Daily Kickoff - 1.8.24
What you need to know

Minnesota United name Knowles interim head coach after McAuley exit

Cameron Knowles has replaced Sean McAuley as Minnesota United FC interim head coach following the latter's departure to pursue other opportunities. Knowles takes over after leading Minnesota's MLS NEXT Pro side, MNUFC2, from 2022-23. Before coaching MNUFC2, Knowles worked for the Loons as a first-team video analyst in 2021. Prior to that, he spent nine years coaching with the Portland Timbers (six as a first-team assistant, three as head coach for Portland Timbers 2).

New England Revolution sign goalkeeper Ravas

The New England Revolution have acquired goalkeeper Henrich Ravas from Polish top-flight side Widzew Łódź. Ravas is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027. The 26-year-old previously spent 2016-21 at English side Derby County before moving to FK Senica in his native Slovakia and then emerging as one of the Ekstraklasa's top shot-stoppers while at Widzew Łódź. He's made 161 professional appearances.

LA Galaxy sign Japanese defender Yamane

The LA Galaxy have acquired Japanese international right back Miki Yamane from J1 League side Kawasaki Frontale. Yamane is under contract through the 2026 MLS season, giving LA a second Samurai Blue defender after they signed center back Maya Yoshida last summer. Yamane, 30, has spent his entire professional career in his native Japan, accumulating 15 goals and 36 assists in 290 all-competitions matches. He has two goals in 16 caps for Japan, including time at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

25 MLS players called in for January camp

US men's national team head coach Gregg Berhalter has named a 25-player roster (all from MLS) for January 2024 camp, which includes a Jan. 20 friendly vs. Slovenia after training camp is held from Jan. 8-16 in Orlando.

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Small-sided: It's time to lean forward in your seat

A little quiet around here this weekend, huh? I hope you didn’t get used to it. We’re officially in the first non-holiday week of the new year and there are a whole bunch of signings and moves that just need a tiny push to get over the finish line. Gut call here: With preseason beginning soon and everyone officially out of their post-New Year’s stupor, this week is going to have something close to an overwhelming amount of news. We’ll try to help you sort through it all.

For now, though, we’ll work through a handful of smaller notes. Consider it a warm-up exercise for what’s to come.

A bit of a situation in Minnesota

You might have balked a bit at the first headline in “What You Need To Know” today. Understandable. It’s not often you see an interim manager get replaced by an interim manager before the first interim manager interim manages a game in the new season. It’s especially odd considering Minnesota opted to part with former manager Adrian Heath two games before the 2023 season ended. They seemed to be in a hurry to move on. Now they’re on their second interim manager five days before preseason begins.

There’s no getting around it. It’s weird. Even if you agree with The DKO’s stance on managers typically having little impact overall, you probably still want your organization to have a clear path forward when it comes to signing players who fit into the overall direction of the team. It’s easier to sign players who fit into that overall direction when you have a clear game model established.

It seems like it’s just one of those situations that will require some patience. The Loons hired Khaled El-Ahmad as their sporting director and chief soccer officer back in early November knowing he wouldn’t officially take the reins for a while. Now, El-Ahmad is reportedly awaiting visa approval before he can arrive.

Once he does arrive, he’ll be busy. In addition to finding the team’s second-ever manager, he’ll be looking to add a new DP. Ménder García’s departure at the end of 2023 left an open spot along with Teemu Pukki and Emanuel Reynoso.

That’s two huge decisions that will require some urgency. As of now, the Loons aren’t set up to float through the first half of the season and come roaring back into the playoff picture once everything is sorted out midway through the year. Then again, maybe it’s MLS and every team is set up to do exactly that. It’s hard not to lean toward pessimism right now though. We’ll have to wait and see how quickly Minnesota can get up and running once the wheels finally start turning this offseason.

Tiki-Taka

• New England have signed a new goalkeeper. I know nothing about him and neither do you. However, we both know that, until proven otherwise, we have to operate under the assumption that he’s going to be the best shot-stopper in league history. This is just how the Revs operate at this point.

• The LA Galaxy have acquired Japanese international right back Miki Yamane. Who knows how he’ll translate to MLS, but he’s a player with a ton of experience and an impressive résumé. He feels like a high-floor signing that should help provide some stability. And stability is very much a welcome attribute for the Galaxy.

• And, lastly, we wanted to shout out an MLS alum abroad. Former New England standout Tajon Buchanan signed with Inter Milan this weekend. I wrote about Tajon’s journey to the Revs a few years back. He’s come a long way from paying his way into Syracuse soccer camps.

Other Things

LA Galaxy sign goalkeeper McCarthy: John McCarthy has swapped El Tráfico teams, as the LA Galaxy announced Friday they have signed the veteran goalkeeper through the 2025 MLS season. McCarthy most recently played for LAFC and earned MLS Cup 2022 MVP honors for his penalty-kick heroics off the bench. He's kept 15 clean sheets in 68 regular-season games split across the Philadelphia Union, Inter Miami CF and LAFC.

Portland Timbers sign goalkeepers Muse, Pantemis: The Portland Timbers have signed goalkeepers Trey Muse and James Pantemis through the 2025 MLS season with options for 2026. Muse, 24, most recently helped the Charleston Battery reach the 2023 USL Championship final. Pantemis, 26, joins Portland after spending six seasons in MLS with CF Montréal.

San Jose Earthquakes re-sign Thompson: Tommy Thompson is set to play his 11th season with the San Jose Earthquakes. The club announced Friday they've re-signed the homegrown player through 2024 with an option for 2025. The 28-year-old had his contract option declined after making 19 appearances, mostly off the bench, last season.

Inter Miami transfer González Pírez to River Plate: Leandro González Pírez has secured a permanent move to River Plate, as Inter Miami CF announced Saturday that the center back has been transferred to the Argentine powerhouse club. González Pírez, 31, was initially loaned by Inter Miami to River Plate in his native Argentina nearly two years ago. That deal contained a purchase option.

Inter Milan sign New England Revolution alum Buchanan: Canadian international Tajon Buchanan, whose professional career began a half-decade ago in MLS with the New England Revolution, has joined one of Italy's highest-profile teams. Inter Milan announced Friday they have acquired the winger/wingback from Belgian side Club Brugge. The Serie A leaders landed the 24-year-old for a reported $7.6 million transfer fee plus add-ons. The move arrives two years after New England transferred him to Club Brugge for a reported $7 million with a 10% sell-on fee, ensuring some financial windfall heads the Revs' way.

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Good luck out there. Go a long way from home.