What you need to know

Columbus sign Chambost from Saint-Étienne

The Columbus Crew have acquired midfielder Dylan Chambost from French side AS Saint-Étienne. He is under contract with the defending MLS Cup champions through 2026 with an option for 2027. The 26-year-old recently helped Saint-Étienne get promoted back to Ligue 1, after contributing 6g/6a in 33 matches. ​​Chambost will be eligible for selection when the Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 18.

Toronto sign Johnson to extension

Toronto FC have signed goalkeeper Sean Johnson to a contract extension through 2025 with an option for 2026. The 35-year-old US men’s national team veteran joined Toronto in free agency in early 2023 after previous stints at New York City FC (2017-22) and Chicago Fire FC (2010-16).

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Who's set to take a step back in the second half?

Yesterday we looked at a few teams who might take a step forward in the second half of the season. But there’s no real bravery in pointing out an underperforming team might get better. The real valor comes from looking at a team near the top of the standings and asking who they know at this party of elite teams. Here’s who might take a step back in the second half.

Inter Miami CF

Yep, that’s right, top of the list.

There’s genuine reason for concern here. They’ve still got the whole “horror movie villain that never actually dies” deal going on, but even Jason Voorhees got cryogenically frozen for 400 years eventually. Let’s consider Copa América Inter Miami’s potential cryofreeze moment. Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez will miss multiple matches and potentially both be absent until Leagues Cup if Argentina and Uruguay make the final.

That’s six or seven matches without the two guys who have transformed the Herons into one of the most overperforming teams in MLS history. Right now, Inter Miami are only trailing the 2021 New England Revolution when it comes to overperforming their expected point total. With Messi and Suárez around, you can concede that some portion of that overperformance is down to their ability to find and finish chances others don’t have the talent to find and finish. Without them…

Well, we were already starting to see Miami fall back to Earth even before they left. The Herons got dump trucked by an Atlanta United side that would part ways with their coach a few days later and then followed that up with a 3-3 draw to St. Louis. Both results came at home.

There are real concerns about their defense. And if they’re not going to be able to rely on Messi and Suárez to pull incredible moments out of nothing, then it’s not clear what they’ll be able to rely on.

It’s very possible these next seven games—five of which come against playoff sides in the East—aren’t up to the standards we’ve come to expect from Inter Miami. And it’s possible that continues on some level even once Messi and Suárez are back.

A top-four spot in the East still feels like a lock. But they’re aiming for the Supporters’ Shield.

Columbus Crew

Ok, this one doesn’t quite have the numbers to back it up, but stay with me for a second.

The Crew never felt like the kind of team that would make the Concacaf Champions Cup final and implode afterward in the way we’ve seen teams like 2018 Toronto and 2022 Seattle do. But it’s starting to seem like multiple major moves were put on hold until the Crew’s CCC run ended. Now that it has, we’ve already seen general manager and president Tim Bezbatchenko depart and reports that Aidan Morris is on his way to Middlesbrough.

It doesn’t help that things immediately got kind of weird once Bezbatchenko left. The Crew parted ways with assistant general manager Corey Wray. Suddenly, an organization that seemed rock solid feels a little bit unsteady.

Of course, it’s clear they had a plan in place for Morris’ departure. New midfielder Dylan Chambost from French side AS Saint-Étienne had outstanding numbers in Ligue 2 last year. He could be a star.

But you never quite know how a player will translate to MLS. And it’s hard to overstate how critical the pairing of Darlington Nagbe and Morris has been to the Crew’s success in Wilfried Nancy’s 3-4-2-1 setup. They’re asked to do a ton of work and you need high-level performances there for the system to function in the way we’ve come to expect Nancy teams to function.

We won’t get to find out if Chambost has that ability for a while. He’s not eligible to play until the transfer window officially opens on July 18. The Crew will play nine games between now and July 20. They’ll have to find a way to function in a congested schedule without Morris and his potential replacement.

And that’s all assuming that more moves aren’t on the way. Who knows what could be coming next. What if Nancy is swooped up by a team in Europe? There are major questions for this group and even bigger questions could be coming. The second half of the year could be tough. Or at least not what we’ve come to expect from this version of the Crew.

Austin FC

This is almost cheating, but, seriously, they can’t outrun near league-worst underlying numbers forever. Probably. Maybe. I mean…unless they do. But probably not. Unless new DP Osman Bukari is a star and CSO Rodolfo Borrel does serious work in the transfer window. But even then those players won’t be available until July 18. So they’re still probably in trouble. Probably. Unless…

Minnesota United

I love the Loons. I truly do. But it’s fair to wonder if their two most critical pieces this season, Tani Oluwaseyi and Robin Lod, are going to stay this hot. They’ve been unreal this season, but Oluwaseyi is still a young player just now starting his MLS journey and Lod has eight primary assists on just 3.3 expected assists created.

If they take a step back, even if it’s only a small step back, do the Loons have enough to stay at the top of the West? It feels like they’ll potentially have a hard time keeping up with the RSLs and LAFCs of the world. That doesn’t mean this year is a failure. It’s already been a tremendous success all considered. It just means the second half may not reach the highs of the first.

They do have that open DP spot though…

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Good luck out there. Make time to get what’s important.