Your Monday Kickoff: Why Sean Johnson may make Toronto FC contenders | MLSSoccer.com
Apple and Major League Soccer add 31 broadcasters for MLS Season Pass
Apple and Major League Soccer today announced a second round of on-air personalities who will join MLS Season Pass, the unprecedented subscription service that launches Feb. 1 on the Apple TV app in more than 100 countries and regions. The 31 new additions bring a wealth of MLS and international soccer experience, both as announcers and players, to the MLS Season Pass team. They join 18 others who were announced earlier this month.
Copa América 2024 to be hosted in USA
Copa América 2024 is coming to the United States two summers from now, Conmebol and Concacaf jointly announced Friday. South America’s preeminent international tournament will include 10 Conmebol nations and six Concacaf guest nations, with the latter group qualifying via the 2023-24 Concacaf Nations League. Copa América 2024, co-organized by both confederations, arrives two years before the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be co-hosted by the US, Canada and Mexico. Additionally, Conmebol and Concacaf will organize a centralized “final four” style club competition featuring the best clubs from the respective confederations.
Happy Club World Cup Week
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Seattle Sounders are competing in the Club World Cup. The competition begins this week as Seattle take on the winner of Auckland City FC (New Zealand) and Al Ahly SC (Egypt) on Feb. 4. The winner then faces Real Madrid. All in Morocco!
Toronto FC sign USMNT goalkeeper Johnson in free agency
Toronto FC’s search for a starting goalkeeper has ended with one of MLS’s top free agents: US men’s national team veteran Sean Johnson. The Reds announced Friday they’ve signed the 33-year-old, who had been New York City FC’s captain and served as a USMNT backup at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He joins through the 2024 MLS season using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).
Colorado Rapids sign Danish defender Maxsø to DP deal
The Colorado Rapids have acquired Danish international center back Andreas Maxsø from Brøndby IF, the club announced Friday. The 28-year-old defender’s deal runs through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. He’ll occupy a Designated Player roster spot alongside forward Kévin Cabral, who was acquired in a trade with the LA Galaxy earlier this winter. Maxsø captained his former Danish Superliga squad, helped them win the 2020-21 league title and departs with seven goals and two assists in 112 games for the club.
NYCFC land goalkeeper Freese in trade with Philadelphia Union
New York City FC have acquired a possible starting goalkeeper for the 2023 MLS season, announcing Friday they’ve landed Matt Freese in a trade with Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia Union. Freese, a 24-year-old former US youth international, was acquired for a guaranteed $350,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). The Union will receive a percentage of a future transfer fee and could get an additional $400k in conditional GAM. The move went official shortly after longtime NYCFC starting goalkeeper and captain Sean Johnson signed with Toronto FC in free agency.
New York Red Bulls transfer Patryk Klimala to Israeli Premier League side
The New York Red Bulls have transferred striker Patryk Klimala to Israeli Premier League side Hapoel Be’er Sheva and maintain a sell-on fee, the club announced Sunday. The move opens a Designated Player spot for the Red Bulls and ends a two-year MLS stint for the 24-year-old former Polish youth international. He produced 13 goals and 10 assists in 57 league games (46 starts) after joining in April 2021 from Scottish powerhouse Celtic FC.
Sean Johnson has a new home, NYCFC have a new ‘keeper and Colorado have a second DP (what a world). Let’s talk it out.
Toronto missed the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. They had to wait a little too long for Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi to arrive and then waited all season for their defense to look average. An average defense probably gets them to the playoffs, even if Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio’s injuries would have kept them from truly reaching their ceiling. Now, Kaye and Osorio are healthy, Insigne and Bernardeschi are settled in, and the Reds may have just locked in the final piece of a defense that could actually be above average.
Earlier this offseason, Toronto won the race for longtime FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges. It’s one of the biggest and best free agent signings this winter – a perfect fit for a team in dire need of a defensive boost. On Friday, they won the race for longtime NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson and took another huge step toward solidity at the back.
Now, I’ll be upfront and say I have a couple of concerns. In a vacuum, TAM deals for goalkeepers aren’t the best use of resources in MLS. And, by the numbers, Johnson’s shot-stopping hasn’t been elite as of late. In fact, his per-96 numbers were slightly worse than last year’s starter for Toronto, Alex Bono (now of D.C. United). Since Johnson became NYCFC’s starter in 2017, he’s only kept out goals at a higher rate than the expected goals he’s faced in one season. Statistically, he’s generally been average.
