Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Where MLS Eastern Conference depth charts & rosters stand for 2023

Doyle East - 2.21.23

The 28th MLS season starts this weekend, so here’s the final roster build column of the offseason. Just bear in mind that the Primary Transfer Window is open until April 24, so these can and will change over the next two months.

But anyway, here’s each Eastern Conference team’s journey over the past few months, and what their depth chart looks like heading into Matchday 1. Western Conference is coming as well.

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

The Five Stripes made one of the biggest scores of the offseason thus far when they lured Garth Lagerwey from Seattle to become the new club president and CEO.

What he’s not – officially – is the general manager, and he made it very clear at his introductory press conference that while the buck stops with him, he’s not the GM. He’s doing a different job than he was in Seattle. We’ll see what that means from a functional standpoint, but I suspect Atlanta’s long-term M.O. of overpaying for skillsy, ball-to-feet attackers with redundant attributes and limited ability to make the guys around them better is now a thing of the past.

Case in point: Their one big incoming move this offseason has been to sign left winger Derrick Etienne Jr. as a free agent. The Dab God had 9g/6a last year with Columbus and does this crazy stuff called “running off the ball,” which hasn’t been seen a lot in the ATL over the past few years.

He’ll raise the ceiling and, by attacking space, open up more room for that skillsy midfield to play.

What’s Next?

The assumption is World Cup champion (!!!) Thiago Almada will be the guy pulling the strings in that midfield, but there’s no guarantee of that. Almada’s got the exact kind of résumé that could command an offer you can’t refuse, and Atlanta have always been willing to sell when their number gets hit.

Maybe that’s why Marcelino Moreno hasn’t been moved yet? He’s a plug-and-play solution at the No. 10 if Almada goes – yes, he’s an extra dribbly boi, but we’ve seen that work if he’s got runners in front of him. And remember Moreno isn’t a Designated Player, so holding onto him as the 10 would free up a very valuable roster designation tool to do work elsewhere.

The big “elsewhere,” of course, is at center forward. Josef Martínez is still on the roster despite a very public falling out with head coach Gonzalo Pineda, some very loud criticisms of the front office (which is still in place under Lagerwey), and some very prominent reporting that he gone.

For such an incredibly dramatic story that generated so many headlines during the back half of last season, it’s been very, very quiet this winter. So far.

It’s been less quiet around center back Alan Franco, who seems about set to head to São Paulo in Brazil. He’d be the second center back out the door, following homegrown George Campbell getting traded to CF Montréal for up to $900k of GAM and a sell-on fee.

I also wouldn’t be at all shocked if one of the No. 8s – Matheus Rossetto, Emerson Hyndman and, I guess, Franco Ibarra – finds a new home. But there hasn’t actually been a peep of that that I’ve seen. Nor has there been a peep about the goalkeeper situation, which was only partially addressed by the signing of veteran free agent Quentin Westberg. He’d been good in the past but struggled mightily with Toronto last year, and it’s hard to see either him or soon-to-be-39-year-old Brad Guzan, who’s coming off that Achilles tendon tear, as a high-level starter in 2023.

Feb. 5 Update

In the days after the first version of this column was published, Atlanta’s front office did a speedrun through that checklist I provided above:

And then the big one happened on Jan. 18. That was the day the Josef buyout officially took place, ending an era that hit indescribable heights before plummeting to what were, frankly, pretty depressing lows. The bottom line is from 2019-22 the Atlanta front office put on a clinic on how not to manage a roster, and so Josef’s time in Atlanta will be remembered as much for that futility as it is for the mind-bending back-to-back-to-back seasons he posted from 2017-19.

It should’ve ended in glory, and with a statue. Alas.

The other big departure over the past month was that of young winger Edwin Mosquera, who’s out on loan after recording zero goals and two assists in 12 games last year (if I knew how to hyperlink back up a paragraph to that part about the Atlanta front office’s clinic on how not to build a roster, I’d do it here).

The one big signing over the past month is Peruvian international CB Luis Abram, who is clearly the guy who’s intended to take Franco’s place. We’ll see if he can be a little bit better in the air than Franco managed.

Reports also indicate they’re about to sign Greek international striker Giorgos Giakoumakis from Scotland’s Celtic FC. He’s probably not a like-for-like Josef replacement, but that’d clearly help their thin No. 9 situation.

So: Atlanta have cleared out a number of the redundancies and made some good moves, but it’s pretty clear their hands are still tied by some of the not-so-good moves made over the past few years. And while it’s never wise to worry too much about preseason results, the fact they keep getting pumped is not the greatest sign in the world, is it?

Feb. 20 update

They got the Giakoumakis deal done, and then bolstered their No. 9 depth by trading for D.C. United’s Miguel Berry. These are both big dudes who work in the box, so that should give you an idea of what to expect in terms of how this team will play: forwards occupy the center backs, midfield does the pretty work with the ball.

Their preseason results definitely were not great, but this team makes sense on paper. Haven’t said that about an Atlanta United squad for a minute.

Doyle ATL Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

I’d classify the Crown’s first season as a measured success, one that was less about building the right roster from the jump (they sure didn’t do that) and more about finding a good coach who showed the ability to 1) create a consistent and aesthetically pleasing tactical approach, while 2) squeezing the best out of previously fringe MLS players.

I am, in other words, a big Christian Lattanzio fan. Making him the permanent head coach was a great start to the offseason.

The rest of the winter has been an exercise in clearing out most of the original roster’s leftovers, with the most prominent departures being midfielders Jordy Alcivar and Alan Franco, left back Christian Fuchs and center forward Daniel Rios – who was sold to Liga MX’s Chivas de Guadalajara. I’m a big Rios fan (I just love a classic center forward who knows his job in the box), but given his injury history, I have zero gripes with Charlotte’s decision to sell high.

