Across MLS’s two transfer windows in 2023, some key signings have flown (at least partially) under the radar.
Today, we’re here to change that by diving into some of the most underrated signings of the ongoing season. Let’s turn the underrated into the properly rated, shall we?
Signed: January 21 from Internacional (Brazil)
The San Jose Earthquakes are hanging out near the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line, and the main reason they’re above rather than below it is Daniel’s excellence in goal. Signed from Internacional in Brazil, the 29-year-old has been lights-out.
According to FBref, he’s been the best shot-stopper in the entire league among goalkeepers with at least 1,000 minutes, saving 0.31 goals more than expected on a per-90-minute basis. That number puts him above Roman Bürki (+0.28), who has been incredible for St. Louis CITY SC in their expansion season, and even Djordje Petrovic (+0.27), who is now suiting up for Premier League giants Chelsea after his high-priced transfer away from the New England Revolution.
If there’s one player in all of MLS who deserves more love, it’s Daniel. He’s absolutely crucial to the Quakes.
Signed: January 19 from Aberdeen (Scotland)
I, like many others, have spent plenty of time this year waxing poetic about the Columbus Crew's fantastic work. With careful buildup play, they dominate possession and lull opposing defenses into a false sense of security with dazzlingly passing sequences.
There’s a lot of aesthetic stuff going on with Wilfried Nancy’s team, but some of that wouldn’t be possible without the bruising, physical presence of Christian Ramirez up top. With eight goals in less than 1,500 minutes, Ramirez is in the 85th percentile among strikers in MLS for non-penalty goals per 90 and the 75th percentile for expected goals (xG) per 90, according to FBref. The 32-year-old, who signed from Scotland's Aberdeen in the offseason, pins opposing center backs to create space between the lines before spinning off to attack the box.
Signed: February 2 loan from Wolves (England)
He missed most of August with an injury, but Yerson Mosquera has been an excellent fit in Pat Noonan’s back three this year. His combination of athleticism has made FC Cincinnati even better at forcing turnovers in their 5-2-1-2 mid-block and starting transition attacks. Per FBref, he’s in the 88th percentile among MLS center backs for tackles per 90 and the 93rd percentile for interceptions per 90.
Mosquera’s ability to sweep up plays in behind his team’s own backline has also helped Noonan’s squad keep a little more control of the ball: So far this year, Cincinnati are averaging 47.89% possession, which is up from 45.2% last year.
Mosquera is, at times, a little too cavalier in possession or with his positioning. But the 22-year-old Colombian has added a big boost during this loan from Wolves.
Signed: November 16 trade with Toronto FC
Since making that move official, Shaffelburg has scored three goals for Nashville this season. But he’s added even more value with his movement on the wings. According to FBref, the Canadian international is in the 95th percentile among midfielders for progressive passes received per 90 – that means Shaffelburg is almost constantly moving off the ball to find useful spaces that can help him destabilize the opposition after receiving the ball.
Between his aggressive movement and the occasional bit of goal threat, Shaffelburg is a perfect complementary player for Gary Smith’s system.
Signed: December 15 trade with Seattle Sounders FC
Samuel Adeniran has had a truly fascinating career. Born in Texas, the 24-year-old played some of his youth soccer in Portugal before signing in Spain, moving to Germany, then the USL Championship and then to Seattle Sounders FC. During the offseason, Seattle traded the striker to St. Louis, where he’s enjoying a breakout campaign.
Even with a brief midseason loan back to the USL, Adeniran has been a force for this year’s expansion team. The big-bodied striker has seven goals in just over 700 minutes in league play, putting him in the 98th percentile for non-penalty goals per 90 among forwards in MLS. Now, Adeniran is out-performing his xG (7 goals, 3.1 xG), which means he may be due for a scoring regression before too long.
Even if (or when) that regression comes, Adeniran hit his hot streak at just the right time to help cover for the injury to DP striker João Klauss.
Signed: March 31 transfer from Leeds United
After moving from Leeds United to LAFC, it didn’t take long for Mateusz Bogusz to integrate himself into Steve Cherundolo’s team. Since making his MLS debut against the LA Galaxy in April, Bogusz is now a key player for LAFC and has added a combined five goals and assists in roughly 1,300 minutes of league play.
The 22-year-old Poland native initially projected as a winger, but has looked even brighter as one of the two free No. 8s in LAFC’s 4-3-3 formation. Per FBref, Bogusz is in the 80th percentile or higher among central midfielders in MLS:
- non-penalty xG per 90
- expected assisted goals per 90
- progressive carries per 90
- progressive passes received per 90
Bogusz is comfortable under pressure and adds both technique and physicality. He isn’t the first name that jumps off LAFC’s team sheet, but he’s proven to be a quality addition for the defending MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield champions.
Signed: April 12 trade with CF Montréal
The sheer size of the allocation money outlay ($1.3 million General Allocation Money) involved in the Kamal Miller, Bryce Duke, and Ariel Lassiter trade earlier this season stole the headlines. But Miami’s acquisition of Miller from CF Montréal has proved massive as they push for a postseason place.
Miller, who spent recent seasons playing on the left side of a back three for both Montréal and Canada, has played a handful of games in that role for Tata Martino. But Miller has played the majority of his minutes as a left-sided center back in a two, rather than a three…and he’s looked good! Miller’s recovery speed has been absolutely essential for an Inter Miami team that stacks numbers in the opposing half of the field.
It’s hard to imagine Miami having the success they’ve had without Miller.
Signed: December 21 SuperDraft selection
It’s not super common nowadays, but it’s worth highlighting whenever a team finds a genuinely impactful player in the MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas. That’s exactly what happened when Orlando City selected striker Duncan McGuire.
The 22-year-old rookie, who played his college soccer with Creighton, has eight goals in just over 1,000 league minutes so far this season. McGuire’s emergence made it possible for Orlando to move former starting striker Ercan Kara to the Turkish Süper Lig, opening a DP spot that the club can use during the offseason.
McGuire’s movement and consistency are still a work in progress: He has just 4.1 xG this year, per FBref, which indicates he’s not finding quality chances as often as you’d like. But he looks to have a high floor and has quickly improved since moving from the college ranks to MLS.