Garth Lagerwey - 22MLS_TheDailyKickoff-4x5
What you need to know

Atlanta United appoint Lagerwey president and CEO

Atlanta United have appointed Garth Lagerwey as club president and CEO, the club announced Tuesday. Lagerwey leaves Seattle Sounders FC to take this new role on a multi-year deal. Lagerwey is viewed as perhaps the best sporting director in MLS history. The executive was the chief architect behind Seattle becoming the first MLS team to win the modern-era Concacaf Champions League this year, and in his career has won MLS Cup three times (and made another three MLS Cup Finals).

Houston Dynamo acquire Artur in trade with Columbus Crew

Houston Dynamo FC have bolstered their midfield ahead of the 2023 MLS season by acquiring Artur from the Columbus Crew. The Crew will receive $300,000 in General Allocation Money, plus they can get an additional $50k in GAM if certain performance metrics are met. Columbus’ guaranteed funds received break down as $200k GAM in 2023 and $100k GAM in 2024.

Canada faces Belgium

Canada open their first World Cup campaign in 36 years today as they take on Belgium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET.

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A league-changing move?

Atlanta United just made a front office move that might affect the league for a long, long time. Let’s talk it out.

Atlanta gets Garth

When Atlanta United’s first and then only president Darren Eales left in July, one name came up at the top of everyone’s list of replacements.

Back in late 2007, Garth Lagerwey became Real Salt Lake’s senior vice president and general manager at just 35 years old. Under Lagerwey, RSL quickly became a force in the league. They made the playoffs every full season he ran the show, won MLS Cup in 2009, made it back to MLS Cup in 2013 and even made it to a CCL final in 2011. When Lagerwey went to Seattle in 2015, well, if you’re reading this newsletter I imagine you’re acutely aware of what Seattle has done since 2015.

(But just in case: two MLS Cups, two more trips to MLS Cup finals, first MLS team to win modern format of CCL, and a Leagues Cup final for good measure.)

Simply put, Lagerwey is the single-most successful front-office executive in league history. Pair him with Atlanta United’s resources and there is no ceiling. That doesn’t mean you should pencil in a CCL or Leagues Cup win for the Five Stripes in the next few years, but the odds in the long term are better than most.

In the short-term though, this is a reclamation project. That means fixing a few issues with the club’s infrastructure, working through a roster hamstrung by heavy contracts and pieces that don’t fit, and raising the floor of a team whose average place in the standings over the last three seasons has been ninth.

He’ll have every available resource to do it though. With Lagerwey in charge and Gonzalo Pineda leading the team, the idea of Atlanta as “Sounders South” has never been more real. And what should frighten the rest of the league about that is while Seattle have plenty of spending power, Atlanta are in a rarified tier above that. In a league where things are so often decided on marginal differences, Sounders plus a little extra edge is a frightening prospect.

For now though, it is still just a prospect. You never know exactly how these things will go. But expectations and optimism in Atlanta are and should be as high as they’ve been in the last three years.

Seattle loses Garth

A week ago, Sounders season-ticket holders voted to retain Lagerwey as general manager. Then, just like that, he’s gone, and there are genuine questions to ask about the future in Seattle.

Not serious questions. Seattle succeeded without Lagerwey before and there’s no reason they’d suddenly forget how to be an ultra-effective club. But they’re entering unknown territory with a key figure on the sporting side. For the first time ever, the Sounders are coming into a season trying to get back to the playoffs after missing out in 2022.

Now, I’m one of the folks who believes strongly Seattle would have cruised to the playoffs if they weren’t busy the first quarter of the season doing the single-most impressive thing any MLS team has ever done – winning CCL. That doesn’t mean they were perfect though. The roster is older, injury prone and waiting to find out if the Joao Paulo they had before his ACL tear can guide the ship in the same way once he returns. Coming off a regular season I think is fair to call disappointing even with the CCL caveat, there’s work to do. It might take a moment to get everything back up and running at full throttle again.

Anyway, y’all remember I said all that when Seattle win the league next season. Look, I may have questions, but I’m still smart enough to know how this works.

The league loses/gains/changes?

I won’t spend too much time on the league-wide effects of this move because they’ll likely be anti-climactic in the short term. Seattle could just promote from within and nothing really changes. But it’s possible, just maybe, Seattle pull from outside the organization and the domino effect has serious consequences throughout MLS.

For example, what if they go outside the organization to bring someone back in? Inter Miami sporting director Chris Henderson spent over a decade in Seattle. It seems unlikely he’d leave a stellar job in Miami, but it’s not totally implausible. If he heads back to Seattle, that obviously has huge ramifications for Miami and on and on.

Like I said, it’s highly possible this all wraps up quickly and the front office carousel never gets spinning. But either way, yesterday altered the league for the next few years and beyond. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it plays out.

Other Things

Orlando City SC sign veteran midfielder Felipe: Orlando City SC have signed free agent midfielder Felipe Martins to a one-year contract with an option for 2024. The 32-year-old Brazilian veteran spent the 2022 season with Austin FC, making five starts in 28 appearances. He registered one goal and three assists in 718 minutes for the Western Conference finalists.

Four players selected in Stage 2 of re-entry draft: Four players were selected Tuesday in the first round of Stage 2 of the 2022 MLS Re-Entry Draft. New England Revolution (via D.C. United) selected Bobby Wood, Toronto FC selected Victor Vazquez, San Jose Earthquakes selected Michael Baldisimo and Houston Dynamo FC selected Ifunanyachi Achara. Those picked in Stage 2 do not necessarily have to sign with the club that selected them. When a player is selected, the drafting club is required to make a genuine offer to the player within seven days. If an agreement cannot be reached between the drafting club and the player, the drafting club will hold the Right of First Refusal for that player in MLS.

Minnesota United re-sign goalkeeper Eric Dick: Minnesota United FC have re-signed goalkeeper Eric Dick through the 2023 MLS season with a club option. The 28-year-old was out of contract and projects as a backup to Dayne St. Clair, who’s at the World Cup with Canada.

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