MLS Insider: Tom Bogert

What to watch before MLS's Primary Transfer Window closes

Hello there, dear reader. I wanted to remind you of something: MLS's Primary Transfer Window remains open through May 4.

Sometimes that fact slips the mind when we're, you know, watching actual games and not being eagle-eyed with transactions. There’s a lot of work (still) going on behind the scenes despite the league being eight weeks into the season. Not all of it is focused on the Secondary Transfer Window, which opens July 7 and carries through Aug. 4.

There's still just over a week left in this window. Keep an eye on these fronts.

Trade market

All MLS teams have played at least seven games. All but three have played eight or more. Depth charts and rotations are pretty defined right now. For teams looking around at potentially underused players that could be available and those players looking at opportunities with a more optimistic playing time outlook, now’s the time.

A few options include:

  • Tyler Miller: Dayne St. Clair has taken over as the starting goalkeeper in Minnesota. MLS teams had called all offseason about acquiring DSC when Miller was set to be the starter. Teams in need of a goalkeeper will no doubt be considering Miller.
  • Andre Shinyashiki: Sources told that even before the Gyasi Zardes acquisition, a number of MLS teams called Colorado about Shinyashiki but advances and offers were rejected. I’d assume that will continue to accelerate now that the Rapids have added another forward.
  • Sebastian Mendez: Mendez is a quality MLSer, an Ecuador international in contention for a Qatar 2022 roster spot. He certainly would not be cheap. And I doubt Orlando would want to move him, but hey, Cesar Araujo has come in and taken the starting job next to Junior Urso and Andres Perea is still there too. It's worth a call to see.
  • Latif Blessing/Danny Musovski: LAFC have had really strong early returns on offseason additions, ranging from the coaching staff to the players. They have some real, quality depth all over the pitch. Blessing has featured in all eight games but started just three times. He certainly wouldn’t be cheap if they consider moving him. As for Musovski, Cristian Arango is the preferred natural center forward – and Steve Cherundolo has given Mahala Opoku a lot of time in a more fluid front three.
  • Josh Atencio: Who knows if Seattle would consider it, but Atencio has played 48 MLS minutes this year. Fellow homegrown midfielder Obed Vargas (16 years old) has surpassed him on the depth chart. Already with João Paulo, Albert Rusnak, Cristian Roldan and Danny Leyva as options in central midfield, it’s worth picking up the phone and seeing what Atencio might cost.
  • Jared Stroud: Stroud has just 22 MLS minutes this season. He’s proved with the Red Bulls and then Austin that he’s a capable MLS winger. His pace, directness and work rate make him a very useful option for a lot of teams. And, hey, maybe like current teammate Jon Gallagher, he could probably make a good fullback, too.

One big advantage of the trade market at this stage of the window/season is that players can move immediately. There's no need to stress over P-1 visas and immigration with multi-week wait times, plus players having to stay fit on their own and not yet joining team training.

Look at Zardes. His trade to Colorado from Columbus was finalized and announced Friday night. Almost exactly 24 hours after the official announcement, he was named to the Rapids’ matchday squad and debuted Saturday night.

Danny Musovski LAFC
Danny Musovski has 10g/4a in nearly 1,400 MLS minutes for LAFC.

Vancouver Whitecaps adding Andres Cubas

I’m expecting this to be announced soon, but as reported by a couple weeks ago, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are closing in on a high-level addition in Paraguayan defensive midfielder Andres Cubas.

Cubas, 25, is a product of the Boca Juniors academy and has made 21 appearances in Ligue 2 this season with Nimes following the club's relegation last year, when he made 27 appearances in the top flight. Prior to joining Nimes, Cubas made 51 appearances with CA Talleres in Argentina.

Here’s what Matt Doyle wrote about Cubas:

A midfield enforcer whose ball-winning numbers are stratospheric (think Diego Chara or the criminally underrated Judson). He is a plug-and-play solution to what has been a glaring need for two months now.

I will add a third bit of good news: Cubas should be ready to step in immediately. He’s not a kid with potential – Vancouver’s made a number of those signings – but is a fully-fledged, in-his-prime international who’s been better than good in two separate leagues, on two separate continents. Guys with that kind of résumé tend to adjust quickly.

