MLS Transfer Round-Up: Busy first week of 2024

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MLS, Soccer
Columbus Crew’s Steven Moreira, left, and Los Angeles FC’s Denis Bouanga, right chase after the ball in the first half of the MLS soccer championship match, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

We’ve reached the end of the first week of 2024 and several teams in MLS have wasted no time making roster moves in the new year.  A few players returning stateside after not-so-successful stints in Europe, some leaving MLS for their next challenge in another league, and even a couple of big names jumping around teams inside the league – there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get right to it

MLS, Soccer
Columbus Crew’s Steven Moreira, left, and Los Angeles FC’s Denis Bouanga, right chase after the ball in the first half of the MLS soccer championship match, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

MLS Silly Season has begun!

Nico Lodiero to Orlando City SC

After having his contract at Seattle run out after 8 seasons, Midfielder Nico Lodiero joins Eastern Conference contenders Orlando City SC on a one-year deal with an option for 2025.  Lodier scored 58 goals and tallied 95 assists across all competitions for the Sounders, and leads the team all-time in assists. 

Lodeiro is just the 5th player in MLS history to have 6 seasons with 10 or more assists, and played an integral part in Seattle lifting the MLS Cup in both 2016 and 2019, and the CONCACAF Champions League Trophy in 2022.  While Lodeiro will turn 35 this March, Orlando is still getting an experienced veteran in the midfield who can help facilitate chances for players like Facundo Torres and Duncan McGuire. 

I think this is a pretty good pickup for Orlando, who quietly finished Second in the Supporters Shield standings last season and will need the depth for an influx of fixtures this season while competing in the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Legendary French Keeper, Hugo Lloris joins LAFC

After Spending over a decade and almost 450 appearances at Tottenham Hotspur, the legendary French Goalkeeper follows in the footsteps of his former teammate, Gareth Bale, by heading to LAFC near the end of his career. 

Lloris has spent 19 years competing in the top flight of European soccer and led France to consecutive World Cup Final appearances, winning in 2018 and a second-place finish in 2022.  The move to California comes at a time when LAFC has currently not re-signed either of their 2022 MLS Cup-winning keepers John McCarthy or Maxime Crepeau, so I’d expect Lloris to slot in as the #1. 

What’s most surprising about this move, is the price LAFC was able to get Lloris for.  As reported by Tom Bogert at The Athletic, Lloris will make just $350,000 in 2024, which is equal to or less than 26 other keepers in the league.  An absolute steal for LAFC.

MLS Cup Winner John McCarthy to LA Galaxy

Speaking of LA – with Hugo Lloris heading to LAFC, another keeper in California is on the move.  Though it’s not official yet, it seems that John McCarthy is moving across town to join LA Galaxy. 

McCarthy was a huge part in LAFC lifting the MLS Cup in 2022, coming off the bench for an injured Crepeau late in the game, and helping defeat Philadelphia Union in PKs. 

McCarthy was the #1 for much of the 2023 season with Crepeau healing from injury, so it makes sense that McCarthy would want to head out somewhere else to compete for the #1 spot, with Hugo Lloris coming to LAFC.

Kamal Miller with a shock move to Portland Timbers

After having his contract extended just this past October by Inter Miami, Kamal Miller has been traded to Portland Timbers ahead of the 2024 season.  It‘s been a whirlwind of the last 14 months for Miller – who joined Miami in April of last year, just a few months before Messi’s arrival to MLS. 

Miller played an integral part in Miami lifting the first-ever Leagues Cup in 2023 and looked set to be an important piece of Miami’s backline heading into a highly anticipated 2024. 

But sports are a harsh business, and Miller has been tossed to the wayside in Miami’s quest to reconstruct the 2015 Barcelona side. Truthfully though, this is a great pickup for Portland, and Kamal Miller will now join Canadian National teammate Zac McGraw in the Timbers’ backline 

Lionel Messi, front left, and Sergio Busquets, right, jog alongside forward Josef Martinez, center, at the start of a training session for the Inter Miami MLS soccer team Tuesday, July 18, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Yimmy Chara departs Portland Timbers for Junior FC

Okay, so Phil Neville’s got his new CB at Portland Timbers – but it seems his roster build for the 2024 season is far from set. 

