2018 Key Transfers: Real Salt Lake

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Real Salt Lake and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

For Real Salt Lake, the aim will be starting the 2018 season how they finished the last. Yes, they missed out on the playoffs and yes, defensively they were poor. But Mike Petke got the team playing well over the final months of the season, winning eight of their last 15 games. They finished eighth in the West and missed out on the playoffs on the final day, despite winning. Petke has had the winter to reform the squad ahead of his first full season in charge, so expect them to be a strong outfit in 2018…

Key Signings

Pablo Ruiz: RSL will hope 19-year-old central midfielder Pablo Ruiz can settle quickly and become a key member of the team this season. He joins as a Discovery Signing from Chilean club San Luis, where he made 10 league appearances last season. He represented the Argentina U17’s at the 2015 U17 World Cup but is now poised to represent Chile, if he receives a senior call-up. One to keep an eye on.

Adam Henley: Real Salt Lake’s new regular right-back is set to be Welsh-American defender Henley. He joined the club as a free agent this winter, after leaving Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season. He’s still only 23 but will be hoping to reignite his career in MLS. He was born in Tennessee but moved to England aged two, before rising through the Blackburn academy and into the first team. He has two senior Wales caps to his name and is a player who should make a real impact, if he can recapture his form quickly.

Damir Kreilach: RSL made the move to sign Kreilach from second-tier German side Union Berlin for an undisclosed transfer fee. The 28-year-old midfielder has always wanted to play in the United States and will now be hoping to impress in Major League Soccer. He spent the past five seasons with Union Berlin, scoring 33 goals in 157 appearances for the club.

Brooks Lennon: Lennon isn’t exactly a new signing, given he spent last season with RSL. But his loan move from Liverpool was turned into a permanent transfer this winter, which is a huge boost for the Claret and Cobalt. The 20-year-old attacker played 25 games last season, scoring three goals and picking up four assists. He is one of many youngsters ready to try and lead RSL to success this season and beyond.

Notable Departures

Chris Wingert: After having his option declined at the end of last season, Wingert has decided to call time on a 14-year MLS career. The American full-back played 23 games for RSL last season but has decided now is the right time to retire. He represented Columbus, Colorado and NYCFC but will be mainly remembered for his time with RSL. He played a total of 10 seasons with the Claret and Cobalt, winning the 2009 MLS Cup.

Chris Schuler: Another long-time RSL defender to have his option declined was Schuler. The 30-year-old centre-back has been plagued with injuries, halting him for finding any real consistency. He is a talented defender who has unfortunately had opportunities taken away from him. Schuler had been with RSL since 2010 but played just 21 games over the past three seasons.

Omar Holness: 2016 first-round draft pick Holness departs RSL after two seasons in which he failed to nail down a regular starting berth. The midfielder was seen by many as the long-term replacement for Kyle Beckerman in the RSL midfield but started just six games in two seasons. Last season was supposed to be his year but he was rocked when he suffered a torn ACL in July, that would leave him out for 8-12 months. He is still recovering from surgery but has been signed by USL side Bethlehem Steel FC,  the affiliate of the Philadelphia Union.

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2018 Key Transfers: Chicago Fire

As the 2018 MLS season closes in, we will run through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we look at all Chicago Fire’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in their 2018 MLS campaign…

Chicago Fire were impressive during the 2017 season. Finishing in the top three was a major improvement on the previous year, although they did fall short at the first hurdle in the playoffs. Now it is time for Veljko Paunović’s side to kick on and see if they can reach the playoffs for the second season on the bounce. There have been some high profile departures from the squad with as many as 13 shown the exit door. The Fire have added five new faces so far but it would be a surprise to see their business stop there…

Key signings

Grant Lillard: Tipped as one of the best college soccer players over the last four years, Grant Lillard is an exciting prospect for Chicago. The 6-foot-4 central defender is rated highly by General Manager Nelson Rodriguez who feels he can become a dominant player. Lillard featured in an Indiana University side that conceded just seven goals in 25 games, so it is clear he has the potential to be a future star. While he may not be expected to be a regular starter in his rookie season, he will no doubt be utilised and coming up against some of the best attacking sides in MLS is only going to help him improve his qualities.

