Another Tweetbag. Shoutout to my man Joe Lowery for the turn of phrase here.
There’s a week left in European (and Mexican) transfer windows. MLS is hitting its stretch run leading into Decision Day on Oct. 9. Vamos.
Kai Wagner is an integral part of why the Philadelphia Union are among the elite teams in MLS and one of the top favorites to make a run for MLS Cup 2022. He has sustained this level of excellence for a few years… he has also sustained his desire to return to Europe at some point sooner rather than later. With these performances come interest from abroad.
It’s a bit of a quandary for the Union, who want to keep their core together for a Cup run. The MLS Secondary Transfer Window is closed (as of Aug. 4), so the Union can only sign free agents (through the Sept. 2 Roster Freeze) if they were to need to replace Wagner. Extremely more likely, any replacement would come internally if Wagner were to leave. Replacing a Best XI-caliber player on the fly is very, very difficult.
With a week left in the transfer window, with what we know right now, I've shifted to not expecting Wagner to be moved. Things can always change – please note that before screenshotting this to make fun of me if things do change – but at this stage, it's looking much more likely than, say, a couple of months ago that Wagner remains a Union player through the season.
What do we know right now? Well, there remains a bunch of teams interested, but, per sources, the Union are still yet to receive a concrete bid for Wagner from Leeds United or anyone else. Interest doesn't always turn to offers.
In a perfect world? Perhaps the Union could sort a deal in which a transfer for Wagner to Europe is agreed upon for the winter, preserving the current squad at full strength for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs while also securing the bag for his transfer + Wagner having his own future secured. But who knows what’ll happen, if anything. Maybe the club and player revisit this again in the winter. Playing every minute for one of the best teams in MLS isn't exactly a bad alternative.
Wagner is the biggest name to potentially be transferred in terms of impact on the MLS Cup/playoffs race, but he isn’t the only one with suitors abroad.
Djordje Mihailovic’s transfer to AZ Alkmaar (for 2023) went official Wednesday. Brian Rodriguez to Club America is a strong possibility. Mamadou Fall’s loan to Villarreal is yet to be announced. Young players in this league are on the radar of clubs in Europe, so perhaps we could see a “transfer agreement” for the winter, like Gaga Slonina’s Chelsea agreement, for another player or two.
Watch this space over the last week of the Euro/Mexican transfer windows.
As for incomings, the Secondary Transfer Window just ended. But hey, it’s always silly season. Let’s look towards the winter at the teams who might be doing some lavish work in the transfer market. I’m going to frame this away from “big name” (i.e. Lorenzo Insigne, Xherdan Shaqiri, Hector Herrera, Christian Benteke) because that’s not easy to forecast, but lean into the more vague “big signing” (i.e. expensive, big talents, etc).
Inter Miami CF are probably a safe bet for a big swing or two. Their three DPs are currently Gonzalo Higuain (club option for 2023), Alejandro Pozuelo (out of contract after this season) and Rodolfo Pizarro (on loan at Liga MX's CF Monterrey). Though Higuain is playing better over the last couple of months, his contract option is a big, big number. Pizarro’s future is clearly not at Miami. Pozuelo has been very good since his trade from Toronto FC, but there aren’t any guarantees yet for his future.
Even if Pozuelo stays, that’s two open DP spots for a team with big ambition and a newfound strong foundation under a new regime.
The Portland Timbers will be in the market for a new DP as well. When the Timbers have been in the market for a new DP, it hasn’t often been cheap. Sebastian Blanco won’t occupy a DP spot, opening room beyond Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Yimmi Chara. Perhaps there will be further movement around this team as well.
Toronto FC have an open DP spot. Perhaps there’s another out-of-contract Italian international to add? Jokes aside, this is another team that has absolutely swung out of their shoes almost every time they’ve had a DP spot open recently (Michael Bradley, Jermaine Defoe, Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, Alejandro Pozuelo, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, to name a few).
Another question with a Philly angle, but I’m using it as a jumping-off point to the MVP conversation.
Daniel Gazdag is having a wonderful season. He's looking like everything he was capable of when originally acquired by Philly in May 2021. He has 13g/8a this year and is firmly going to be in the Best XI discussion. He might get on some MVP ballots. He's been really, really good... but he’s not in the top tier for MVP this season. And that’s okay, that’s not a knock! Only one person can win this award!
That being said, right now Sebastian Driussi is in pole position. The Austin FC talisman leads the league in goals (18) and is tied for the league lead in goal contributions (25). Austin are second in the West, so he has team success too. He has incredible goals, he has goals in big games and he has late goals – all of that matters. This award always has some sort of narrative component to it.
Hany Mukhtar is the only player I can see overcoming Driussi at this stage. He has the same amount of goal contributions (25: 16g/9a) and shoulders an unhealthy burden in Nashville’s attack and success. His performance against FC Dallas over the weekend was an MVP-type game. He is a singular attacking talent in this league and will absolutely be on the MVP ballot again for a second consecutive season. He is a legitimate superstar in this league.
It should be fun over the stretch run of the season between those two.
FC Cincinnati’s 2022 season has been among the most fun stories in the league.
This team finished bottom of MLS in each of their first three seasons (2019-21) and while the outlook this year was a bit more optimistic with general manager Chris Albright taking over as well as new head coach Pat Noonan… I’m not sure even the most optimistic Cincy fan/employee could have expected this season so far. Not just from the points picked up and being in a playoff race with eight games left in the season, but the way they’ve progressed.
Cincy also have the foundation of something real. Around Acosta, Brenner and Vazquez (who recently signed a new contract, per sources), plus additions this year of Obinna Nwobodo, Matt Miazga, Roman Celentano, Junior Moreno and more, this team has a legitimate chance to keep building.
On the underperforming side, man, it really looked like D.C. United were building something by the end of last year, too. Then head coach Hernan Losada was fired very early into 2022, in large part due to deteriorating relationships around the club, and D.C. have since fallen into a tailspin.
The positive outlook is head coach Wayne Rooney is in and he’s molding the club in his vision, with Taxi Fountas and Benteke an extremely exciting attacking foundation. But the current Wooden Spoon favorites were supposed to be much more entering the season. Instead, it's another rebuild and identity shift.
Aly, who asked this question, is a sideline reporter extraordinaire for Sporting Kansas City (among other roles), so I’ll start with William Agada leaping into Peter Vermes’ reluctant arms and planting a big ol’ kiss on his reluctant cheek earlier in the season. Just look at Vermes’ face and body language here!
Agada has been a breath of fresh air both on the field with his goals/play but also in vibes for a team in desperate need of them.
I love this league.
Quick thought: Shooting from the hip here with no real nuance or thesis, I’d go with David Gass.
Maybe it’s just deductive reasoning because you can very easily discard Matt Doyle, Andrew Wiebe or me from this discussion. I’m not sure how long any of us would last outdoors, let alone with a coyote.
So, by process of elimination… Gass, you’re up!
THIS IS THE HILL I DIE ON. YES. I AM FROM THERE. I LIVE THERE. IT EXISTS.
*A literal hook from my editors just dragged me away from my keyboard*