The MLS season is upon us and even though the global coronavirus pandemic has affected the finances of many, clubs in the league have nonetheless had a pretty busy winter / spring transfer window.
It’s a bit of a paradox, given that the Players’ Association recently had to make concessions …
That’s another topic for another day!
Some teams had more leeway and they took advantage of it. Others have chosen not to invest more, but to invest better (best regards to Olivier Renard). We also saw a few “intra-MLS” transactions that made noise.
There are clubs that have completely changed their face, others have stuck to adjustments.
We have not been idle in the offices. And that sets the stage for a season which, in sporting terms, still promises to be exciting.
So here is a series of transfers that have garnered attention in MLS over the past few months.
The big name: Alexandre Pato, striker, Orlando City
Most ball fans remember the hopes the Brazilian had in Milan a dozen years ago, when he was still a teenager. Pato hasn’t done badly since, but he never became the expected world-class player. The 31-year-old striker remains talented and if he comes back from a lackluster stay in Sao Paulo, he did a lot of work in his seasons in China between 2017 and 2019. Orlando only granted him one one-year contract, at a very reasonable salary, despite his fame and the fact that European teams apparently gave him soft eyes. Pato is playing big for the rest of his career, and Orlando are a team headed in the right direction. If the mayonnaise sets (and prevents injury), be careful.
Photo credit: AFP
Big game of poker: Brenner, forward, Cincinnati
After two pitiful first seasons in MLS, soon to be opening their new stadium, FC Cincinnati took the bull by the horns over the winter and going for some big hits in the transfer market. Perhaps most striking of all is the acquisition of 21-year-old forward Brenner from Sao Paulo, Brazil, for more than $ 13 million. Brenner is normally the kind of player who, leaving Brazil, goes straight to Europe. But times are changing and MLS is attracting, as our analyst Patrice Bernier recently reminded us. The new number 9 of « Cincy » had 21 goals and four assists in 39 games in the Brazilian league. He has the potential to become a big star in MLS … and be sold out pretty quickly, at a high price, if that is the case.
The beautiful risk: Victor Vazquez, attacking midfielder, Galaxy of Los Angeles
Five-time winner of the MLS Cup, the Galaxy shines no longer shines as before and for several years, despite the passage of the inimitable Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2018 and 2019. Looking for a new challenge, coach Greg Vanney left Toronto FC to come and take up the Galaxy and in particular brought, in his wake, attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez, who had been very successful under his command in the Queen City a few years ago.
Vazquez, at 34, is not getting any younger, but he may well help the expensive striker Javier « Chicharito » Hernandez, who disappointed a lot in 2020 and who is still capable of doing much better.
Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Curiosity: Lisandro Lopez, forward, Atlanta United
This one, even if it is undoubtedly explained by the relationship between the new Atlanta coach, Gabriel Heinze, and Lopez, remains confusing. In a league that favors youth more than ever in its history, here is Lopez who arrives, at 37, after stints in Lyon, Porto, and the Racing Club in Argentina (among others). However, it should be noted that “Licha”, in addition to a more complicated last season in Argentina, has never stopped scoring. In Atlanta, we see him as a leader among young players, and we can’t wait to see if he can combine well with Josef Martinez, who will surely have long teeth after missing most of the 2020 season.
Photo credit: AFP
Intra-MLS exchange: Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal)
Mihailovic is generally the kind of athlete that an MLS team does not trade: the American, at 22, is a promising player who could one day find himself in the big European leagues and bring back, from at the same time, a nice sum at the club which lets him go.
This is undoubtedly the objective behind the acquisition of the attacking midfielder by the Football Club. Mihailovic, emeritus passer and striker in his spare time, has what it takes to take on big responsibilities in Montreal. It cost nearly $ 1 million in allowance money and athletic director Olivier Renard probably wants more in the future. In the meantime, Mihailovic will have to make his talent speak. He could well achieve this in a convincing way in 2021.
Photo credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
The new coach: Gabriel Heinze, Atlanta United
Atlanta United has had a hugely disappointing 2020 season. Between the injury to Josef Martinez, the crash at the « MLS is back » tournament and the dismissal of coach Frank de Boer, the 2018 MLS Cup champion was no longer a shadow of what he had offered. at MLS since entering the circuit four years ago.
