Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

What all 28 teams need in the MLS Secondary Transfer Window

Many moves have already been made through the first week of the MLS Secondary Transfer Window (opened on July 7), and many more are to come before the transfer deadline on August 4.

Below is a breakdown of the transfer needs for each MLS team. Matt Doyle lays out his thoughts/analysis, while Tom Bogert breaks down what the cap/roster limitations look like.

MATT DOYLE (MD): Injuries have robbed them of three of their four starting defenders, their top three d-mids (though two of them are working their way back to health), and their starting goalkeeper.

So they just need help, man. Healthy bodies. And also, they need some sort of wizard to undo the curse the old crone in the woods put on them back in March of 2020, because they have not had an ounce of luck since Josef’s torn ACL.

Here’s a question: With Tuesday’s signing of Edwin Mosquera, Atlanta are pretty much up against it – they have no ways to make any big moves, save for a big trade or sale of a guy currently on the roster. And when I look at this roster, the most moveable piece, just in terms of fit and productivity, seems to be Marcelino Moreno.

I’m throwing darts blindfolded here, but the simple fact is Moreno’s a good player who’s in his prime and would bring a good return back to Atlanta. Any chance they make a trade like that?

TOM BOGERT (TB): We haven’t seen many trades like that in the league – a player acquired for a significant transfer fee usually leaves on a permanent transfer abroad, like Tito Villalba did. But we rarely saw trades like Alejandro Pozuelo. We never saw a trade as expensive as Paul Arriola, so never say never, right?

The thing with all the injuries is, as Sporting Kansas City are dealing with as well, the roster/cap relief is minimal. When players are placed on the season-ending injured list, the club gets the roster spot back (and international slot if applicable). They can use one slot as a “replacement player”, which gives some nominal cap relief. But that’s it.

That’s the elongated, nerd way of saying they don’t have a ton of flexibility.

I started to write their biggest (perhaps only?) chip to play was the open U22 Initiative slot, but Tuesday they went and signed a winger, despite already having about $35 million worth of attacking talent on the roster.

MD: There’s no clear need for Austin, who are first both in the West and overall, and have improved basically across the board.

But there’s a massive question with regard to DP winger Cecilio Dominguez, who was temporarily suspended for an off-the-field incident months ago and has yet to make his return since that suspension was officially lifted. There is no clarity on his situation at all.

So I guess the question is less one of need and more “could something happen with Austin moving Dominguez, and if so, do they replace him with another DP winger or go in a different direction?”

TB: My assumption is something will indeed happen to resolve Dominguez’s future. Austin already added a winger, Washington Corozo, on loan from Pumas, a low-key solid move, and are reportedly signing 29-year-old winger Emiliano Rigoni from Sao Paulo for a $4 million transfer fee.

They would need a DP spot open for that. Austin can technically buy down Alex Ring to open a spot, but then they could use only one U22 Initiative slot. They have all three filled. So, yeah, Dominguez would have to go for Rigoni to arrive.

MD: They’ve been saying since winter their initial build was just the foundation, and then bigger moves would come in the summer. From where I sit, they could most obviously upgrade by going after a true DP No. 10, and it seems pretty clear they have the flexibility to do it.

TB: A DP No. 10 is indeed the plan and has been the plan since their MLS debut. The only thing that’s changed is the third DP spot has to be a Young DP because Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak are senior DPs. Jozwiak originally was going to be signed on loan and wouldn’t have needed a DP spot initially, but negotiations ended, Jozwiak got injured, Derby County got closer to realizing relegation, and so the deal was revived as a permanent transfer.

Will they get a deal done this summer? TBD. Charlotte haven’t been in a rush at any point in their roster build, trying not to enter into bad decisions/deals.

MD: Of all the stuff that’s gone wrong with the Fire this year – and it’s basically everything at this point – the one thing I can’t wrap my head around is why they brought Gaston Gimenez back as a DP for two more years, giving him a contract through next season. His contributions this year have been entirely predictable given what he showed in his first two.

Chicago don’t have a ton of flexibility, but it seems like moving off that contract, bringing in a real No. 10 and moving Xherdan Shaqiri to the wing could be a solution. Alternatively, bringing in a DP No. 9 could also work (in theory, anyway; things only work for the Fire in theory).

Any chance of anything that big happening, or will it just be smaller stuff around the margins?

(Note that I’m not even going to address the Gaga Slonina saga, since even if he’s sold this summer, he’ll still be with the Fire through the rest of this season).

TB: After a very busy winter, Chicago seemingly pushed all their chips into the pot by the end of the Primary Transfer Window, adding a Young DP (Jairo Torres) and making a big sign/trade for Chris Mueller. Right now, it’s looking like they went all in and found their cards were not nearly a winning hand.

