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What you need to know

Seattle could face Real Madrid at 2022 FIFA Club World Cup

Seattle Sounders FC, the first-ever MLS participant at a FIFA Club World Cup, may face the tournament's most successful team when descending on Morocco in early February. The Rave Green, 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners, learned Friday morning that during their Feb. 4 entrance they’ll encounter either Al Ahly (Africa runner-up) or Auckland City (Oceania winner). Should Seattle win in the Second Round, a Semifinal showdown with four-time champions Real Madrid (Europe winner) awaits on Feb. 8.

Toronto FC sign forward Diomande

Toronto FC announced Thursday that they’ve signed forward Adama Diomande. The move, which saw Diomande go through waivers, reunites Bradley and the Norweigan attacker after they previously worked together at multiple stops, including in MLS at LAFC. He is under contract through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. Diomande, who turns 33 ahead of the 2023 campaign, produced 24 goals and 11 assists in 52 appearances across all competitions for LAFC in two-plus seasons.

D.C. United sign midfielder Klich from Leeds United

D.C. United have signed Poland international midfielder Mateusz Klich from Leeds United. The 32-year-old is added to D.C. United's roster as a Designated Player alongside forwards Christian Benteke and Taxi Fountas. His contract runs through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. Klich has 50 goals and 59 assists in 394 career club games, plus has featured 41 times on the international stage.

FC Cincinnati receive offer from Udinese for Brenner

FC Cincinnati have received a transfer offer from Italian Serie A club Udinese for star forward Brenner, sources tell The deal would be worth around $9 million (including add-ons), as well as a sell-on percentage. Numerous other European clubs remain in the mix for Brenner and the expectation is more offers will arrive. Brenner, who turns 23 this week, enjoyed a breakout 2022 season with 18 goals and six assists in 29 appearances (2,061 minutes). He is a former Brazilian youth international and was originally acquired in 2021 from São Paulo for $13 million, one of the most expensive inbound transfer fees in league history.

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Small-sided: Diomandes are a Bob’s best friend, D.C. aren’t getting any younger & what’s for Brenner?

I’m going to give yesterday a 6/10 offseason day rating. We got a big surprise, a not-so-big surprise that could shape an entire conference and a continuation of an offseason theme that will at the very least be entertaining throughout the rest of the year. Pretty solid all considered. Let’s talk it out.

Diomande is back

I don’t normally like when a TV show brings a character back out of nowhere. You think they’ve moved on, the plot keeps hurtling forward and then when you least expect it, boom, they appear again and have to fit into a highly-changed dynamic. That being said, I think I’ll make an exception for Adama Diomande. 

Honestly, Diomande is a guy I hadn’t thought about in forever. He probably popped up in a few discussions about potential striker signings in the couple of years since he left LAFC, but he seemed like a character who had left the story for good. When he left due to family reasons, it felt like that ended his MLS arc. 

Now he’s back. And, whoo boy if he can put together the kind of numbers he had at LAFC for Toronto, the Reds are set at striker. Diomande will join a group with Jesus Jimenez and (probably?) Ayo Akinola, and he might be the best of the bunch. Jimenez averaged 0.35 goals per 90 during his first year in MLS. In Diomande’s second year in MLS, back in 2019, he averaged 0.5 goals per 90. In his first year in MLS, back in 2018, he averaged 0.87 goals per 90 minutes. Among players with more than 1,000 minutes in 2022, that number would have only trailed Dejan Joveljic. 

Obviously, it’s asking a lot to expect him to hit those kinds of highs after a couple of more birthdays and a couple of years out of the league. But the point is he’s put up great numbers before under Bob Bradley. If he can hit a similar level, that should be enough for Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi to carry the brunt of the load in Toronto. Diomande should be more than adequate at making that burden a little lighter.

D.C. United are old

Old. So old (maybe we should say experienced?).

If you really need more than that, well, first off, let me just say: What is this, the United States Congress???????

