MLS is almost back! We enter the penultimate weekend without regular season action as five clubs ready for their foray into the Concacaf Champions League next week.
What has your team been up to this offseason? Is your club ready for the start of the season yet? Here's this week's snapshot of the moves made by your club with an eye toward the 2019 season kickoff.
Updated on February 14
Biggest question / hole: How much change will Frank de Boer institute in Atlanta's MLS Cup-winning starting XI? Will he continue his preferred attacking 4-3-3 formation or will it be three at the back? Is George Bello the starting left back, or could it be Brek Shea? Will Ezequiel Barco win a place in the starting lineup? How will de Boer spread minutes around to all deserving once the club's CCL adventure ends and there are just MLS games to be had?
Rumors have it: Rumors linking Tito Villalba with Liga MX side America have died down since reaching the surface, as has Boca Juniors' interest in Leandro Gonzalez Pirez once Atlanta made it clear they would not be selling the defender.
Projected starting XI (3-4-2-1, right to left): GK Brad Guzan – Miles Robinson, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez – Franco Escobar, Eric Remedi, Julian Gressel, Brek Shea – Tito Villalba, Pity Martinez – Josef Martinez
Most notable move this week: Nothing this week from the Chicago Fire as they continue 2019 preparations.
Biggest move so far: Re-signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. Hopefully, signing Brazilian center back Marcelo from Sporting CP means sweeper-Basti is a thing of the past, but, regardless, re-signing one of Germany's greatest ever players is a win.
Biggest question / hole: With Johan Kappelhof back and Marcelo signed, the Fire have a defensive Spine. But, with Matt Polster gone, Brandon Vincent retired and former academy star Andrew Gutman signing with Celtic, the club are thin on fullbacks.
Rumors have it: Sam Stejskal chatted with Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez who said the club are working on defensive reinforcements, including two international defenders who would require transfer fees.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): GK Richard Sanchez – Jorge Corrales, Marcelo, Johan Kappelhof, Raheem Edwards – Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger – Przemyslaw Frankowski, Djordje Mihailovic, Aleksandar Katai – Nemanja Nikolic
Most notable move this week: FC Cincinnati signed Kekuta Manneh on a free transfer from Swiss side FC St. Gallen and sent Columbus a package of allocation money that could rise $400,000 should incentives be met for his MLS rights.
Biggest move so far: Starting from scratch, there have been a lot. It's tough to just name one. So, how about two? Landing Greg Garza and Kendall Waston lays the foundation for the club to be competitive from Day One.
Biggest question / hole: Who will be the club's creator-in-chief? They don't have an MLS-proven chance creator on the roster, which doesn't necessarily mean that player isn't already in the dressing room, but it's definitely a question mark. Second is finding out quickly if Fanendo Adi and Darren Mattocks can effectively play together.
Rumors have it: No rumors on the Cincy front as the club look to form cohesion from all the new players ahead of their inaugural MLS match.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): GK Przemyslaw Tyton – Alvas Powell, Mathieu Deplagne, Kendall Waston, Greg Garza – Allan Cruz, Leonardo Bertone, Caleb Stanko – Kekuta Manneh, Fanendo Adi, Roland Lamah
Most notable move this week: No movement from the Colorado Rapids as the club prepares for 2019.
Biggest move so far: For a side that scored the fewest goals in the league last season, including getting shut out in seven of their last 10 matches of 2018, Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio will be godsends. Kamara is 34 years old, but you can put him down for double-digit goals if he plays most games, while Rubio made the absolute most of his time on the field last year with eight goals and six assists in 781 minutes. No. 5 pick Andre Shinyashiki provides further striking options.
Biggest question / hole: Do they have enough creativity in their group to feed the likes of Rubio and Kamara? Is it Benny Feilhaber at No. 10 or Nicolas Mezquida? Do Rubio and Kamara start together or does Rubio play super sub? Will the defense hold up in 2019?
Rumors have it: The Rapids recently turned down a $3 million bid for Kellyn Acosta, according to Sam Stejskal.