The Fire have a U22 Initiative slot open, their biggest open asset. Gimenez is on an expiring contract, which would open a DP spot.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

MD: The Rapids have already made one big move this window, shipping out veteran Mark-Anthony Kaye for a young prospect, General Allocation Money (GAM) and roster flexibility. That seems to signal a rebuild, and with Robin Fraser pivoting toward a younger lineup this past weekend, the die seems to have been cast.

So could an exodus of veterans happen? I feel like there’s a bunch of Audi MLS Cup Playoff teams that could use Michael Barrios and Diego Rubio, to name two.

TB: Colorado will be very active this window. They have flexibility at the top of their roster, more GAM in the tank from the Kaye trade, plus could still move some other players out as well.

The Rapids aren’t viewing it through the lens of a rebuild – i.e. throwing in the towel on 2022 – so perhaps that lends urgency to get signings over the line ASAP.

MD: The Crew played their best card already, laying out $10 million to sign Cucho Hernandez. Now they’ve got a roster with no obvious personnel needs – they just have to get the guys already in the room playing better.

TB: Yep. And they added Toronto FC academy talent Jacen Russell-Rowe to a first-team deal for further depth up top behind Cucho, Miguel Berry and Erik Hurtado.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

MD: Everything about D.C. seems pointed towards a teardown and reboot under Wayne Rooney. I think what they need most is to show some fight over the rest of 2022, try to lay some sort of functional tactical foundation, and then critically assess how to acquire and integrate significant new pieces this winter.

In other words: the guys on the team now should feel like they’re playing for their jobs, and the front office absolutely should not panic buy a new DP just to win a press conference. The powers that be need to look at this as a long-term project.

TB: D.C. United were already planning on using both DP spots, but had also been planning to have Chad Ashton as interim manager for the season. Now, Rooney is here. The point: Plans change.

With Rooney, there’s likely to be new targets that shade the way he wants this team to play. Taxi Fountas is a foundational piece, so they’re 1-for-1 in DPs so far. Hit on the other two, and while there’s still plenty more work to do, that’s a great start. There's been numerous targets and options I've heard, all of which seem interesting to one degree or another.

I’d love to speak Wayne Rooney Player Manager????? Into existence, by the way.

MD: They already addressed their biggest need by signing DP d-mid Obinna Nwobodo, who has been one of the league’s very best since he arrived in the spring. The next obvious spot to me would be the defense – center back and wingback are both areas of need.

Given how deliberate Chris Albright’s been, and how significant a turnaround Pat Noonan has coaxed out of a locker room full of guys who were mostly part of last season’s tire fire, I don’t expect Cincy to go big. But I’d be surprised if they didn’t add around the edges.

TB: Perhaps continuing to shift out some guys from previous regimes as well. Isaac Atanga and Álvaro Barreal are wingers, signed when the team was playing a 4-3-3 formation. Pat Noonan’s system doesn’t use wingers. Moving on from some players (in this instance, each player would open a U22 Initiative slot) would be useful in terms of continuing to overhaul the squad.

Cincy already have one U22 Initiative slot open. I imagine the front office and scouting network have been looking hard at targets there. Plus, there’s the continued question of Brenner’s future. With what Cincy have spent in the past, and the success Philly have had in recent years while Albright was in the front office, it makes me excited to see where another DP spot would go if one does indeed open.

There's still interest in Matt Miazga, too.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

MD: They had a very good offseason, which they have spun forward into a promising half-season. But there are still questions in central midfield, where Facundo Quignon can get overrun at d-mid and where none of the more advanced midfielders are really providing consistent forward thrust into the final third. Part of that is by design, as Nico Estevez’s midfield is more about pitch control than breaking the game open, but that inability to break the game open keeps costing Dallas points.

The obvious solution would seem to move off of Franco Jara’s DP deal and find more of a No. 10 to plop down into the middle of that 4-3-3, but that doesn’t really seem like Dallas’s style.

TB: I would not expect Dallas to move off of Franco Jara’s DP deal, but hey, I guess it’s possible?

Dallas do have four senior roster spots open, though. I’m not sure how much of their allocation money reserves were depleted by Arriola's record-breaking trade, but there’s some room for the club to add a couple of veterans if they so choose.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

MD: The Dynamo have spent a lot trying to upgrade over the past two windows, and it’s produced a pretty expensive collection of mismatched parts. I’m still not sure what their best formation is, nor what their best XI is, which is worrying.

