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DP transfers inbound? 10 MLS clubs we’re tracking this winter | MLSSoccer.com

DP transfers inbound? 10 MLS clubs we’re tracking this winter | MLSSoccer.com

Designated Player spots, with just three available per club, are a precious commodity in MLS.

These signings come in all different shapes and sizes, almost always garnering the biggest headlines, the most scrutiny and the most anticipation. That’s both because of the price tag (transfer fee/salary) they command and the expectations their roster tag carries.

Now, with the 2024 offseason in full swing, we’ve highlighted 10 clubs that may be busy on the DP front. Who has the flexibility to add a game-changer and club centerpiece (or two) this winter?

Before getting into specifics, remember the New York Red Bulls have acquired DP midfielder Emil Forsberg. Other deals are reportedly close, too.

Current DPs

  • Thiago Almada, M
  • Giorgos Giakoumakis, F
  • Saba Lobjanidze, M/F

“But Atlanta have already filled all three DP spots,” you would rightly note.

We’re highlighting the Five Stripes more for what could happen, knowing Lobjanidze can be bought down in 2024 and Almada is the subject of consistent transfer speculation. If the latter domino falls, the DP scenarios quickly multiply for Atlanta – a club that’s historically spent big.

Barring the unexpected, Giakoumakis is locked in. The reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year, he produced 17g/3a in 27 games this past season.

Current DPs

  • Xherdan Shaqiri, M
  • Jairo Torres, M

The Fire have publicly stated that they’re looking to sign a DP-level striker this winter, so there’s no guessing game around which position they’re targeting.

As that search unfolds, their current striker group includes Tom Barlow, Georgios Koutsias and Kacper Przybyłko. They’re either a long-term investment (Koutsias) or a depth piece (Koutsias and Przybyłko) at this stage of their careers, right?

Also: Chicago’s last double-digit scorer was Robert Berić in 2020. An upgrade would go a long way.

Current DPs

  • Christian Benteke, F
  • Mateusz Klich, M

It’s a new era at D.C. United, with general manager/chief soccer officer Ally Mackay at the wheel after coming over from Nashville SC. And while their primary goal is hiring a head coach after Wayne Rooney’s mutual departure, they’ve had DP flexibility since the club mutually parted ways with Taxi Fountas in early August.

Looking at the Black-and-Red’s roster, they’ve already used DP spots at striker (Benteke) and the No. 8 spot (Klich). Logically, winger and No. 10 could be two areas of focus.

Absent some transfer links, don’t forget D.C. United are approaching rebuild mode. They’ve already added five players, highlighted by fullback Aaron Herrera arriving in a swap-and-trade with CF Montréal whereby Ruan went the other way.

Current DPs

  • Sebastián Ferreira, F
  • Héctor Herrera, M

By declining the 2024 contract option on center back Teenage Hadebe, Houston opened at least one DP spot as they look to build off a US Open Cup title and Western Conference Final appearance.

We say “at least one” up above because it’s easy to envision a world where Ferreira isn’t back next season. The Paraguayan international striker was Houston’s leading scorer in 2022, but didn’t fit into head coach Ben Olsen’s plans and just completed a goalless half-season loan at Brazilian club Vasco da Gama. Maybe a contract buyout, loan or straight-up outbound transfer awaits.

Herrera is their cornerstone player, to state the obvious. He placed on the 2023 MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire, tallying 4g/17a as the emotional heartbeat of Houston’s faster-than-expected turnaround. For any incoming DPs, it’s about complementing the Mexican star.

Current DP

Does Carlos Vela return? And if he does, will LAFC keep him on a DP deal? Nearly three weeks out from their MLS Cup appearance, the captain and figurehead’s future remains a waiting game.

Regardless of how the Vela situation unfolds, LAFC have an open DP spot to potentially fill. Their U22 Initiative math has complicated what type of signing the John Thorrington-led front office can make, but there’s flexibility and an ownership group that’s willing to spend.

There’s also some transfer-related smoke around Bouanga, namely that Ligue 1 title-contender OGC Nice are reportedly interested. If the reigning Golden Boot presented by Audi winner leaves, then the Black & Gold’s offseason gets even busier. But I’m far from convinced Bouanga returns to Europe, a healthy eight-figure transfer bid notwithstanding. He’s too crucial to LAFC’s project.

Current DP

The Galaxy opted to not bring back Chicharito and Douglas Costa for 2024, opening two DP slots alongside Riqui Puig. And early signs, based on comments from general manager Will Kuntz and well-sourced journalists, indicate LA are looking for younger signings – especially from South America – to replace the outgoing stars.

