Daily Kickoff - 1.20.23
What you need to know

Columbus Crew sign Ramírez from Scotland's Aberdeen

The Columbus Crew have brought a familiar name back to MLS, announcing Thursday they’ve signed forward Christian Ramírez from Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen FC. The 31-year-old former US international, via an undisclosed transfer fee, has signed through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. Ramírez arrives with 35 goals and 10 assists in 105 MLS regular-season games, playing for Minnesota United FC, LAFC and Houston Dynamo FC from 2017-21 before heading over to Europe.

Morris, Roldan & Leyva sign new deals with Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders FC have secured long-term deals for three players with deep local ties. Homegrown forward Jordan Morris and midfielder Cristian Roldan have each signed a new five-year contract, keeping them with the Rave Green through the 2027 MLS season. Meanwhile, homegrown midfielder Danny Leyva has signed a new four-year deal through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027.

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Small-Sided: Anton Walkes, the Sounders keep on Sounders-ing and more

We’ll keep it short today. Y’all want to get to the weekend and I want to get to a day with better news. Let’s talk it out.

1
Anton Walkes treated me well

As journalists, it’s rare that we really get to know the players we cover. We’re mostly given snapshots of a person in a situation where, with cameras and microphones shoved in their face, it’s totally understandable if they aren’t their true self. Yet, in the brief interactions I had with Anton Walkes during his time at Atlanta United, he always felt genuine. And genuine for Anton Walkes was warm, thoughtful and quick to make a joke. 

I honestly don’t know what more to add to that other than the fact I’m grateful he treated me well, I’m grateful he treated my friends in the media and at the club well, and my heart breaks for everyone who got to know him. All my love to anyone hurting after losing, as his former teammate Michael Parkhurst put it yesterday, an Atlanta United original and “a f*ing great human being”.

2
Seattle stay local

A quick note here about how impressive it is that Seattle have essentially found club lifers through homegrown deals and the SuperDraft. It’s remarkable to see a club that performs at such a consistently high level – and has done it across multiple MLS eras – thrive using mechanics that can sometimes be dismissed (i.e. Cristian Roldan came via a SuperDraft trade with Real Salt Lake back in 2015). Jordan Morris is a homegrown who spent three years at Stanford before joining the first team back in 2016. And now homegrown Danny Leyva has a chance to stick around a while and build a similar legacy. 

None of this is necessarily surprising. And it’s certainly not surprising to see this group sign new deals. But that doesn’t make it any less unique within MLS. No club has capitalized on using every possible roster-building mechanic like the Sounders, and few clubs have built a sustained, deep culture where they could even keep players like this if they wanted to.

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3
Tiki-taka

• The Crew won the race to bring Christian Ramírez back to MLS. They had a bit of a depth issue at striker behind Cucho Hernandez and now they don’t. There’s not a lot more to add there beyond everyone nodding and agreeing about it being good business for a team that seems set for a big year.

• In unsurprising news, D.C. United have mutually parted ways with goalkeeper Rafael Romo. It’s kind of amazing to go back to last year and see that three Eastern Conference teams – Atlanta, D.C. and CF Montréal – had historically bad statistical performances in goal at some point during the year. I don’t know what it means in the long term, but maybe quality goalkeeping is getting harder to find? It’s at least something to keep an eye on for 2023.

• LAFC’s stadium is now BMO Stadium, which is not Toronto’s BMO Field and neither of which have anything to do with the beloved cartoon character BMO from the show “Adventure Time” but maybe they should? I don’t know, just trying to clear things up for folks who might be confused (it’s me, I’m confused).

Other Things

D.C. United mutually part ways with goalkeeper Romo: D.C. United have mutually parted ways with goalkeeper Rafael Romo. The 32-year-old Venezuelan joined the Black-and-Red last April from Belgian first-division club Oud-Heverlee Leuven on a one-and-a-half-year deal. He played 15 games (14 starts) across all competitions last season, picking up two clean sheets while registering 53 saves.

Sixteen MLS players called up to USA U-20 national team: Five months out from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia, the US U-20 men’s national team have called up 23 players for a domestic training camp.

LAFC's home venue renamed as BMO Stadium: LAFC have entered a naming rights partnership with BMO ahead of the 2023 MLS season, announcing their home venue will be renamed BMO Stadium. The venue, which is also home to NWSL side Angel City FC, has a 22,000 capacity for soccer. Since opening in April 2018, the ground was known as Banc of California Stadium.

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