Nico Lodeiro Daily KO
What you need to know

Orlando City sign Seattle Sounders legend Lodeiro

Seattle Sounders FC legend Nicolás Lodeiro has a new MLS club. Orlando City SC announced Thursday they've signed the attacking midfielder in free agency through 2024 with an option for 2025. The 34-year-old was out of contract after the 2023 season, ending an eight-season spell with Seattle where he posted 41g/80a over 191 matches and helped win two MLS Cups (2016 and '19) as well as a historic Concacaf Champions League title (2022).

Colorado Rapids sign USMNT goalkeeper Steffen from Manchester City

Zack Steffen is back in MLS. The Colorado Rapids announced Thursday they have acquired the US men's national team goalkeeper from Premier League powerhouse Manchester City. Steffen is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027. Steffen, 28, previously starred for the Columbus Crew from 2017-19 and was named the Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018. That fueled his EPL move for reportedly up to $10 million, then the highest transfer fee for an MLS goalkeeper.

Miller traded from Inter Miami to Portland Timbers

The Portland Timbers announced Thursday they have acquired Canadian international center back Kamal Miller from Inter Miami CF. In exchange for the 26-year-old defender, the Timbers have sent $625,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) split across the next two seasons, as well as a 2024 international roster spot. Inter Miami could receive another $150k in performance-based GAM, plus hold a sell-on percentage (outside of MLS).

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Small-sided: Lodeiro is a Lion, Steffen returns and more

Another busy one. We don’t have time to waste time.

Nicolas Lodeiro arrives in Orlando

There is one certain truth here and it’s that it will be extremely weird to see Nico Lodeiro in anything but rave green. The rest isn’t quite as clear. Not yet anyway.

Orlando City entered the offseason with a clear need for a top-tier No. 10. They finished the year with 63 points on the back of several standout performers, but Mauricio Pereyra produced middling numbers. His 2023 featured zero goals and 12 assists and, per FBref, a 54th-percentile finish among attacking midfielders in expected assists per 90. The Lions clearly need more if they want to leap in 2024 from “overperforming but effective” to “overwhelming and a clear contender.” When they moved on from Pereyra this offseason, it didn’t come as a surprise.

In an ideal world for Orlando, they could spend big money on a proven creator in his prime to replace Pereyra. However, [ROSTER RULES TALK BEGINS HERE, REMEMBER TO PUT YOUR HELMET ON FIRST AND THEN ASSIST ANY CHILDREN THAT ARE WITH YOU] they currently have two U22 Initiative players and possibly two “full” Designated Players (Facundo Torres and Martín Ojeda). If Torres and Ojeda are full DPs, then to sign another “full” DP (one with no restrictions on salary, transfer fee or age) they’d need to get down to just one U22 Initiative player. Otherwise, they’d be stuck signing either a Young DP (23 years old or younger) or a DP whose budget charge must be below the max-TAM amount. Basically, they’d have to either take a risk on a kid or not spend the kind of money they’d hope to spend.

Assuming Torres and Ojeda are in fact full DPs, Orlando could make room by shipping out one of their U22 players. But U22 midfielder César Araújo likely isn’t going anywhere. He’s been outstanding since arriving in 2022, starting 31 games in 2023. And, as of now, U22 attacker Ramiro Enrique is still with the team and seems set to be one of the first players off the bench again after making 30 appearances and scoring four times in 2023. Although, Enrique is certainly the more likely candidate to be shipped out if Orlando were trying to get down to one U22. [REMOVE HELMET]

All that’s to say, Orlando entered the offseason with some complicating factors for replacing Pereyra. For the time being, they’ve opted to replace the 33-year-old with 34-year-old Lodeiro. It brings up some questions. First and foremost, you have to wonder if we’re seeing the full picture yet. It feels like we almost definitely aren’t. Orlando could bring in another U22 or ship one out or bring in a new DP or ship one out any day. Or they could be waiting until the summer to decide. I’ll at least say that they likely aren’t banking on Lodeiro to carry the load for 34 regular-season games, plus however many Concacaf Champions Cup, Leagues Cup and Audi MLS Cup Playoffs games Orlando play in this year.

