Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Where MLS Eastern Conference depth charts & rosters stand for 2024

Doyle - 1.30.24

The offseason continues!

Reminder: the Primary Transfer Window technically begins on Jan. 31 and remains open until April 23, so there's time to get moves done. Then again, games soon count for real when Matchday 1 arrives in late February.

With that in mind, here’s version 2.0 of our annual Offseason Roster Build compendium. Eastern Conference today, while the Western Conference updates will soon follow.

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

The Five Stripes ran the hard yards in the summer 2023 window, bringing in three guys – DP winger Saba Lobjanidze along with TAM winger Xande Silva (originally on loan, but that’s now been made a permanent deal) and TAM central midfielder Tristan Muyumba – who all looked like potential Best XI candidates. They ended the season with one of the best attacks in the league in large part because of how well that trio fit with DP No. 10 Thiago Almada and DP No. 9 Giorgos Giakoumakis.

So far this winter, they filled one glaring need when they signed goalkeeper Josh Cohen. The 31-year-old American had bounced around the USL for a chunk of the 2010s before spending the past four years with Maccabi Haifa in Israel. He was the league’s player of the year in 2020-21, won a few trophies and got some UEFA Champions League experience as well. This seems like as clear a plug-and-play upgrade as you could hope for.

They also picked up veteran center back Derrick Williams in the Re-Entry Draft. He'll be a useful depth piece if he formally signs, though the defense needs more surgery after the loss of Miles Robinson to FC Cincinnati in free agency.

What’s Next?

They look set to bring in Norwegian international center back Stian Gregersen from Bordeaux, who is an obvious like-for-like replacement for Robinson. Note that Silva and Muyumba also came from French clubs, so it appears SRC FTBL (the data/analytics/scouting company Atlanta contracted with last year) feels like they’ve found a pipeline worth trusting.

After that, the only spot that needs work is defensive midfield, where they had zero answers in 2023. In 2024, my guess is they will have multiple answers, with one being Dax McCarty, and one being an as-yet-unnamed or even un-rumored import.

The McCarty signing is great – a veteran winner who, I’m guessing, understands he’s there to soak up not more than 2,000 minutes across all competitions, help set the tone in the locker room and be something of a mentor to the younger domestic players. He’d also allow whoever the new No. 6 is time to get their feet wet (or even allow the front office the leeway to push that particular decision back to the summer window, which is when president/CEO Garth Lagerwey generally likes to do his work).

There is no news on the potentially big news, which is the transfer of Almada for something like $30 million to a huge European club. Reports are that number, which would be a league record, is Atlanta’s target, and while the likes of Ajax, Napoli and a few others have kicked the tires over the past two windows, nothing is said to be close this winter.

Obviously, that could change. Almada’s awesome and Napoli, in particular, are having a miserable season that could see an overhaul as soon as this month.

Jan. 30 Update

Atlanta did just what we expected in pushing the Gregersen deal across the line and then getting a new No. 6 in Polish international Bartosz Slisz from Legia Warsaw. Both guys were seven-figure deals.

In the past, of course, “seven-figure deal” meant precisely nothing for Atlanta’s chances to improve because so many of the big-money moves they made were ill-thought-out concerning need or fit. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

This roster is just about complete. I’d still like them to add another left-footed fullback and a third center forward, but we’re talking about pure depth pieces at this point.

ATL depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

It took a minute, but eventually sporting director Zoran Krneta decided that no, there would not be a third year under head coach Christian Lattanzio. And so a change was made.

In comes veteran English manager Dean Smith, who is probably best remembered for his productive three-year spell at the helm of Aston Villa, which was followed by less-productive and abbreviated spells in charge of Norwich City and Leicester City. While Smith does not have any experience in the US – which has often been a stumbling block for managerial imports in the past – he at least will not struggle for name recognition in North Carolina.

The late coaching change begat a late start to their offseason moves, and so nothing much has been done aside from bidding farewell to a few rotation pieces like d-mid Derrick Jones, winger McKinze Gaines and right back Harrison Afful.

What’s Next?

This is a big outlay for a true attacking midfielder:

Grønbæk is in the 99th percentile of expected goals and 92nd percentile of expected assists, per Opta. He can play either on the wing or as a No. 10.

And my guess is he’d be a No. 10 in Charlotte because it kind of feels like it’s time to move on from DP Karol Swiderski. Swiderski has been good (not great) from Day 1, but has never quite settled, and didn’t really show any chemistry with last year’s big signing, DP No. 9 Enzo Copetti.

If they can sell Swiderski (Bundesliga clubs have enquired about the Polish international) and buy out DP winger Kamil Jozwiak, who has been poor, that would give Smith some runway to build an attack with his pieces. Understandably, that’s what most managers want.

With or without that, there aren’t a lot of holes in this roster. If they can add two high-end attacking DPs who fit with what’s already in place, and if they can get center back Guzmán Corujo fully fit and available, a bounce-back year wouldn’t be at all shocking.

