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Toronto FC sign defender Petretta from Turkey's Kasımpaşa Spor Kulübü

Toronto FC made their second defensive signing of the offseason Tuesday, announcing the arrival of left back Raoul Petretta from Turkish top-flight club Kasımpaşa Spor Kulübü. The 25-year-old former Italian youth international joins TFC through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. The club used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to acquire the player.

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A second but not quite final look at a few teams set to make a jump forward this season

There’s still a long way to go this offseason. Even with preseason games firing up, we’re still a month away from opening day and a little less than a month away from teams having to be roster compliant. A lot of teams are going to look very different between now and then. I mean, this group has already changed a good bit since the last time we tried this a month and a half ago or so. 

There’s still a lot of change coming too. Heck, as soon as Atlanta signs a new DP striker, they’re going to rocket up this list. But for now, we can only work with what’s already happened. And it’s fair to say that some teams have set themselves up for a much-improved 2023 already.

I have a lot of questions here. And a lot of them are centered on our tendency to gravitate toward action bias. Orlando City have done so much. Just so many things. Like, all the things this offseason. And objectively, it seems like they nailed it. However, their ceiling depends on how a lot of new faces to MLS adjust to the most travelingest, parityest league in the world. That’s far from a given.

For example, I spent a lot of last year (correctly!) hyping up LAFC’s offseason. They made it easy by going out and grabbing a bunch of guys who already had proven success in MLS. Orlando’s offseason has been a little different.

We can go ahead and chalk up the return of midfielder Mauricio Pereyra and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese as big wins. Especially considering they brought Pereyra back without using a DP spot. That led to their successful chase and capture of highly-regarded 24-year-old DP winger Martin Ojeda, whose performance might be the difference between Orlando fighting for a road playoff spot this year or cruising to a home one. They’re also set to bring in Iceland international midfielder Dagur Dan Thorhallson, and have already brought in Brazilian left back Rafael Santos. Oh, and just to add one more thing, they’re reportedly finalizing a deal for U22 winger Romiro Enrique.

That’s not even mentioning all the folks that have left and the more familiar names like Felipe Martins and Luca Petrasso that have come in. As I said, so many things.

However, no matter how this all turns out, I think what has folks excited for Orlando this year is the fact that everyone involved seems to recognize how necessary all of this “everything” was. The team last year was a stale-chocolate-chip-cookie of a group. Like yeah, you could eat it, and it’s gonna be tolerable because it’s still chocolate and dough, but the experience isn’t going to be nearly as good as a fresh batch would be. Whether or not it actually all works out, the Lions have raised their level of variance from somewhere between totally meh and totally fine to somewhere between “Wow, that could have gone better” to “Wow, this could not have gone better.” That’s huge. And more teams should be more cognizant of when and how to do the same.

It’s so incredibly straightforward for Toronto that it’s almost going to seem dismissive. But all they had to do to turn into a playoff contender (and maybe more) in my mind is add a couple of defenders. Well, they did that. And one of them just so happens to maybe be the biggest free agent signing of the offseason? Matt Hedges is an excellent player, however, I’m not sure I had him higher on the free agent board than someone like Alexander Callens or Aaron Long. But as far as fulfilling a need for value through the free agent market goes, Toronto nailed this one. Because, my goodness, did they really, really need some stability at the back. 

Now they seem to have solved a vacancy at left back by bringing in Raoul Petretta yesterday. If he’s able to be comfortable quickly, Toronto should be effective enough with the ball to survive in a way they just couldn’t last year defensively. 

I should add that they also made solid veteran signings in Victor Vazquez and Adama Diomande. Throw in the fact that you can generally expect a Year Two bump under Bob Bradley, and the Reds could be back to being one of the East’s best again.

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I promise I looked for a team in the West

I could have built up the hype around SKC in a rebound year for the 40th time this offseason but I figured I’d spare you. It’s hard to look at a team in the West and find a transformational offseason so far. It seems so quiet that I kind of feel like I’m missing something significant. 

Houston has definitely made moves but, as we discussed earlier this week, I’m far from sold. The Galaxy have primed themselves to fix what’s been happening at winger for years but haven’t actually brought anyone in yet. Portland brought in a club-record signing early in the offseason in Evander then called it a day. And it feels like cheating to pick Seattle even if they did miss the playoffs last year. 

Look, if Evander hits, Portland should be improved. If Seattle is even remotely healthy in midfield, they’ll be back in the playoffs. And if SKC’s performance at the end of last season wasn't an unexplainable fluke, they should be right back where they generally are in the West. That’s just…so boring. Like, so boring. Someone in the West needs to liven things up here. And quickly.

So much of the East

I focused on Toronto and Orlando, but I’m kind of just scratching the surface. Charlotte are entering their second season and have already added a potentially team-changing DP striker, New England will have a full year of Djordje Petrovic in goal, Columbus made what I’d call the second-best signing of the offseason by swiping Wilfried Nancy from Montreal, Atlanta made the best signing of the offseason by swiping Garth Lagerwey from Seattle, and Cincinnati should be considered a legitimate MLS Cup contender. The East might get flipped upside down this year. It’s going to be fascinating to see all these teams fighting for a playoff spot and just how many can get within 25 points of Philadelphia.

Other Things

Matarrita leaves MLS, signs for Ukraine's SC Dnipro-1: Longtime MLS left back Ronald Matarrita has gone overseas and signed for SC Dnipro-1. The 28-year-old Costa Rican international was a free agent after FC Cincinnati declined his contract option following the 2022 campaign. He was limited to seven games played last year due to an ankle injury, though he recovered in time to represent Los Ticos at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

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Good luck out there. Keep a good thing going.