Step in Ramón Sosa (age 24) and Pablo Solari (age 22)…

  1. The Athletic’s Tom Bogert reported that LA made a club-record bid to sign Sosa, a Paraguay international and CA Talleres winger.
  2. Transfer insider César Luis Merlo reported that LA made a near-$10 million bid for Solari, a River Plate winger and former Argentine youth international.

Will either deal pan out? TBD, but the Galaxy are intent on reloading and have some key attacking roles to fill.

Current DPs

  • Martín Ojeda, M/F
  • Facundo Torres, M/F

Orlando opened a DP spot in late summer by transferring Ercan Kara to Samsunspor in Turkey’s Süper Lig. And while they always could pursue another striker, they have US U-23 international Duncan McGuire coming off a fantastic rookie season and U22 Initiative signing Ramiro Enrique looking to level up.

That brings us to the No. 10 spot, already a position of need after early December’s announcement that they mutually parted ways with captain Mauricio Pereyra, who’s since signed with Uruguayan powerhouse/boyhood team Nacional.

Pereyra was a very good player for Orlando, but their ceiling raises a level or two if a top-end chance creator joins Oscar Pareja’s squad. Plus, if they keep Torres amid transfer speculation and Ojeda experiences a Year Two bump, we’re talking about a potential MLS Cup frontrunner.

Current DPs

  • Yimmi Chara, M/F
  • Evander, M

The Timbers are another club with an asterisk around their DP situation and, in their case, it’s because transfer rumors encircle Yimmi Chara. He’s linked with returning to Colombian side Atlético Junior, a move that (on paper) makes sense for all parties if it gets completed.

Portland are guaranteed to have at least one DP spot after declining the 2024 contract option on Jaroslaw Niezgoda, the Polish striker who suffered two different ACL tears during his time in the Rose City.

Given those two situations, an attacking DP signing makes sense – either at winger or striker. How the player fits with Evander and in new head coach Phil Neville’s preferred system are chief considerations, too.

Current DPs

  • Raúl Ruidíaz, F
  • Albert Rusnák, M

It seems all but certain that Seattle will soon acquire Lanús attacker Pedro de La Vega, completing their DP trio. The Argentine youth international would fill the slot vacated by club legend Nicolás Lodeiro, who’s now a free agent.

For those who haven’t seen the de La Vega reports, he’s primarily a winger and has both U-20 World Cup and Olympics experience. He’s posted 17g/13a in 126 matches for Lanús.

Ruidíaz is coming off his least impactful season in Seattle, whereas Rusnák is a central hub in their retooled attack.

Current DPs

  • Andrés Cubas, M
  • Ryan Gauld, M/F

In mid-September, Vancouver opened a DP spot by transferring striker Sergio Córdova to Turkish Süper Lig side Alanyaspor. And while logic might suggest they’d reload with a No. 9, that would mean breaking up their one-two punch of Gauld and Brian White – something that seems both highly unlikely and ill-advised.

So, where might Vancouver turn their recruitment efforts? If reports are true, they’re looking to bring back Richie Laryea after his half-season loan from Premier League side Nottingham Forest.

Laryea, a key player for Canada in the buildup to co-hosting the 2026 World Cup, has proven to be one of MLS’ better fullbacks. Let’s see where that deal ends up.

CF Montréal: Victor Wanyama was Montréal’s only DP in 2023. Will the club pursue more players in that mold or double down on their roster’s current complexion?

Columbus Crew: The defending MLS Cup champions can reportedly buy down Darlington Nagbe’s contract, allowing them to add a DP alongside Diego Rossi and Cucho Hernández. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Minnesota United FC: By declining Ménder García’s 2024 contract option, the Loons opened a DP spot alongside Teemu Pukki and Emanuel Reynoso. When new sporting director/CSO Khaled El-Ahmad gets settled, Minnesota could be more active on this front.

Real Salt Lake: As the Damir Kreilach era ends and sporting director Kurt Schmid adjusts to his new role, RSL have an open DP spot. Star striker Cristian Arango and winger Jefferson Savarino hold slots for now.

San Jose Earthquakes: Jamiro Monteiro’s exit has created DP flexibility for San Jose, who retain Carlos Gruezo and Cristian Espinoza in those spots. Regardless, they’re positioned to add a few starting-caliber players this offseason.

Sporting Kansas City: If Gadi Kinda doesn’t return, which reports indicate might be the case, SKC would have an open DP tag. Last year, Alan Pulido and Erik Thommy were their other DPs.

St. Louis CITY SC: They’ve been more about building a “Designated Team” rather than accumulating Designated Players. But there’s flexibility after striker João Klauss and midfielder Eduard Löwen had that classification in 2023.

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