Note: Grønbæk would be a Young DP if signed, which would give Charlotte access to all three U22 Initiative slots. They haven’t made a ton of use of those over the past two years, so that’s another obvious avenue of improvement.

Jan. 30 Update

The Grønbæk deal seems to be dead, as first Bodø/Glimt rejected Charlotte’s bid and then they signed the playmaker to a new, long-term deal.

As such, Charlotte really haven’t done anything of note this offseason. Swiderski is in training and playing in preseason friendlies, so as of now I guess he’s the odds-on favorite to be the primary playmaker (more of a 9.5 than a 10, but still) for this season.

Jozwiak, on the other hand, is not with the team. Moving him along is about the most obvious move any team could make this offseason. And they're selling Brazilian forward Vinicius Mello, who never panned out as a U22 signing.

Also note that 20-year-old Serbian international d-mid Nikola Petković is on the depth chart below with a question mark because, as of now, he’s only officially been signed by Crown Legacy, not the full first team. But they spent $3 million on him ahead of 2023, and he’s been starting with the first team so far in preseason, so I don’t think it’s all that tough to read the tea leaves.

CLT depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

It’s been a much more muted winter than we’ve gotten used to under owner Joe Mansueto – no big sales and, thus far, no huge acquisitions. And so the headline news is they’ve once again decided to stay the course by keeping sporting director Georg Heitz in charge and leaving head coach Frank Klopas at the wheel.

Two acquisitions of note so far are local, as they finally brought home left back Andrew Gutman (remember, they could’ve signed him as a Homegrown half a decade ago) and traded their own left back, Miguel Navarro, to the Rapids for the veteran. And then they took Notre Dame goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, another local kid who’d spent time in the Fire academy, No. 6 overall in the SuperDraft.

They also acquired veteran forward Tom Barlow from the Red Bulls for up to $400k in GAM.

What’s Next?

Taking Dowd gives them insurance for if/when they sell Chris Brady. Have to think that was part of the decision-making process with that pick.

Chicago are desperately trying to unload Jairo Torres, who has been one of the biggest busts in league history. That would give them two open DP slots to play around with for the rest of the window (Xherdan Shaqiri is still in town and unlikely to go anywhere, I’m told).

I’d expect one of those open DP slots to be a No. 9 and the other to be a winger, with homegrown Brian Gutiérrez earning the No. 10 role. That said, Gutiérrez can also play on the wing, so getting a DP No. 10 and pushing Gutiérrez out to the left also makes sense to me.

One other note: Everyone I speak to around the league thinks the Fire are favorites to land Kellyn Acosta in free agency. That’d make a lot of sense for both player and club.

Jan. 30 Update

Torres is still on the roster, one of Chicago’s other DP slots is still open, Acosta is still an unsigned free agent and there’s no new playmaker or No. 9.

Chicago did remake the right side of their backline by adding Silkeborg CB Tobias Salquist and bringing in right back Allan Arigoni on loan from sister club FC Lugano. On paper that should help a bit.

But, well, captain Rafa Czichos was blunt when asked about the state of things: "I would lie if I said I think the roster is already good enough to play on the highest level. So, to compete for the championship, I think everybody knows we have a little bit of work to do."

He's right.

CHI depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

It’s been a busy month for the Supporters’ Shield winners, who bid adieu to Yerson Mosquera (his loan ended and there was no purchase or extension option) and then said hello to Miles Robinson in the biggest free agency signing in league history.

They are on the verge of selling Brandon Vazquez for something close to $9 million to CF Monterrey, which is a tidy bit of work for a guy they acquired for just $150k in GAM four years ago, and they have reportedly already brought in a potential replacement in Corey Baird.

I love the idea of Baird, who’s bounced between winger or center forward in a front three throughout his career, playing up top in a two. I think that’s his natural spot, as it allows him to drift and find the game without compromising his team’s shape or tethering him to the touchline. I’m uncertain about the fit with DP Aaron Boupendza – he likes to drift as well – but I could see it becoming a productive partnership.

What’s Next?

Even with Baird signed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they decided they wanted a true target forward to replace Vazquez. They’d have to get creative to make that happen, as they have no DP slots open, but Cincy haven’t really missed since Chris Albright took over as general manager, so I’d be bullish if they decided to go shopping.

They have four key contributors out of contract in midfielder Junior Moreno, right wingback Santi Arias, forward Dom Badji, and right wingback/center back Ray Gaddis, and reportedly are working to bring back all of them. I am not sure they’ll go four-for-four, but none is irreplaceable. And they have made some smart, low-risk second draft* moves in signing Bret Halsey and Kipp Keller.

(*) “Second Draft” is a term I’m stealing from the NBA. It basically means “former high draft pick who didn’t work out with their first team, but who has enough talent to toss a lifeline to in hopes they find the right fit and opportunity in a new setting.” Griffin Dorsey is a perfect example of the MLS version. Richie Laryea is another.

