It's that glorious time of year again; January will arrive in a couple of days, bringing a fresh new offseason transfer window opening for MLS teams looking to enhance their squads.
With COVID-19 hurting revenues around the globe, there are various places where closing a winter deal might be a little easier and cheaper than usual. As you'd expect, we're here to suggest some attractive targets for January browsing. And it's worth reminding that every single such list I've done over the last decade has included at least one player that made his way to MLS.
Let's skip the ceremony and get straight to the market showcase...
The US men’s national team winger has been chased by MLS clubs before, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see some do it again in January. Boyd was actually off to a decent start to the Turkish Super Lig season before being one of the odd men out when Besiktas were left holding far too many foreign players at the roster deadline. It's an odd situation, since Boyd could come dirt cheap as his possible departure helps the Black Eagles out of a self-made jam.
Dragovic would likely be a hard get, but the Austrian defender is worth the effort. His deal is up in June, and word around town is that Bayer Leverkusen are willing to let him leave early. The 29-year-old is a ball-playing center back who moves well enough that he can also shift out to right back or operate from defensive midfield if needed. He also comes with loads of top-level experience thanks to 84 international caps and 93 European cup matches.
The Zenit St. Petersburg man made some waves recently when he publicly expressed a desire to pack up and leave. Driussi is most often used as a wide midfielder, but wants a place where he can set up in a more advanced position to run off a lead striker. The Argentine is out of contract this coming summer, and could probably be plucked away early for a cut-rate fee. He has all the tools to quarterback an attack and the motivation to run wild when gets that chance, but never forgets to also do the little things that help a team win.
The Atalanta skipper appears headed for the exit door after a falling out with manager Gian Piero Gasperini. It's a shock development that has put one of the best Serie A performers of the last five years on the market. Gomez has already been linked with an FC Cincinnati offer, but there are some big-name competition vying for his services. The 32-year-old is a rangy, chance-creating maestro that can also arrive late to finish moves, not unlike NYCFC star Maxi Moralez.
This is not the first time I've suggested that MLS clubs should check out the Nigerian forward, but it is the first time I've recommended checking him out as he's set to run out of contract. That happens soon for James, who has bagged 43 goals (including a couple set up by former Sounders homegrown Henry Wingo) during his three seasons with Molde FK. He makes good runs behind, and is quick and clever once he gets to the area.
Welcome to the obvious pick. The former USMT forward is out of contract at Hammarby, has stated his desire to come to MLS and, best of all, is fresh off a rising phoenix campaign that saw him score 15 times in 25 league and cup matches for Swedish side Hammarby IF. Johannsson is best when he can pop up in the right spots in the box to finish, so his ideal fit would be with a patient possession side.
If the name sounds familiar, that's probably because the left back had a brief stint with FC Cincinnati the year before they moved up to MLS. The 26-year-old Sweden-turned-Guinea international is available on a freebie after a solid short stay with Rosenborg. Any team looking for a wide defender that can drive into attack might wish to kick Konate's tires.
There are several veteran center backs who go free next summer that might be of great interest to MLS clubs looking for a back-line marshal. Rojo makes the cut here because 1) he's the most likely to leave in January, and 2) his style of play is probably most conducive to this era of MLS. He's tough, mobile and very comfortable on the ball. What's more, the Argentine international isn’t too far removed from being out of favor at Manchester United.
Isaac Kiese Thelin
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but MLS clubs have done well grabbing fringe Sweden national teamers in recent years and Thelin may represent a chance to continue that trend. The striker is headed back to Anderlecht after a 17-goal loan campaign with Malmo, but is widely expected to leave on a permanent transfer in January. The 28-year-old is a well-rounded forward that uses his size well, has a delicate receiving touch and can finish in a variety of ways. Thelin is at his best when played regularly, so he's suited for a club that will start him every week.
The Djurgarden midfield ace is another player who will be available on a free transfer come New Year's Day. Ulvestad typically mans the No. 8 post, but has the ball skills and guile to play higher, drop back or slide out to the flank. Stylistically, the 28-year-old Norwegian has a bit of Wesley Sneijder to him. He can skitter out of tight spots, loves to fire home from the top of the box and plays with an edge.