Rafael Ramos: Another defender with the potential to make an impact for Chicago. Rafael Ramos is a name familiar to MLS having been at Orlando City since their introduction to the league back in 2015. He’s made 37 appearances in his MLS career so far and at just 23 there is plenty of time for him to become a regular feature of the Fire backline. Providing healthy competition for Matt Polster will be beneficial to improving Chicago’s squad depth.

Jon Bakero: When talking about having a name to live up to, there might not be a huge amount of people who can tell you much about Jon Bakero. He is the son of former Spanish international and Barcelona attacking midfielder Jose Mari Bakero. The 21-year-old is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father and make a name for himself, and while he has not yet played in Europe, his inception into MLS has an impressive back story. He was awarded with the Hermann Trophy as the NCAA’s top player for 2017 and the Class Award during his senior college year. His commitment to college soccer has shown his desire to succeed and signing through the SuperDraft is a clear indication of his efforts paying off. Bakero is going to be one to keep an eye on…

Aleksander Katai: The Serbian has come in on loan from Deportivo Alaves. As a versatile option in either attacking midfield or on the wing he is seen as a positive addition to the Chicago squad and someone who can help fill the void left by recent departures.

Notable Departures 

John Goossens: The loss of John Goossens might not come as too much of a surprise for many, however he will be a player Chicago will miss having in the squad – highlighted by the number of times he featured for the Fire last season. The midfielder made 24 appearances in the 2017 campaign, starting 15. He was an important member of the squad who surprisingly was their second-highest assist provider with four, while he added three more goals himself.

Joao Meira: Chicago’s top four appearances makers were defenders and Joao Meira was one of them. A fundamental part of their backline, he started 27 of his 30 games in 2017 but is now a free agent. After 58 appearances with Chicago during his two seasons with the club he signed a contract with Lorca FC in the Spanish Segunda, although his contract has since been terminated after the side failed to meet their previously agreed terms, leaving him in limbo.

David Accam: The biggest departure from Chicago has to be David Accam – their top scorer in the 2017 campaign. The winger, who as we all know has blistering pace and the ability to create something from nothing, has moved on to Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia Union. He will be a huge miss for the Chicago starting XI and is yet to be replaced with a like-for-like attacker in terms of quality and experience.

Arturo Alvarez: Another Chicago player who has left the club after two seasons is Arturo Alvarez. He has been traded to Houston Dynamo after featuring 25 times during the 2017 campaign. Alvarez netted three goals and provided a further two assists last season but struggled to be selected on a consistent basis having started just 13 games. Despite all that, he was a frequently used squad player who Chicago will be looking to replace with like-for-like experience given that he is about to begin his 15th MLS campaign.

Getting Stuck In: Youth is being served

By David Lewis

The season is about to kickoff. Fresh signings. Fresh kits. Fresh expectations. For many clubs it’s time to roll out their newest, shiny (or rusty) DP that has more wear and tear on its tires than a “68 VW Beetle (See last year’s Drogba model.) But wait, something strange is going on. Front office execs are finally seeing the light. They no longer hang their hats on mid-thirty Europeans like Pirlo (he’s been ok with NYCFC) and Lampard (more Fat Frank than Super Frank). MLS is finally shedding their “retirement league” stigma and going for the twenty-something DP – and in many cases early 20’s. Ok, the league may still revert to their old ways and make a big splash from time to time to up the league’s profile and kit sales (Ibra and Rooney next maybe?), but that’s the exception, we hope.

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Side note: I expect LAFC to make some big over-the-hill signings next year when they join the league, but that’s because it’s Hollywood. It’s a star-driven city, whereas a place like Kansas City doesn’t have the pressure from their fan base to make the big European signing.

So why the seismic shift? Well, the bottom line is that clubs aren’t getting their money’s worth for these aging Euro stars. Gerrard and Lampard played parts of two season each in MLS. Both struggled with injuries which isn’t too shocking since they are geriatric in terms of soccer age. Gerrard played 34 games and Lampard limped around for 29. Considering there are 34 regular season games each year, well, let’s just say they spent more time with the physio than with their teammates. And when it comes to production, the two England internationals managed a combined 20 goals and 18 assists, which is about the same as an average season for Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Yes, I was excited to see my hero Stevie G play in MLS. I even contemplated the sacrilegious move of a getting an LA Galaxy jersey (never did). But I wound up feeling sad that this once great man mailed it in and saw his 18-month stay in the states as a holiday. I will always remember Istanbul Stevie and will try to forget about the LA version.