The looming question is whether a major bid will come in for left wingback Álvaro Barreal. He is on the radar of some massive European clubs and it wouldn’t shock anyone if a Godfather offer came in this month.

If/when that happens, they will have real work to do to replace the young Argentine.

Jan. 30 Update

The biggest news of the past three weeks for the reigning Supporters' Shield champs isn’t yet official, but let’s treat it like it is: Cincy are getting Czech international Pavel Bucha from Viktoria Plzeň. The 25-year-old is more of a box-to-box midfielder than a pure No. 6, so I’m interested in seeing how he balances Obinna Nwobodo. But on paper, he seems like a talent upgrade over Moreno.

Speaking of, it seems less and less likely that Moreno will re-sign in Cincy, and two other rotation pieces – Badji and Arias – are gone. Badji’s signed in Turkey, while Arias signed with Bahia down in Brazil.

As it stands, I expect Cincy to add a starting right wingback and maybe another forward. Perhaps even a starter.

Oh, and the Barreal situation is hanging over all of this even if there’s nothing new to report on that.

CIN depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

Been popping a lot of bottles, I’m sure. They earned it.

As for roster moves, there’s been one big one incoming and one big one outgoing.

  • The incoming roster move is Colombian attacker/U22 Initiative signing Marino Hinestroza from Pachuca. I think he’ll be a left wingback for the Crew.
  • The big outgoing move is letting right wingback Julian Gressel walk in free agency, as he and head coach Wilfried Nancy clearly didn’t quite see eye to eye. Gressel will reunite with old friend Tata Martino in Miami.

Other than that and some end-of-roster movement, it’s been very quiet for the reigning MLS Cup champs.

However, I do want to make special note of the acquisition of Derrick Jones in free agency. Jones, a former US youth international (he started alongside Tyler Adams in central midfield at the 2017 U-20 World Cup), is awesomely talented – good, soft feet, great size and strength, very good balance and body control – but has, for one reason or another, never quite put it together at any of his stops. I thought it was happening at the end of 2022 in Charlotte, but that was a false start.

I can’t imagine a more perfect landing spot for him than in Columbus under Nancy, a coach who lives to challenge and bring the best out of his players. Jones is not young anymore (he’ll turn 27 on Matchday 2), but I don’t care. The dude’s still got massive potential and would be an amazing story if he has the kind of breakout season I think he’s capable of.

I love this pick-up. Easily my favorite under-the-radar signing of the winter so far.

What’s Next?

There is reported interest in the UAE for Mo Farsi, who replaced Gressel in the starting XI at right wingback midway through the playoffs. It is hard to imagine the Crew saying no to any substantial bid.

Doing so would leave them with no proven options at right wingback, which tells you everything you need to know about what they’ll likely be targeting this winter. To be honest, I think that’s what they’d be targeting even if they end up keeping Farsi – he’s a good but upgradeable player.

Bear in mind that interest in, say, Cucho Hernández, Aidan Morris or Patrick Schulte could pop up this winter. But nothing seems imminent.

Jan. 30 Update

Ok so after talking it over with some folks and watching some film, I’m now convinced Hinestroza will be a right wingback in MLS, not a left wingback.

That, and the addition of talented young academy product Taha Habroune (who’s at least a year away from contributing), are the only adjustments since last time.

CLB depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

New CSO Ally Mackay, who was officially announced on Nov. 20, has been busy both remaking the roster (mostly minor changes thus far, though likely bigger moves to come) and conducting a head coaching search that eventually settled upon last year’s RBNY boss Troy Lesesne.

Hiring a guy with RBNY credentials is a dead giveaway that you intend to build a high-pressing team, though I’m not going to bet the ranch that it’ll be a RBNY-style ball-oriented press. Rather, Lesesne’s New Mexico United USL sides were more zonal in their pressing and drew a deeper line of confrontation than we saw from his Red Bulls template in 2023.

Think Cincy more than RBNY, then. Still energetic and still direct, but with an order of magnitude more emphasis on space to attack into and more care for actually completing passes rather than just sacrificing possession and space to attack for field position.

To that end, the biggest personnel-related move Mackay’s made so far is trading Ruan and $500k of GAM to Montréal for Aaron Herrera, who’s one of the best attacking/possession fullbacks in the league when healthy. D.C. United also made permanent the acquisition of U22 Initiative attacker Gabriel Pirani, who’d spent the second half of 2023 in town on loan, and traded homegrown utility-man Chris Durkin to St. Louis for winger Jared Stroud and center back Lucas Bartlett.

Bartlett seems to be a replacement for Donovan Pines, who looks likely to sign elsewhere in free agency.

What’s Next?

