What you need to know

CF Montréal sign iconic striker Josef Martínez

One of Major League Soccer's greatest-ever strikers has a new home, as CF Montréal announced Tuesday they have signed Josef Martínez. The Venezuelan international has the ninth-most goals (105) in MLS history.

Austin FC sign striker Rubio

Austin FC have signed free-agent striker Diego Rubio through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. The 30-year-old Chilean international joins former US international Gyasi Zardes on the Verde & Black's No. 9 depth chart.

Houston Dynamo sign midfielder Greguš

Houston Dynamo FC have signed midfielder Ján Greguš through the 2024 MLS season with an option for 2025. Greguš was a free agent and arrives with 3g/24a in 102 matches across spells at Minnesota United FC, Nashville SC and San Jose Earthquakes. Before coming to MLS, the 33-year-old Slovakian international played for Danish powerhouse side FC Copenhagen.

Vancouver Whitecaps sign defender Halbouni

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have signed center back Belal Halbouni through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. The 24-year-old defender most recently played for 1. FC Magdeburg II in Germany's lower tiers. He's also played for Werder Bremen II, contributing to 4g/3a in 36 matches overall.

New York City FC sign defender Tanasijević

New York City FC have acquired defender Strahinja Tanasijević from Serbian top-flight side Spartak Subotica. The 26-year-old Serbia native, who can play centrally or on the right, is under contract through the 2025 MLS season.

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Daily Kickoff Previews Day 2: LA Galaxy, Atlanta United, Austin FC

We’re previewing all 29 teams over 10 days in as Daily Kickoff a style as we can. Yesterday we checked in on New York Red Bulls, Seattle and Toronto FC. Today, we’ve got LA Galaxy, Atlanta and Austin.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

Things probably went a little better than most of us remember. The Galaxy had MLS’ third-worst actual goal differential minus expected goal differential. Their goal differential came out to about 15 goals worse than what their underlying numbers suggested it should be. Fourteen of those extra goals were goals allowed. Those extra goals sent their defensive performance from “genuinely bad” (third-most xG allowed in MLS) to “expansion-era FC Cincinnati.” Some of those goals stemmed from bad luck. The rest came from a league-worst performance in goal. LA ‘keepers combined to allow 7.3 goals more than the post-shot xG they faced. Basically, of the shots on target they faced, they allowed seven goals more than an average ‘keeper performance would have.

They finished sixth in MLS in xG created, though. The attack wasn’t the issue.

2024 Final Standing Range

Between, like, first and… uhh… 14th in the West.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m hedging. Like a coward. That range is just every Galaxy season, isn’t it? Last year it seemed like they might take a jump forward. They finished 13th.

The argument for the ceiling is simple. Over the last couple of years, they’ve made major renovations to their internal infrastructure. They have an actual scouting department now (!). Former LAFC exec Will Kuntz is in charge of building the roster. They still have an open DP spot. They’ve potentially brought in a game-changing Young DP in Vasco da Gama’s Gabriel Pec. And signings like right back Miki Yamane and goalkeeper John McCarthy should, in theory, help with the whole 2019 FC Cincinnati defense thing. They could still add a few players this window and you can have a little more faith that they’ve done their due process on those players than in past years

Oh, and they still have Riqui Puig. That honestly could have been the whole explanation. In a conference where there isn’t much to separate anyone from top to bottom, that could be enough.

Then again, Pec could be slow to acclimate, McCarthy could struggle, they could miss on yet another DP winger and this could be the same all gas, no brakes team careening into a busy intersection.

Player of the People

Dejan Joveljic looks like he’s going to be the starter at striker. That’s interesting enough based on his over-the-top goal celebrations and struggles to perform at the kind of high level everyone expected after his excellent cameos as a super sub. But the real thing that makes him our player of the people is that, in addition to soccer, he could also crush you at chess. Joveljic has a FIDE rating of 2217. If you don’t know how absurd that is, trust me, that’s absurd. He represents what all of us dreamed we could be the first time we took a course on the Sicilian Defense.