Incoming thus far are a pair of homegrowns (USYNT sickos will want to remember the name Nimfasha Berchimas as he’s been beyond dominant in age-group competition) and left center back Hamady Diop, the No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft. I’m not sure Diop is a plug-and-play starter, but sending out $400k GAM to St. Louis CITY SC for him doesn’t strike me as an overpay provided Lattanzio can curb some of his Francisco Calvo-esque tendencies.

What’s Next?

The venerable Tom Bogert reports they’re adding English d-mid Ashley Westwood from Burnley this week, which… I hope they’re not paying too much. Westwood was a good player for a long time, but he suffered a horrific ankle injury in April, hasn’t played since, and will turn 33 a month into the season. It’s hard to imagine him being too much of a regular.

So they’ll need at least one more depth piece in central midfield (I’m totally sold on Derrick Jones and Brandt Bronico as the starters, for what it’s worth, but note Chris Hegardt has already gone on trial once this offseason and doesn’t seem likely to play a role in 2023).

But the bigger question is whether they can push the long-reported Enzo Copetti signing over the finish line. Copetti, a 26-year-old forward (he plays all over the front line but is mostly a 9), basically came from out of nowhere to become one of the better goalscorers in the Argentine top flight last year.

His track record is not long and I’ll admit I find that worrisome. But his clips are great and he stood out the couple of times I watched Racing Club last year, so… I guess we’ll see.

Feb. 5 Update

Only two moves, and they were the ones Tom promised, as both Westwood and Copetti got done.

Charlotte haven’t done anything else, and quite obviously the tragic death of Anton Walkes in a boating accident on January 19 overshadows any roster-building concerns. But as it stands, the Crown are down to three healthy CBs on the roster (the injured Guzman Corujo, who probably won’t return until mid-season, is CB No. 4). I think they’ll make a move to add depth there.

Feb. 20 Update

The inevitable move for a center back happened, and it came from within the league as they shipped up to $900k in GAM to the Timbers for Bill Tuiloma.

I love this move. Tuiloma can be an adventure, but he’s a super-dynamic ball carrier off that backline who can unbalance opposing midfields, is a set-piece dual-threat (both taking them and getting onto the end of them), and has the kind of distribution skills that can sing in Lattanzio’s system.

I think he slots right in as a starter.

There was one outgoing move as well, as they bought out veteran attacker Yordy Reyna late last week.

Doyle CLT Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer were given one more year to make things work despite another 12th-place finish and another year at home watching the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. And thus far their approach seems to be oriented toward betting upon continuity, improvement from within and maybe upgrading at right back.

Which is to say it’s been a quiet winter in the Second City. Swiss attacker Maren Haile-Selassie, on loan from sister club FC Lugano, is the only addition at this point, while all the departures (other than Gaga Slonina, which we knew about in the summer) have been “option declined” or “mutually parted ways” defenders, the most significant of whom was starting right back Boris Sekulic.

Would it be crazy to bring back nine starters from a non-playoff team one year and expect to make the playoffs the next? A little bit, yeah. But I don’t think it’s that insane to expect massive improvement from Jairo Torres and Jhon Durán, as well as a more locked-in performance from Xherdan Shaqiri.

What’s Next?

Reports have the Fire on the verge of signing 30-year-old right back Arnaud Souquet. The Frenchman is a veteran of Ligue 1 and the Belgian top flight, and seems very obviously to be a pivot towards a “we’ve got to win – and win big – this year in order to keep our jobs” kind of signing. This isn’t about development or polishing diamonds in the rough anymore.

If that’s the case, then the next place to look is in goal. Slonina’s departure in theory opens up playing time for another highly-rated homegrown/US youth international in Chris Brady, but this team doesn’t seem set up to live with the mistakes of a teenage ‘keeper in his first year as a starter. So a move there would not shock me.

The other possible puzzle piece is a mega-offer for Durán, who was simply astounding down the stretch last year. But my hunch is that’ll come in the summer.

It’s worth noting, by the way, the Fire have a DP slot open, and since Torres is a Young DP, they can go big as hell with it and not lose any U22 slots. So while it’s been quiet so far, it’s not destined to stay that way.

To that end, head coach Ezra Hendrickson has said they’re looking for a DP No. 9, but it’s hard to reconcile that with how excellent Durán was down the stretch. So I’ve got to imagine if they fill the DP slot with a center forward it’ll come during the summer window after they get blown away by somebody’s offer for Durán.

Feb. 5 Update

The Fire followed my blueprint: land Souquet, address goalkeeper (Jeff Gal might end up being the starter, to be honest) and then get that mega-offer for Durán, who they sold for a club-record fee of at least $18 million to Aston Villa (Durán’s already made his EPL debut).

The next step is, I guess, adding that DP No. 9. All the reporting says they were in on 30-year-old South Korean international Hwang Ui-jo, who would’ve been a great DP signing three years ago, but who’s been a shadow of his former self over the past 18 months since suffering a bad ankle injury (he’s scored in just five of his 41 club appearances since then). Seems they’ve backed out there, though.

We’ll see.

Feb. 20 Update

They did, in fact, back out of the Hwang deal, which is probably for the best. But that DP slot is still open and they’re heading into the regular season with Kacper Przybylko most likely the starting No. 9 again.

There are lots of rumors out there about potential moves, but that’s always the case with the Fire. No concrete reports of anything imminent, however.

Doyle CHI Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Cincy, in declining options on Allan Cruz, Ronald Matarrita, Tyler Blackett and Geoff Cameron, cleared out $3.5 million worth of salary budget room (some of that will come from the salary cap, others from saved GAM). That’s obviously a hefty chunk of money, enough to give GM Chris Albright plenty of room to maneuver and upgrade what was one of the most fun teams in the league last year.

So far those upgrades have consisted of signing Ecuadorian international midfielder Marco Angulo on a U22 Initiative deal, adding a homegrown and picking Generation adidas center back Joey Akpunonu in the SuperDraft.

Which is to say Albright should still have plenty of room left over to address other areas of need on the roster.

What’s Next?

Even with the addition of Akpunonu there are only four center backs on the roster, which isn’t enough for a team that spent most of last year in a 3-5-2. There’s also only one proven left wingback in Alvaro Barreal. Depth additions – and maybe even another starting-caliber CB – are necessary.