What seems obvious, though, is they could use a dynamic winger who’s able to beat guys off the dribble and create chances. Darwin Quintero might actually be destined for that spot once Hector Herrera gets into the starting lineup, but Darwin’s about to be 35 and has never been particularly happy on the wing.

TB: This rebuild was always set to take numerous windows, with the club looking to get building blocks (like signing Herrera and Sebas Ferreira, keeping Coco Carrasquilla, etc.). Houston still have another DP spot and U22 Initiative slot to use if they want. I’d assume they do something in attack, but we’ll see.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

MD: I just thought the Pozuelo move was absolutely brilliant, and I thought Phil Neville’s quotes afterward – about how they’re trying to build a real team now and not just playing Football Manager – were even better.

I’ll admit I don’t particularly want them to do anything else in this window. Watching them run the bad contracts down while at the same time building up a fun, coherently constructed team is much more interesting, and much more likely to produce long-term success than the scattergun approach to signing European veterans.

So I guess their need is “keep making good under-the-radar signings, keep developing young players and then do something cool with that open Gonzalo Higuain DP slot in the winter.”

TB: The Neville quote was about not just playing FIFA anymore. The dignified among us, like myself, play Football Manager. Get it together.

Anyway, yeah. Keep working with what you’ve got, see how Pozuelo fits and take swings in the offseason. Miami have a club option on Higuain this winter. I can’t imagine they would go into year two of Rodolfo Pizarro counting as a DP while not at the club, regardless if CF Monterrey pick up his purchase option. Pozuelo’s contract is up in the winter too.

That’s two, maybe all three DP spots open in half a year.

MD: Know what they don’t need to do? Trade Chicho Arango. This guy is a proven MLS goalscorer in his prime, and it would be insane to move him to another club no matter what kind of haul you get in return.

I think the bigger question – which could maybe turn into needs? – is what happens with Jose Cifuentes and Mamadou Fall this window. The transfer of either one of those guys would end up leaving a significant hole (though, in Fall’s case, the arrival of Giorgio Chiellini kind of plugs it).

TB: Cifuentes and Fall certainly have suitors abroad. I’m not sure if LAFC would have any motivation to sell mid-season, and Cifuentes is in a great spot, playing all the time ahead of the World Cup, but you never know. Everybody has a price and LAFC’s model is moving guys on when they’re ready.

LAFC still have that open DP spot, too. And definitely keep an eye on the trade market. Teams have called/will keep calling about Arango, Danny Musovski and more.

MD: They need a mulligan on the Douglas Costa signing. Period.

TB: There isn’t a current roster rule that grants teams a time machine, unfortunately.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

MD: Parting ways with Adrien Hunou gave them some ammo this window, and my guess is that means they’re going to have another crack at adding a high-level winger, one who can both eliminate players off the dribble and score goals while stretching the backline.

They also need depth along that backline, at every spot except right back (which they took care of when they inked Paraguayan international Alan Benitez on Tuesday). I have to think they’ll make at least one acquisition there, as well.

And is there any chance Tyler Miller is traded? He’s a starting-caliber GK, and there are more than a few teams around the league who could use one of those.

TB: Minnesota finessed open that DP spot after bringing in Hunou 18 months ago, giving them another swing at adding an attacking DP to fit around Emanuel Reynoso. Luis Amarilla, re-signed this winter on a permanent deal, is also occupying a DP spot.

Miller is certainly a player I expected to hear more buzz about in terms of trade talks. He’s the best realistic GK trade candidate. Adrian Heath has mentioned on numerous occasions they aren’t just going to give him (or Dayne St. Clair, before he won the starting role) away for cheap.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

MD: Montréal have shipped 35 goals in 19 games, which is the most of any team currently above the playoff line and are actually fourth-most in the entire league.

Upgrades anywhere in defense or in goal make sense, but left wingback has been a particularly sore spot for this team.

The other thing to consider here is what happens if they get the right offer for Djordje Mihailovic this window? That changes the need profile of this roster dramatically.

TB: Montréal have two DP spots open behind Victor Wanyama as well. Given how much their chance creation/results dip when Djordje isn’t available, they better have a big-time replacement lined up. Better yet, a big-time running mate for Djordje (and defensive help) would put this team legitimately among the best in the East.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

MD: Gary Smith knew this winter he wanted better crossing from right wingback, which is why Nashville had targeted Tenerife’s Shaq Moore. And it’s been assumed in league circles they’d be able to ink Moore with no issues this summer.

But Moore played so well down the stretch in his club’s ultimately failed promotion push there’s now a suspicion he could end up signing with a lower-half LaLiga team. That would be a difficult offer for the ‘Yotes to beat.