Projected starting XI (4-4-2 tight diamond, right to left): GK Tim Howard – Keegan Rosenberry, Tommy Smith, Axel Sjoberg, Deklan Wynne – Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta, Benny Feilhaber, Nicolas Mezquida – Diego Rubio, Kei Kamara
Columbus Crew SC
Most notable move this week: The Crew sent Manneh's MLS rights to FC Cincinnati for a package of allocation money that could hit $400,000 should incentives be met.
Biggest question / hole: With Federico Higuain at 34 years old, the club will need to find another No. 10 to help with the chance-creating load. And they'll need Justin Meram and Pedro Santos to help Gyasi Zardes with the goalscoring load.
Rumors have it: The rumor mill has ground to a halt surrounding Columbus.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): GK Zack Steffen – Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Lalas Abubakar, Waylon Francis – Wil Trapp, Artur – Pedro Santos, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram – Gyasi Zardes
Most notable move this week: D.C. United inked former Atlanta United midfielder/defender Chris McCann to a deal this week.
Biggest move so far: With a pedigree like that of 21-year-old winger Lucas Rodriguez, he's sure to be one of the club's bigger offseason catches. The Argentine was signed on loan with option to buy.
Biggest question / hole: The club could really use a defensive reinforcement or two. On the attacking side: Lucho Acosta will need to be signed to a new deal and what happens when Wayne Rooney needs a break? He can't be expected to play every single minute of the campaign — only four outfield players accomplished that in 2018 — but he's the only forward on the roster.
Rumors have it: The club are expected to sign Quincy Amarikwa as Rooney's backup.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Bill Hamid – Leonardo Jara, Frederic Brilliant, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora – Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno – Paul Arriola, Lucho Acosta, Lucas Rodriguez – Wayne Rooney
Biggest move so far: While appointing Luchi Gonzalez as head coach is hugely important for the club both in the short and long term, signing striker Zdenek Ondrasek will be most important for 2019 if he continues the goalscoring form he showed in Norway and Poland. FCD's Achilles' heel towards the end of last season was rooted in their inability to score goals from open play.
Biggest question / hole: The roster is solid. It doesn't have a hole, per se, but the biggest question is top-end talent. Who is the best player on the team and where would he stack up alongside every other club's best player? Also, there will be questions asked about goalscoring if Pablo Aranguiz and Michael Barrios don't create enough and/or Ondrasek and Dom Badji sputter in front of goal.
Rumors have it: The rumor mill has gone quiet with FCD working through preseason matches.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Jesse Gonzalez – Reggie Cannon, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Marquinhos Pedroso – Carlos Gruezo, Bryan Acosta – Michael Barrios, Pablo Aranguiz, Santiago Mosquera – Zdenek Ondrasek
Biggest move so far: The 2018 season was a tale of two Dynamo teams: One with (good) and without (not so good) Juan David Cabezas. This offseason, they've sought to rectify that by signing Matias Vera from San Lorenzo. The pair can potentially play together, but as importantly, they can also cover for each other's absence.
Biggest question / hole: Depth, especially in the attack, will come into question if Houston advance far in the Concacaf Champions League. Toronto FC's 2018 season is a testament to that.
Rumors have it: Despite looking likely to head to Europe, it now appears that Alberth Elis will be staying in H-town - for now.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Joe Willis – A.J. DeLaGarza, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Aljaz Struna, DaMarcus Beasley – Juan David Cabezas, Matias Vera – Alberth Elis, Tomas Martinez, Romell Quioto – Mauro Manotas
Los Angeles Football Club
Biggest move so far: Their parade of new deals. Re-signing Walker Zimmerman, Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye keeps continuity down the spine of the club's starting XI. The club would have had a huge hole in defense without Zimmerman and, outside of Atuesta and Kaye, there aren't many (any?) defensive-minded options in Bob Bradley's midfield.
Rumors have it: No rumors of late featuring LAFC.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): GK Tyler Miller – Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Danilo Silva, Jordan Harvey – Eduard Atuesta, Andre Horta, Lee Nguyen – Diego Rossi, Adama Diomande, Carlos Vela
Most notable move this week: Nothing official from the LA Galaxy this week.
Biggest move so far: Re-signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It's not a complex take and it wasn't a complex decision for new general manager Dennis te Kloese: Keep a player who had one of the most efficient goal contribution seasons in league history.