There are two veteran right wingbacks on the roster: Alvas Powell and Ray Gaddis, but both leave a lot to be desired in the attacking third. An attacking upgrade at that spot isn’t strictly necessary but is clearly very possible.

Also possible is that the right offer comes in for Brenner or Brandon Vázquez. They already rejected a $7 million bid for Vázquez from Chivas, so obviously we’re talking big bucks here. But both of these guys are at the point in their careers where improvement is likely, and if they improve upon what they did last year, we’re talking big, big bucks.

My hunch is this isn’t something they’ll have to worry about until this summer at the earliest, though.

Feb. 5 Update

It turns out my hunch was wrong, as they held onto Brenner at the EPL window deadline instead of selling him to Nottingham Forest. That was a pretty high-stakes game of chicken, and Cincy decided not to blink. I definitely would’ve.

Their two big-ish additions since we last checked in were young Colombian center back Yerson Mosquera, who’s in town on loan from Wolves and seems likely to be a starter, and left wingback Isaiah Foster, who tore up the USL Championship last year (he’ll be Barreal’s backup).

That leaves one spot that everyone’s waiting for: right wingback. Santiago Arias, the 31-year-old Colombian veteran who spent the past decade with Atletico Madrid and PSV Eindhoven, has been training with the Knifey Lions for weeks now but has, apparently, yet to put pen to paper.

He is such an obvious fit for what is their one remaining need.

Feb. 20 Update

They made the Arias deal official on Feb. 9, and have stood pat since then.

I still think they could use one more center back (a veteran of some sort), but it’s not an urgent need. The only looming issue is Brenner’s state of mind after his failed move to Nottingham Forest, but Cincy’s got the kind of depth and talent up top to weather a slow start to the season by the Brazilian DP.

Doyle CIN Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

The most aggressive pursuit of another MLS team’s coach I can ever recall happening is the story of winter in Columbus thus far. If Wilfried Nancy is as good as he looked over the past couple of years in Montréal – and I don’t think it’s wrong to assume he is – then he’s worth every bit of equity (and cash) the Crew had to spend to get him.

What he’ll be working with in Ohio is a roster that’s likely to look quite a bit like the one that just missed the playoffs each of the past two years; most of the departures this offseason have been guys on the fringes.

“Most” is not “all,” though. Derrick Etienne Jr. and Pedro Santos (the whole starting left side) both left in free agency, while Artur was traded to Houston for cash. A few other reserves saw their options declined, while left back/wingback Jimmy Medranda is, thus far, the only addition.

So things are thin right now, but given the top-level talent in place (Cucho Hernández, Lucas Zelarayán and Darlington Nagbe are all returning as DPs), and the young talent on hand (Aidan Morris, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Will Sands and maybe even Alex Matan all seem positioned to play big roles), it’s not exactly threadbare.

What’s Next?

As it stands there are only four center backs on the roster, which isn’t enough if Nancy’s going to implement the 3-4-2-1 he used in Montréal (no guarantee of that, obviously). And the only central midfield depth behind Nagbe and Morris is a pair of mostly unproven homegrowns.

But the biggest issue is probably in attack, where Columbus, as it stands, need either a massive jump from Matan or… gulp… a fully healthy and productive season from Kevin Molino. Neither of those outcomes seems super likely no matter how great Nancy’s developmental track record was up north.

So while I haven’t heard anything specific about potential new signings, I’ve got to think a few are in the works.

The Crew, as mentioned, have used all three of their DP slots, but they do have one U22 Initiative slot open.

Feb. 5 Update

Columbus brought center forward Christian Ramirez back from the rains of Scotland and Tom keeps putting him into our depth chart doc as a starter, but I just don’t buy it. I think he’s depth.

So, too, is the only other signing of the past month, homegrown defender Keegan Hughes. He is the first of what I expect to be several young defenders signed (maybe one or two from last year’s Crew 2 roster, maybe one or two from the draft).

What this feels like to me is a bet on Nancy’s ability to develop the talent already in the roster. It’s what he did best in Montréal, after all.

Feb. 20 Update

Want to see what “a bet on Nancy’s ability to develop the talent already in the roster” looks like? On Feb. 8 the Crew signed center back Philip Quinton from Crew 2 to an MLS contract, and two days later they traded longtime backline anchor Jonathan Mensah to the Quakes for GAM.

This is Nancy’s team and that means the kids are going to be given every chance to get on the field and play.

CLB Lineup_02_20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Whew. Ok, let me put on my helmet. Now let’s dive in.

Since the end of the season D.C. United have:

  • Parted ways with GM Lucy Rushton.
  • Reassigned multi-time interim head coach Chad Ashton.
  • Moved long-time CSO Dave Kasper into an “advisory role,” as per reports.
  • Declined contract options on 12 players – nearly half the roster! – including second-leading scorer Ola Kamara, long-time starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid and short-time starting goalkeeper David Ochoa.
  • Acquired seven new players (two via intra-MLS trades, three via free agency, one a signing from their feeder club in Loudoun, and left back Mo Jeahze via transfer from Hammarby in Sweden).

In short, it sure looks like they’ve given Wayne Rooney the steering wheel, the checkbook and whatever else he needs to make it his team.

And just on the face of it, I’d say he’s brought in their starting goalkeeper (Tyler Miller) and three new starting defenders. Nobody has had a busier offseason.

I don’t think the work is anywhere near done, however, as the new midfield additions from midseason – DP Victor Palsson and TAM signing Ravel Morrison – were well below par once they arrived, and neither Chris Durkin nor Russell Canouse have developed into the players we all hoped they’d be four years ago.

What’s Next?

Addressing that midfield need. Leeds United No. 10 (or No. 10-ish 8) Mateusz Klich seems to be at the top of the wish list, though it’s unlikely they could get the 32-year-old on less than a DP contract. If that’s the case, then someone needs to either be bought out or bought down to open up room.