The other obvious issue is they’re getting nothing from DP signing Ake Loba, which means Hany Mukhtar has to shoulder basically the entire creative burden. Personally, I like the idea of Mukhtar as a second forward with a true No. 10 behind him in Smith’s 3-4-1-2, though I’m not sure Nashville have the resources or desire to go in that direction.

TB: Yeah, Moore looks like the likely upgrade.

While Nashville have all three DP spots taken, they have one U22 Initiative slot open.

More importantly: As general manager Mike Jacobs has been collecting allocation money by trading away international roster slots for top value, getting $1 million GAM for Alistair Johnston and other moves, NSC should stand to have a sizable reserve of allocation money to make a significant addition.

MD: The Revs have done good work already in replacing Tajon Buchanan (Dylan Borrero) and Matt Turner (Djordje Petrovic). We’ll see if Giacomo Vrioni can be as successful in replacing Adam Buksa, but given how good Gustavo Bou’s been as a No. 9 since the Revs moved to a 4-2-3-1, Vrioni’s going to have to work just to get on the field.

So what’s left for last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners? I think the obvious thing is to add a bit more backline depth, but I’m pretty sure New England’s biggest moves have already been made.

TB: With the decision to add Vrioni instead of a Young DP, the Revs are maxed out at one U22 Initiative slot, which Borrero is currently occupying. So, yeah, New England’s biggest moves have already been made.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

MD: It’s all about Taty. If he stays NYCFC are a team with zero needs, but I really can’t imagine he’s staying through this window. He’s been a great soldier, but he’s also been explicit about wanting to make the move across the Atlantic.

I’ll go ahead and admit I’m dying for Leeds to sign him. MLS’s best pressing forward playing in the Premier League for Jesse Marsch seems like destiny to me.

TB: Taty said his future should be sorted this week, so #TatyWatch continues intensely into, like, month eight.

I’m not sure what’s real and what’s fake around reports surrounding clubs actually interested in signing him. It feels like we’re at the point where City Football Group needs to step in, buy him & loan him to another European club. Feyenoord want him, but they’re not paying $15 million.

What’s Taty’s value if he goes on loan to Feyenoord (from CFG) and scores a ton of goals? Pretty high, I’d say.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

MD: The writing is on the wall for Patryk Klimala. They brought in Ashley Fletcher to push him this spring (that – to put it mildly – did not work out, and Fletcher returned home to Watford this week), and recently Tom Barlow has been starting, or Gerhard Struber has opted to play Omir Fernandez as something of a false 9. Klimala’s scored all of one goal since April and has gone 90 all of once this year.

The most obvious upgrade possibility in the league for any of the legitimately good teams is “RBNY, DP center forward.” They have the spot open and a fresh $8 million from that Tyler Adams sell-on fee!

This has to happen, right?

TB: They certainly have the roster space/DP flexibility, and RB Global have the pockets. They have a really strong group, with Luquinhas (and Lewis Morgan) adding just what the attack needed in the winter to complement a defensive group anchored by Aaron Long and Carlos Coronel.

We’ll see.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

MD: It’s pretty obvious left back is the biggest area of need for this team. They haven’t gotten any sort of consistency from that spot since Joao Moutinho was hurt two summers ago – including from Moutinho, who’s never quite been the same and now seems destined to leave for Europe after the season.

The front office has repeatedly tried (and failed) to acquire a starting-caliber LB over the past 23 months. I’d be pretty surprised if they weren’t about to try again.

TB: Certainty makes sense. Orlando have the senior roster slots available to add a couple of players. Maybe someone on the trade market this time?

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

MD: Because of their excellent academy and Ernst Tanner’s eye for undervalued imports, the Union have plenty of depth and no obvious holes.

But that second part could change quickly if the right bid comes in for Brujo Martinez or Kai Wagner. So it’s less a question of “what do they need right now?” and more one of “what’s about to happen? Because if something does, then that changes what the XI looks like and at that point, do they go out on the market or try to replace from within?”

TB: Less likely for Brujo than Kai, but even then, we’ve heard a lot of Kai potentially leaving genuinely for two years now, and nothing’s happened yet. It’s a potential concern, but their recruitment has had many more hits than failures.

Replace from within is how I’d forecast the summer at the moment. Philly shipped out a number of lower-depth pieces so far, which ostensibly open more opportunities for the kids. I’ll just say it’s no coincidence that all four US U20 stars (Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig) were on the field together at the final whistle of the 7-0 drubbing of D.C. United.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

MD: There’s been talk for a while the Timbers are going to bring in a new center forward, one who would presumably start over DP No. 9 Jaroslaw Niezgoda and TAM signing Felipe Mora.