Biggest question / hole: Is Diego Polenta enough in defense? Also, re-signing Ibrahimovic as a Designated Player does come with a roster-related headache: One of the three incumbent Designated Players – Jonathan dos Santos, Gio dos Santos or Romain Alessandrini – might need to be moved. Also: will Guillermo Barros Schelotto keep using his preferred 4-3-3?
Projected starting XI (4-4-2, right to left): GK David Bingham – Rolf Feltscher, Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Hugo Arellano – Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget, Uriel Antuna – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ola Kamara
Minnesota United FC
Biggest move so far: Defensive investments. It's Year 3 of the Loons' three-year-plan and the club have traded huge money for Ike Opara, signed defensive midfielder Jan Gregus to a DP deal and inked Ozzie Alonso despite age concerns. Now you can add Mannone.
Biggest question / hole: The Loons' defensive unit has conceded 70+ goals in both of the club’s MLS seasons so far. How many goals conceded will Alonso and Gregus be able to cut for the club? Can Alonso stay healthy and at his best? Will Angelo Rodriguez and Darwin Quintero gel?
Rumors have it: Nothing this week from the Loons.
Projected starting XI (4-4-1-1 holding mids, right to left): GK Vito Mannone – Romaine Metanire, Michael Boxall, Ike Opara, Francisco Calvo – Ethan Finlay, Jan Gregus, Ozzie Alonso, Kevin Molino – Darwin Quintero – Angelo Rodriguez
Most notable move this week: The Montreal Impact signed 21-year-old Nigerian forward Orji Okwonkwo on loan from Bologna this week.
Biggest move so far: Trading for Maxi Urruti. With goalscoring wingers flanking him, he's is in a good spot to succeed since he won’t need to carry the goalscoring load with the likes of Nacho Piatti and Saphir Taider in the team.
Biggest question / hole: How will the club replace Alejandro Silva's production? Are they strong enough in center of defense?
Rumors have it: It is expected 2019 will be Piatti's last in Montreal, but, might he extend his stay?
Projected starting XI (4-3-3 defensive, right to left): GK Evan Bush – Bacary Sagna, Victor Cabrera, Rudy Camacho, Daniel Lovitz – Samuel Piette, Micheal Azira, Saphir Taider – Harry Novillo, Maxi Urruti, Nacho Piatti
New England Revolution
Biggest move so far: If Gil is a success, he can help take the attack to another level. In his prime, the creator will make life easier for Diego Fagundez, Juan Fernando Caicedo, Cristian Penilla and co.
Biggest question / hole: Squad depth (or upgrades) at a couple of key positions: namely at center back (can Michael Mancienne, Jalil Anibaba and Antonio Delamea handle the load of an entire season?). The club have addressed their depth woes in attack through the SuperDraft and Homegrown signings.
Rumors have it: Brad Friedel told MLSsoccer.com that he hopes to sign an elite player from overseas as soon as possible, so, keep an eye on that.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Matt Turner – Andrew Farrell, Jalil Anibaba, Michael Mancienne, Edgar Castillo – Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell – Diego Fagundez, Carles Gil, Cristian Penilla – Juan Fernando Caicedo
New York City FC
Biggest move so far: If Mitrita plays up to his fee, he'll be a huge success in the Bronx. The 24-year-old had 12 goals and four assists in 16 league matches in Romania before joining NYCFC.
Biggest question / hole: What formation will Dome Torrent play? How will he spread minutes around the midfield with so many deserving players? Will Mitrita (or Jesus Medina? Or Maxi Moralez?) excel at the false nine position, with no natural striker on the roster?
Rumors have it: The club have been linked with Spanish striker Carlitos, who led the Polish league in goals last season.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3 right to left): GK Sean Johnson – Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat – Alexander Ring, Keaton Parks, Maxi Moralez – Jesus Medina, Alexandru Mitrita, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi
New York Red Bulls
Biggest move so far: Re-signing Tim Parker. After breaking an MLS record for points, it’s never easy to hang on to the whole squad.
Biggest question / hole: How does the club replace Tyler Adams’ presence in the midfield? Can Cristian Casseres Jr. do it? Adams covered so much ground and put out so many fires — he was the linchpin of a pressing team.
