Kaku gives fans high five
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Wiebe: Five questions on Kaku, Almiron transfers, FC Cincy and more

Ahhhhhhhh, thank goodness it’s Friday. Here are the five questions I’m mulling as preseason begins to gain steam.

What’s best-case scenario for Red Bulls as #KakuWatch takes on new meaning?

A week ago, I wrote that the future of MLS was binary. That the most successful clubs would be the ones that mastered the rhythms (in and out) of the international transfer market. At the time, Miguel Almiron’s will-he, won’t-he transfer saga was the news peg (still is, more on that in a second).

Then Club América came along, Kaku’s agent got riled up and the player himself went public with a transfer request just a calendar year after signing with the Red Bulls from Huracan for a fee somewhere between $4.4 and $6.5 million, depending on which report you’re going with. Let’s just say the whole thing escalated quickly.

The rhetoric from his agent is way over the top, but the man got his point across. Kaku wants to go to Club América, and Club América want Kaku. Now, what are the Red Bulls to do?

Well, stand pat, for one. No sense rolling over.

Not when they spent big money on the Paraguayan international just last year to help solve their playoff problems. Not when they kick off Concacaf Champions League in less than a month. Not when there won’t be much of a windfall unless they can get close to eight figures. Not when they’d likely have to wait until summer to find a replacement who won’t be a breeze to sign either.

Better players = more interest = more money = higher stakes for all involved. The future is now. The only way out for the Red Bull brain trust, in Harrison and Austria, is via negotiation, whether with Club América or Kaku.

The best in-a-vacuum scenario, as I see it, would be for the Red Bulls to placate Kaku with a new deal – he made $710,000 in 2018, according to the MLS Players Association – then cash in on their playmaker after a successful Copa America. Kaku gets a raise and the carrot of a future move, the club fights for CCL glory and then his market value goes up and more suitors emerge in the summer. Meanwhile, New York have already lined up a replacement.

That sounds nice, but life isn’t lived in a vacuum. Holding onto a player who doesn’t want to be with you is risky, there's no guarantee when it comes to health or form and we may be past the point of no return given the rhetoric in play and Kaku’s public comments. Certainly, a long-term stay in Harrison seems out of the question. Selling is a matter of when, not if.

Which brings us to the more realistic scenario: hold steady, with Austria playing bad cop, until the transfer deadline forces Club América to pay up or back out. Red Bulls won't get $12 million -- that would set an América transfer record -- but best to binary on your own terms.

Is Almiron’s Newcastle move inching toward completion?                                                               

Not to read too much into Sky Sports' training center hit, but it certainly feels like the momentum has shifted.

Rafa Benitez is putting pressure on Newcastle’s board, other targets are slipping away and Atlanta United need a resolution, even if they’re playing it extremely cool right now about their Designated Player situation.

Here are some facts:

  • Darren Eales has said repeatedly that Atlanta won’t sell Almiron for anything less than $30 million
  • Anything more than $21 million would break Newcastle’s record transfer fee (£16 million pounds for Michael Owen)
  • Following the signing of Pity Martinez, Atlanta have four Designated Players. They are allowed three by MLS roster rules.
  • The English transfer deadline is next Thursday

Patience is the name of the game for Eales. He’s been in this situation before. Just take a look at who Tottenham sold during his time at the club (2010-14). The biggest name is one Gareth Bale, with plenty of other notable moves to sort through as well.

My prediction is Atlanta will wait until deadline day raises the urgency, then sell Almiron for an MLS-record fee somewhere between $21 and $25 million. It’s the cleanest solution, and whole bunch of money even if the figure doesn’t start with a three.

What does FC Cincinnati’s attack look like right now?

FC Cincinnati have 26 players. Two goalkeepers, nine defenders, six defensive or box-to-box midfielders and nine players you can argue are attack-minded. I get it, no expansion team wants to go the Minnesota United route and give up 70 goals a season.

Here are those attacking players, sorted into categories created by me:

Head coach Alan Koch is going to be asking a lot of that group unless there are more reinforcements on the way. Could Ledesma, Albadawi and Bone thrive as they jump up a level? Could Adi get back to his one-time dominant self? Of course. Do Mattocks and Lamah have double-digit goal potential? Potentially!

Is it enough to challenge for a playoff spot? No, probably not. Do Cincinnati have the allocation money, roster spots or cap space to land another difference maker? We’ll see, won’t we?

Who will I be watching on Sunday as the US men's national team begin the Gregg Berhalter era?

Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman. With a new coach on board, every position is up for grabs. Central defense is no different.

John Brooks is a starter for sixth-place Wolfsburg and the most talented and accomplished center back in the pool, but he can be an enigma in a US shirt. Matt Miazga just landed at Reading on loan after his Nantes move combusted. Cameron Carter-Vickers barely played on loan at Swansea City and figures to embark on another six-month Championship sojourn this window.

Tim Parker is lurking, too. Then there’s a cadre of young, promising players such as Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, Justen Glad (who was sent home from this camp), Chris Richards, Sam Rogers and others just now emerging or who will in the next year or two.

Point is, Long and Zimmerman are entering their primes. They got the first crack to impress Berhalter in person. There are Gold Cup roster spots at stake and World Cup qualifying matches after that. Given their respective ages, this is their World Cup cycle. These two games could be the start of something big for both players. 

Coolest thing I saw on MLS Twitter this week?

Dance like nobody’s watching. That or the entire arena. You’ll recognize Sebastian Salazar from ESPNFC and MLS broadcasts. Looks like Zlatan isn’t the only one who can floss.

Have a good weekend, folks!

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