D.C. have one DP slot and two U22 Initiative slots open. They have zero depth at midfield or right back, and plenty of questions at center back as well. Plus Pirani might not be cut out to be a centerpiece No. 10 – he struggled mightily at hitting the last pass in 2023.

Which is to say Mackay still has plenty of work to do, and pretty good tools with which to do it.

Underpinning the work: What formation will Lesesne want to play? Last year, with the Red Bulls, it was mostly a 4-2-2-2, though that is a specialist formation in the modern game (press press press). We also saw him use a bit of the 4-2-3-1 last year, but he seemed to prefer the 3-4-1-2 with New Mexico.

The biggest strength of United’s 2023 season was the partnership between Christian Benteke and homegrown attacker Ted Ku-DiPietro up top together, so I tend to think we’ll see Lesesne stick with one of the two-striker formations he’s used in the past (and I absolutely love the idea of Herrera as a rampaging right center back in a 3-4-1-2, Andy Najar-style).

But really, the below lineup and depth chart is a pure guess.

Jan. 30 Update

It had been silent for weeks until they popped up out of nowhere and signed 21-year-old Finnish international Matti Peltola as a Young DP (soon official). I presume, given he’s wearing a DP tag, that he’ll be penciled in as a starter. At the very least, though, he’ll need to provide real minutes to a team that’s still very thin in central midfield.

I’ve still got them down for a 3-5-2, and still have serious questions about chance creation out of midfield and the overall solidity of that backline. More moves should be in store.

DC depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: They made the biggest signing of the transfer window. This time it’s Luis Suárez, the legendary Uruguayan striker who was the Player of the Year last season in Brazil. He’s in town on the FoL (Friends of Leo) discount and looks set to hit the salary cap as a TAM signing. Please stop snickering.

They parted with Josef Martínez (what a sad ending for his MLS career, man) and Dixon Arroyo (there are at least a dozen MLS teams who could use him in midfield), sold Leandro González Pírez to River Plate for a bag of balls (did you even remember he was under contract with Miami?) and traded starting left center back Kamal Miller to Portland for a tidy sum of allocation cash.

And they are about to sign free agent Julian Gressel, who maybe doesn’t have a clear starting spot, but who can help this team at like four different positions.

Suárez and Gressel together fix Miami’s biggest issue from last year, which was the inability to create chances unless Messi was cooking. Look at this radar:

Luis Suarez - FbRef

Suárez is by no means the defensive monster he was a decade ago when he and Messi last played together, but the guy’s still a genius in attack. He led Brazil's Série A in assists last year, and yeah, that’s going to translate to MLS.

What’s Next?

Miami intend to play a lot of games in 2024 – a seven-game international preseason tour, Concacaf Champions Cup, Leagues Cup, Cup, the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and you know they’re going to be favorites to win the Supporters' Shield (which they should be) – and while they have depth and talent at most spots, I think they’re a center back short. And maybe a right back short as well if they don’t sign SuperDraft pick Yannick Bright (who played as a d-mid in college, but who projects as more of a RB in MLS).

I don’t think they have the cap room or allocation cash to go out and make a significant move (which is one of the reasons they traded Miller), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they bought out Nicolás Stefanelli or the still-injured Corentin Jean. Neither guy makes much sense for the roster as currently constructed, especially given their lack of production in the league.

Jan. 30 Update

They somehow found a few dollars more of cap space and, presumably, allocation cash to bring in veteran Argentine center back Nicolás Freire on loan from Pumas. We’ve got him as a depth piece for now, though I bet that’ll change on the final update ahead of the season proper.

The bad news is, while they added one piece since the last update, they have lost two others. Young Benja Cremaschi went under the knife for a sports hernia, which will sideline him for 2-3 months. Facundo Farías will be out for a lot longer than that – most likely the whole season – after popping his ACL during the team’s first preseason friendly.

Miami are still loaded, but their depth is already being tested.

Also note that so far in preseason, they’ve played in a 3-5-2 more often than in the 4-3-3 we all suspected would be their default. I’m still sticking with the 4-3-3 for now, but this could change (and either way they’ve got both clubs in the bag).

MIA depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

I still don’t understand why Montréal thought hiring Hernán Losada, whose Maximum Overdrive game model is about as far as you can get from Wilfried Nancy’s patient, ball-dominant approach as you can get without going full Energy Drink Soccer, was the right move to keep the project going last year. It never made sense.

And so that experiment ended, as CSO Olivier Renard made a smart, straightforward decision: He's reportedly hired Columbus Crew 2 head coach Laurent Courtois to be the new manager.

Courtois checks all the boxes you’d want. He had a ton of success in MLS NEXT Pro both at developing players and winning games; he saw eye-to-eye with Nancy in his game model (though he predated Nancy in Ohio); he has playing experience in MLS, France, England and Spain; and he had coaching experience in the Lyon academy – one of the best academies in all of soccer.

Oh, yeah, he also speaks French. Duh.

