What you need to know

Minnesota United sign South Korean forward Jeong from Wolves

Minnesota United FC have gone overseas to boost their attack, announcing Wednesday they've signed forward Sang Bin Jeong from English Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 20-year-old South Korean international arrives as a U22 Initiative signing in a deal that lasts through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. A product of K League 1 side Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Jeong was signed by Wolves last year and immediately got loaned to Grasshoppers of Switzerland. He scored two goals during the 2022-23 Swiss Super League season.

Austin FC sign center back Radovanović on loan from Belgian club: Austin FC have signed center back Aleksandar Radovanović on loan from Belgian top-flight side KV Kortrijk. The 29-year-old defender’s deal runs through June 30 and includes a transfer option. Radovanović joins Austin amid an in-flux center-back situation that’s lately forced midfielder Alexander Ring onto the backline. Now, Radovanović could form a partnership with Leo Väisänen after the Finland international joined this offseason following Ruben Gabrielsen’s return to Norway.

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A prayer for...

A whole lot of MLS players have been called up to their national teams for this international window. That means a whole lot of MLS teams are going to be missing a few key pieces this weekend. You can take a look at the full list here, but I thought we’d ease into this Watchgridometer Eve with a quick glance at which teams are about to look not quite like themselves this Saturday, just to prepare you for when you look up and see a result that makes no sense. This time, it might be slightly less “Because MLS” than normal and more about really having to dig deep on the depth chart.

It feels kind of mean to Atlanta United fans to have them watch what the team did against Portland last Saturday and then immediately have multiple key players from that performance head out. But, even still, they’ll head into a matchup against Columbus without Thiago Almada, Miles Robinson, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Giorgos Giakoumakis. They’ll also be missing Robinson’s most immediate replacement at center back, Luis Abram, meaning it will be up to Juanjo Purata and 17-year-old homegrown Noah Cobb to hold things down at the back against the Crew. So, yeah, not only are they going to have to figure out how to replace the out-of-the-gate MVP leader in Almada without having a true replacement available at the No. 10 spot, but they’ll also have to work in a young player making his first-ever start. That’s not usually a recipe for success.

That said, the Crew will be missing a few folks of their own. Defender Miloš Degenek and goalkeeper Eloy Room are on international duty, but most importantly, Lucas Zelarayán is also on international duty and Cucho Hernandez is out with an injury. That should, in theory, make things a little easier for a Robinson-less back line. This one could get weird though. And in the end, we’ll have learned…absolutely nothing. A perfect Daily Kickoff game in my opinion.

The Lions are definitely going to be without a few other starters with forward Facundo Torres, midfielder Wilder Cartagena and full back Michael Halliday out. But, to be honest, I’m most interested in what they do without goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

While Orlando has been stuck waiting for their attack to get out of first gear, Gallese has spent his time keeping the team above water. When the Lions went to face Tigres in CCL, Gallese’s eight-save performance gave them a fighting chance. He’s always kind of felt like a saving grace for them in moments like this where they’ll likely have their back up against the wall from the jump against Philadelphia. Good luck to Gallese’s backup, Mason Stajduhar. He’ll be making just his eighth start for the club since joining the team as a homegrown back in 2015. His limited appearances are partly due to undergoing treatment for Ewing Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, back in 2017.

Fortunately for Orlando, they’ll be facing a team missing some pieces of their own. Normally the Union wouldn’t be too worried about an international break, but someone threw USMNT U20 call-ups into the mix and that’s bad news for a team with as good an academy as the Union. They’ll be missing midfielders Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan. That’s in addition to starting No. 6 Jose Martinez (called in for Venezuela) and starting attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag (called in for Hungary).

The Loons will be without starting midfielder Kervin Arriaga, starting center back Michael Boxall, starting winger Bongokuhle Hlongwane, starting full back Kemar Lawrence, starting midfielder Robin Lod, starting goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair and midfielder Joseph Rosales, who made his first start last weekend. Uh…uh oh.

Yep, that’s seven starters from last week’s win over Colorado. If Minnesota United are going to go against Vancouver this weekend and keep up what’s been an impressive start without Bebelo Reynoso dictating things in the middle of the pitch, well, they’re going to need to pull off something kind of special. Especially against a Vancouver team that needs a win and will only be missing two starters to international duty instead of, ya know, half their senior roster. Godspeed, Loons.

The Sounders will be going up against an SKC team that has to be furious about how unlucky they’ve been to start the season, and they’ll be doing it without Nouhou. I mean, they’ll be missing other players too, but it’s most important that we acknowledge the lack of Nouhou here. Frankly, I don’t even know why this game is being allowed to continue.

Anyway, they’ll also be without midfielder Alex Roldan and striker Raul Ruidiaz. That should mean another Fredy Montero start up top, with Heber unavailable due to injury. SKC will not be missing any starters.

Toronto’s whole deal when it comes to analysis entering the season has been centered around lack of depth. Basically, any injury issues and they would really start having to test the limits of their roster. Well, they’ve already had the injury issues, including a prolonged absence for Lorenzo Insigne, and now they’re going to have to deal with international absences as well. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Richie Laryea, Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio have all been called up by Canada. A midfield that’s likely made up of Brandon Servania, Victor Vazquez and Michael Bradley could potentially have its hands full with San Jose. Even if the Quakes are missing Jamiro Monteiro (called in for Cape Verde) in their own midfield.

This…this weekend’s going to be kind of nuts, huh?

Other things

MLS NEXT adds nine new clubs for 2023-24 season: Nine clubs are joining MLS NEXT for the 2023-24 season, positioning them to begin play next fall. Three clubs – Athletum FC, Capital City SC and Sporting Athletic Club – will provide a full-player pathway for MLS NEXT prospects, competing in all age groups of MLS NEXT competition ranging from U13 to U19. MLS NEXT will now have teams from two new states – Delaware and West Virginia – bringing the program’s total representation to 33 different states, three Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia.

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Good luck out there. Let them know exactly where you stand.