I’m not sure just adding Klich would be enough unless there’s also a massive step forward from the guys who are already there. And even if those two boxes are checked, D.C. would still need to add numbers in midfield as they’d only be five/six deep for three spots. That’s not enough to get through a whole season, especially when you consider how injury-prone this team has been over the past decade.

Wazza’s got his work cut out for him. And considering he’s only under contract for 12 more months… woo boy, have they gone all-in on his vision here!

Feb. 5 Update

They got the Klich deal done, which looks like the last big move they’ll make this window.

And I just have to mention they mutually parted ways with goalkeeper Rafael Romo who – I’ll just say it – is the single worst player I’ve ever seen in MLS. American Soccer Analysis’s G+ metric had Romo costing D.C. 0.54 goals per game last year, which is 1) the worst in their database, which goes back a decade, and 2) probably underselling it.

I’ll miss him. But for D.C. fans’ sake, I’m glad he’s gone.

Feb. 20 Update

One minor move as they traded Miguel Berry – who was either second or third on the center forward depth chart – to Atlanta for up to $250k worth of GAM.

With all three DP slots filled and presumably not much room to maneuver, I don’t expect any big moves coming over the rest of the window.

Doyle DCU Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Basically as soon as the year ended they signed center forward Leo Campana to a permanent deal as a Young DP. Now everybody’s waiting on the other Leo. You know who I mean.

And so here’s where things stand: If the greatest player in the sport’s history decides he’s coming this summer, then expect a flurry of moves to fill the roster with hard-working veterans and at least one other attacking star (they have two DP slots open) – likely a goalscoring winger who can get onto the end of those through balls Messi hits better than anybody who’s ever set foot on a soccer field.

If, however, Messi isn’t signing this summer – and I suspect we’ll know very soon if that’s the case for certain – then I’d expect Miami to go in a different direction, heading down to South America to find their version of Thiago Almada to build around.

Which is to say Alejandro Pozuelo is out of contract and I don’t expect he’ll be coming back. Gonzalo Higuain retired, and a few other depth pieces have also hit the door, but the big moves are on hold until the little guy from Rosario truly makes up his mind.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that people who are smart about youth soccer in this country consider homegrown No. 8 Benjamin Cremaschi to be a star in the making. They signed him from their academy at the end of November.

What’s Next?

The official conclusion to #MessiWatch, one way or another.

The fact The Miami Herald is reporting talks between the club and Mauricio, a 21-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder from Internacional, suggests Fabrizio Romano’s original reporting that Messi will stay in Paris until 2024 is correct. But my fingers are still crossed.

Nicolás Stefanelli, a second-forward type from AIK in Sweden (he can also play on either wing) is also reportedly on the way in a non-DP deal. He strikes me as more of a good depth piece than a starter, but we shall see.

Also bear in mind Miami could pretty clearly upgrade that central defense and left wing. They’re one of the teams reportedly in for free agent Aaron Long, which makes sense, and whether Messi comes or not, a DP left winger’s got to be on the menu.

Feb. 5 Update

The funniest bit going in American soccer right now is every time Fab tweets about Messi, Mike Ryan (Ruiz) of Meadowlark Media (and former EP of the LeBatard Show) dunks on him:

They missed out on Aaron Long (signed with LAFC), but they haven’t missed out on Messi just yet! And I’ll just say at this point, Mike’s info has been a lot better than Fab’s.

No guarantees either way, of course, but there’s a reason Miami didn’t bring Pozuelo back even though the Spaniard was willing to take a discount to stay. He just doesn’t fit with Leo, does he?

One person who is guaranteed to be in South Florida this year is the legendary Josef Martinez, who I’m assuming is in town to start up top in a two with Campana. They also brought in a utility attacker in Nico Stefanelli, a left back in Franco Negri and a center back in Sergii Kryvtsov. That move came a week after they traded last year’s starter, Damion Lowe, to Philadelphia for a fistful of dollars.

And on top of all this: Rodolfo Pizarro is back. The Mexican DP, who was exiled to Liga MX’s CF Monterrey last year, has returned and seems intent upon sticking around. I don’t actually think that’s a good thing since Pizarro is a career underachiever, but maybe this is the year he finds his range.

Feb. 20 Update

The one move was a minor one, as they officially inked local kid Shanyder Borgelin, a giant center forward who’s a full Haitian international and tore it up for Inter Miami II last year, to a first-team deal. His homegrown rights were part of the Lowe trade back at the end of last month.

Pizarro, for what it’s worth, has in fact stuck around, and is a presumed starter at this point.

And #MessiWatch continues. The further along we move in PSG’s season without him putting pen to paper on an extension, the more convinced I am that he’ll be in Fort Lauderdale this summer.

Doyle MIA Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

They made bank. Ismaël Koné to Watford for $8m, Djordje Mihailovic went to AZ Alkmaar for $6m and Alistair Johnston out the door to Celtic for $3.5m (he was very good in his debut, which was in the Old Firm. Can’t compare that to the intensity of the Canadian Classique, of course, but I was impressed).

They also got a good chunk of cash for letting Wilfried Nancy walk and sign with Columbus, replacing him with former D.C. United head coach Hernan Losada. Losada did a lot with very little in D.C. two years ago, but in the process he ended up alienating a lot of the locker room. The hope is he’ll have learned and will be a better man manager because of that.

The other hope is Losada will maintain Nancy’s habit of developing players, because that’s now clearly a core part of Montréal’s DNA. And to that end, of their two incoming moves this winter – they got RB/RCB/RWB Aaron Herrera from Real Salt Lake for $500k GAM and an international roster slot (which I still can’t believe), and paid $900k GAM to Atlanta for CB George Campbell – both fit the mold, to one degree or another, of guys who can either be foundational pieces for a contender or develop-and-sell successes.

Montréal also made sure to keep James Pantemis permanently, which makes sense given how good he was between the sticks during the second half of last season.

What’s Next?