So already this offseason makes much more sense than last year’s, though I will admit I don’t love trading Aaron Herrera for Ruan (even if it’s clearly a massive cap savings). Elsewhere, they traded $400k in GAM to the Galaxy to reunite with left wingback Raheem Edwards.

What’s Next?

Montréal have been telling us for years this is who they are as a club: Scour the league for bargains, find the occasional low-cost international signing and trust the manager to develop guys to their utmost potential. And then sell.

When you have a manager like Nancy, one who is masterful at turning potential into productivity, you generate not only profits but points. When the manager is less adept at that, you have a season like 2023.

That said: Bryce Duke is a nice little player, I love Nathan Saliba and Rida Zouhir, and Mathieu Choinière had a very good 2023. But none of those guys are an MLS-caliber chance creator. None of those guys can be the focal point.

This team needs a No. 10. They have the space to go out and get one – two open DP slots and plenty of cap room – but I’m just not sure that’s who they are.

Jan. 30 Update

I was wrong! It turns out Montréal are, in fact, the kind of team that goes out and gets a new No. 10. They did just that in bringing in 23-year-old Bulgarian-Canadian playmaker (and 17-times capped Bulgarian international) Dominik Yankov from Ludogorets in the Bulgarian top flight.

They’re also reportedly on the verge of signing Uruguayan forward Matías Cóccaro from Huracán in Argentina. And they brought in old friend Sebastian Breza (GK) as well as youngster Joaquin Sosa (CB), both from Bologna.

This team is now deep and flexible. I don’t think you could reasonably have asked for a better/bigger offseason if you were a Montréal fan.

MTL depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

They made two pretty major decisions in letting Dax McCarty and Fafà Picault leave via free agency. Picault, even as he entered his mid-30s, remained a lightning-fast and committed two-way winger who provided plenty of energy and some productivity last year, often off the bench.

McCarty, meanwhile, had been in Nashville from the start and was finally showing signs of slowing down. That said, he was absolutely crucial to their Leagues Cup Final run and Nashville didn’t win a single game in which he didn’t start after June 4. There was just no replacing his ability to conduct the game and hit third-line passes into the pockets – i.e., into Hany Mukhtar’s feet with time and space to make magic.

General manager Mike Jacobs has aimed to replace McCarty by going back to Harrison and this time coming away with former Young DP Dru Yearwood, who will officially be a U22 player for Nashville (they only had one U22 slot available). Yearwood never quite panned out for the Red Bulls (he was billed as Tyler Adams’ replacement when he was first signed, and boy was he not that kind of ball-winner), and in part that may be because he can actually pass the ball, which is not necessarily a part of the Energy Drink Soccer game model. Nashville don’t care about possession, but they do care about completing passes – and I think that can play to Yearwood’s as-yet untapped potential.

They also stayed within the league to replace Fafa, trading GAM and a pair of international roster slots to the Galaxy for the rights to winger Tyler Boyd. Boyd won’t get behind defenses as much as Fafa did and isn’t the same defensive presence, but he’s much better at providing the final ball, ranking in the 84th percentile of expected assists last year among attacking midfielders and wingers.

For a team that has been almost entirely reliant upon Hany for any chance creation over the years, and for one that doesn’t really do much in the way of player development, getting an in-his-prime domestic winger who is plug-and-play is a major win.

What’s Next?

They don’t have any big swings left with all three DP slots and their lone U22 slot filled, so it’s just a matter of filling in the roster gaps and hoping Sam Surridge is ready to be a 15-20 goal scorer during his first full MLS season.

I’d expect them to try to sign a backup right back and maybe a fifth central midfielder. Pure depth plays, both.

Jan. 30 Update

Nothing new to report – either incoming or outgoing – since last time.

NSH depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

It was, I think, something of a surprise when Curt Onalfo was named sporting director. I don’t think anybody considered him the favorite to get the job even though he’d been doing it in all but name since Bruce Arena resigned in late summer. But on Nov. 30, the press release went out and the job was his.

Onalfo then sprung a surprise of his own, hiring former Crew and Timbers boss Caleb Porter as the Revolution’s new head coach.

The idea behind hiring Porter is clear: The Revs have a title window that’s open right now and Porter has two MLS Cups in his trophy cabinet. This is a bet that he can add a third.

Now, he’s also missed the playoffs more than he’s made it (five misses in nine years) during his MLS coaching career, and both the Timbers (in 2018) and the Crew (in 2023) made MLS Cup the year after parting ways with him. The Crew, of course, won it.

But now’s not the time to worry about the floor in New England. Now’s the time to focus on maximizing the ceiling.

To that end, Onalfo exercised their purchase option on Argentine winger Tomás Chancalay, who replaces the departed Gustavo Bou in the team’s DP corps. Carles Gil is still there, obviously, but so is Giacomo Vrioni. The Albanian-Italian No. 9 has been nothing but a disappointment so far, and if the Revs are really going to win that long-elusive MLS Cup this year, then they either have to get more from him or move on from him and add a center forward who can deliver.