I have my doubts.

As it is, though, that’s a spot they can upgrade, as are both fullback slots.

TB: The plan is adding a U22 Initiative signing at right back, even after extending the loan of Josecarlos Van Rankin.

Eryk Williamson is always a player on the radar of European clubs. But what number would make sense for all parties, considering D.C. United have a 50% sell-on clause in Williamson? This is without mentioning how integral Williamson is to this team, of course.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

MD: The Gustavo Cuellar rumors have died down, but they haven’t gone away completely, and I think there’s a very obvious reason for that: Cuellar is a perfect fit for what the Claret-and-Cobalt need. I expect he’ll be signed this month (maybe this week).

It wouldn’t shock me if he wasn’t the only DP signing RSL made, and based upon health/performance, I think center forward is the most obvious place to use their other open DP slot.

TB: Cuellar is certainly still a target, but we’ll see. Like all clubs, there are always numerous targets for profiles. Real Salt Lake can maneuver open up to two DP spots. I’d expect one to get filled, probably in defensive midfield (which is why they’re still after Cuellar), but of course, plans can change.

MD: They have exactly two center backs on the roster with more than 90 minutes of MLS experience, and one of those two guys doubles as the team’s backup left back.

I don’t expect them to make any big moves as the Quakes are very clearly trying to be the West Coast version of the Union. But now they have to show a Union-esque facility for identifying, acquiring and integrating undervalued imports like Wagner, Martinez and Jakob Glesnes.

TB: Chris Leitch has come in and made some really strong intra-MLS trades, picking up Jeremy Ebobisse last summer and Jamiro Monteiro in the winter. It’s a long-term vision right now for SJ, trying to put together a core as they move forward. They still have their coaching search as well.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

MD: Given the injuries to Joao Paulo and Obed Vargas, they’re now down to their third-string d-mid. And that guy – Kelyn Rowe – is also the primary backup LB, and a backup RB, backup CM and backup winger.

On top of that, I think there’s a legit chance Nouhou will get sold this window.

We know, historically speaking, Garth Lagerwey likes to make his biggest moves in the summer. That’s obviously not going to happen this year, but clearly they will make some sort of moves, right?

TB: That front office certainly won’t sit idly. The trade of Brad Smith gave the team much-needed allocation money for the current group, so I’m sure there’ll be room to keep maneuvering. They’ve got room on the senior roster to make some additions that way.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

MD: They’ve already made what I think will end up being their two biggest signings of the window with the acquisitions of midfielder Erik Thommy and forward William Agada.

They need help elsewhere, though – d-mid jumps out, as does CB (they’ve signed a number of center backs in recent years, but it’s not clear if any of them are starting caliber). I don’t think they have the resources to go big in either spot, but maybe they can find a distressed asset from within the league and turn that guy into a starter? Peter Vermes used to pull off moves like that fairly frequently.

TB: I was surprised they flipped over the couch cushions to find enough allocation money to buy down Thommy. SKC certainly dipped into their rainy day fund.

Vermes keeps talking about working on new signings, so I expect them to continue to be busy this summer and finesse some additional flexibility.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

MD: Step one is going to be signing Federico Bernardeschi to complete that front three and fill the DP slot they opened when they traded Pozuelo.

Step two is going to be moving Carlos Salcedo, which happened on Tuesday as they mutually agreed to terminate the contract.

Step three is going to be replacing Salcedo with some sort of veteran CB signing – hopefully one who’s able to actually do the job in MLS (Salcedo could, in theory; in practice, he definitely did not).

Those moves really aren’t negotiable. They have to make them happen, or the maneuvering they’ve already done makes zero sense. So the Reds have boxed themselves into a corner here, but they do have the resources to make things turn out as they wish.

Know what they don’t have, though? A midfielder who actually tackles people and wins the ball.

TB: I’m very curious to see where this last DP spot goes. The attack seems set. The midfield seems set. Their last foray into a DP center back didn’t work great. These spots generally go to attackers.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

MD: A team that plays a 3-5-2 (or sometimes a 3-4-2-1) with wingbacks has zero guys on the roster whose actual best position is wingback. That’s how you end up with weirdness like right center back Tristan Blackmon spending the final 10 minutes of a pretty crucial home game at left wingback (and how you turn a 1-1 draw into a 3-1 loss).

I would expect Vancouver to work the phones and try to make moves for guys from within the league, but whether they do that or go out on the global market, they’ve got to come away with some sort of reinforcements this window.

TB: Yeah, my assumption would be more intra-league additions. Rotation/competition-type additions.