There have been rumors about CBs Joel Waterman and Kamal Miller having overseas interest, and obviously if the interest is there and the money is right, Montréal will sell. I’m finding it hard not to read into the fact they already went out and got Campbell, who seems like a ready-made Waterman replacement.

Anyway, selling one is fine. Sell both and they’d probably have to go out on the market and find a replacement. I’m not going to bet against Olivier Renard’s ability to do that.

Nor am I going to bet against academy kid Rida Zouhir’s ability to replace Kone’s minutes in central midfield. And the good news is sources have told me they won’t actually have to replace Victor Wanyama – I now expect the DP d-mid, who was Best XI-caliber last year, to return. That’s huge.

Still, central midfield is the place to watch, because while there’s talent on Montréal’s roster, I don’t see a Mihailovic-level chance creator.

They’ve been linked to Argentinean-American No. 10 Alan Sonora in the past, and the 24-year-old is now out of contract after leaving Independiente. Seems like he’d be an ideal fit, but who knows?

Feb. 5 Update

My sources were right! Wanyama stayed, which is very good and big news, because losing him along with Djordje, Johnston and Kone probably would’ve been too much. They also added young Greek-Canadian Ilias Iliadis on a free from Panathanaikos, and that’s it for incoming moves over the past month.

Which… yeah, no Sonora. And there hasn’t been a whisper of it being done (or even on the radar) for a while now, and he’ll reportedly sign in Liga MX. Part of the calculus might be 18-year-old homegrown Nathan-Dylan Saliba has blown expectations away in training (it seems like he’s leapfrogged Zouhir), and the other part might be that 20-year-old Sean Rea – who’s more of an attacking midfielder, and who spent last year on loan for Valour FC in the CPL – has done the same.

Which is to say Montréal are fully leaning into their “developmental club” ethos. They’ll make some moves to replace the guys they sell, but for the most part they’re going to be betting upon their ability to create a talent pipeline from within.

More evidence of that fact is the trade of Joaquin Torres to Philadelphia for up to $800k in GAM, which was the one outgoing move over the past month. He’d have been the natural solution to filling the Djordje minutes, but with Rea playing well and the academy pipeline fully open, it’s become a job for the kids.

One last note: Kei Kamara is still in town, but took to social media last month to let everyone know he wants out. Whether he’ll get what he wants, I don’t actually know, so I’m leaving him on the depth chart for now.

Feb. 20 Update

Kamara’s still around, and the center-forward depth chart just keeps getting more crowded. The latest addition is young Jules-Anthony Vilsaint, a 20-year-old local kid who’d been at Royal Antwerp but never quite broke through into the first team.

Montréal, with just one DP (Wanyama) on the books, have a ton of flexibility. I do not, however, expect them to make any giant moves. It’s just not their way.

MTL Lineup_02_20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

The ‘Yotes have made some low-key depth moves – clearing out spaces at the bottom of the roster and using their newfound flexibility to do things like sign Jacob Shaffelburg permanently, ink veteran winger Fafa Picault in a trade and sign USL Championship center back Laurence Wyke.

But the big move is the one that’s juuuuuust about official: they seem to have offloaded DP center forward Ake Loba, one of the all-time big-money busts in this league (2g/2a in less than 700 minutes across two seasons after Nashville spent nearly $7 million for him) to Mazatlan in Liga MX.

With Loba gone, it’s obvious the next step is signing a DP target man to replace him. And this time, you know, get it right.

What’s Next?

An aerially-dominant forward for a team that loves to cross the ball and basically doesn’t press? Maybe Nashville should’ve been in for Cristiano Ronaldo instead of Sporting KC!

Honestly, though, I haven’t seen a single report on who Nashville could be targeting, though I’d wager they go shopping in Europe rather than Latin America this time.

It’s too bad Wout Weghorst is on loan through the summer with Besiktas.

And one more central midfielder couldn’t hurt. They’ve got four guys for two spots so it’s not life-or-death, but given age and injury history, that pool can get shallow real quick.

As for Rodrigo Pineiro… I left him on the depth chart, but there’s no real reason to expect he’ll be back in 2023. Our friends at say he’ll almost certainly be staying in Chile for good.

Feb. 5 Update

A flurry of moves right around the time v1.0 was filed, with Loba officially going out on loan, Dave Romney getting traded (I didn’t see that one coming), Nick DePuy coming in, a mutual parting of the ways with Handwalla Bwana, and a couple of depth signings.

The two big things here:

  1. With Loba going on loan, no DP slot was opened up. So it looks very much like Nashville are going to work with the exact same center forward corps as last year.
  1. Romney’s departure opens up what I expect to be a full-time starting job for Jack Maher.

‘Yotes fans aren’t in a super great mood right now. The structure of a very good team is there, but this looks like yet another year of being short of difference-making quality in the final third.

Feb. 20 Update

No new moves for Nashville. I’m guessing the idea is to hope that Loba gets bought this summer to open up a DP slot, at which point shopping beings again.

Doyle NSH Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

A lot of depth pieces were shown the door, with seven players either seeing their options declined or seeing their contracts expire (an eighth, veteran defender A.J. DeLaGarza, retired).

The most notable of that bunch is probably right winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, who’s always been productive in MLS when he could stay healthy but… just couldn’t stay healthy. He went to Germany after the season and received some kind of undisclosed treatment on his still-unspecified injury, but whatever the cause and whatever the cure, thus far the Revs have decided to stay away despite having sunk $400k GAM to get him from LAFC last summer. Yikes.

Incoming thus far have been veteran forward Bobby Wood via the Re-Entry Draft, Latif Blessing via a trade with LAFC and winger/wingback/maybe-future-fullback Josh Bolma via the SuperDraft. They also retained Nacho Gil and have homegrown defender Santiago Suarez coming for 2024.

The Revs aren’t in bad shape, but they need a few of the kids to hit (homegrowns Noel Buck and Esmir Bajraktarevic are particularly promising) if they’re going to climb back up the ladder after a very poor 2022.

What’s Next?