They also needed to find a solution at goalkeeper, as that was a glaring weakness once they’d sold Djordje Petrovic to Chelsea last summer, and believe they’ve got one in Slovakian netminder Henrich Ravas. Given New England’s track record with under-the-radar goalkeeper signings, I’m just going to assume this dude’s awesome.

The rest of their moves have been smaller, though I think they did very good work in getting Nick Lima from Austin for a maximum of $300k in GAM. Given Lima’s experience and ability to play on either side of a back four, that’s a job very well done. Same with signing Porter’s old Columbus buddy Jonathan Mensah as a free agent. I don’t think he’s a starting-caliber CB anymore, but as a third or fourth man on the depth chart, the veteran makes a ton of sense.

What’s Next?

The Vrioni assessment is basically everything. All the rest of the work is done.

Jan. 30 Update

I appear to have underestimated them in the “what’s next” section, because bringing Alberth Elis home is what was next. At least, that’s the plan, anyway – it’s not official yet. But it’s got some real legs.

Elis would, as Tom reported, arrive on a combined salary and transfer fee that would come in at less than a DP number. And if he does come, then he would give the Revs, with him, Chancalay, Dylan Borrero, Nacho Gil and young Esmir Bajraktarevic, the deepest winger corps in the league. Maybe ever.

As for Vrioni: as of now they seem committed to him. We shall see.

NE depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

They made their first bright-lights, DP-level signing in years, bringing RB Leipzig legend Emil Forsberg to the Harrison branch for a reported $3 million. The 32-year-old Forsberg doesn’t have the motor he used to, but he still put up 4g/1a in just under 1,000 minutes across all competitions for Leipzig between August and December of 2023, and in the previous season he put up 9g/7a in just over 2,200 all-competitions minutes.

That success should translate to MLS. It would be a genuine surprise if it didn’t.

Joining Forsberg in the Bundesliga-inflected ingress is new head coach Sandro Schwarz. The German has an up-and-down record – most recently steering Hertha Berlin into relegation last year. Before that, however, he’d done yeoman’s work in returning Dynamo Moscow to the elite of the Russian Premier League. So, you know, win some and lose some.

There has not been much else save for a few trades (Tom Barlow to the Fire for up to $400k in GAM; Dru Yearwood to Nashville for up to $150k) and letting a few contracts expire (Omir Fernandez, who signed with Colorado in free agency, being the most notable).

What’s Next?

Sure seems like Luquinhas is gone:

That would open a DP slot for New York, and one sure would hope they’d use it on a DP No. 9 somewhere near as proven as Forsberg. The Red Bulls weren’t one of the best chance-creating teams in the league last year, but they were in the top third. And, man, did their forwards not deliver.

That includes the other DP still on the roster, Belgian forward Dante Vanzeir. Just like Luquinhas, Vanzeir was a massive disappointment, and while there hasn’t been any talk of him departing this offseason, I don’t think anyone would be particularly surprised if he wasn’t long for the roster.

Young Swedish center back Noah Eile, meanwhile, is inbound, and between him and first-round SuperDraft pick Aidan O’Connor, RBNY probably have enough depth in the middle of the defense. The same holds true of both fullback slots, though that can change if a bid comes in for left back John Tolkin (it’s been remarkably quiet on that front given Tolkin’s two-way quality).

I think they could use one more deep-lying central midfielder as well, though more as a depth piece than a starter.

Jan. 30 Update

The Eile deal got done and O’Connor was officially signed, which means RBNY officially have good CB depth. They also inked homegrown striker Roald Mitchell, who’s good enough to earn minutes in the attack this year. And there are more signings to come – right back Omar Valencia and attacking midfielder Ibrahim Kasule from NYRBII are both good bets to be on the first-team roster soon – but the question among Red Bull fans now is what the club intend to do with their open DP slot.

Given the nature of the way the roster is built, i.e. with an emphasis on youth and development, the expectation isn’t for another Forsberg or even Vanzeir-type of addition. Rather, the expectation in Red Bull fandom is for RB Global to furnish the team with the types of young, high-upside attacking talent on loan that CFG does for NYCFC. The blueprint is right there across the Hudson, and the need for that kind of a No. 9 couldn’t be more obvious.

Roko Šimić, for example, is on the books at RB Salzburg. The 20-year-old Croatian youth international has tons of talents but is getting only sporadic minutes and few starts. If not Šimić, then there are three other Young DP-eligible center forwards just on that roster.

Harrison should be a happy landing spot for one of them this year. C’mon.

RBNY depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

They let some loans expire – Braian Cufré, Andrés Perea and Richy Ledezma are gone for now, at least – and that’s really about it. At the same time, guys like Nicolás Acevedo and Thiago Andrade had their loans away from NYCFC expire, so they’re officially on the books again, but I don’t think that’s going to last.

