The last week of the calendar year is always a blur. It's not your fault if you weren't dialed into the Major League Soccer news cycle. Everyone needs a break, even fans.
On this first Monday of the new year, many people are back into the regular grind (if they even got the chance to take some time off.) In case you missed them, here are seven big stories to unfold around MLS during the holiday season.
Mark McKenzie is headed to Genk
Another blockbuster deal for a rising American talent from MLS to Europe.
Last week the Philadelphia Union and KRC Genk agreed to a deal over Mark McKenzie, a source confirmed to MLSsoccer.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tannenwald first reported the clubs reached an agreement.
A source revealed to MLSsoccer.com the transfer fee is in the region of $6 million plus performance-based add-ons. Philly will retain a sell-on percentage in any future transfer of McKenzie.
More on Mark McKenzie:— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) December 29, 2020
The Philadelphia Union will receive a fee in the region of $6 million plus a sell-on % and add-ons from KRC Genk, source tells https://t.co/QqWAi38GbI.
@thegoalkeeper first reported a deal was in place. McKenzie still needs to do a medical.
McKenzie has had serious European interest for a while, as Celtic had a bid rejected over the summer. The Union hoped to hold out to at least the end of the season as they chased a trophy. McKenzie was ready to move, but agreed. McKenzie and the Union won the Supporters' Shield and now McKenzie gets his transfer (and the Union an even better deal).
Not bad business, especially in a pandemic.
Wondo's back (and so is Almeyda)
The Quakes started teasing a Wondo announcement over the holidays and then, on Christmas Day, broke the news: MLS goal king Chris Wondolowski is officially returning for 2021.
Wondolowski, who turns 38 at the end of January, is the MLS all-time goals scored leader (166) and led San Jose in goals (7) this past season as they returned to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017. Wondolowski previously stated the 2020 season would be his last, but then factors around the COVID-19 pandemic altered those plans.
Also, the bi-annual reports linking Matias Almeyda with a return to Liga MX were squashed. The head coach will be back in 2021.
Two young Americans make Euro-moves official
As January 1 hit, it became official: Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg) and Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach) are no longer MLS players. The rising talents headed to Europe on their pre-agreed (and very lucrative) transfers. They depart with two very differing MLS resumes.
Aaronson broke into the Union starting XI as a regular in 2019, but a constant in 2020, in which he was named to MLS Best XI. Over two seasons, he had 51 appearances, seven goals and nine assists. Aaronson figures to have a chance to earn minutes straight away for Salzburg as Hungarian wunderkind Dominik Szoboszlai just transferred to RB Leipzig from Salzburg.
Scally, meanwhile, was signed by Gladbach before ever debuting in MLS. The US youth international is one of quite a few talents to come out of the nascent NYCFC academy. He only played 70 MLS minutes this season before leaving the club. Sources told MLSsoccer.com over the summer Gladbach's plan for Scally was to keep him with the first team for the rest of the season upon his arrival.
January 1 also officially marked all the homegrown signings in MLS that were set to become effective in 2021, including five players from Philly.
Bryan Reynolds saga rolls on
(gonna sound the same as the one below from last night buuuut) for what it's worth, I'm *still* told no deal is quite done yet between FC Dallas and Juventus for Bryan Reynolds.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) December 30, 2020
I'm also told Club Brugge agreed transfer terms in principle with Dallas but not with the player. https://t.co/nDixS7joEq
Speaking of high profile transfers from MLS to Europe, Bryan Reynolds is almost certain to be the next name on that (growing) list.
As you may have heard over the last month, a bunch of big European clubs are interested in the FC Dallas and US youth international fullback. The most serious of the interest has come down to Juventus, Club Brugge and AS Roma as December wore on, though it's looking more and more likely that Reynolds' final destination will be Juve or Brugge over recent days.
It'd be folly to predict where this saga will end, though, so stay tuned to the updates as Dallas near another historic transfer.
Galaxy's Pavon chase, coaching search
Another saga to watch this winter is the LA Galaxy's hope of getting superstar winger Cristian Pavon back from Boca Juniors on a permanent deal, as well as the club's coaching search. Let's start there because it's more straightforward.
As for Pavon, well, it's not so simple. There were reports discussions had ended with Boca, but MLSsoccer.com reported the talks weren't done yet. Will they finally find common ground on finances to facilitate Pavon's return? We'll see. His loan ended at the end of 2020 so he's officially a Boca player again.
One to watch unfold.
Cincy trade for Matarrita
One of a few big intra-MLS transactions already this winter, FC Cincinnati have bolstered their left flank.
Cincy acquired Costa Rican international left back Ronald Matarrita from NYCFC in exchange for $500,000 in GAM, then signed the 26-year-old to a new contract. Matarrita made 106 appearances with NYCFC over five seasons, including starting 19 of the club's 23 games in 2020.
Matarrita is also plenty comfortable going forward, so when Jaap Stam switches to his 3-5-2 formation, then Matarrita can move seamlessly to wingback.
Joe Corona stays in MLS
The very most MLS story of the MLS offseason so far revolves around Joe Corona, which came to a conclusion last week when the midfielder agreed to a contract with the Houston Dynamo. It was a wild ride to get there.
Corona ended the season as an LA Galaxy midfielder, but the Galaxy declined his contract option and left him unprotected for selection during Austin FC's Expansion Draft. Because his contract was declined, Austin would only be able to select his rights, then negotiate a new deal with him. Negotiations didn't go well so, as the Re-Entry Draft approached, Corona didn't opt-out.
He was selected in that draft too, this time by the Dynamo, meaning Houston received his MLS rights. Again, the club would need to agree a contract with the former US international to sign him. There were reports he was probably just going to sign in Liga MX anyway, but he's staying in Houston.
Just adding a little extra spice to the first Houston vs. Austin match.