Daily Kickoff - 2.12.24
What you need to know

Chicago Fire, Torres mutually terminate contract

Chicago Fire FC have mutually agreed to terminate winger Jairo Torres' contract. The move opens a Designated Player slot for Chicago. Star midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri and new striker Hugo Cuypers are their remaining DPs.

San Jose Earthquakes acquire forward Pellegrino

The San Jose Earthquakes have acquired forward Amahl Pellegrino from Norwegian top-flight side Bodø/Glimt. The 33-year-old Norway native is under contract through the 2025 MLS season, joining an attack that's led by Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Espinoza. The club transferred Cade Cowell to Chivas earlier this offseason, creating a hole in the final third.

Orlando City sign Muzzi, Moreira to new contracts

Orlando City SC have signed front-office members Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira to new two-year contracts through 2025. Muzzi remains the club’s EVP of soccer operations and general manager, while Moreira has been promoted to technical director and VP of soccer operations.

Sign up for The Daily Kickoff in your inbox! The Daily Kickoff is more than an article – it can be delivered to your email account as well.

Daily Kickoff Previews Day 6: Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas & Colorado Rapids

We’re previewing all 29 teams over 10 days in as Daily Kickoff a style as we can.

On Friday we checked in on Charlotte FC, Inter Miami CF and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Today, the Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids.

Yes, we know the rosters aren’t finalized yet. The rosters are never finalized.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

The Union were the Union. Maybe a slightly diluted version compared to past editions, but they still racked up 55 points and a +16 goal differential. Would you expect anything different at this point?

That said, their expected point total checked in at 48.5, the sixth-best mark in the conference. They weren’t at their destructive best for most of the year, and it showed at times. Part of that came down to a few extra games in CCL. During their nine league games from the start of the year to their loss in the CCL semifinals to LAFC, the Union averaged 1.22 points per game. From then on, they averaged 1.76 points per game over 25 games, the fourth-best mark in the league over that stretch.

Their underlying numbers weren’t actually all that great over that stretch – they finished with a negative expected goal differential – but we think it’s probably fair to give the Union the benefit of the doubt in most cases. No one has earned as many points as Philly over the last five years.

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between first and sixth in the Eastern Conference.

This might be the shortest preview we do. The Union are running it all back in 2024. There have been no significant changes. It’s the same bulldozing team you’ve come to know and love… or, uhh, hate with a burning passion if you’re a fan of any other team in the East. From my neutral view, I love them for that exact reason.

Anyway, they’re going to be direct, they’re going to be solid, and they’re going to have young players pop up throughout the year who have a major impact. This year, the clear frontrunner for the next Union academy kid to make the Big Jump is Jack McGlynn. The 20-year-old midfielder is set to play a critical role. We all kind of know how that goes at this point.

And we all kind of know how a Union season goes at this point. They’re either going to earn a lot of points or a whole lot of points. We’ll see if banking on continuity pushes them toward the latter.

Player of the People

José Martínez forever and ever, amen.

This could all go pretty well if…

It’s business as usual. But is business as usual enough to make the kind of major, trophy-winning jump Union fans are hoping for? I’m not convinced at this point. Few teams seem like they’re as sure a bet to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, though.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

I don’t know how to get around it: Few teams bored me like Dallas last year.

Among teams in the Western Conference, only Colorado created fewer chances. Only Seattle and LAFC allowed fewer. It felt genuinely taxing to come up with anything interesting to say about them after a while. They couldn’t even give me an interesting analytics conclusion to come to. They finished with the same number of actual points as their expected points total.

If it weren’t for winger Bernard Kamungo being the best story in MLS and center back Nkosi Tafari being awesome, there would have been nothing to say.

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between third and eighth in the Western Conference.

I’m willing to buy into this team being far more interesting (and far better) in 2024. In large part because they took the major step of adding new DP forward Petar Musa for a reported club-record $9.7 million transfer fee. That number could rise to $13 million if incentives are met. We’re talking about one of the biggest signings in MLS history here. If he lives up to his price tag, Dallas seem to have enough firepower to make their way toward the top of the West.

