By Ian L. (@ahandleforian)
I’m writing this as Dave Kasper is likely just rolling around his office covered in fax paper shouting orders to his underlings and swinging for the rafters with wild abandon. Yes. The fact that MLS is about to be used as leverage for a much more lucrative move to China for Mesut Ozil shows just how far we’ve come as a league in the last few years. What about Mario Balotelli? DC United is interested and so the dream continues to live, teasing us mercilessly. If there is one thing that Washington DC needs in 2020 it is Mario Balotelli storming around the capital doing crazy Mario Balotelli stuff like, I don’t know, pushing a tourist into the reflecting pool and then handing them $1800 cash. It boggles the mind really. Ola Kamara is already on his way to DC United and someone should probably tell him ahead of time if he’s going to be replaced once again by one of the world’s most infamous soccer personalities. But all that is for later. Right now let’s just close our eyes and imagine DC United setting Wayne Rooney free only to be rewarded with Ola Kamara, Mario Balotelli, and Mesut Ozil. Ha. Nah…
And speaking of Senor Wayne, let us pay him proper tribute here and acknowledge that while he was here he certainly got on with his job and played generally very well. He was the catalyst for DC’s magnificent turn around at the end of last season, played so well that he almost got Luciano Acosta a gig at PSG, and was responsible for what is in my opinion the single greatest play in MLS history. You know what, let’s just watch it again but with Baker Street.
Look, I watched that like 11 times in a row just now while finding the link and so will you. And yes, I know, I know, Acosta tripped that guy but you know what? I honestly... Do. Not. Care. Will Johnson, who has spent most of his career being an objectionable piece of trash to (allegedly) his wife, opponents and officials, wound up with egg on his face, and as far as I’m concerned that fact alone outweighs any of Acosta’s sins and the balance of the world in that moment seemed perfectly dope to me.
Anyway, DC also added Felipe Martins and Ema Boateng in a flurry of moves and should own most MLS castoffs by the close of the window and that’s fine with me as long as they don’t also jump head first into the deceptively shallow pool that is Yamil Asad’s value. Honestly, I’ve never seen internet memeyness so outpace a players actual value to the point that he’s legitimately fooled people into thinking he’s the answer to your problems. Asad is an ok player but not the answer to any team’s problems unless their problems are so minor that adding him would be unnecessary anyway.
Nashville took their first major step towards becoming a real bonafide MLS expansion team by spending about twice as much money as they should have to bring in Anibal Godoy. One of my favorite movies is that Matt Damon/Edward Norton poker movie “Rounders”. It’s not in any way a triumph of cinema, but it’s fun to watch, and it seems like I’ll watch it any time somebody suggests it. I mention this only to talk about what an underrated thespian the great John Turturro is, but also because it has the eminently quotable line
“Listen, here’s the thing, if you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”
Seattle wasn’t a sucker. Portland was. Atlanta wasn’t a sucker. Minnesota was. LAFC wasn’t a sucker and Cincinnati was the biggest sucker we’ve ever seen stumble up to the table, and Nashville… well, we’re not a half hour into the game just yet, but this deal is sure to make Teddy KGB snort the cream filling out of oreos while cackling delightedly. Look, just go watch Rounders if you don’t understand any of the references I’m making. There’s even an MLS game on a TV in the background during one of the best scenes!
The South American Invasion
Signing young and promising South American players is all the rage these days in MLS. Following the success of Miguel Almiron, teams are looking to improve their squad considerably while also securing an asset that may net them some profit a couple of years down the line. I don’t think anybody would argue that this isn’t a good thing. Well, actually, I think there are some people that say that signing young foreigners is stifling the development of our young domestic talent, but I think we all know that these are the same people that leave one star reviews on Yelp because somebody spelled their name wrong on their coffee cup, so let’s not listen to them. LAFC have dipped into South America to procure a promising young Uruguayan named Brian Rodriguez. Signing young South Americans named Brian is a proven strategy I suppose, and just even the theory of LAFC’s attack becoming stronger is a terrifying thought in a league populated by them and a bunch of also-rans.
Meanwhile across town, the Los Angeles Galaxy have once again somehow managed to wind up with a roster carrying four designated players. This is the sort of thing that is supposed to be against the rules, but some “creative” accounting has allowed them to manipulate the cap in such a way as to remain compliant. This isn’t the Galaxy’s first ride on this particular bronco, and so Cristian Pavon, who is on a free loan for the rest of the year, joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nigel de Jong as LA players who are apparently so incredibly stoked to play with Daniel Steres and a smattering of other guys that seem to loathe each other, that they’re willing to forego a salary at anything remotely approaching their actual market value. Honestly, it’s annoying if you’re not an LA Galaxy fan, but I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They’re stretching the rules as far as they can and anybody else who wants to do it too should start yesterday because nobody is going to tighten the Galaxy’s leash. I hate typing this and having this opinion because it just justifies all of those super unpleasant Galaxy fans in my mentions who say things like “maybe if ur club had ambition like ours does u could do it too lol”, to them I’d offer a pointed reminder that they haven’t made the playoffs in two years and for all of the Galaxy’s “ambition”, they aren’t even the most relevant team in their own media market. So chill with the condescension.
