By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jun 4, 2021) US Soccer Players – Major League Soccer’s primary transfer window closed on Tuesday night. It hardly made a noise when it did. The end of the first period for signings and trades across the league did deliver a few “at the deadline” moves, but most of the big business happened months ago.
While we might be waiting on the European transfer window to open to see the results of some of that earlier business, we already know what to expect. For at least one team in MLS, a long-expected boost will be landing soon.
The window officially closed on June 1, a month later than is typical. The delay to the planned start of the MLS season caused by labor negotiations also pushed the transfer window back. One potential impact of the later closing date was that clubs might sign players on a free transfer after their contracts came to an end in Europe. That was true in theory, at least. The transfer deadline also applied to trades within MLS, and just one player changed hands at the wire.
This version of the primary transfer window also came amid a global pandemic, with all the financial considerations that implies. MLS lost plenty of money in 2020, $1 billion according to MLS commissioner Don Garber), a blow that naturally trickled down into the roster-building process. Few teams scrambled to pull off deals just ahead of the deadline. Only one, Real Salt Lake, actually added two players via contracts completed during the deadline week. RSL will also shortly add a long-awaited arrival to its forward corps.
US international Bobby Wood signed with Real Salt Lake ahead of this exit from 2. Bundesliga side Hamburg as the European season wound down. At the time of the announcement, RSL was working on several pressing issues. A lack of a clear scoring option at the top of formation made Wood’s signing look like a smart move. The club’s recent attempts to find a trustworthy striker had failed spectacularly.
In 2020, RSL bounced between Designated Player Sam Johnson, former Italy forward, New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi, and converted midfielder Damir Krailach. Both Johnson and Rossi are gone.
The reset for 2021 started with the signing of former US youth international Rubio Rubin who spent last season with San Diego Loyal of the USL Championship. At the time of Rubin’s signing, it wasn’t clear how good he would be. That prompted RSL to recruit Wood, a player who scored 34 goals over ten years in Germany’s top two divisions. The club announced Wood’s signing on April 2.
Wood’s exit from Hamburg had to wait until the end of the 2. Bundesliga season and was further complicated by quarantine requirements upon his arrival in the US. According to RSL general manager Elliot Fall, Wood is just days away as of this writing from joining his new teammates in MLS. He’ll have some time to get adjusted before Real Salt Lake resumes play on June 18.
One of the deadline additions who join Wood in adding to RSL’s roster six games into the campaign is also a forward. In the search for firepower, the club signed 27-year-old Argentinean Jonathan “Jony” Menendez from Independiente. Listed as a Targeted Allocation Money acquisition, Menendez will line up wide when playing in RSL’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
RSL announced the signing of Croatian center back Toni Datkovic on Wednesday, who arrives on a free transfer from Aris Thessaloniki in Greece. Datkovic spent the European season on loan to Cartagena of the Spanish Second Division and will arrive fit for MLS duty.
It’s important to note the conditions under which Real Salt Lake is operating. The club exists in ownership limbo as MLS looks for a buyer. While the team is for sale, new additions join out of contract or on free transfers.
No one outside of Utah added players from outside of the league at the deadline unless we’re giving special dispensation to Orlando for the return of Daryl Dike. That return may be temporary. Although Barnsley passed on its option to purchase Dike’s contract at a set price of $20m, there should be interested clubs in Europe for a summer transfer. Orlando will have to face the problem of moving Dike when he’ll undoubtedly make their team better.
We won’t know whether Orlando City plans on using Dike until their season resumes on July 19. Orlando expects to get Alexandre Pato back from injury in short order, which will take some pressure off of Oscar Pareja to use Dike.
There’s one more move to note, one that falls squarely under the “only in MLS” banner. The Vancouver Whitecaps acquired forward Brian White from the New York Red Bulls for $400,000 in allocation money, with an additional $100,000 going New York’s way if White meets certain performance metrics.
The trade ends a three-plus-year run for White, thrust into the unenviable position of replacing club legend Bradley Wright-Phillips. White scored 15 goals for New York. He’ll look to help a Whitecaps team expecting to be without Canadian striker Lucas Cavallini during the Gold Cup later this summer. If White plays well in Vancouver, both the Whitecaps and the Red Bulls stand to benefit.
The acquisition of White is something of a head-scratcher on paper for Vancouver. They already have Theo Bair and David Egbo on the roster at the center forward position in addition to Cavallini. Egbo has yet to appear for the club.
Most interesting about the White trade is the price tag for a fourth-year pro whose best goal output for a season is eight. The going rate for tradable assets is always in flux in an ever-changing MLS. $400,000 for a player with White’s record would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. It will hardly raise eyebrows in 2021.
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Photo by Jeremy Olson – ISIPhotos.com