Voices: Andrew Wiebe

Who have been the top signings of the 2020 MLS season? | Andrew Wiebe

Joao Paulo - Seattle Sounders - pursuing ball

You may have noticed from the typically breathless coverage that the transfer window just slammed shut across most of Europe. But not here in Major League Soccer, where we’re still open for business. In these parts, teams can continue to transfer or trade players until Oct. 29.

Surely there are more moves to come, but now is as good a time as any to reflect upon the year’s best transfers. Before we do that, here’s the list you really want to debate.  

I’m not calling these moves flops — not yet at least. There’s a certain mulligan factor to 2020, and I’d like that courtesy extended to myself in everything that I do. I could be better, too! Let’s call these … big signings that have so far under delivered for whatever reason, in order of personal disappointment.

  1. Chicharito (just re-read this column I wrote when he signed … yikes)
  2. Jurgen Locadia (must have been the chili spaghetti)
  3. D.C. United (Edison Flores, Yamil Asad, Julian Gressel … nothing has worked)
  4. Luis Amarilla (now only 23 goals away from 25!)
  5. Kenneth Vermeer (it’s been an adventure, that’s for sure)

Feel free to @ me with your biggest “big signings that have so far undelivered for whatever reason” on Twitter or in the comments. Now, onto the top 2020 signings (so far) by category.

Big money, big results

Lucas Zelarayan (Columbus Crew SC)

Not going to lie, the injuries with Zelarayan are a bit of a concern. The Crew’s transfer-record No. 10 is out again, this time with a hamstring issue. Can’t affect the game when you aren’t in the game! But when the former Tigres man is on the field … wow, just wow. Best XI quality in every way, a player that, along with another man on this list, has elevated Columbus from playoff observers to arguably the top team in the league.

Alan Pulido (Sporting Kansas City)

Another transfer record, another stop-start season because of injury and now international call-up. Again, 2020 is a mulligan year. Pulido hasn’t quite been a Golden Boot-contender type of No. 9, but that’s OK because he’s so much more than that for a Sporting attack that’s had to fill the gap left by Felipe Gutierrez’s season-ending injury. Pulido drops in to orchestrate buildup, he delivers the final ball and, of course, he finishes. His second goal last weekend against the Dynamo was absolute class.

Sporting Kansas City's Alan Pulido 2nd goal vs. Houston | Enhanced Highlight

His call-up to El Tri — great for Pulido, another absence to deal with for Peter Vermes — will tell us even more about what the forward means to Sporting in the short term. 

Joao Paulo (Seattle Sounders)

The Sounders always seem to make signings that elevate the group and provide the front office with flexibility down the line. Joao Paulo is another in that lineage. The on-loan midfielder can reportedly be bought down with TAM next year, if the deal is made permanent, and it was clear even early in the season that he’d provide a steady foundation in Seattle's midfield that would get the best from Nico Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz and others. Jeremiah Oshan has the numbers. He’s a gamer. He gets goals and assists. He settled right into the team and into the league during an incredibly stressful time.

Rodolfo Pizarro (Inter Miami)

Inter Miami's Rodolfo Pizarro goal vs. Orlando | Enhanced Highlight

The Mexico international has been Miami's best player. Now, has he been a nearly $12 million player? I’m not so sure about that. I’m happy to call this one a success as I wait and see what Gonzalo Higuain’s presence does for Pizarro’s production.

Gaston Gimenez/Robert Beric (Chicago Fire)

The Fire are below the playoff line, I know. Still, the pair of 29-year-old Designated Players they signed in the offseason look, at the very least, like comfortably-above-league-average players. They better be. They’re 29-year-old DPs on a rebuilding side. There was no time to wait for Beric or Gimenez to settle in, and I think there’s still more to come from both. I’d add Alvaro Medran — penalty-kick shenanigans aside — as well, though he's a TAM player, which is a completely different category.


Pedro Gallese (Orlando City SC)

Honorable mention to Antonio Carlos, who’s also been an important and successful TAM signing for the Lions. Gallese isn’t a statistical darling, but if you’ve watched enough of Orlando City, you know he’s bailed them out in big moments. There’s a consistency in Orlando’s goal that wasn’t there before.

Yeimar Gomez Andrade (Seattle Sounders)

No Chad Marshall. No Kim Kee-Hee. No Roman Torres (until recently). Gomez has brought a steadying presence to whoever he's played next to for Brian Schmetzer. That two Sounders made this list tells you something about why they're atop the Western Conference table.

Gadi Kinda (Sporting KC)

Not TAM, even better!

Jose Martinez (Philadelphia Union)

The Venezuelan international has arguably been the top defensive midfielder in MLS this year. We discussed this exact topic on Extratime.

2020's best d-mid has been... | Extratime

Never doubt BWP

Bradley Wright-Phillips (LAFC)

He gets his own category. The man is an MLS legend. Imagine what LAFC would have looked like last year with him playing off Carlos Vela. Even scarier than they already were. More importantly, imagine LAFC this year without him.

For the record, I’m going to say Wright-Phillips ends up in and around Jaime Moreno and Jeff Cunningham territory.

It’s a trade, not a signing…

Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Anytime you’re an expansion team and you can trade for a perennial Defender of the Year candidate/favorite entering his prime, you gotta do it. Mike Jacobs did that with Zimmerman, and it’s one of the best moves of the year in MLS. Maybe the best, given Nashville are building around him.

Darlington Nagbe (Columbus Crew SC)

This is how it was supposed to be: Nagbe in Ohio with Caleb Porter. It’s working out as you might have expected. Very, very well.

Romell Quioto (Montreal Impact)

Thierry Henry looked at Quioto and saw a No. 9. Either that, or Montreal were so bereft of goalscoring punch that it just worked out that way. Still, good trade for the Impact that paid off in unexpected (and expected) ways.

Darwin Quintero (Houston Dynamo)

Houston won’t mind seeing Quioto succeed in Quebec. They went out and got a Top 5 MLS attacker — don’t believe me, just watch and look at the numbers — as the Honduran’s replacement.