San Jose, who have deservedly become the league’s media darlings, may have won the window straight up on the strength of netting 650 thousand allocation dollars in exchange for a player that they had absolutely no further need of. Otherwise, Andres Rios and Carlos Fierro are players that Almeyda really wanted, and if Almeyda thinks they are good and will improve the team, I don’t think anybody is going to question the man. He is doing miracles. He is turning muddy water into artisanal margaritas and sustainable nachos for everybody.
Seattle added Emanuel Cecchini, a center mid with some pretty decent upside, and then also bizarrely Luis Silva, who has not been a good MLS player in some time. Earlier in the season Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey seemed to hint that a DP signing would be incoming, and most assumed that he would target that CM/DM slot. But injuries piled up and it became increasingly obvious that while the CM/DM position was the biggest long-term need, Seattle immediately needed help at forward and on the wing to keep sight of LAFC and secure that number two in the West slot, which would offer them the best opportunity of waiting the longest before eventually being beaten by LAFC in the playoffs. I’m just speculating here, but I think the idea was that bringing in a lower cost CM on loan gave them some flexibility in order to accommodate another attacking piece. I have to assume Silva was not plan A, B, C, or D, but here we are. If Brian Schmetzer and co can somehow find a way to get him back towards his four years ago form the move may indeed prove to have been shrewd. Right now though, Seattle fans are underwhelmed.
Minnesota are the second or third best story of the year depending on how much you’re enjoying the tale of LAFC curbstomping the league. They added a few more pages this week bringing in a promising young Uruguayan attacking midfielder named Thomas Chacon. One wonders what this means for the future of their talisman Darwin Quintero, but there have been some whispers going around that he may not be a Loon next season. While he hasn’t been as incredible as he was last year, he’s still an extremely good player - the best the Loons have, and so I’m a little bit surprised at this move happening in this window. All of that is for next season though, as right now the Loons are chasing the franchise’s first postseason appearance, and if they think Chacon can help them get there, well, march on mighty Loons.
What about the East
Out East, really only Toronto made some big splashes. There was much in the way of consternation following the less than amicable departure of Sebastian Giovinco, but Alejandro Pozuelo has been a force, Jozy Altidore is seemingly healthy and happy (for the moment), and the team dropping a not inconsiderable amount of money on Omar Gonzales, Nicolas Benezet, and Erickson Gallardo seems to indicate that they aren’t giving up on the tail end of 2019. If all of this clicks, Toronto may be a dark horse candidate to emerge from the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Atlanta, who is still quite good, even if their fans don’t think so, made a couple of smart and understated acquisitions in Emerson Hyndman and Mo Adams. I don’t understand why Chicago traded Adams. To be fair, I don’t understand why Chicago does any of the things that Chicago does, but Adams is good young depth for a reasonable price. Hyndman, who also arrived to relatively low fanfare, has slotted in the lineup more or less seamlessly and looks like he’ll be a solid option for them. Justin Meram was brought in to hold down the fort while Barco was away, and I can’t see any reason that Atlanta fans wouldn’t be pleased with what he did with the opportunity.
New England made a big money signing in Gustavo Bou. Bou has looked every bit the part so far and the newly reborn Revolution will be glad they have him. I think Bou is an extremely good player, but it’s not hard to wonder if spending on him was the best use of funds, as it would seem their defensive frailties were a more pressing concern. That being said, New England has proven to be absolutely terrible at identifying defensive talent, so maybe just throwing it at a great attacking piece was the safer option. Not unlike San Jose, it’s really cool to see the progress that has already been made under the new regime, but I’m holding off making any large sweeping judgments until next season. Man, I am so glad Brad Friedel got fired.
Montreal are still, to me, the most confounding team in the league and that picture hasn’t gotten any clearer in this transfer window. Lassi Lappalainen, the latest Bologna loan, is one of the most fun names to say and type, and so that and also scoring a brace on your debut is sure to raise a few eyebrows and expectations for the new guy. Another signing out of the blue was that of Bojan Krkic. I remember watching Bojan first come on to the scene at Barcelona with another MLS legend, Giovani Dos Santos. At the time, I would have told you that he was the most promising looking youngster I’d seen in years and he’d be a major force for Barcelona for years to come. Well, it didn’t exactly go down like all of that, and so while Montreal are hilariously marketing him as “former Barcelona attacker Bojan Krkic”expectations should probably be tempered as the reality is that in the eight years that have passed since then, he’s not exactly impressed at any of the six other clubs he’s been a part of and only scored three goals since the start of the Trump administration. Who knows though? MLS always has the potential to be a new lease on life for a journeyman of Bojan’s caliber. Montreal are holding on tight to that last playoff spot in the east, the return of Piatti and rise of Lassi may well help them keep it.
This article has already gotten way too long and I didn’t want to cut out the paragraph about Rounders so I’m just going to quickhit the rest of this stuff.
Orlando signed a DP Midfielder! If he’s good that will be good!
RBNY signed a winger named Josh Sims. I don’t know anything about that guy!
Philadelphia still look like the best team in the east pound for pound, and they added a couple of depth signings!
NYCFC brought in a Scottish winger which is kind of weird!
Chicago signed Jonathan Bornstein! That is indeed a thing that happened I promise!
Silly Season has ended and now the push for the playoffs begins. Will these new signings bed in quickly? Will they be the late season catalyst that reminds the demoralized team around them that soccer is supposed to be fun? Which of these million dollar assets will wind up paying the best dividends? Which one of these new heroes in waiting will lead their team to MLS Cup glory?
Hah. Just kidding. LAFC are going to win MLS Cup.
See you next time!