What you need to know

FC Cincinnati sign USMNT center back Robinson

FC Cincinnati have secured a high-profile free agent, announcing Wednesday they have signed US men's national team center back Miles Robinson as he leaves Atlanta United. Robinson is under contract through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. Robinson spent the 2017-23 campaigns at Atlanta, accumulating 3g/2a in 123 matches after entering the league via the SuperDraft. The 26-year-old has twice appeared on the MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire (2019, '21) and was an MLS Defender of the Year finalist in both those seasons.

Orlando City acquire Angulo from Palmeiras

Orlando City SC have locked up Iván Angulo for the long term, announcing Wednesday they've signed the Colombian winger through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. Angulo, 24, was previously on loan from Brazilian top-flight side Palmeiras. He's tallied 5g/11a in 43 appearances for the Lions and was a key part of their 2022 US Open Cup-winning side.

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Small-sided: Miles for Cincy and Angulo returns

My goodness, we got one whole day out of holiday purgatory and the MLS offseason immediately went into high gear. If you had the over on Tom Bogert’s screen time numbers for this, you’re going to have a little extra spending money in the new year. 

Only a couple of those big moves went official yesterday, but it sure seems like more are on the way. We’ll have plenty to talk about in the next few days. For now, let’s focus on what we know for sure: FC Cincinnati pulled off one of the biggest free-agent coups in league history.

Miles Robinson signs with FC Cincinnati

Well, I sure didn’t see this one coming. I mean, I saw the big “MILES FOR CINCY” light show happening outside TQL Stadium a few weeks ago, but it kind of felt like a “might as well give it a shot” effort on FC Cincinnati’s part more than a “this is how we lock it down” kind of effort. For the majority of last year, it seemed Robinson would be intent on shifting to Europe. Atlanta United had a max-TAM deal on the table for the last couple of windows and MLS teams wouldn’t be able to offer him more than that in free agency. When he didn’t take that offer, it felt right to assume he would be heading abroad.

Instead, Cincinnati saw an opportunity and took it. Although it might be an opportunity that only lasts for a short amount of time. Robinson’s deal is for one year with an option for 2025. Either he takes one more shot at Europe in the next couple of years or maybe Cincy have found a way to eventually offer him the DP deal he’d been looking for at the conclusion of his contract. Time will tell.

For 2024’s sake, though, Robinson is a huge get for the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners. In particular because it seems like the Yerson Mosquera era has come to an end. Mosquera returned to Wolves after the 2023 season – a sentence that would be way cooler if soccer didn’t exist. For a while, there seemed to be some chance he might return to Cincy, but it would be a surprise now. To be frank, Mosquera outperformed Robinson in 2023, but Cincy have pulled off something remarkable by finding as close to a like-for-like replacement as they could.

There’s a chance Robinson becomes more than that for the Garys, though. Robinson is entering his second season post-Achilles tear. Everyone operates on a different timeline, but it’s not uncommon for players to need a year under their belt before truly looking like themselves again after a big injury. Robinson understandably didn’t dominate games in 2023 in the way we became accustomed to pre-tear but still operated at a generally high level. It’s plausible he will take another step forward this year.

The fact he seems like a great fit for Cincy should help, too. Robinson came onto the scene in 2019 under Frank de Boer and thrived in the team’s 3-5-2 setup. Next to reigning Defender of the Year Matt Miazga and either Ian Murphy or Nick Hagglund, he’ll be in a back three capable of being a part of the best defensive setup in the league. Having Obinna Nwobodo in front of him in midfield can’t hurt either.

In the end, Cincy have made a move that revives the status quo for 2023’s best team. There’s still more to come – hello [insert probable Brandon Vazquez replacement here] – but FCC have addressed their biggest offseason priority in style and positioned themself to challenge for the best record in the league. Again. We’ve come a long way, huh?

Angulo returns to Orlando

The other (official) big news of the day came from central Florida. The Lions did the smart thing and brought back winger Iván Angulo after his loan from Palmeiras came to a close. He’ll be back through at least 2025 and the rest of the Eastern Conference should be worried about that. He produced five goals and 11 assists in 43 appearances for Orlando over the course of his 18-month loan and provided an ever present direct threat on the wing. Or, in other words, Angulo was fun as hell.

He’s not perfect, though. His decision-making in the final third needs work. But he’s only 24, and he still played well enough to keep DP winger Martin Ojeda on the bench for most of 2023. There’s serious potential here. His signing does, however, bring up some major questions: What’s the plan for Ojeda? Are Orlando set to bail after one season? Could they even find someone to take Ojeda if they wanted to? Do they prefer to have three starting-caliber wingers on the roster?

I’m sure it will become clear over time, but you can’t help but wonder.

For now, Orlando have brought in Angulo and Wilder Cartagena on permanent deals this offseason. Nico Lodeiro is reportedly on the way. The Lions were a 63-point team last year and are keeping their core together while adding pieces that raise their ceiling. They’re on their way to a second-straight A+ offseason.

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Good luck out there. Arrive in style.