Fanendo Adi - Portland Timbers - uses a chainsaw to cut a log
Photos courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

The top primary transfer window deadline-day player acquisitions

Major League Soccer's primary transfer window for 2020 was set to close on May 7 before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the market to shutter prematurely back in March.

This turn of events will probably make the eventual secondary transfer window a wild scene, but it kept clubs from pulling off the exciting brand of deadline day swoops we've become accustomed to over the years. Of course, that can't prevent us from looking back at those impactful late maneuvers from the past.

To ensure a splashy finish, let's stroll back down memory lane for this updated list, taking these in reverse order from the present.
 

Lalas Abubakar & Jonathan Lewis, Colorado, 2019

Lalas Abubakar in action for the Colorado Rapids in 2019 | Colorado Rapids

The Rapids did all sorts of wheeling and dealing to remake the roster before and during last season, but their best single day of captures came as the primary transfer market was set to close.

They completed deals to acquire both Jonathan Lewis (trade with NYCFC) and Lalas Abubakar (loan from Columbus with a purchase option they'd eventually take up) so close to the May 7 midnight deadline that the moves weren't officially announced until near Colorado lunchtime the following day. Lewis provided a quickness boost to the attack, notching five goals and a few helpers in 899 minutes despite subsisting on a limited amount of final-third touches.

Abubakar was the big catch, however, as he helped Colorado turn respectable at the back. Before he arrived, the team was 1-7-2 with a league-worst goals-against average. With him marshaling the defense, the Rapids leaked about three-quarters of a goal per game fewer to go 10-8-4.

Adama Diomande & Lee Nguyen, LAFC, 2018

Adama Diomande (right) celebrates a goal | USA Today Sports Images

The expansion side were already looking pretty good before the start of deadline day, but were even better off after thanks to a late double swoop just before the window closed. Adama Diomande bagged nine goals in his first seven LAFC outings and banged home 24 across all competitions (or one every 123 minutes) during his first two seasons in La-La Land.

Lee Nguyen solidified Bob Bradley's midfield, acting as the team's gutsy "the pass before the pass" guy and helping to cover for the loss of Mark-Anthony Kaye back in 2018. He eventually moved on to join Inter Miami prior to this season, but both had a hand in helping the club achieve its first trophy by claiming the 2019 Supporters' Shield.

Blerim Dzemaili, Montreal Impact, 2017

The Swiss midfielder wasn't around Stade Saputo for long (22 games to be exact), but he certainly made things exciting while he was. Dzemaili instantly became Montreal's engine to the final third, and added in a tidy seven goals and 10 helpers while in it. He spurred an 8W-4L-2D run that had the Impact in playoff contention until their horrible late swoon killed a roller-coaster season.

Jefferson Savarino, Real Salt Lake, 2017

As with Montreal's Dzemaili coup, the Rio Tinto gang completed the signing of Jefferson Savarino close enough to the deadline buzzer that his loan deal wasn't officially announced until the player's medical exam and work permit filings were completed the following morning. Before Real Salt Lake sold the Venezuela winger to Atletico Mineiro for a tidy sum and sell-on cut back in February, he put in three productive seasons for the club.

Savarino chalked up 21 goals, as many assists and eight Team of the Week nods in 82 regular-season contests, and added a late ice-in-the-veins qualifying round winner (video above) to oust defending Western kings Portland from last year's MLS Playoffs. He repeatedly schooled defenders on the dribble, making it impossible for opponents to stay compact at the back.

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers, 2014

Fanendo Adi celebrates a goal with Timber Joey's chainsaw | USA Today Sports Images

Portland narrowly beat the deadline buzzer with paperwork on a loan spell for the then-23-year-old target man from FC Copenhagen. The club waited only six weeks before taking up the buy option on Fanendo Adi (who's now with FC Cincinnati). All he did in return was score 56 league goals, temporarily becoming the team's all-time leading scorer along the way. Two of those strikes came during the Timbers' 2015 title run.

Aurelien Collin, Sporting Kansas City, 2011

It wasn't considered a blue-chip acquisition when Sporting KC plucked the French defender from Vitoria Setubal mere moments before the window closed, but boy, did he pay big dividends.

Aurelien Collin was a Best XI selection and U.S. Open Cup champion in 2012, but saved his best for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs. The center back went into beast mode, scoring three times in five games. In the title bout against Real Salt Lake, he buried both their late-regulation equalizer and the winning penalty kick to net MVP honors.

Jeff Parke, Seattle Sounders, 2010

Jeff Parke | Getty Images

The veteran defender had seen his New York Red Bulls tenure end in disgrace a couple of years earlier, so not much was expected of it when he signed with Seattle on deadline day. However, Parke was a steady constant in the Sounders back line for three seasons. Perhaps most notably, he went the full route in consecutive U.S. Open Cup final triumphs.

Juan Pablo Angel, New York Red Bulls, 2007

The dashing forward was an instant hit in New York after arriving from Aston Villa on deadline day.

Angel hit 19 times during his first MLS season to earn a Best XI nod, but their playoff run ended while he was sidelined with a head injury. The following season, he led the club to their first MLS Cup appearance. In all, the Colombian international struck 62 times in four season with the Big Apple bunch, and was their all-time leading scorer until Bradley Wright-Phillips came along.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus Crew SC, 2007

This guy is the main reason Angel’s Red Bulls were unable to claim that 2008 MLS Cup final. And this move, which was finalized perilously near to the window closing, came with the biggest deadline-day fanfare since... well... we'll get to that in a moment.

The current LA Galaxy boss was once the maestro of thrills in Columbus, notching 38 goals, 49 assists and a case full of silver in four seasons there. Schelotto was a Best XI selection his first two seasons with the Crew, who he led to the league double in his second. The following year, they claimed a second straight Supporters’ Shield.

Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy, 2005

Landon Donovan lifts another MLS Cup | USA Today Sports Images

You may have heard of this guy. Heck, you may remember this move. After weeks of speculation, reports and rumors, the US men's national team star returned to MLS from a short, rough spell at Bayer Leverkusen. Only a couple of years removed from winning a pair of MLS Cups up the coast in San Jose, Donovan landed in his hometown, capturing everyone's attention.

The Galaxy had to deal two-time Golden Boot man Carlos Ruiz away to gain the top allocation spot, but we're fairly sure they never looked back. Donovan spent 10 seasons and change in Carson, piling up 137 goals, four MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields, a U.S. Open Cup, six Best XI citations – and one distinction as the global face of American soccer.

Topics: