Attackers are in this summer, people.
During the Secondary Transfer Window, which officially came to a close Wednesday evening, teams from all over the league went out to find their next game-changer in the frontline. What should we expect from some of MLS’s newest attacking additions?
Let’s answer that question with some quick-hit analysis on more than a few of this summer’s biggest incoming transfers.
Coming in as a Designated Player, Nashville found Hany Mukhtar some help in the form of 25-year-old striker Sam Surridge. The former Nottingham Forest forward has the size and frame to bring others into the game, can thrive in transition, and has proven to be an effective goal scorer in the English Championship. You can see how high his non-penalty goals and non-penalty xG numbers are in the lovely data visualization down below:
With Surridge occupying defenders, Mukhtar’s life is about to get a lot easier in Nashville. And with both players popping up in dangerous spots in the box, life is about to get a lot harder for their opponents, too.
The 33-year-old former Norwich City player has fit quite nicely as the No. 9 ahead of Emanuel Reynoso in Adrian Heath’s attack. Pukki isn’t an imposing presence up top, but he’s excellent at using his body positioning and careful touches to control the ball before bouncing it back to Reynoso. Plus, his smart running in behind the opposing backline makes him a huge asset for the Loons in transition. This is an absurd amount of space for the Houston Dynamo to give any striker to run into, but Pukki is certainly savvy enough to make you pay in a moment like this.
Simply put, Pukki brings quality to a position that has lacked quality in Minnesota for years. He’s a big add.
It’s hard to overstate how useful an addition Chicho Arango is for Real Salt Lake. After shining during his time with LAFC, Arango has picked up right where he left off: as one of the absolute best goal scorers in MLS. So far, Arango has two goals in four starts between the regular season and Leagues Cup play. The Colombian’s knack for latching onto the end of service inside the box combined with his ability to create his own shot has already caused major problems for opposing center backs.
Why? Well, because the 26-year-old wants to play quickly. He takes short, tight touches. He’s got loads of speed. He’s largely decisive with his decision-making. With his speed, dribbling, and sharp left foot, it’s easy to see why Cincinnati identified him as their replacement for Brenner to play next to Brandon Vazquez in Pat Noonan’s attack.
Boupendza’s shot selection can be suspect, but he brings energy and skill to an already talented FC Cincinnati team.
Lionel Messi & Facundo Farias
Stop me if I’m going too far out on a limb here, but it seems like this whole Lionel Messi thing has worked out pretty darn well for Inter Miami so far. Messi has looked like the exact same Messi who led Argentina to the World Cup at the end of last year, scoring amazing goals and conducting attacks with his passing and off-ball movement.
While Messi is a known quantity, 20-year-old Argentine attacker Facundo Farias is the wildcard in Tata Martino’s team.
Farias has an impressive number of minutes under his belt – more than 3,000 in Argentina’s top flight – but he’s still somewhat raw. He scored just five goals in those minutes, per FBref. Farias fits best as a winger and likes to cut inside onto his right foot. On paper, he could fit well across from Messi, but we should expect it to take at least a few games for Farias to truly adjust to Miami.
Mounsef Bakrar & Julián Fernández
It’s been a long winding road, but NYCFC finally have their Taty Castellanos replacement in 22-year-old Algerian striker Mounsef Bakrar. Bakrar loves to slip in behind the opposing defense, either to get on the end of a well-weighted through ball or to pounce on a half-chance inside the box. He has great instincts inside the box, and his movement should give Santi Rodríguez and Talles Magno more space to operate in midfield. Signing a striker was long overdue, but it looks like Bakrar is a valuable addition for NYCFC.
The Colorado Rapids need a boost, and they’re hoping that’s exactly what new DP striker Rafael Navarro will bring. Navarro, who was signed on a year-long loan from Palmeiras with a purchase option, doesn’t have extensive experience in Brazil’s Serie A (1,276 minutes, per FBref). Still, he will be an upgrade on any other No. 9 in Colorado’s current squad. Navarro has a nice mixture of size, speed, and physicality. If his new teammates can feed him inside the box, Navarro should have some success.