However, he’s also been consistent. I wouldn’t qualify any of his seasons with New York as bad. There’s clearly a floor with Johnson. That makes him different from a lot of goalkeepers. For a Toronto team that just needs to hang on enough each game to allow their conference-best wingers to cook, that should be worth it. In addition to added security from Hedges, it should also be enough to make them a genuine threat in the Eastern Conference.
Shortly after Johnson signed with Toronto, NYCFC announced they’d picked up Matt Freese from Philadelphia. I’ll spare you how much I appreciate the excellent business by Philly to get $750k in GAM for their backup goalkeeper and instead focus on what it means for NYCFC.
We’ve mentioned it a few times, but NYCFC have a long way to go with their roster build. Freese at least makes up for one departure… However, it’s one of very few moves the Cityzens have made so far this offseason. And, uh, they really should start making some moves.
They haven’t truly replaced Heber and Taty Castellanos at striker, and you can’t convince me Talles Magno is going to figure it out there. There’s a massive empty space where Maxi Moralez used to be. Plus Alex Callens is gone and let’s just say I’m not sure Tony Alfaro is going to be the answer.
On top of all that, Freese has started just 12 games in a four-year MLS career. For $750k in GAM you have to assume he’s going to be the Johnson replacement, and, well, there are a lot of unknowns there. There are a lot of unknowns everywhere for an NYCFC team that limped through the middle of the 2022 season until rounding into form at the very, very end.
I don’t know what the answers are to those unknowns, but I do know there are very real concerns to keep an eye on through the rest of the offseason as we wait for one of the league’s most successful clubs to make moves.
FOR THE FIRST. TIME. EV……..[checking]………FOR THE FIRST. TIME. SINCE. 2018. The Rapids have a second DP. That’s excellent news for Robin Fraser and a team that deserved two or three DPs after 2021’s record-breaking year and never got them.
Having two DPs shows some increase in ambition, but a relatively unknown center back and a well-known, underperforming winger don’t really move the needle like we see at some other clubs. Although, it is important to remember for all of the Rapids’ frustrating struggles last year, they weren’t that far away from a return trip to the playoffs. Yes, it should have been so much more than that. But even with a relatively depleted roster, Fraser still almost led the Rapids to a late-season charge that nearly put them over the line.
Will new DPs Andreas Maxso and Kevin Cabral (along with former Wolves midfielder Connor Ronan and the return of Cole Bassett) be enough to get them back to the playoffs? You know, maybe? It wouldn’t be totally farfetched. The starting XI looks solid-to-good at the very least. The Rapids may be one more DP away though before I can trust myself with getting excited about them again.
(C’mon Rapids, you know you want to.)
Austin FC sign center back Tarek after Egypt stint: Austin FC have added their second center back of the offseason, announcing Friday they’ve signed Amro Tarek through the 2023 MLS season with an option for 2024. The 30-year-old was last at Al Masry SC in the Egyptian Premier League, moving overseas in 2021 after two-and-a-half seasons at the New York Red Bulls. He also had loan spells with Columbus Crew in 2016 and Orlando City SC in 2018, contributing to two goals and one assist across 66 MLS regular-season appearances (58 starts).
Jungwirth retires, joins Vancouver Whitecaps coaching staff: Longtime defender Florian Jungwirth announced his retirement from professional soccer on Friday, putting an end to an extensive career that spanned 15 years – the final seven of them in Major League Soccer with the San Jose Earthquakes and, most recently, Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The 34-year-old former center back, who was out of contract following the 2022 season, will immediately transition to Vancouver’s technical staff as an assistant to head coach Vanni Sartini.
Inter Miami loan Rodríguez to Mexico’s Santos Laguna: Inter Miami CF have loaned winger Emerson Rodríguez to Liga MX side Santos Laguna through the end of 2023. The deal for the 22-year-old Colombian attacker, who joined the Herons in January 2022 from Millonarios FC, includes a purchase option for Santos. He originally signed with Miami via MLS’s U22 Initiative roster mechanism.
USMNT close out January camp with scoreless draw vs. Colombia: The US men’s national team finished out January camp with a lively 0-0 draw in a Saturday evening friendly with Colombia at the LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park. Fielding a rotated starting XI from the one that fell 2-1 on Wednesday to Serbia, the US had their chances in a back-and-forth match, but ultimately settled for a scoreless deadlock against a Colombian side that featured six MLS players in their matchday squad.
Good luck out there. Take your brand worldwide.