The Revs spent a DP slot on center forward Giacomo Vrioni last summer. He didn’t look great in MLS, but that’s fine – lots of players take a minute to adjust.

What’s less fine is there’s no real way to put Vrioni, Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil on the field together in a 4-2-3-1, which is the formation that gets the best out of Gil (the team’s best player). Neither Bou nor Vrioni can play on the wing at all, and neither is the type to drop back into midfield. So you could play a 4-4-2, but that leaves Gil on the periphery of the game instead of in the middle of it, controlling it.

So yeah, I think the very obvious thing would be to sell or loan Bou and then use the open DP slot for a more natural fit witFh how Bruce Arena seems to want to play.

There are also massive questions to be asked of the central defense after last year’s performance. If not for Djordje Petrovic putting together maybe the best 2,000-minute stretch of shot-stopping in league history, the Revs would’ve finished around 30 points instead of the still-miserable-but-not-humiliating tally of 42.

Jozy Altidore... the veteran striker returned after spending the second half of last year on loan in Liga MX, though it’s hard to imagine he’ll be sticking around for the year.

Feb. 5 Update

Bou and Vrioni are still on the roster, so instead of going for a DP No. 8, the Revs worked the phones and got Latif Blessing from LAFC in exchange for just $400k in GAM. Part of that deal was an arguable discount from the Black & Gold for the $400k in GAM the Revs sent them last summer for Tajouri-Shradi, whose injury was worse than folks realized and who’s now plying his trade in Cyprus.

New England used that mulligan to mostly pay for the acquisition of veteran CB Dave Romney from Nashville, which was a good and necessary move. Their only other transactions of the month were officially retaining Nacho and inking homegrown midfielder Jack Panayotou.

At this point I’ve still got the Revs in a 4-2-3-1, but Bruce Arena’s been experimenting with both a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2 in preseason. So we’ll see!

Feb. 20 Update

No new moves for the Revs, though I’ll say that from the snippets of preseason we’ve been able to catch, the play of 18-year-old Panayotou and 17-year-old Noel Buck makes me wonder if Blessing’s even going to get a chance to win the No. 8 job. These kids are legit.

Bou spent a bunch of time in Argentina over the past month and officially got his green card. I remain unconvinced he’s a starter, especially given Vrioni’s performance in the Revs’ final preseason game.

NE Lineup_02_20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

And just like that, the Maxi Moralez era in New York came to an end.

Maxi, somehow, spent the entirety of his MLS career under the radar despite leading the team in the biggest market to their first-ever silverware and a place at or near the top of the standings across six seasons. He has a seat near the head of the table in the pantheon of all-time great MLS No. 10s – not just because of his playmaking and space-interpreting genius, but because he is among the most modern of the 10s in league history with his commitment to both defending and positional play.

I will miss watching him.

I will also miss Anton Tinnerholm, who returned home to Sweden. Then Héber was traded to Seattle, and Santi Rodriguez’s loan expired (still hoping he’s back as Maxi’s successor!), and Cacha Acevedo went on loan to Bahia, and oh yeah, both Alex Callens and Sean Johnson remain unsigned free agents.

And all NYCFC have done thus far is sign veteran center back Tony Alfaro as a depth piece (plus technically speaking brought back Matias Pellegrini). And – oh yeah! – put pen to paper on a stadium of their own at Willets Point.

Player personnel moves pale in comparison to the significance of that.

What’s Next?

I hope it’s getting Callens and Johnson back, and then adding in Rodriguez to boot. That would make this whole offseason feel less like a teardown-and-rebuild approach and more of an overhaul.

But I genuinely don’t know. Suffice it to say, one way or another, the No. 10, center back and goalkeeper spots are currently on the to-do list.

I assume No. 9 will be as well, as Talles Magno was just significantly better on the wing the past two years than he was playing up top (he looked well out of his comfort zone for most of his time as a false 9, and wasn’t productive at all). But I don’t know for sure.

The other issue beyond those is simple midfield depth. Even if Santi comes back, and veterans Keaton Parks and Alfredo Morales stay healthy, the depth chart is literally just those three guys, as there's yet-unsigned rookie draft pick Malcolm Johnston and 14-year-old Maximo Carrizo (who I’m not even going to put on the depth chart since he’s still literally a child). That’s just nowhere near enough.

Expect it to be a busy eight weeks in the Bronx (or Queens now, I guess!).

Feb. 5 Update

It has not, in fact, been a busy eight weeks in the Bronx, and while CFG as a whole have been in the news, NYCFC mostly haven’t been.

Which isn’t to say they’ve done nothing. Braian Cufre is likely the new starting left back, and Mitja Ilenic seems a good bet to play serious minutes at right back. They also brought in Matt Freese for $750k in GAM from the Union after Sean Johnson signed in Toronto, and you don’t spend that kind of cash on a ‘keeper if you’re not planning to start him.

But yeah, Johnson is gone and Callens is gone, signing with Girona of LaLiga. Santi’s still not back, and might never be back, and as of now there’s not even a whisper of a new, high-level No. 10 coming in. Nor is there a whisper of a new, high-level No. 9 on the way, which means we’re getting a reprise of the Talles-as-False-9 experiment from last year.

It’s not quite a full-on rebuild, but it’s much more “rebuild” than “reload,” and no matter what happens with the Nos. 10 and 9 spots, it’s going to be a very different year for the Pigeons.

Feb. 20 Update

The only official news was reserve left back Chris Gloster got bought out, which wasn’t a surprise.

They did get a double dose of good reports, however. First the venerable CL Merlo reported they are, in fact, bringing Santi back as Maxi’s successor (he first reported this on Feb. 10; it still hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t).

The second bit of good news came that same day, with Thomas J. Scoops reporting that NYCFC were in talks to sign former RSL academy kid and USYNT star Richy Ledezma from PSV Eindhoven. As with the Santi deal it’s not over the line yet, but I think it’ll get there, and so I’m adding both guys to the depth chart.

