Daily Kickoff - 1.10.24
What you need to know

Inter Miami sign Gressel in free agency

Julian Gressel, one of the top free agents available this winter, has joined Inter Miami CF. The reigning Leagues Cup champions made the news official on Tuesday, announcing the US international wingback/midfielder has signed through the 2026 season with an option for 2027.

Atlanta sign midfielder McCarty

Atlanta United announced on Tuesday they have signed veteran midfielder Dax McCarty through the 2024 campaign with an option for 2025. McCarty has made the third-most appearances in MLS history (466) since joining the league via the 2006 SuperDraft.

Colorado sign Bassett to contract extension

The Colorado Rapids have signed homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett to a long-term contract extension. The 22-year-old US international's new deal runs through the 2027 MLS season. He'll occupy a U22 Initiative roster spot.

Toronto sign Honduran midfielder Flores

Toronto FC have brought Deybi Flores back to MLS, announcing Tuesday they have acquired the Honduran international midfielder from Hungarian top-flight side Fehérvár FC. Flores is under contract through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. He previously played for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the mid-to-late 2010s.

Austin acquire Brazilian defender Biro

Austin FC have signed defender Guilherme Biro from Brazilian second-division side Mirassol. The 23-year-old Brazil native joins the Verde & Black through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027. Primarily a left back, Biro has totaled 3g/4a in 115 matches at Coritiba and Mirassol across Brazil's Série A and Série B. He can also play in midfield.

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.

Small-sided: Two key free agents find a home

Two Eastern Conference teams with high ceilings raised their floors yesterday. Let’s talk it out.

Gressel takes his talents to Inter Miami

Julian Gressel has found his fifth MLS team and rejoined his first MLS manager. Somehow, Inter Miami have gotten even more talented in attack. And it seems like Gressel will be a natural fit tactically.

On Miami’s most full-strength days, Gressel will likely play on the right side of a midfield three. That’s similar to what we saw him do in Vancouver at times last season. When Lionel Messi tucks in from the right to do Messi things and drags, presumably and correctly, five or so defenders with him, Gressel can float into the vacated space and play, presumably, one of the best crosses you’ve seen in your life to LUIS SUÁREZ AND LIONEL MESSI – among others.

They may need to work out some potential spacing issues with right back DeAndre Yedlin over there, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Plus, if it allows Yedlin to be a bit more reserved in his positioning without having to worry about overlapping every spell of possession, a little extra defensive stability won’t be the worst thing for the Herons. Or maybe he just goes for it anyway. Tata’s game model has typically never trended toward caution.

Either way, there’s zero doubt about it. On paper, Inter Miami’s best XI is one of the most talented we’ve ever seen in MLS. Probably the most. It’s early in the morning and I’m afraid of both commitment and research right now. Anyway, the question is how often we’ll actually see their best XI together. There are some legs with a lot of miles on them here.

All things considered, the best part of signing Gressel for the Herons might be his versatility more than his place in the full-strength side. His ability to slot in at right back, midfield and right wing raises the floor for a team that can potentially win every competition they’re in this season, but may need to play it safe when it comes to load management and injuries. Gressel has played more than 2,000 minutes every season other than the COVID year. He should be a reliable option in almost any situation and a nightmare for defenders when the situation is ideal.

Dax lands in Atlanta

It’s no secret Atlanta United have been somewhat limited by their performances in midfield over the last few seasons. There’s a direct line between Darlington Nagbe leaving the club and Atlanta wandering in the wilderness for a few years.

But midway through 2023, we saw a shift. Tristan Muyumba came in from Ligue 2 and immediately began showcasing a combination of soccer IQ, mentality, technical ability and physical skill set that greatly outpaced anyone the Five Stripes had available. Now, they just needed a top-tier No. 6 to pair with Muyumba behind Thiago Almada and Atlanta could go from one of the least effective midfields in MLS to an elite unit.

Dax McCarty isn’t quite the guy to take them there. He’ll openly admit it. And, yesterday, he gave an open and honest description of his expectations for his time in Atlanta. He’ll be a role player set to fill in behind whatever (probably TAM-level) No. 6 comes in this transfer window. But even that is a massive step forward for the Five Stripes.

McCarty is 36 years old, but he played 1,900 quality (and sometimes excellent) minutes for Nashville last season. He and the team as a whole lost some steam after making the Leagues Cup final, but McCarty can still be a quality contributor in MLS. Having a player of McCarty’s caliber as a second-choice player is a seismic change for a group I just don’t have many nice things to say about.

Additionally, McCarty will provide a veteran voice on the field and in the locker room for a team that isn’t quite as young and inexperienced as it used to be, but still had a clear need for folks who have won in MLS to occupy a leadership role. At this point, it feels like Atlanta are just a couple of steps away from being a true contender in 2023.

Once they get new center back Stian Gregersen officially signed, they just need that TAM-level No. 6 to solidify a deep and dynamic roster. There will still be questions defensively heading into 2023 of course, but having a midfield capable of slowing opponents down and willing to do the kind of dirty work past groups have been outright afraid of the last few seasons will go a long way. McCarty will play a real part in that.

Other Things

Austin transfer defender Romaña to San Lorenzo: Austin FC have transferred center back Jhohan Romaña to Argentine top-flight side San Lorenzo. Romaña signed with Austin ahead of the club's inaugural 2021 season and played two years before going on loan to Paraguayan powerhouse Club Olimpia for 2023. In total, he played 35 games (22 starts) as a center back for the Verde & Black, regularly featuring in 2021 but falling out of the rotation in 2022.

New England buyout goalkeeper Vaclík: The New England Revolution have parted ways with goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík, announcing Tuesday they have exercised the club’s buyout on the player’s Salary Budget charge. Vaclík, 34, was signed by New England in August 2023, the same day they announced the departure of then-starting goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic to Chelsea FC. Despite his résumé, which includes 501 appearances for the likes of FC Basel and Sevilla FC over a decade-plus European career, the Czech international did not make an appearance for the Revolution.

Connecticut United join MLS NEXT Pro for 2025 season: MLS NEXT Pro announced on Tuesday the addition of Connecticut United Football Club as the league's newest independent club. CT United FC joins MLS NEXT Pro with a target start date of 2025. Based in Bridgeport, the club is the fifth independent team to be added to the league since its inaugural season in 2022. Pending sanctioning approval by the U.S. Soccer Federation, the club follows independents Carolina Core FC, Cleveland, Jacksonville Armada FC and Chattanooga FC.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Might as well keep playing.