It’s become public over the past month that Werder Bremen are open to moving Aron Johannsson this summer, fueling some speculation that the US men’s national team forward could be interested in MLS.
Werder Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann indicated last Thursday that the Bundesliga club might allow Johannsson to leave after the season, telling reporters that “he has not gotten the playing time he wishes for” and that the club will “need to reassess the situation in the summer and see whether it makes sense for him and for us that he stays.”
His comments came after ESPN FC reported in March that a source close to Johannsson said that the 26-year-old “is at that age where he needs to play regularly” and that he could explore “different options in the summer” if he didn’t receive more time with Bremen.
Should he move to MLS, Johannsson would go through the league’s allocation process. The Houston Dynamo currently have the No. 1 spot in the allocation ranking, though they likely would not be in for Johannsson considering their depth, quality and significant salary outlay at the forward position at present.
The Alabama-born striker would make sense for several other teams, however, and a few have begun the process of inquiring with Houston about acquiring the No. 1 spot in the allocation order. A source told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday that four unnamed clubs have reached out to the Dynamo in the last few weeks about trading for the No. 1 allocation spot, with an eye on potentially landing Johannsson in the summer.
Johannsson, who joined Bremen in the summer of 2015 from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, has played sparingly in Germany. He missed most of his first season in Bremen due to a hip injury and has only made two starts this year, both coming in the opening two games of the season. He has one goal in nine total Bundesliga appearances this season, the last of which came on March 18.
A member of the US team at the 2014 World Cup, Johannsson has four goals in 19 career appearances with the USMNT but hasn’t played for the national team since 2015. He was a part of the US squad for their Hexagonal losses against Mexico and at Costa Rica in November 2016, but did not see action in either match.
He’s drawn interest from MLS in the past, and according to a post on Real Salt Lake’s website that was confirmed by multiple sources, nearly joined RSL in the summer of 2015 before a proposed deal fell through in the closing stages. RSL signed striker Yura Movsisyan to a Designated Player contract the following offseason, which one source said would likely preclude Salt Lake from going after Johannsson this summer.
A couple of landing spots that would make sense for Johannsson? Colorado and Philadelphia, who are currently tied for last in MLS with four points apiece. The Rapids are in desperate need of more attacking talent, and they freed up a significant amount of cap room by dealing Sam Cronin and Marc Burch to Minnesota at the end of March. They likely have the space to add a DP or sign a player to a significant deal using Targeted Allocation Money, but would need to move up from No. 17 in the allocation ranking in order to be in play for Johannsson, who would no doubt command a large salary.
Like the Rapids, the Union have struggled in the attack in 2017, scoring just eight goals in their first eight matches. Philadelphia sporting director Earnie Stewart is very familiar with Johannsson: He brought him to AZ Alkmaar from Danish side AGF Aarhus in January 2013 when he served as technical director of the Dutch club, before selling him to Bremen in August 2015 after Johannsson scored 29 goals in 60 Eredivisie matches for AZ. The Union are ranked No. 8 in the allocation order.
MLS Allocation Money – both General and Targeted – has an expiration date.
According to a source, General Allocation Money (GAM) must be used by clubs within 30 days of the close of the third full MLS transfer window after it was acquired. If a quantity of GAM is not used within that timeframe, it’s halved by the league. That halved amount is then available for use during the next two transfer windows. If it’s still not used after those transfer windows, the quantity is no longer available for use.
Similarly, Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) must be applied by clubs – if not necessarily used – within four MLS transfer windows of its acquisition. In this case, “applied” doesn’t mean a club actually has to use the TAM within four windows. Rather, they merely have to notify the league of how they plan on using their expiring TAM – allocating a specific amount to a specific player – in the following window by the end of the fourth window after it was acquired. If they don’t do that, the TAM expires.
For both GAM and TAM, the clock starts at the beginning of the first full transfer window after the allocation money is acquired. For example, if a team were to acquire a quantity of GAM before the close of the MLS primary transfer window on Monday, that GAM wouldn’t expire until 30 days after the close of the 2018 secondary transfer window, giving the team three full windows – 2017 secondary, 2018 primary and 2018 secondary – to use it. If a team acquired TAM in the next two weeks, they would have until the end of the 2019 primary transfer window to apply it.
Teams shouldn’t have many issues with expiring allocation money. GAM is a valuable quantity in becoming salary-budget compliant, and most teams use a high percentage of their haul in most seasons. Even if it looks like a team might not use GAM within three windows, it’s a valuable trade asset that’s almost always in demand. The league gives teams more TAM than GAM and clubs can use TAM on fewer players, but the extra window and wiggle room given by the “applied” clause make it unlikely that many teams will have issues with it expiring.
Because of all that, these deadlines don’t really mean a ton in practice. For those concerned with theory, however, they’re another wrinkle to consider when thinking about how teams construct their rosters.
Crew SC shopping Duka
According to multiple sources around the league, Columbus Crew SC have been actively shopping midfielder Dilly Duka.
Crew SC have a glut of wingers on their roster, with Duka buried behind Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Kekuta Manneh and Niko Hansen on the depth chart. The 27-year-old signed with Columbus last June after Crew SC acquired his right of first refusal from Montreal in exchange for GAM, TAM and a second-round pick in the 2017 SuperDraft. He recorded one goal and one assist in 15 regular-season appearances and five starts last season, but has yet to take the field this year while dealing with a calf injury.
Duka has had success in MLS in the past, most notably recording three goals and two assists in 30 appearances and 21 starts in regular-season and playoff action for Montreal in 2015. He could be an asset for a team looking for some help on the wing, but he has a relatively high salary – the MLS Players’ Union reported it at $175,000 last month – for a player who has only played 604 minutes since the start of last season. Columbus might have to eat some of his budget charge if they want to get a deal done.
Teams will be temporarily be barred from making trades involving players when the primary transfer window closes on Monday. They’ll be able to resume trading players when the secondary window opens up in July.