Those guys help a ton, though I still think this team needs another midfield ball-winner on the depth chart, and obviously I remain unconvinced by Talles up top.

Doyle NYC Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

RBNY have mostly done their typical thing, releasing a bunch of guys at or near the bottom of their roster to make room for a new influx of homegrown signings.

But they also saw some more significant moves, as longtime CB Aaron Long hit free agency (he’s reportedly down to either the Sounders or Inter Miami, with RBNY no longer in consideration) while Caden Clark and Kyle Duncan both saw their loans end. While there is at least some reason to suspect Duncan will be back, that’s just not the case for Clark, whose years in Harrison ultimately ended up being a disappointment.

The biggest incoming news has been free-agent center forward Cory Burke. The 31-year-old is built to win the kinds of long-balls RBNY play a million times a game, and they’re built to turn those knockdown headers into the transition moments that serve as Energy Drink Soccer’s most effective playmaker.

They also signed a pair of homegrown left backs (Curtis Ofori and Jayden Reid), which will be our segue into the next segment…

What’s Next?

Presumably, they will open up playing time for those newly-minted left backs by selling John Tolkin. The 20-year-old has, I think, exceeded expectations over the past two years, to the point where I’m expecting a move to a UEFA Champions League team in, like, Belgium or Scotland (or even to the big brother club in Salzburg).

The other thing we’re waiting for official word on is the permanent signing of forward Elias Manoel, who made a good impression in limited minutes down the stretch last season. I’ve got him on the depth chart below ahead of Burke, but they could very easily play up top together.

With those two in town, I think it’s fair to expect Patryk Klimala to have a new address this year. I know there’s been interest in him around the league, and maybe the Kévin Cabral deal makes it easier to move him now there’s precedent for how to move an underperforming DP (in terms of splitting up the contract).

There are other areas of need – central defense and right back, should Duncan not return – and another high-level incoming homegrown player in Peter Stroud. He was the best player in college soccer this past year and could potentially walk into a starting job, but that job would only really come open if Cristian Casseres Jr. is sold.

Casseres, of course, is in the final year of his contract. There’s a lot of incentive to sell him this window.

So I think we should all expect RBNY to be busy during this winter window. But what I don’t think anyone should expect is for big-money signings to be made, because this club doesn't play at that table anymore.

Feb. 5 Update

The Red Bulls did the things we thought they would do in signing Peter Stroud, and working out a deal to keep Duncan, and splashing out to make Elias Manoel’s move permanent. Those are all very Red Bull moves.

But then they did two things that weren’t very Red Bull:

  1. They sent Klimala to Israel, opening up a DP spot.
  2. By bringing in Belgian forward Dante Vanzeir, they’ll break their previous spending record if all markers are hit.

Nobody’s pretending this team’s sitting at the same table as, like, Toronto FC or Atlanta United when it comes to transfer outlays. But those last two moves are “we’re serious about winning” moves of the type this team mostly hadn’t made since last decade.

And right now, on paper, this looks like the strongest RBNY team since 2018’s Supporters’ Shield winners.

Feb. 20 Update

No moves since last time, though I suspect they’ll figure out how to bring in a fifth center back eventually. That’s not precisely urgent and they’ve got a ton of flexibility, so I reckon they’ll take their time.

Doyle RBNY Feb 20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Busy! The Lions showed 12 players the door, though three of those guys (playmaker Mauricio Pereyra and goalkeepers Pedro Gallese and Adam Grinwis) have re-signed, and another (homegrown US Open Cup hero Benji Michel) could/should still return.

Still, though, we’re looking at something of an overhaul with longtime starting fullbacks Ruan and Joao Moutinho both departing, Junior Urso heading back to Brazil and Tesho Akindele riding his e-bike into retirement.

The exodus has allowed Oscar Pareja & Co. to go a little crazy with the offseason additions and, well, they’ve obliged, adding left back Luca Petrasso via trade, exercising the option to extend Wilder Cartagena’s loan through 2023 (a very good move), signing Felipe as a free agent, and then going HAM in the SuperDraft by trading up to pick attacker Shak Mohammed second overall, grabbing center forward Duncan McGuire (who I love) sixth and defender Abdi Salim 17th.

I think all three guys will make the roster (Mohammed already is via Generation adidas status), and I bet the first two play real minutes right away.

Pareja’s ability to get good minutes out of the SuperDraft has always been one of his outstanding qualities as a head coach.

What’s Next?

They brought Pereyra back on a non-DP deal, which opens up space for them to bring in DP winger Martin Ojeda from Godoy Cruz. Tom says it’s done, and since I taught Tom everything he knows, I trust he’s got it right.

Once that’s done the only major issue I see is in central midfield where, even after the addition of Felipe and the retention of Cartagena, more depth is needed. Orlando’s got Concacaf Champions League games this year, remember, and that can absolutely devastate a team if they’re not full-on committed to rotating. Pareja has first-hand experience with this, as his 2017 FC Dallas side made a very credible push to the CCL semis before just melting down that summer in league play.

The other spot worth looking at is fullback. Right now they’ve got four guys* between LB and RB; three of them are unproven kids with upside, and the fourth is Kyle Smith – a nice player, but not a full-time starter at any point in his MLS career.

(*) I’ll admit I’ve always been interested in seeing if Jake Mulraney could play as a left back. Wouldn’t be at all shocked if we saw a bunch of that in preseason.

Feb. 5 Update

Tom, on the other hand, was right about Ojeda, a deal that got done just days after v1.0 of this column posted. So did a deal for Brazilian fullback Rafael Santos, and yes, those two guys will comprise an entirely new left side for the Lions this year (it looks good on paper).

They didn’t stop, though, bringing in young Argentine attacker Ramiro Enrique (U22 Initiative) and Icelandic midfielder Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, a literal Asgardian.

I don’t know how it’s all gonna fit and how quickly it’s all going to come together, but my word did this team load up this winter. They’re one of the handful of most interesting teams in the league to keep an eye on from the jump.

