disappointment with week-to-week productivity. He is the club’s second-most expensive signing (all time) for a reason, after all.

The other piece they need is in the middle of the back line, and reports are they're still chasing Slovenian international David Brekalo despite having an initial bid rejected. (They've also, importantly, kept center-mid Wilder Cartagena and winger Iván Angulo on permanent deals after prior loans.)

  • No significant newcomers yet

Philly went off the radar by signing guys nobody but Football Manager sickos had ever heard of. That's fine, since the Union are better than anybody in the league at developing those guys into high-level contributors.

But right now it feels like they’re going to keep the group together – they’ve already re-signed Kai Wagner and Ale Bedoya is likely next – to run it back one last time.

I don’t hate that at all. I think this group’s earned the right to go out on their shield, and internal improvement (especially from Jack McGlynn, but hopefully from Tai Baribo and Quinn Sullivan, too) could provide the real attacking upgrades they need.

  • No significant newcomers yet

Charlotte are working on a new No. 10, and presumably a new DP winger and at least one U22 signing. They also could offload DP winger Kamil Jozwiak (there are reports) and DP striker/attacker Karol Swiderski (there are rumors), as well as U22 striker Vinicius Mello (there are reports and rumors).

  • No significant newcomers yet

There’s so much to do, and so little room to do it with. Just hang an “under construction” sign on Toronto for a couple of transfer windows.