It comes at a good time with the club off to a really slow start, at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with four points after eight matches and a league-worst minus-11 goal differential.

Atlanta maneuvering

Atlanta United remain in the market for a big attacking upgrade, where they're currently chasing a deal for US men's national team forward Matthew Hoppe. Chief scout Jonathan Spector was in Spain last week as Atlanta kept pushing for a deal with Mallorca.

While Hoppe has been very sparingly used – he has played just 127 minutes in La Liga all season and only 38 minutes since September – Mallorca aren’t looking to offload players in the middle of a relegation fight. They have four league games after MLS’s Primary Transfer Window closes and are two points above the relegation zone.

Hoppe would be a U22 Initiative player if Atlanta can swing it. Elsewhere, the club likely need to sign another goalkeeper, whether it’s someone challenging for minutes or just depth after starter Brad Guzan and third-string goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira each tore their Achilles’ tendon over the last couple of weeks.

One name they’re interested in? American goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who's currently with Maccabi Haifa in Israel. He was named Footballer of the Year in the Israeli top flight after leading his team to a league title last year. He’s a free agent in the summer.

Sources say interest/talks predate Guzan’s injury. Let’s see how this reality will alter the discussions. CL Merlo also reports that the Five Stripes are working on a deal to sign Lanus goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo, their one-time Concacaf Champions League hero who was previously on loan at ATL UTD 2. It's unclear if he’d arrive from Argentina with the second team or the first team, should that deal get done.

Matthew Hoppe USMNT
Matthew Hoppe has six USMNT caps.

Real Salt Lake... anything big being worked on?

Unlike the others on this list, there isn't reporting or quotes from a chief soccer officer here. It's been quiet. Oddly quiet. Real Salt Lake have stopped being linked with players, after numerous high-priced South Americans were floated with potential moves to Utah (Jefferson Savarino, Gustavo Cuellar and more).

New ownership took over RSL at the beginning of January with promises to raise the budgets (which would not be a difficult task given their prior situation). It wasn't realistic to expect a flurry of big-money signings by preseason or even necessarily by opening day; these things take time.

But I expected more to have happened by now with so much DP/U22 Initiative flexibility (and an underrated front office already well in place; no search for a new GM or technical director, no onboarding). Their last signing of any kind was a SuperDraft pick (Jasper Loeffelsend) at the end of February, while their last "big" signing was forward Sergio Cordova on Feb. 3, acquired on loan from Augsburg (a German Bundesliga club also part-owned by new owner David Blitzer).

Do they have anything cooking in silence over the last week of the transfer window or should we kick our expectations to the summer?

LAFC DP search

There hasn’t been much smoke on this front, but LAFC still have a DP spot open. And with Carlos Vela having agreed to a contract extension (not announced yet) and Fenerbahce officially turning Diego Rossi’s loan into a permanent deal, there's some further clarity. Brian Rodriguez is their other DP.

They also have a strong set of data points from the beginning of the season under Cherundolo and the new offseason additions. As such, LAFC are no longer necessarily married to using that DP spot on an attacker, as was originally the plan.

That could happen now or in the summer.

“We feel really good about the group we have, but the plan is to utilize the spot to bring in a very high-impact player,” co-president & GM John Thorrington told at the beginning of April. “Our window is still open, so we have the ability to do that in the short term, but we also have the luxury to wait until the summer, which gives us more data points to give us the right DP moving forward.”

More Cincy signings?

FC Cincinnati continue their rebuild and revolution, though there remains much to do. Off to an encouraging start under head coach Pat Noonan, the Orange & Blue's roster rebuild remains a work in progress.

Case in point: DP defensive midfielder Obinna Nwobodo was acquired earlier this month from Turkish Süper Lig side Göztepe and the hope is he’ll debut at some point soon after arriving earlier this week.

Nwobodo won’t be the last addition.

"I said it wasn’t a finished product at the start of the season and it won’t be a finished product when we add Obi,” general manager Chris Albright said on April 13. “We are still actively looking to add pieces to improve the roster. We’re hopeful we can do more this window. That’s as much as I’ll say about that.”