Feb. 20 Update

They signed Salim, their third first-round SuperDraft pick, on Valentine’s Day. But nothing since then and I don’t think anything big is coming soon.

Though with McGuire being the absolute freaking truth all preseason, and two other high-upside young guys behind him on the depth chart, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if DP center forward Ercan Kara’s days were numbered. Though that’s much more of a Secondary Transfer Window decision, if it at all.


Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

Paxten Aaronson was sold. Cory Burke left in free agency. Cole Turner’s option was declined.

That’s it for outgoing. The only incoming move thus far is midfielder Andrés Perea. They shipped $750k of GAM to Orlando for the 22-year-old, who never quite hit the heights expected of him in central Florida.

Anyway, that’s all to say it’s been a quiet winter. So far.

What’s Next?

If Kai Wagner’s not sold this month I’ll eat my hat. And it wouldn’t be at all shocking if Olivier Mbaizo joined him – he was actually better than Wagner over the final couple of months of the 2022 season and into the playoffs.

This is the Union, and replacing a couple of fullbacks is not something I’d expect them to struggle with in any real way. I could see them just promoting from within (Nathan Harriel started over Mbaizo at right back for half the season last year) or going off the radar exactly as they did with Wagner and Mbaizo in the first place.

The only other area to keep an eye on is center forward, where the departure of Burke hurts. Chris Donovan should in theory take those minutes, and they’re likely to sign teenager Jose Riasco from their MLS NEXT Pro side, but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see a big-bodied, late-game specialist brought in to do the grunt work Burke was so excellent at over the past few years.

Regardless, this team’s loaded as hell and ready to make runs in literally every competition they enter this season.

Feb. 5 Update

Few things in the league shock me as much as the fact Wagner and Mbaizo are both still in Philly. Leeds United could’ve used those guys! But with the European window mostly closed, it looks like the Union will return all 11 of their starters and the vast, vast majority of their rotation from last year.

They did sell their backup ‘keeper, Matt Freese, to NYCFC for $750k in GAM last month, then turned around and spent that (and more) to bring in Damion Lowe from Miami, who will presumably slot in as the third center back, and attacker Joaquin Torres from Montréal.

Lowe provides insurance for either Jakob Glesnes or Jack Elliott picking up a knock, as well as flexibility for switching to a 3-5-2 (Jim Curtin’s been playing around with that in preseason). Torres, meanwhile, is the kind of eliminate-a-guy-off-the-dribble attacker the Union haven’t had since Ilsinho. His end product isn’t always there, but he’s great at unbalancing a defense and makes a lot of sense as a flier.

As of this update, they’re pretty clearly the best team in the league. That can change as the big spenders continue to add pieces or if, say, all of Orlando’s acquisitions hit. But it’s tough to pick out a weakness in this roster (even if I do think they’ll miss Burke more than most people realize).

Feb. 20 Update

The mutually parted ways with fifth-string CB Abasa Aremeyaw two weeks ago, and then last week officially signed goalkeeper Holden Trent, who they got via the SuperDraft. Homegrown forward Nelson Pierre is on a first-team deal now, too.

I suspect they’ll pick up another young center back eventually, but I wouldn’t classify it as urgent.

PHI Lineup_02_20

Offseason So Far (Jan. 3)

They kept Jonathan Osorio and signed Matt Hedges as a free agent. They brought back Víctor Vázquez via the Re-Entry Draft. Those three guys should all make a difference.

But so far, the bigger story is how much pruning the Reds have done from the roster – 10 guys were shown the door – and how much of the roster still needs building. Right now it is very, very incomplete.

The good news is they still have a DP slot open and, in Ayo Akinola and Jayden Nelson, have two homegrown products who can be traded (Akinola) or transferred (Nelson) in order to open up roster space and generate allocation cash.

What’s Next?

Wheeling and dealing. I mentioned Akinola and Nelson because those are the two most likely to be working for new employers by the time the season starts given the shape of the roster. Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty could also be on that list.

Meanwhile there’s a non-zero chance of Chris Mavinga’s return, but what’s more urgent is finding an actual left back, a starting-caliber goalkeeper and some central midfield depth (that last bit becomes less urgent if Nelson isn’t sold, but even if he stays there are zero d-mids behind Michael Bradley).

They’ll have to shop at the bargain bin for some of that, and this year will be a true test of Bob Bradley’s ability to get the most out of young, developing players while, at the same time, keeping a high-level, veteran-laden roster happy and winning.

It’s not an easy balance.

And as for that DP slot… I genuinely have no idea where they could or even should use it. The best way might be to save GAM and open up all three U22 slots by hitting Michael with the DP tag, and then using one of those U22s on a high-upside left back (which then hits the cap at just $150k), and then going after a high-level ‘keeper via either import and free agency (Sean Johnson, are you picking up?).

Like I said… wheeling and dealing. Bob, Bill Manning and the rest of the braintrust up there’s going to be a busy bunch.

Feb. 5 Update

Three big moves for the Reds:

As it stands now, I’ve got all three of those guys down as starters… and also as it stands now, there’ve been no outgoing moves for a couple of months. But keep an eye on that, as the transfer window’s still open in Scandinavia and there is serious interest (the club I’ve heard mentioned is Rosenborg) in Nelson. They’re also still offering Akinola around the league, and are still pretty clearly in need of depth in central midfield and at LB.

Lots of work left to do.

Feb. 20 Update

My sources were good, as Rosenborg was, in fact, the landing spot for Nelson. That’s the only move since the last update, and it’s left what was already a thin roster pretty threadbare.

They addressed that, at least in part, by going out and trading Jesús Jiménez to Dallas for Brandon Servania, a young player with some unexplored upside. Let’s hope Bob can get him to buy into being a true No. 6, because that’s where the upside is, but even so the kid adds depth at all three midfield spots.

Jiménez was obviously nowhere near TFC’s plans this year, so they had to eat a chunk of his salary and give away an international roster slot for a year to offload him. But they’ve got better overall roster balance because of this move.

Still a lot of work left, though.

Doyle Tor Feb 20