What you need to know

Martínez signs for Inter Miami after Atlanta United contract buyout

One of the greatest striker-club relationships in MLS history has formally ended, with Atlanta United announcing Wednesday morning they’ve utilized their offseason contract buyout on Josef Martínez – paving way for the 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP to sign for Inter Miami CF ahead of the 2023 season.

Chicago Fire complete club-record transfer of Durán to Aston Villa

Chicago Fire FC have formally reached a club-record transfer fee with Aston Villa for striker Jhon Durán. A source says the 19-year-old Colombian leaves for up to $22 million ($18 million initially + $4 million in add-ons), one of the highest fees in MLS history. The deal remains subject to completing a medical, agreeing to personal terms and obtaining a work permit – though hurdles aren’t expected at the English Premier League side.

St. Louis CITY sign Vassilev from Aston Villa

St. Louis CITY SC have acquired midfielder Indiana Vassilev from English Premier League side Aston Villa. Vassilev has signed a two-year contract through the 2024 MLS season with option years in 2025-26.

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The Daily Kickoff's way-too-early Western Conference Power Rankings

Yesterday we stumbled our way through power ranking the Eastern Conference despite teams missing up to 50% of their starting roster spots. Today, we’re prepared to do the same for the West. These are the sacrifices we make in the name of taking wild guesses at how good MLS teams currently are and might be in the future. We do it for you. You’re welcome.

Yeah, they’ve already lost some pieces. Yeah, they’re probably going to lose Jose Cifuentes here at some point. Maybe Mahala Opoku too. Maybe even Chicho Arango. But until someone takes the crown off their head, I refuse to put LAFC anywhere but first.

I hope y’all are ready for the most insufferable LA year of all time in MLS. It sure seems like both teams might be the class of the West. If the Galaxy’s midfield of Riqui Puig, Gaston Brugman and Mark Delgado stays healthy, the floor will be extremely high. If they capitalize on an open DP spot and finally find a winger that can produce at a DP level, the ceiling will be sky-high. This should be the best Galaxy team in a long time. They better be, anyway. LA won’t be able to make moves this summer to fix their issues if they aren’t.

All the caveats apply here with Austin. They were hilariously lucky last season but I didn’t feel comfortable dropping them too far. They return almost the entirety of last year’s starting XI with Gyasi Zardes now plugged in at striker. If Emiliano Rigoni can prove that he just needed a little time to adjust in MLS before he started producing like a DP, Austin may even be able to outdo last year’s team. Or the luckometer swings back the other way and they come crashing down to Earth in spectacular fashion. These things do happen. For now, we’ll assume that they’ll still be pretty good.

I want to put them over Austin. I really do. Losing Matt Hedges is just too much for me though. Until we see what they decide to do with their newly-opened DP spot, it’s fair to worry how much their conference-best defense might regress this year. That being said, they’re still returning a ton of starters from a good team. This is almost definitely a playoff side.

Ah, yes, the team I wanted to put third but didn’t have the guts to hype up. I’ll settle for this. And it’s probably for the best considering I’m still not sure how much I trust that defense and we still don’t know what Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda will look like coming off of injuries. We also don’t know if William Agada can continue tearing through defenses at quite the same pace. If he can though, SKC should be firing at full capacity from the jump this year. It seems to be how things are for this group after down years.

They spent a lot of money to bring in Evander. Does that mean he’s good? Who knows. But he could be the key to taking the Timbers from a fringe playoff team to a contender this year.

Besides Evander, the group as a whole feels very Timbersy. It’s pretty much the same cast of characters you're used to guided by the same manager and the same tactics we’ve seen for 40 years or so (probably). If Eryk Williamson is still along for the ride and Evander adds an extra dimension, this team should be good to great. If they find an effective striker somewhere along the way, Portland should be set to make another MLS Cup run.

I genuinely didn’t know what to do here. It’s the Sounders. That means the roster is good, the coaching is good and there’s a general belief that things will turn out just fine permeating everything they do. 

However, this year’s version of the Sounders enters with serious question marks. They’ll be trying to get back to the playoffs for…literally the first time ever. And it’s still hard to pinpoint how much their regular season struggles came about due to their title-winning CCL run and how much was the manifestation of an aging and injury-prone group. 

That said, might be pretty simple with this team. If Joao Paulo is healthy, the Sounders could be great. If Joao Paulo looks like a player in his early-30s coming off an ACL tear, then the Sounders may be in for another frustrating regular season.

Energy, effort, power of will, and a decent roster. RSL under Pablo Mastroeni are nothing if not consistent. We’ll see how they handle life without Aaron Herrera, but I bet they handle it by outworking their opponent and having plenty of depth. The only real question right now is whether or not Damir Kreilach will be healthy after missing almost the entirety of 2022.

I’m starting to realize that the West as a whole hasn’t been wall-to-wall roster-building drama this offseason. A lot of teams remain unchanged at key positions. The Loons are one of those teams. Maybe the most one of those teams. I don’t really see a path to them being anything all that more or all that less than last season. The ceiling might be a road playoff game?

They’re very deep. Are they very good? That’s still to be determined. As long as they don’t faceplant at the starting line like they did last season they might be able to put a quality year together. There are quality pieces like Julian Gressel, Ryan Gauld and Andres Cubas here that should keep them in most games. We’ll see if Vanni Sartini can find much-needed advantages at the margins in his second full season in charge.

Jeremy Ebobisse! Cristian Espinoza! Jamiro Monteiro! Jackson Yueill! Cade Cowell! There are legitimately good and intriguing players here. It may take a while for them to find their groove under new manager Luchi Gonzalez though. We’ll keep them relatively low for now, but if you’re looking for an engaging dark horse team to latch onto this year as they make a surprise run, the Quakes may just be your guys.

As much as I love the narrative of the Kevin Cabral signing, I’m not sure he’s going to save the team. Robin Fraser is outstanding, but it’s going to be a hard road back to the highs of 2021 with the current roster.

Ben Olsen is in charge now. I have absolutely no idea how that’s going to go. However, with a midfield of Hector Herrera, Coco Carrasquilla and Artur, they should at least be a grind to play through. They still might lose. A lot. But they might make life difficult for their opponents every now and then. Honestly, that will probably be this group's entire MO under Olsen.

There’s a good chance that they could beat Houston right now even with an unfinished roster. Until we see proof of concept though, the [INSERT ORGANIC TEAM NICKNAME HERE] will be down here at the bottom. I’d bet that changes very quickly once games get going.

Other Things

San Jose Earthquakes re-sign homegrown defender Thompson: The San Jose Earthquakes have re-signed homegrown defender Tommy Thompson through the 2023 MLS season with an option for 2024. The 27-year-old returns to San Jose as the organization's longest-tenured player following the retirement of midfielder Shea Salinas. He'll become the first player in club history to play each of his first 10 professional seasons with the Earthquakes.

Houston Dynamo's home venue renamed as Shell Energy Stadium: Houston Dynamo FC have announced a new naming-rights agreement ahead of the 2023 MLS season, as their soccer-specific venue will now be known as Shell Energy Stadium. The 21,000-seat stadium, previously PNC Stadium, is also home to the NWSL's Houston Dash.

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Good luck out there. Let people know where you stand.