Rumors have it: Nothing for the Red Bulls since Jorgensen signed.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Luis Robles – Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence – Sean Davis, Cristian Casseres Jr. — Daniel Royer, Kaku, Alex Muyl — Bradley Wright-Phillips
Orlando City SC
Most notable move this week: A rare week with no ins or outs in Orlando's offseason overhaul.
Biggest move so far: There have been too many moves amid the Lions’ overhaul to name just one. Danilo Acosta and Joao Moutinho with fresh starts are intriguing and Jhegson Sebastian Mendez has big shoes to fill in the midfield.
Biggest question / hole: For a team that broke the MLS record for most goals conceded in a season, defending is still concern No. 1. In attack, can Sacha Kljestan and Dom Dwyer return to their top form? Will their new signings fit?
Rumors have it: OCSC have reportedly had a €300,000 bid for 22-year-old Venezuelan striker Andres Ponce accepted by Russian side FC Anzhi Makhachkala.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Greg Ranjitsingh – Ruan, Carlos Ascues, Lamine Sane, Danilo Acosta – Cristian Higuita, Jhegson Sebastian Mendez – Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan, Josue Colman — Dom Dwyer
Biggest move so far: If Fabian stays healthy, he can transform and improve an already-strong Union side...
Biggest question / hole: ... but his injury past is checkered. Also: Ernst Tanner doubled down on the young backline he inherited by ostensibly handing opportunities for minutes to 21-year-old Olivier Mbaizo and 19-year-old Matthew Real at fullback, flanking Auston Trusty (20) and Mark McKenzie (19) in the middle. One more: What happens to David Accam and Fafa Picault in their new system without wingers?
Rumors have it: No rumors in Philly since Fabian signed.
Projected starting XI (4-4-2 diamond right to left): GK Andre Blake – Olivier Mbaizo, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Matthew Real – Haris Medunjanin, Derrick Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, Marco Fabian – Sergio Santos, Cory Burke
Most notable move this week: No transactions from the Portland Timbers this week.
Biggest move so far: A lot will be riding on Claude Dielna in defense to show the form that the Revs hoped for when they made him a DP in 2017.
Biggest question / hole: Can Jeremy Ebobisse lead the line for an entire season? Or what happens to his development if he doesn't get regular minutes? What are the options when Diego Chara and Diego Valeri, both set to turn 33 in 2019, need a breather?
Rumors have it: The Timbers have reportedly submitted a bid around $10 million for Tigres striker Eduardo Vargas, though talks are ongoing.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Jeff Attinella – Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Claude Dielna, Jorge Villafaña – Diego Chara, David Guzman – Andy Polo, Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco – Jeremy Ebobisse
Real Salt Lake
Biggest move so far: RSL signing playmaker Albert Rusnak to a new deal earlier this offseason edges the important acquisition of Everton Luiz — unless one of the new Homegrowns takes everyone by surprise during preseason.
Biggest question / hole: So, what position does Damir Kreilach play now? He was bought as a central midfielder, but played a false nine role to unexpected success last season. Lastly: Can a central midfield of Kreilach and Kyle Beckerman work if Luiz doesn't work out or gets hurt? Will Johnson live up to his DP billing?
Rumors have it: Nothing notable on RSL of late.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1 right to left): GK Nick Rimando – Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Aaron Herrera – Kyle Beckerman, Everton Luiz – Jefferson Savarino, Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak – Sam Johnson
San Jose Earthquakes
Most notable move this week: No movement out of San Jose this week.
Biggest move so far: Appointing head coach Matias Almeyda. In need of a culture change, San Jose went out and inked, by all accounts, a coach who can create one. But Cristian Espinoza has the potential to be the club's biggest move. The 23-year-old Argentine winger signed on loan from Villarreal.
Biggest question / hole: The Quakes finished with the worst record in 2018, but Almeyda may be able to get more out of this experienced group. With little roster flexibility, it might be necessary.
Rumors have it: Not many rumors coming out of Quakes camp this week.
Projected starting XI (4-4-2 holding mids, right to left): GK JT Marcinkowski – Nick Lima, Guram Kashia, Harold Cummings, Marcos Lopez – Cristian Espinoza, Anibal Godoy, Judson, Vako – Chris Wondolowski, Danny Hoesen
Most notable move this week: No movement in Seattle this week as the club continues preseason preparations.