Still, they’re in an interesting position in attack. They’ll be without DP Alan Velasco for at least most of the season after he tore his ACL in the playoffs. That means the trio of Musa, Kamungo and Jesús Ferreira will have to pick up the slack left by Velasco and then improve on it to make this side better. That’s a relatively tough ask, but an achievable one. There’s a chance Musa is as good as advertised, Kamungo thrives in a full-time starting role and Ferreira finds plenty of joy either playing as a second striker or a No. 10(ish).

There’s also been talk of Dallas and Nico Estévez rethinking their game model a bit. Dallas might just come out in Wilfried Nancy-esque back-three setup with a forward-thinking outlook on each match. With Paxton Pomykal and Asier Illarramendi as their central midfield pairing, it’s easy to envision a world where Dallas can replicate what we’ve seen from the Crew at times. It may not be a perfect solution, but it will definitely be a more entertaining one. That’s all we’re really asking for, right?

Player of the People

It’s Kamungo. I mean, c’mon.

This could all go pretty well if…

Velasco’s absence becomes an afterthought, Ferreira sticks around for the year after receiving interest from Europe and this team gets comfortable with games being a bit more open. If they’re healthy, they have the pieces to compete. Maybe not with the big boys like Seattle and LAFC, but definitely with the rest of the West.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

We’ve mentioned it a few times this offseason. The Rapids weren’t good. But their underlying numbers paint a picture of a team that skewed more toward mediocre than “last in the West by a significant margin.”

No team underperformed their underlyings like the Rapids. They finished a league-worst 18.92 goals below their expected goal differential. They finished the season with 27 points, but 42 expected points. That’s a few points better than playoff teams like Charlotte and San Jose and right next to RSL and Sporting KC. They were actually kind of fine! Not completely terrible! Hang the banner!

2024 DKO Range Prediction

Between 4th and 10th in the Western Conference.

If we can agree the Rapids were at least kind of ok last season, we can probably agree they have a chance at the playoffs this season. They’re a clear favorite to be the team that outpaces their 2023 point total by the largest margin. They’ve spent the offseason adding DP attacker Djordje Mihailovic, goalkeeper Zack Steffen, left back Sam Vines and winger Omir Fernandez as proven MLS guys who raise the team’s ceiling. They also went out and filled a clear need by bringing in Lamine Diack from Nantes to be their No. 6. They’re improved across the board.

They’re still probably lacking some high-end talent though. It seems like DP Kevin Cabral is set to start on the wing and unproven DP forward Rafael Navarro will be the starting No. 9. Cabral has eight goals in almost 5,000 MLS minutes at this point. He scored just twice in nearly 1,200 minutes for Colorado last year. Navarro scored once in nearly 900 minutes after arriving in the summer. I love Mihailovic, but it would be impressive if he insta-fixed this attack.

In addition to the attack, there are also questions remaining about the back line and whether or not Steffen can have a major impact for the better in goal. It’s a much, much better team. It’s not a fixed team.

Player of the People

Steffen represents all of us who have ever needed a reset to get ourselves back on track.

This could all go pretty well if…

Mihailovic performs at the level we expect, the midfield is as sturdy as we think it can be, Navarro takes a big step forward and this roster fits into whatever new head coach Chris Armas’ game model looks like at this point. There’s a world where everything clicks and this team earns a home playoff spot. There’s also a world where this year becomes very frustrating after what has been, on paper, one of the single-best offseasons in the league.

Other Things

Colorado Rapids transfer Galván to Banfield: The Colorado Rapids have transferred midfielder Braian Galván to Argentine top-flight side Banfield. The move ends four seasons in Colorado for the 23-year-old Argentine. He initially joined the club from Argentina’s Club Atlético Colón in January 2020, and now departs with 4g/4a in 53 games (22 starts).

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Start how you finished.