I may be biased, but I feel (my) Columbus Crew started the trend: Get players in their prime, youngish, who want to play in MLS. Federico Higuain, the brother of Napoli star Gonzalo, has been one of the best midfielders in the league since he arrived at the soccer-prime age of 27. He played in Europe and South America and is the heart and soul of the Crew midfield, spraying passes all over the field with aplomb. His 39 goals and 35 assists over 123 games doesn’t tell the entire story. He’s dedicated to the league, has a great attitude, makes a sixth of what Gerrard made, and is the blueprint for what an MLS DP should be. And most importantly, he doesn’t need a cane to get around the field. (Other recent similar successes include: Giovani Dos Santos, Ignacio Piatti, Diego Valeri and Nicolás Lodeiro).

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2017 expansion side Atlanta United have taken it to a new level with their youth movement. Let’s call this MLS 3.0.

Instead of taking established players in their mid-to-late-twenties as their DPs, as has been the trend the last few years, they are blending in signing players with raw potential from Central and South America who are closer to teen age. That means some hefty transfer fees (by MLS standards) so they can beat out European clubs for player signatures. This has never happened before in MLS. Ever.

Here are some of the young blood DPs on MLS rosters right now, ahead of the opening weekend of the new season, some of whom are the envy of the soccer world:

  • Atlanta United have signed three South American DPs. Josef Martinez (23) from Venezuela is on loan from Serie A side Tornio with an option to buy at the end of the season. Hector Villalba (22) is from Argentina and Miguel Almiron (22) from Paraguay.
  • Houston Dynamo have Mauro Manotas (21), a Columbian Under-21 international and Alberth Elis (21) from Honduras, who is currently the youngest DP in MLS.
  • DC United have Luciano Acosta (22) from Argentina, looking primed for a fine second season in the league.
  • FC Dallas have Carlos Gruezo from Ecuador (21) and have added Christian Colman (22) from Paraguay this offseason, a man expected to fire in plenty of goals this year.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps have brought in Yordy Reyna (23) from Peru; not a DP but TAM was used to buy his contract down.

So yes, the Wayne Rooney’s of the world will probably make the trip stateside sooner rather than later. And hopefully Wayne will be more Robbie Keane and David Villa and less Lampard and Gerrard. But MLS 3.0 is the new trend. Hopefully these raw young talents will help MLS become a legitimate league that can grow a player’s career.

Youth might be wasted on the young. MLS can’t afford to do that in 2017.

Are Manchester United failing in this summer’s transfer window?

It is no secret that Manchester United have missed out on a number of their transfer targets this summer, but are they failing by not adding players they so desperately need in this window?

United have added some world class players to their squad, there is no doubting that, but they have also missed out on some high caliber names, which could arguably be the difference in mounting a strong title challenge and waiting another season.


Players signed (as of August 24, 2015):

– Sergio Romero – Free
– Matteo Darmian – £12.7m
– Morgan Schneiderlin £25m
– Bastian Schweinsteiger £14.4m
– Memphis Depay £31m


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Louis Van Gaal’s side have started the new Premier League season with two 1-0 wins and a 0-0 draw, but the Dutch manager is still rumoured to be looking to strengthen his squad before next Monday’s deadline.

Strengthening the defence as well as the attack appear to be absolute necessities if United are to challenge for the title this year, but with just a week to go in the summer transfer window, the club have missed out on almost as many key targets as those who have signed.

United were heavily linked with moves for FC Barcelona’s Pedro, who has ended up signing for Chelsea, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who has signed a new five-year contract with Los Blancos and Nicolas Otamendi, who has signed for fierce rivals Manchester City.

Despite talk of needing a world class centre-back, Van Gaal’s side haven’t conceded a league goal in their opening three games. But there are many who believe the Red Devils need a new striker as Wayne Rooney has now gone 858 minutes without scoring a Premier League goal and is struggling in the lone striking role this term.

Van Gaal has insisted he does not need a striker and is happy with his options, as reported by ESPN.

“I have a lot of options. I have chosen Chicharito [Hernandez], because he is another type from Rooney, and we have also Fellaini, who is another type, then I have Wilson and Januzaj, so I don’t think we need a striker.”

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Speculation will continue to mount regarding whether or not United need another attacking option the longer their goal scoring troubles go on in league play. With seven days remaining in the transfer window there is still plenty of time for potential deals to go ahead, but United may be ruing missed chances at this stage as panic buys could be on the way.