On Tuesday it was announced that Colombian side Junior FC has acquired Chara from Portland after 4 seasons with the Timbers. 

Chara didn’t quite live up to expectations with Portland, scoring just 15 goals and 29 assists in 102 appearances with the club, so moving a 32-year-old off the roster and opening up a second DP sport for Portland and Neville to play with is probably the right move for Timbers moving forward.

Brazilian side eyeing move for Timber’s DP Evander 

In more Portland news, it seems another DP sport might open up soon with Brazilian side Flamengo eyeing a move for Portland record signing, Evander.  Evander notched 9 goals and 5 assists in 27 appearances during his first season as a Designated Player with the Timbers.  While many feel Evander didn’t quite reach his full potential in year 1 in MLS, it seems Timbers fans were generally excited to see what year 2 could bring.

It seems that either Evander or Phil Neville might have different plans heading into 2024.  There have been conflicting reports over the last 24 hours, with Tom Bogert at the Athletic saying that while interest is real, Portland doesn’t want to sell and needs a higher bid from Flamengo, while Lizzy Becherano at 90min Football says that while nothing is official yet, Evander is set to depart for Flamengo with a deal expected to be reached soon. 

We’ll have to see how this plays out, but it’s wild to think that Phil Neville might have 3 DP sports to start his time with Portland Timbers. 

Jonathan Mensah joins the New England Revolution 

Thursday afternoon the New England Revolution announced the signing of Free Agent Center Back, Jonathan Mensah.

Mensah joins Revolution with 7 seasons of MLS Experience under his belt, playing 6 with Columbus Crew, where he lifted the MLS Cup in 2020.  Mensah spent the 2023 season with San Jose Earthquakes, but never really seemed to be the ideal fit for Luchi Gonalez’s plans. 

It’s a one-year deal for the 33-year-old CB, with an option for the 2025 season, so it’s a pretty low-risk, high-reward type signing for the Revs, who could use another veteran presence in the backline.

Troy Lesense is close to becoming DC United’s Head Coach 

As reported by The Athletic, Former New York Red Bull interim Head Coach Troy Lesnese is close to completing a move to become DC United’s next Head Coach.  

Lesense took over for Gerhard Struber at Red Bull last season and was an important part in turning a stray ship around and keeping the club’s 14-season playoff streak alive after leading the team to a 10W-9L-4D end to the season.  It was a surprise for many that Red Bull did not renew Lesnese’s contract for the 2024 season, but DC will be happy to snag Lesnese after the Wayne Rooney experiment failed. 

DC has a good foundation for Lesnese to take over, with players like Forward Christian Benteke, Midfielder Mateusz Klich, and RB Aaron Herrera to build off of.

Mandatory Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

Laurent Courtois makes the step up from Columbus Crew 2 to CF Montreal

We’ve got another Head Coaching change to talk about, and this time it’s a name that’s taking over an MLS Club for the first time.  Reported by The Athletic, CF Montreal and former Columbus Crew 2 Head Coach, Laurent Courtois are close to reaching an agreement that would make Courtois the next head coach of the Canadian club. 

Courtois has had a lot of success with Columbus Crew 2 in MLS Next Pro, winning the league’s Championship in 2022, and playing a vital part in the development of academy players such as Mo Farsi, Patrick Schulte, Will Sands, Jacen Ruseell-Rowe, and Sean Zawadski. 

Montreal saw a manager of similar caliber leave for Columbus before the 2023 season in Wilfred Nancy, and are keen to reintroduce the same type of environment for the 2024 season.

Miles Robinson stays in MLS, signs with reigning Supporters Shield Winners 

Announced on Thursday afternoon, Free Agent Miles Robinson has signed with the reigning Supporters Shield Winners in FC Cincinnati on a one-year deal, with an option for the 2025 season. 