Biggest move so far: With no non-draft additions outside of Jonathan Campbell, locking up Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan to long-term deals should be welcome news to fans, even if there are some questions as to the cap consternations it may cause in the future.
Biggest question / hole: How will the team replace Alonso's presence shielding the backline? How effective can Morris be on the wing?
Rumors have it: Not many rumors with Seattle involved lately.
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1, right to left): GK Stefan Frei – Kelvin Leerdam, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Brad Smith – Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan – Victor Rodriguez, Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris – Raul Ruidiaz
Most notable move this week: No movement from Sporting KC as they inch closer to their 2019 competitive debut in the CCL this week.
Biggest move so far: The Kelyn Rowe trade, which saw Rubio head to Colorado. Peter Vermes could hardly contain his excitement when he admitted he's long been an admirer of Rowe's, but now Krisztian Nemeth appears to be the club's first choice No. 9 ...
Biggest question / hole: ... which serves as the club's biggest question: striker. If SKC don't bring anyone in, as it's looking likely, they're forced to rely upon Nemeth, who has two goals in his last 30 MLS games (albeit just 11 starts, and let's not forget his 10-goal season for SKC in 2015) Still: not ideal. Also, Rowe spent SKC's first scrimmage with most of last year's starting XI in place of Roger Espinoza. One to watch heading towards opening day.
Rumors have it: SKC are reported to be interested in signing former US national team starlet Gedion Zelalem. Also, keep an eye on the rumor mill for a mystery striker that SKC may or may not be signing.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): GK Tim Melia – Graham Zusi, Andreu Fontas, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic – Ilie, Kelyn Rowe, Felipe Gutierrez – Daniel Salloi, Krisztian Nemeth, Johnny Russell
Biggest move so far: Signing three-time All-Star and 2015 MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman after an apocalyptic defensive injury crisis in 2018. Not only was he playing at a Best XI level before departing LAFC in August, he helps bring true depth to the Toronto backline, ditto with the signing of MLS veteran Nick DeLeon for the fullback position.
Biggest question / hole: How will the club replace the productivity of Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez, particularly their playmaking abilities? Is Jonathan Osorio ready to improve again? With Giovinco and Vazquez gone, what happens to Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore – both heading into the final year of their contracts? Will there be a focus on getting younger?
Rumors have it: All eyes on Alejandro Pozuelo. Since Sam Stejskal reported that TFC triggered Pozuelo's release clause, there's been a bit of a mess. Genk claim Pozuelo agreed to stay until the end of the season while the player says he was pressured into that agreement and will seek legal action if he's not allowed to leave immediately.
Projected starting XI (3-4-1-2, right to left): GK Alex Bono – Laurent Ciman, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga – Nick DeLeon, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Justin Morrow – Jonathan Osorio – Terrence Boyd, Jozy Altidore
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Most notable move this week: The Whitecaps continued their comprehensive offseason overhaul last week, signing Argentinian center back Erik Godoy and 20-year-old Uruguayan striker Joaquin Ardaiz to a Young DP contract.
Biggest move so far: This offseason was a full rebuild in Vancouver, as the club granted new head coach Marc Dos Santos a blank slate. The club turned a war-chest of space and allocation money into 14 (!) additions, headlined by Ardaiz, Hwang In-beom, Lass Bangoura, Lucas Venuto and Jasser Khmiri.
Biggest question / hole: Without Kamara, Alphonso Davies, Cristian Techera and Shea, the club will be without four of their top five goalscorers from last season. Waston was a constant on the backline for four-and-a-half seasons. How will the new recruitments fill their shoes? What formation will MDS play? (Still, as before, predicting a starting XI for the club is a fool's errand but this fool will continue to try anyway.)
Rumors have it: The club are reportedly interested in re-acquiring striker Fredy Montero.
Projected starting XI (4-3-3, right to left): GK Zac MacMath – Jake Nerwinski, Doneil Henry, Erik Godoy, Victor "PC" Giro – Jon Eric, Felipe, Hwang In-beom; Lass Bangoura, Joaquin Ardaiz, Yordy Reyna