Mario González & Cristian Olivera
On the other side of the country from LAFC, Atlanta United president and CEO Garth Lagerwey talks about how he looks for potential signings who have had real success in multiple leagues. It looks like Black & Gold co-president and general manager John Thorrington worked from the same playbook on his team’s Mario González signing. Gonzalez, 27, wracked up 14 goals with Tondela in the Portuguese top flight in 2020-21 and scored 13 goals for OH Leuven last season in Belgium’s top flight.
With a strong right foot and clever movement to create space inside the box, González will make a real impact for LAFC in the middle of their frontline.
The 2022 MLS Cup-Supporters' Shield double winners also signed 21-year-old Uruguayan attacker Cristian Olivera in this summer window. Olivera is a right-footed winger with six goals this year in Uruguay’s top flight. He can play on either wing – which should help maintain Steve Cherundolo’s desired fluidity – and looks like a fairly well-rounded forward. Thorrington doesn’t miss on many signings, so LAFC fans should have high hopes for Olivera.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Rossi and Zelarayán are very different players. The former LAFC winger is direct and decisive, while the Argentine-born Armenian international thrives when allowed to float around the field and shoot from the hip. This summer transfer swap will change the make-up of Wilfried Nancy’s attack, one that will now feature fewer jaw-dropping, classic No. 10-type moments and more quick, flexible attacking moves.
To be clear: it’s far from ideal for Columbus that Zelarayán is heading to Saudi Arabia. Still, Nancy didn’t use a pure attacking midfielder during his two seasons with CF Montréal, and he had real success transforming that team. Rossi will be a big part of Nancy’s success in Columbus, too.
Saba Lobzhanidze, Xande Silva & Jamal Thiare
Atlanta United were busy in this window, bringing in midfielder Tristan Muyumba along with three new attackers. Here’s the low-down on the three forward players:
- Saba Lobzhanidze: The 28-year-old Georgian winger hasn’t proven to be a prolific scorer in Denmark or Turkey, but he’s quick, vertical, and skilled with his right foot. With Luiz Araújo’s departure, Atlanta certainly need help on the wings.
- Xande Silva: Coming in on loan from lower-division French club Dijon, Silva hasn’t scored more than six goals in a single senior season. He can play anywhere across the frontline and has a useful mix of strength and right-footed technique.
- Jamal Thiare: The 30-year-old Senegalese forward projects as a suitable backup to Giorgos Giakoumakis and should serve as a solid presence in the box late in games.
Cassius Mailula, Toronto FC: A U22 Initiative signing, Mailula brings the promise of goals (he scored 15 in 31 matches for South African top-flight club Mamelodi Sundowns FC across all competitions) for a Toronto FC side in rebuild mode after parting ways with head coach/sporting director Bob Bradley in late June. The twice-capped Bafana Bafana striker could be a breath of fresh air for a team in need of some good news.
Tai Baribo, Philadelphia Union: With rising Argentine striker Julián Carranza reportedly generating interest from abroad, the Union made offense a priority during the Secondary Transfer Window by signing Baribo. The 25-year-old produced 37 goals in 73 games across all competitions for Australian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC. He's also a proven goal scorer on the international front, striking three times in 11 matches for Israel since making his national team debut in March 2022.
Antony, Portland Timbers: Goals have been hard to come by this season for the Timbers, who have found the back of the net just 26 times in 23 regular-season games. Enter 21-year-old Brazilian winger Antony, who's coming off a 6g/1a 2022-23 campaign with FC Arouca in the Portuguese top flight.
Tomás Chancalay, New England Revolution: The Revs added a second Argentine to their attacking corps, signing Chancalay on loan from Racing Club – the same club compatriot and new striking partner Gustavo Bou previously starred at. The 24-year-old arrives with 35 career goals across 186 senior appearances and is expected to fill the void left by Colombian international Dylan Borrero, New England’s dynamic U22 Initiative attacker who suffered an ACL tear in late April.