Robinson leaves Atlanta after being selected 2nd overall in the 2017 SuperDraft and spending the following 7 seasons in the A. Robinson’s time with Atlanta led him to an MLS Cup title, US Open Cup Title, multiple MLS Best XI accolades, MLS All-Star Appearances, an MLS Defender of the Year finalist, and 27 caps with the United States National team. 

While many feel this move showed a lack of ambition on Robinson’s part, it’s hands down the biggest free agent signing of the off-season and immediately makes Cincinnati a stronger team.

Former Man City Keeper Zack Steffan returns stateside to join Colorado Rapids 

Announced on Thursday, Colorado Rapids have signed former Man City Goalkeeper, Zack Steffan, to a 3-year deal through the 2026 season, with an option for 2027. 

For Colorado to sign Steffan, the Rapids first had to purchase the discovery rights to Steffan from the New England Revolution in exchange for $500,000 in GAM.  The 28-year-old joins Rapids at a difficult time for the club, hoping to be the centerpiece behind a rebuild in Colorado. 

Steffan spent 4 seasons with Manchester City, recording 8 clean sheets in 21 appearances across all competitions with the club, and winning back-to-back Premier League titles and an EFL Cup. Steffan has made 29 appearances for the US National team and surely has hopes of returning to the National team conversation with his move to become Colorado’s #1 and getting consistent playing time. 

Djordje Mihailovic is close to returning to MLS with Rapids 

As reported by Tom Bogert at The Athletic, Zack Steffan isn’t the only player Rapids are looking to bring back to MLS in their rebuild, with Djordje Mihailovic close to signing a deal with Colorado that would break Rapid’s all-time transfer fee. 

The move back stateside comes after a short stint with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar that didn’t quite work out for either side and with Mihailovic looking to re-enter the USMNT conversation, being the focal point in a struggling Rapids team might be his best opportunity to do that.

Rapids weren’t the only MLS team after Mihailovic’s signature, with Portland, Cincinnati, Chicago, LAFC, and Red Bulls reportedly interested in the midfielder.  Though Mihailovic had just 2 goals and 2 assists in 36 appearances for AK, Mihailvovic is a proven MLS player and will improve this Rapids team right away, if they can figure out the best formation to fit in all the quality midfielders they have.

MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 05: Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) plays the ball during the Philadelphia Union versus the CF Montreal game on March 05, 2022, at Montreal Olympic Stadium in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

William Yarbrough close to going San Jose Earthquakes

With the news of Zack Steffan moving to Colorado, former Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough is reported on the move. 

With the 34-year-old’s contract running out at Rapids, Yarbrough is close to completing a move that joins him with Luchi Gonazlez in San Jose

Yarbrough made 107 appearances for the Rapids, and should add some experience to San Jose’s defense – but I do think the starting spot in San Jose is still up for grabs.

Brandon Vazquez leaves MLS for Liga MX

To wrap up the transfers for Week One of 2024, we’ve got another pretty big name leaving MLS in Brandon Vazquez.  Though it’s not official, it’s been reported by The Athletic that FC Cincinnati and USMNT forward Brandon Vazquez is close to completing a move to Liga MX Side CF Monterrey for $7.5 million. 

Vazquez scored 43 goals across all competitions for Cincinnati, playing an important role in turning them from back-to-back Wooden Spoon Winners to Supporters Shield Winners in a matter of 2 seasons.

Once again, some people are a little disappointed that Vazqeuz is heading to Liga MX as opposed to challenging himself in Europe, but it’s another strong pay-day for Cincinnati which gives them plenty of money and time to find a replacement for the 2024 campaign begins.

U.S.s forward Brandon Vazquez (19) celebrates his game-tying goal against Jamaica with forward Cade Cowell (11) during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match Saturday, June 24, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire, David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire, & AP Photo/David Banks