Then let me apologize for that and explain a little further. 32-year-old Mateusz Klich is on his way as a Designated Player. He’ll join 32-year-old Christian Benteke and 27-year-old Taxi Fountas as DPs. Klich is one of a handful of new players joining D.C. United this season, including 29-year-old Tyler Miller, 27-year-old Ruan, 34-year-old Pedro Santos, 29-year-old Derrick Williams, 31-year-old Victor Palsson, and the youthful and vibrant 25-year-old Mohanad Jeahze. 

Look, none of this is to comment on the ability of these guys. But you do have to wonder how sustainable any of this is. And how well a team predicated on older players will handle an MLS summer of heat and travel. Is this a calculated move on D.C.’s part to skew towards players who are getting on in soccer years? 

There’s the possibility this is all Wayne Rooney-influenced. Maybe some of these guys are players who wouldn’t be there without Rooney. And since Rooney likely isn’t exactly on the Ben Olsen tenure track (longevity), D.C. feel the need to capitalize. It doesn’t not make sense. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work either. 

Heading into this year, even with confidence that Klich should be an excellent MLS player, it feels like D.C. could do everything from being on the edge of a home Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot or get the Wooden Spoon again. Could work! Could not! Won’t be boring though.

Brenner leaving?

I’ll keep it short since the reports are just about talks. But how much of a bummer would it be for Cincy fans to make it all the way to preseason without any serious Brenner rumors only for him to potentially head out now? 

Cincy’s success in 2023 isn’t entirely dependent on Brenner. However, it’s not like you can just go out and replace 18 goals and six assists with ease. We’re probably talking about the difference between another good Cincy team and a Cincy team that can legitimately challenge for MLS Cup. Personally, I hope he stays. But it might be time for Knifey Lion fans to come to terms that their three-headed monster might look a little different this year. For the rest of the Eastern Conference, that could be great news.

Other Things

Houston Dynamo sign defender Escobar in free agency: Houston Dynamo FC have formally signed defender Franco Escobar as a free agent. The 27-year-old Argentine right back’s deal runs through the 2024 MLS season with a club option for 2025. Escobar is Houston’s fifth senior roster addition this offseason. Escobar, after previous stops at Atlanta United and LAFC, is approaching 100 total matches in MLS. He first entered the league in 2018 after playing for Newell's Old Boys in his home country.​​

Sporting Kansas City sign German left back Leibold: Sporting Kansas City have signed left back ​​Tim Leibold through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. The 29-year-old defender last competed for 2. Bundesliga club Hamburger SV, previously playing in only his native Germany. His other primary stop was 1. FC Nürnberg, leading to 21 goals and 42 assists in 285 career games across all competitions.

Minnesota United sign SuperDraft pick Jiba: Minnesota United FC have signed defender Ryen Jiba to a one-year contract through the 2023 MLS season with options for 2024-26. The 19th overall selection of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, the 21-year-old left back spent last year with USL League One side Union Omaha (three assists in 28 games) after a distinguished collegiate career at Salt Lake Community College.

Chicago Fire sign defender Dean from Birmingham Legion: Chicago Fire FC have acquired defender Jonathan Dean from USL Championship side Birmingham Legion. Dean is now under contract with the Fire through the 2023 MLS season with club options for 2024 and 2025. The 25-year-old projects as offering right-back depth behind Arnaud Souquet after Chicago acquired the Frenchman from Ligue 1 side Montpellier HSC earlier this week.

Real Salt Lake sign Chang to contract extension: Real Salt Lake have signed midfielder Maikel Chang to a contract extension that runs through at least the 2023 MLS season. The 31-year-old former Cuban international enters his fourth campaign with the Claret-and-Cobalt following a personal-best 2022, in which he produced 2g/6a over 34 regular-season and Audi MLS Cup Playoff appearances. To date, his MLS career consists of five goals with 14 assists across 83 total games.

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Good luck out there. Hug it out.