It is therefore the former defender of PSG and Manchester United (in particular) Gabriel Heinze who will have the task of restoring the situation. After a stint at the helm of Velez Sarsfield, the Argentinian will drive a talented club which will find Martinez in addition to having made some interesting acquisitions in recent months.
The spotlight will be on Heinze this year, but he has the tools to do well.
Photo credit: AFP
The good shot under the radar:
There are a few and it was difficult to choose. Here are four:
Wilfrid Kaptoum, midfielder, New England Revolution
24 years. Former Barcelona and Betis Seville who touched on several levels in Spain. We imagine him combining with Carles Gil in midfield. The « Revs » are likely to be one of the best teams in the East this year.
Derrick Williams, center-back, Los Angeles Galaxy
28 years old, comes from Blackburn in the English second division, Irish international. The Galaxy is in serious need of improvement in defense and Williams appears, in this sense, a sober acquisition that could pay big.
Bjorn johnsen, forward, CF Montreal
A great 6’5 » striker, Johnsen has this profile of a powerful player that the Montreal club has not often been able to count in its squad since his arrival in MLS in 2012. At 29 years old, the Norwegian (born in the United States ) has seen the country, while arriving from Korea after passing through the Netherlands, Portugal, Bulgaria and Scotland, among others. He scored quite a few goals three years ago in the Netherlands and he did very well (five goals in nine appearances) in the Asian Champions League, which he won with Ulsan Hyundai before being transferred to Montreal. Could greatly help the Soccer Club this year.
Kevin Molino, attacking midfielder, Columbus Crew
Molino is no stranger in fact, but his stint at the Crew did not generate much talk last January. And yet, the one who did very well with Minnesota United in the last qualifiers will strengthen a champion and improved Crew, which may still be very tough in 2021.
The Austin case
Austin FC will be playing their first season in MLS in 2021 and let’s say that at first glance, the assembled team could be very competitive. Sporting director Claudio Reyna and coach Josh Wolff have used their excellent knowledge of the league to build a possession-oriented squad, counting on several players who have already proven their worth in MLS. We are talking about players such as Nick Lima, Ulises Segura, Diego Fagundez, Matt Besler, Kekuta Manneh or Julio Cascante.
They also took out the dollars for a few specific cases, like midfielder Alex Ring, obtained from New York City FC, Paraguayan winger / striker Cecilio Dominguez, or even Tomas Pochettino, who is capable of doing stuff like this:
Austin in the playoffs this year? It is plausible.
The soap opera: Daryl Dike, attacker, Orlando City
In fact, Dike is already in MLS: the soap opera concerns his possible transfer to England which has been the subject of a growing number of rumors since Orlando City loaned him to Barnsley in the winter.
It is because Dike, a 21-year-old American striker chosen for the SuperDraft in 2020, is a hit in the English second division after being excellent in his first season in MLS last year.
Good to the point where Premier league teams are ready to stretch the millions to Orlando City to get it. The Florida club are greedy and procrastinating on the possibility of seeing Dike again with the « Lions » in 2021. It is a fascinating file in several ways, whether it is the quality of the player, the fact that he comes from the SuperDraft, his instant success wherever he goes and this growing interest of big clubs around the world in MLS players.
Let’s see what will happen with him.
Photo credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Lucho Acosta returns to MLS and joins FC Cincinnati, which made an explosive transfer window
Tim Parker is acquired from the Red Bulls by Houston, which strengthens its defense and will present a rather renewed face in 2021
MLS midfielder Wil Trapp heads to Minnesota
Rodrigo Piñeiro, 21-year-old Uruguayan winger who may spice up Nashville SC attack
At 25, French midfielder Remi Walter left Europe and landed in Kansas City. He has more than 150 Ligue 1 and 2 matches on the clock.
The Whitecaps have reportedly paid around $ 2.5 million to get their hands on Colombian Deiber Caicedo, a fast and aggressive 20-year-old winger who already has 69 games under the tie at the professional level.
The name of the late: Silvester van der Water, Orlando City. The 24-year-old winger arrives from Heracles, Netherlands. Left paw. Two-year contract. Drinking 2020-2021 season in the Dutch first division. Blase to break everything.
We wish good luck to: Evan Bush, goalie, Columbus Crew. After moving from Montreal to the Whitecaps last fall, Bush returns home, where he will likely be a backup goaltender. We can only wish good luck to this fellow who was appreciated here.