As always, NYCFC’s front office is a black box: Nobody knows what they’re doing until they do it. Or, in the case of last winter’s window, until they don’t do it.

What’s Next?

I think they’re working to get Perea back, which would give them adequate depth at both the No. 6 and the No. 8. They could also use Ledezma as attacking depth, though the shape of the roster makes that less urgent.

Where they need to show real urgency is at center back. Right now the depth chart is Birk Risa and Thiago Martins, and then a bunch of d-mids. It’s possible to get through an MLS season with only two true center backs on the roster, but why would you risk it?

I’ve got a question mark at left back as well, but given how well Kevin O’Toole has performed over the past couple of years and the potential of homegrown Christian McFarlane, I’m not sure they’ll go out and recruit over the top of those guys.

But, again: It’s NYCFC, so nobody knows for sure.

Jan. 30 Update:

They did, in fact, get the Perea deal done. And then they went under the radar to acquire Austrian winger Hannes Wolf, a 25-year-old with plenty of Bundesliga experience.

Is he competing for minutes with Talles Magno or will he be the Brazilian’s direct replacement? Maybe, perhaps, I should’ve waited until after the Euro transfer deadline to write this piece, since Magno has been strongly rumored for an eight-figure move to Bologna in Italy’s Serie A. Having Wolf on the roster already would seem to grease those particular wheels.

Three other moves have been reported:

  • Matías Arezo, a 21-year-old Uruguayan international, is a full-on transfer target from LaLiga side CF Grenada (he dominated the Uruguayan league on loan last year at Penarol).
  • 18-year-old Serbian striker Jovan Mijatović would be purchased by CFG and then loaned to NYCFC.
  • A full transfer of 19-year-old Argentine winger Agustín Ojeda seems done, if his Instagram farewells are anything to go by.

This roster’s both in much better shape than it was at this time last year (the spine is solid) and is in a ton of flux (they could have an entirely new starting front line and a new starting LB by the time this column is updated next).

Also, they need to add at least one more CB. C’mon.

NYCFC depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

Orlando did the thing, finally re-signing head coach Oscar Pareja after a somewhat inexplicable delay. The front-office brain trust also seems set to stay (no formal announcement just yet).

Then they did the other necessary things to take a step forward in 2024, getting d-mid Wilder Cartagena and winger Iván Angulo on permanent deals. Those guys are starters.

The final thing is to get an MVP-caliber, DP No. 10. To that end, they mutually parted ways with Mauricio Pereyra – a good player, but not the kind of elite chance creator they needed – and are still sitting on a DP slot that’s been open since they sold center forward Ercan Kara last summer.

In the meantime, they’ve added Sounders legend Nico Lodeiro on a non-DP contract. If he’s there to soak up minutes as a No. 10, a No. 8 or an inverted, playmaking winger, then that’s good. Everybody needs talented depth. If they intend for him to be the guy who stirs the drink, then that’s bad, because Lodeiro’s not at that level anymore. We saw it with the Sounders last year.

The other significant move they made was selling center back Antônio Carlos to reigning Copa Libertadores champs Fluminense. With all due respect to Rodrigo Schlegel (he’s a fine backup CB), they now need an elite replacement at that spot.

What’s Next?

An elite replacement at right center back and a DP No. 10. The first one is not tricky, save for talent ID. The second one… the second one could be tough.

The reason it could be tough is Orlando will need to find a Young DP No. 10 if they want to retain access to all three U22 Initiative slots (and this being a Pareja-coached team, they absolutely want that). Neither of the other two DPs, Facundo Torres or Martín Ojeda, are Young DPs or are under the salary threshold necessary to preserve maximum U22 Initiative access.

So while I was thinking of names like Giovani Lo Celso or Giorgian De Arrascaeta in my year-end column, it seems they will have to go a little further off the radar than that.

That is, of course, unless Torres is sold. There have been precious few reports or even rumors of anything in the offing, but a 23-year-old full Uruguayan international right-winger with a knack for finding goals isn’t the type of talent to escape notice. If they end up selling him this window, they could go extremely huge on a proven No. 10, then slide Ojeda over to Torres’ starting spot and keep the powder dry on a Young DP for the summer.

It’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do, especially since they’re staring at a potential Concacaf Champions Cup rematch with Tigres in the Round of 16 in early March.

Jan. 30 Update

I don’t think Torres is going to be sold, and I’m beginning to think Ojeda is going to be the No. 10. The Argie is the second-most expensive signing in club history, after all, and while he primarily played on the wing for both Racing and Godoy Cruz, he did moonlight as a No. 10 in both spots and consistently created chances. That’s what Orlando need.

They also might need a new No. 9 if, by the end of the week, Duncan McGuire has himself a European address. I don’t really expect that to happen – he’s under contract in Orlando for three more years – but it certainly could. And if that’s the case, then yeah, it’s a scramble to make sure the pieces are in place to contend this season.

