The MLS summer transfer window closes on Aug. 2, and while there’s already a lot happening, there’s also a lot still to come.
Here’s the latest I’m hearing around MLS as clubs look to push deals over the line. One caveat: MLS clubs can still add free agents after the window closes until the roster freeze on September 13. This is particularly interesting for one team (which I’ll get to later), but the bulk of these moves will come before the summer window closes.
Philadelphia Union — Ernst Tanner signs new deal; Tai Baribo incoming
Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner has signed a contract extension with the club, sources with direct knowledge of the deal tell The Athletic.
Tanner is the reigning MLS sporting executive of the year, the architect of Philly’s squad that advanced to MLS Cup final last season and was second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. His current deal was set to expire at the end of 2023.
Tanner originally joined at the end of the 2018 season after a career in Europe with RB Salzburg, Hoffenheim and 1860 Munich. Philadelphia has become a model MLS franchise over the last half-decade since his arrival, routinely finishing at or near the top of the Eastern Conference despite being at or near the bottom of the league in salary spending.
The Union won its first trophy in 2020 (Supporters’ Shield), advanced to its first CONCACAF Champions League semifinal (2021, then again in 2023), advanced to its first Eastern Conference final (2021, then again in 2022) and first MLS Cup final (2022) under Tanner. Reigning MLS Coach of the Year Jim Curtin signed a contract extension this month, as well.
Additionally, the Philadelphia Union is finalizing a deal for Israeli international forward Tai Baribo from Wolfsberger AC, sources involved in the deal tell The Athletic.
Baribo, 25, had 16 goals and three assists in 32 appearances (2,362 minutes) in the Austrian Bundesliga last season. He has three goals and has earned 11 caps for the Israel national team.
Vancouver made a few bids this winter to sign Baribo, but couldn’t get a deal done. His contract expires in a year, helping facilitate a deal for Philly.
The deal does not mean an exit is imminent for star Union forward Julian Carranza. The Union plays with two forwards, so having three capable starters between Baribo, Carranza and Mikael Uhre is ideal. Plus, it offers insurance for an eventual Carranza departure.
Carranza, 23, has interest from Europa League clubs. The market continues to heat up but Philly hopes to keep the forward until the winter. Baribo offers insurance if an offer that is too good to refuse comes in following the close of MLS’ summer transfer window, though.
There’s nothing new on Kai Wagner, either. His contract is up at the end of the season and, after a few extension offers were declined, there aren’t any current discussions happening. It’s looking more likely he’ll stay through the end of the season and reassess when he hits free agency. Ditto for right back Olivier Mbaizo, who requested a transfer after visas were denied for his son and wife.
There could be more movement for players outside the first team picture at the moment — potential loans out, like the club facilitated for Brandan Craig to join Austin FC.
Nashville SC — Sam Surridge, DP forward
Nashville has signed English forward Sam Surridge from Nottingham Forest for about $6.5 million up front (according to The Athletic’s Daniel Taylor) as a designated player.
Surridge, turning 25 this week, has bounced around the English pyramid from the Premier League to the third tier. His goals were important to getting Nottingham promoted, but he didn’t quite crack the rotation in the top flight, so he was looking to move on for more playing time.
Surridge fits the mold for what Gary Smith wants from his center forward: An aerial threat, big body and potential for goals. Nashville has sought to find a running mate for reigning MLS MVP and current golden boot leader Hany Mukhtar. They believe Surridge is the solution.
Between stints with Forest, Stoke City and Bournemouth, Surridge had 17 goals and four assists in 86 Championship appearances (25 starts, 3,082 minutes).
Inter Miami — U-22 initiative deals in the works, big-name links
The Inter Miami roster at the start of the transfer window is going to be vastly different than the one exiting the window.
Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Diego Gomez have all been signed already, and the club is working on more, as well.
Gomez hits the roster via the U-22 initiative. Miami is looking to fill the other two spots with Argentines Facundo Farias (attacker) and Tomas Aviles (center back).
Managing owner Jorge Mas said a deal had been reached for Farias. Miami also traded for an international roster spot, which would facilitate adding Farias to the roster, but no deal has been finalized or announced yet.
Farias, 20, has made 95 first-team appearances with CA Colon. Likely slotting in as a winger for Miami if the deal gets done, he can also play in the midfield.
Aviles, 19, has made 19 appearances for Racing Club. The latest reports say Miami has had a bid rejected. Manager Tata Martino has been pushing for Gomez, Farias and Aviles.
The reports surrounding Luis Suarez refuse to go away, too. The latest in South America suggests Suarez continues to push for a Gremio exit, and has even offered to return money to the club in order to get out of his deal. Sergio Ramos was linked with a move to Inter Miami as well.
Austin FC — Matt Hedges in soon
Speaking of Austin and center backs, the club is finalizing a deal to add Matt Hedges from Toronto FC. The deal is expected to be for $500,000 GAM.
