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What you need to know

USMNT World Cup run ends against Netherlands

The US men’s national team exited the 2022 FIFA World Cup following a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 on Saturday. The Netherlands, who topped Group A, advance to the quarterfinals to face Argentina Friday.

CF Montréal transfer defender Alistair Johnston to Celtic

Fresh off his performances for Canada at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, CF Montréal have transferred defender Alistair Johnston to Scottish Premier League powerhouse Celtic FC, the club announced Saturday. The transfer will be effective as of January 1. Johnston, who signed a five-year deal at Celtic, is Montréal's second major outbound transfer, following star midfielder Djordje Mihailovic's move to AZ Alkmaar in Holland's Eredivisie.

Sporting KC re-sign Zusi, Espinoza & Fontas

Sporting Kansas City have re-signed MLS veterans Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza and Andreu Fontàs, the club announced Friday. Zusi and Espinoza both signed one-year deals through 2023 with options for 2024, while Fontàs agreed to a two-year deal through 2024. All three players have enjoyed sustained success in Kansas City, with Zusi and Espinoza respectively playing 14 and 13 seasons for SKC and Fontàs joining the mix in 2018. Combined, the three club stalwarts have made 736 regular season appearances in Sporting blue.

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Small-sided: Johnston to Celtic, SKC re-sign core

Maybe now that the World Cup is over, everyone can get back to focusing on the world’s second-most popular global event, the MLS offseason……what’s that…….huh, ok, weird…………..ok, yeah, I’ll tell them….Ok, so apparently the World Cup just keeps going once all the Concacaf teams are out. I don’t get it either, doesn’t seem very “World” of them. But at least one continent can jump right back into MLS. Just in time too. Things are getting kind of weird.

Some quick appreciation for Alistair Johnston (and more worrying about CF Montréal)

Alistair Johnston is heading to Celtic after spending a few years climbing the ranks of the best wingbacks in MLS. Now, a year after being exchanged from Nashville to CF Montréal for up to $1 million in GAM, he’s leaving for a reported $5 million transfer fee.

The move can’t help but make you wonder if Nashville regret that trade. They never looked quite the same at wingback without Johnston, at least until Shaq Moore arrived. Maybe there’s some truth in the idea his departure contributed more to an underwhelming season than most realize. Now, the Coyotes are missing out on a decent windfall from a big transfer, although they will get 10% of the sell-on.

The main story though continues to be Montréal’s post-2022 tear down. Just a short time after Johnston’s transfer became official, Fabrizio Romano reported Ismael Kone is on his way to Watford for what he called a “record transfer fee for Montréal.” That’s another injection of cash and another loss of talent.

It’s fair to wonder at this point: Just how much of that cash is Montréal willing to spend to cover for those losses and how long will it be before they can near the highs of 2022 again? Either way, they’re set to have one of the most intriguing Primary Transfer Windows in MLS.

SKC brings back *a lot* of experience

Like, a lot. And for a team that missed the playoffs in 2022 after they seemed to “age out” at pretty much the exact same time last year at critical positions, it’s interesting to see them bring back two 36-year-olds in Roger Espinoza and Graham Zusi, as well as 33-year old center back Andreu Fontas. Especially considering all three were on decent-sized contracts.

That said, Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star reported these contracts are “not financially-preventive contracts to what else Sporting would like to accomplish this offseason.” Clearly, these deals involved pay cuts. That doesn’t make the moves feel like they’ve raised SKC’s ceiling though. From afar, it feels like SKC could use some ceiling raising this off-season, even if filling these three roster spots helps maintain some sense the floor won’t bottom out.

In general, SKC have already made a lot of decisions this offseason that indicate they’re ok with continuity from last year’s team. There’s very little roster flexibility right now. We’ll see if that’s the right call in the short term. Hopefully, there’s a lot more to come from Sporting this off-season.

Other Things

Moutinho departs Orlando City, signs in Italy's Serie A: João Moutinho has signed with Spezia, the Italian Serie A club announced Friday, ending the left back’s time with Orlando City SC. The 24-year-old Portugal native was out of contract and leaves on a free transfer. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Moutinho initially turned pro with LAFC after starring at Akron University. He was traded to Orlando ahead of the 2019 campaign and helped them win the US Open Cup this past season.

Orlando City SC sign homegrown midfielder Loyola: Orlando City SC have signed homegrown midfielder Favian Loyola through the 2025 MLS season with options in both 2026 and 2027. The 17-year-old US youth international is Orlando’s 13th homegrown signing in club history. He’s their first to climb the development pathway from Orlando’s academy to Orlando City B’s new iteration in MLS NEXT Pro.

Bale silences retirement speculation after Wales' World Cup exit: LAFC forward Gareth Bale has quelled speculation he plans to retire after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, affirming he aims to participate in the 2024 Euros.

Shaqiri joins Messi, Ronaldo in elite World Cup class: Chicago Fire FC Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri, whose opening strike helped Switzerland beat Serbia, 3-2, on Friday to close the group stage, has now scored in the last three Men’s World Cups.

MLS announces sanctions after Galaxy violate salary budget and roster guidelines: Major League Soccer announced sanctions imposed on the LA Galaxy for violating salary budget and roster guidelines during the 2019 season. LA were levied a $1 million fine, a $1 million loss of available future General Allocation Money, and are prohibited from registering a player who requires the receipt of an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from outside of the United States and Canada during the Secondary Transfer Window in 2023. For his involvement in the agreements, LA Galaxy president Chris Klein has been suspended from any sporting-related responsibilities through the conclusion of the Primary Transfer Window in 2023.

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