As for official moves since last time, they loaned out left back Luca Petrasso and winger Gastón González, and signed homegrown defender Tahir Reid-Brown. What they haven’t managed to do is get a bid for Slovenian center back David Brekalo across the line. The 25-year-old, who’s been capped 11 times and plays for Viking in the Norwegian top flight, seems like just what the doctor ordered for that vacant center back position next to Robin Jansson.

All that is to say there are more questions about this roster than I expected to have at this point. The next few weeks could be very busy.

ORL depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

For the bulk of 2023, the Union seemed somewhat certain to part with starting left back Kai Wagner and captain/starting shuttler Ale Bedoya, and less certainly but very plausibly starting center forward Julián Carranza and right back Olivier Mbaizo.

As of now, Carranza and Mbaizo are still on the roster. There is reported interest – there’s always reported interest – but nothing has moved.

And, as of now, both Wagner and Bedoya are free agents, within MLS and the larger world of soccer as a whole. The latest reports say the Union are favorites to bring both back for 2024 (heavy favorites in the case of Bedoya).

Nothing has officially happened yet, though. It’s been one of the quietest offseasons in the league from anybody (though remember they've signed two midfield prospects in Danish youth international Sanders Ngabo and homegrown Nick Pariano).

What’s Next?

Figuring out what’s going to happen with those four guys has to be jobs No. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Beyond that, there has been reported interest from Werder Bremen in Leon Flach and reported interest from NYCFC in Andrés Perea. Flach, who’s had some truly great moments in Chester, would be a significant loss even if he was no longer a starter by the middle of last year. Perea never quite fit and getting anything for him would be found money.

Still, this looks to me like a team that should run it back for one more year. Improvement from the likes of Jack McGlynn, Nathan Harriel and Quinn Sullivan, plus a David Gass Theorem-style second season from Tai Baribo, would propel this group back close to the heights they reached in 2022 rather than their more modest performance of 2023.

While I haven’t heard anything about the future of DP striker Mikael Uhre, it wouldn’t shock me if they found a way to move on from him and open up the chance to bring in a more multi-faceted performer at that spot.

Jan. 30 Update

They seem to have figured out all of the above save for Bedoya, who’s still in the wind (for the time being). Wagner is back on a long-term deal, and Perea is gone on a permanent transfer to NYCFC. Carranza is still in town because he has no interest in playing in Bremen, and everything around Mbaizo is dead silent.

That said, they gave themselves a bit of flexibility on the Mbaizo front by acquiring Bolivian right back Jamir Berdecio on loan (with a purchase option) from Oriente Petrolero for 2024. Then they went further into obscurity by signing attacker Markus Anderson from CF Rayo Majadahonda of the Spanish third tier. That’s a club even Football Manager sickos hadn’t heard of.

They're loaning out homegrown center back Brandan Craig to El Paso of the USL Championship, which is a move I like, and they probably will add a third ‘keeper in the next couple of weeks.

All that’s on the fringes. In terms of significant stuff, getting Bedoya done is the final piece.

And yeah, I understand there are Union fans who are disappointed there weren’t more/bigger moves this offseason. But I like the idea of giving this group one last crack at a Cup of some sort. They’ve earned it.

PHI depth chart 1.30.24

Offseason So Far (Jan. 7)

The offseason began with head coach John Herdman formally taking over for Decision Day 2023 and immediately ground to a halt as Toronto tried to figure out how to get out from under the mountain of bad contracts they’ve got on the books. That includes the two massively expensive Italian DPs, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, both of whom are constantly rumored to want out but both of whom are still there.

They’ve let some contracts expire, and they shocked everyone by picking Trinidadian attacker Tyrese Spicer first in the SuperDraft (my hunch is Herdman sees him as an attacking left back/left wingback), but that’s it. They haven’t sold or signed anyone significant.

Herdman and general manager Jason Hernandez have their work cut out for them because, at the moment, they do not look appreciably better than the team that won the Wooden Spoon last year.

What’s Next?

Can they get out of any of the bad contracts they’ve handed out over the past few years? Are either of last year’s silver linings, Alonso Coello at d-mid and Deandre Kerr at center forward, actually starting caliber or did they just look good in comparison to what was around them? Can they develop Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who was once the pride of the TFC Academy, into a difference-maker either on the wing or at right back?

Where does Spicer play? Should they trade Sean Johnson to a contender if one comes knocking? What about Jonathan Osorio? What do they do if there are no options for the Italians but to play them?

Right now, I’ve got to tell you, it all looks pretty grim.

Jan. 30 Update

Things… still look pretty grim. They did sign former Whitecap Deybi Flores, a d-mid who’s a regular with Honduras.

But that’s it for moves, and as of now it seems like there are zero takers for either Insigne or Bernardeschi.

TOR depth chart 1.30.24