This could all go pretty well if…

All the stuff we mentioned about reaching their ceiling comes good. My best guess is that the Galaxy grow into the season, improve over this window and the next, and end up being a cool kid pick to make a run in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

The Five Stripes align with the Galaxy in a lot of ways. They had solid underlying numbers in attack and mediocre underlying numbers in defense that got compounded by bad luck and bad goalkeeping numbers. Atlanta’s defense ended the year with the third-worst post-shot xG differential in MLS and the league’s highest post-shot xG per shot on target. They were allowing big chances, teams took full advantage of those chances and no one came to rescue the defense in goal.

All that said, the Five Stripes were a hard team to assess qualitatively and quantitatively over the entire season. An outstanding summer window transformed the team. Atlanta ended their season losing in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs to Columbus, but they did push the series to three games after a resounding 4-2 win at home over the eventual champs. They’ve continued to make changes since then.

2024 Final Standing Range

Between first and seventh.

From my view here in Atlanta, it seems far more likely this team ends up near their ceiling than their floor. The floor is only that low because the East is that good and weird things happen. Still, Atlanta don’t have to worry about Concacaf Champions Cup like the rest of their competition. They’re going to get a full season of wingers Xande Silva and Saba Lobjanidze, plus midfielder Tristan Muyumba. Thiago Almada is still around, and no one has been willing to match Atlanta’s asking price. And all of their signings seem to fill a clear need. They’ve potentially upgraded at their two most critical positions of need by bringing in goalkeeper Josh Cohen and No. 6 Bartosz Slisz, and they replaced Miles Robinson with Norwegian international Stian Gregersen.

The bottom line is there’s a very good chance they’re improved defensively thanks to having an actual midfield in place for the first time since Darlington Nagbe left, and we have a very clear idea of how good they can be in attack. If the new signings are at or near the same level as last window’s, this team can compete for the Shield.

Player of the People

Tristan Muyumba represents all of us who have arrived at a job and immediately become a hero for doing the basics correctly.

This could all go pretty well if…

Slisz feels like the key. If he can be the kind of destroyer and ball progressor Atlanta have been missing, they’ll have one of the best midfield pairings in the league. That will make everything easier for everyone involved. The prospect of an Atlanta United that can control games in midfield should terrify the rest of the East.

2023 By The Numbers (per American Soccer Analysis)

I’m not going to do the whole “regression to the mean” bit because they kind of didn’t? 2023 Austin still ended up on the lucky side of their expected goal differential. Not at 2022 levels, of course, but they still picked up a couple of extra goals in their favor. The problem is they needed way more luck to overcome some pretty bleh underlying numbers. They created the same amount of xG as Nashville, but defended at the same level as Charlotte and Chicago. If Brad Stuver didn’t put together yet another solid season in goal, who knows where they would have been.

2024 Final Standing Range

Between eighth and 14th.

I don’t want to be too dismissive of any team in the West, but this group just isn’t there right now on paper. They have nothing going for them on the wings and the rest of the group is more decent than elite. The Diego Rubio signing at striker feels like a very solid move, but, again, it’s not clear if he’s going to get any help from the folks on either side of him. It’s very hard to place confidence in much of anything with this team right now. And with new sporting director Rodolfo Borrell still learning the ropes of MLS roster building, it’s hard to envision that being fixed in the short term.

Player of the People

Stuver. Outstanding on and off the field.

This could all go pretty well if…

Man, I’m not entirely sure right now. It feels like a great year in Austin involves Emiliano Rigoni finally looking like a DP or being replaced with a DP-caliber player. I’m not confident in that. Maybe Borrell puts together an excellent summer window?

Other Things

CF Montréal loan Offor to Bulgarian club: CF Montréal have loaned striker Chinonso Offor to Bulgarian top-flight side FC Arda Kardzhali through 2024 with a purchase option. This is the 23-year-old Nigerian's second loan from Montréal to another club after also playing at SV Zulte Waregem (Belgium).

Sporting Kansas City sign MLS SuperDraft pick Schewe: Sporting Kansas City have signed goalkeeper Ryan Schewe through the 2024 MLS season with options from 2025-27. SKC selected Schewe No. 22 overall (first round) in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas after his time at Georgetown University.

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