Because the second question here is how much have they really improved on Pereyra? They’ve obviously brought in an MLS legend with a ton of experience, but Lodeiro didn’t necessarily blow Pereyra out of the water last season production-wise. Lodeiro had one goal and five primary assists compared to Pereyra’s zero goals and four primary assists in similar minutes. To Lodeiro’s credit, he finished in the 79th percentile in expected assists per 90. Pereyra finished in the 54th percentile. But Lodeiro lost his starting job down the stretch in Seattle. It might be a given that he’ll be an upgrade. It isn’t a given that he’ll come in and be the kind of upgrade that Orlando fans are truly hoping for.

My gut call here is that the Lions have another move or two up their sleeve. It’s a good signing but not a season-defining one. Not yet. There’s absolutely a world where Lodeiro and Player To Be Named Later take Orlando to that next level in the aggregate, though. It will be fascinating to see what’s next for a team already on track to have their second consecutive excellent offseason.

Zack Steffen is back

The Rapids have signed goalkeeper Zack Steffen. There’s a lot less to dig into here than the Lodeiro signing, but it’s certainly another sign of intent from the Rapids this offseason. Colorado have brought in head coach Chris Armas, brought in Steffen and are reportedly set to bring in attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic on a club-record DP deal. To be blunt, this is a little more ambition than I’m used to seeing from Colorado. It seems like they took a woeful 2023 campaign pretty personally. And 2023 really never got as disastrous as it might have seemed. The Rapids were the unluckiest team in MLS by a considerable margin. American Soccer Analysis’ expected points model put the Rapids at about 42 points rather than the 27 (!!) they ended up with. Forty-two points isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s not Wooden Spoon territory.

Anyway, we can say from the jump that Steffen’s numbers don’t suggest the Rapids have a surefire Goalkeeper of the Year candidate. Statistically, his shot-stopping numbers were almost exactly average among Championship keepers during his recent loan to Middlesbrough. In his most recent MLS season in 2019, he finished in the 72nd percentile. In the season before that, he finished in the 29th percentile. It’s not clear how any of that will translate to the 2024 version of Steffen, but the consensus among folks who follow every single player in and around the USMNT player pool is Steffen has taken a step back recently.

The Rapids do have a potential Story of the Year candidate though. Steffen is a good player in need of a reset. An organization looking to get back on track feels like a great place to get one. Colorado and Steffen could be the right fit for each other at the right time.


• Kamal Miller has had a heckuva year. After moving from CF Montréal to Inter Miami last season, he’s joined back up with Phil Neville in Portland. Neville clearly rates Miller highly and he has the potential to be a key piece for the Timbers over the next few years.

• Meanwhile, you can’t help but wonder what, if anything, Miami have up their sleeve after this trade. Maybe they just needed some GAM for all the moves they’re making or maybe they have a replacement in mind. For now, Tomás Avilés and Sergii Kryvtsov are the guys at center back. It’s fair to have some worries there.

• Jonathan Mensah is a solid pickup for the Revs. Henry Kessler, Dave Romney, Andrew Farrell and Mensah are as steady a group of center backs from one to four as you will find in MLS.

Other Things

New England Revolution sign Mensah: The New England Revolution have added Jonathan Mensah via free agency, announcing Thursday the veteran center back has signed through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. The move reunites Mensah with new Revs head coach Caleb Porter, who worked with the 33-year-old Ghana international at the Columbus Crew. Playing under Porter, the 2020 MLS Best XI honoree won MLS Cup (2020) and Campeones Cup (2021) titles.

San Jose Earthquakes sign Morales: The San Jose Earthquakes have signed former US international midfielder Alfredo Morales through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. To land Morales, San Jose acquired his rights from New York City FC for a third-round pick in the 2026 SuperDraft. He played for NYCFC from 2021-23, then had his contract option declined last fall.

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