Hedges, 33, signed with Toronto in free agency last winter after previously spending his entire career with Austin rival FC Dallas. Hedges made 14 appearances for Toronto after 310 with Dallas, making his MLS debut in 2012. Hedges is Dallas’ all-time leader in appearances and gets to return to Texas, where he and his family are comfortable.
Austin has lacked depth in central defense this season but has already added U.S. youth international Brandan Craig on loan from the Philadelphia Union and is now close to bringing Hedges into the group. Julio Cascante and Leo Vaisanen are the club’s two top natural options in central defense heading into the summer transfer window.
Toronto FC — Another rebuild underway
Head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley was fired just days before the summer transfer window officially opened. New GM Jason Hernandez has wasted no time turning over the squad.
Toronto has traded away Mark-Anthony Kaye while the aforementioned deal to send Matt Hedges to Austin is imminent. The loan for Richie Laryea expired at the end of June. The club also sent Ayo Akinola on loan to the San Jose Earthquakes, a deal that includes a purchase option for the Quakes.
TFC has signed Franco Ibarra and Latif Blessing already, and more moves will happen. There continues to be rumors about the future of Italian DPs Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, as well.
Oh yeah. Simultaneously to revamping the roster, Toronto is amidst a coaching search for Bradley’s successor.
Ideally, the right candidate would be identified, hired and ready to go early in August to have a few weeks with the group before resuming MLS play on August 20, but that may not be realistic. The club won’t rush into a decision just for the sake of having a full-time manager in place early. Terry Dunfield is current interim manager.
D.C. United — Palsson out; Pirani in and working on more
KAS Eupen is finalizing a deal to sign midfielder Victor Palsson from D.C. United, sources involved in the deal tell The Athletic.
Palsson, 30, joined D.C. from Schalke last summer. The midfielder made 28 appearances in MLS.
The move opens further roster flexibility for D.C., which is finalizing a deal to sign Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Pirani. United is hopeful that they’ll make another addition or two before the summer transfer window closes.
Pirani, 21, made 24 appearances at Fluminense in 2023. He has made 77 appearances for Santos since his professional debut in 2020.
Then there’s the future of DP forward Taxi Fountas. He is currently away from the team while he’s under investigation for allegedly directing a racial slur at teammate Nigel Robertha.
This is the second such investigation into Fountas within the last year, as he was previously accused of directing a racial slur at Jamaican international Damion Lowe in a game against Inter Miami last year. That investigation concluded with the league saying the accusation was “credible,” but no further action was taken against Fountas because they could not independently verify what he said.
LAFC — Cifuentes to Rangers; Young DP search
LAFC made its first incoming move of the summer, adding forward Mario Gonzalez from Braga. The Spanish center forward, who can also play on the wing, adds another option to the attack after LA traded Mahala Opoku to CF Montreal.
They’re not expected to be done. LAFC remain in the market to sign a young DP, likely to be used in attack.
As far as outgoings, the Jose Cifuentes saga will soon end.
Rangers are finalizing a deal to sign Cifuentes from LAFC, sources with direct knowledge of the deal tell The Athletic.
Cifuentes’ contract is up this winter and a pre-contract agreement was set with the Scottish club in January, but Rangers will pay a fee to sign him immediately. The deal is pending medical and paperwork.
The 24-year-old Ecuador international joined LAFC in 2020 a few months after staring at the U-20 World Cup. He’s made 121 appearances for the club. He was a key cog in LAFC’s MLS Cup/Supporters’ Shield double winning team last year, appearing in all but one of the club’s 37 league games between the regular season and playoffs. He had seven goals and six assists last year.
Portland Timbers — Winger soon, nothing new on Moreno
The Portland Timbers are closing in on adding a young, dynamic winger. The deal isn’t quite finalized yet, but sources at the club are confident.
Portland came into the summer window looking to add a starting caliber center back (immediately) and a young winger (at some point). Peru international Miguel Araujo arrived at the beginning of the window as hoped, and now they’re closing in on a winger.
In that attack, Colombian international Santi Moreno filed a transfer request a few weeks ago and was an unexcused absence from a few training sessions after he did so. But he returned to Portland before long, with his agent, for talks with the club.
Moreno made his return to training and then game action, coming off the bench in Portland’s 2-0 Leagues Cup win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Portland waived right back Pablo Bonilla last week.
CF Montreal — Colombia youth international center back Fernando Alvarez
CF Montreal is finalizing a deal to sign Colombian youth international center back Fernando Alvarez from CF Pachuca, sources involved in the deal tell The Athletic.
The deal will be for around $1 million. Montreal acquired Alvarez’s MLS discovery rights from Inter Miami, who was among a handful of MLS clubs interested in signing him, as well as clubs in Europe.
Alvarez, 19, represented Colombia at the U-20 World Cup. He has made one appearance with the Pachuca senior side, breaking through from their academy. He is eligible for Mexico and the United States at the international level, as well.
Montreal added forward Mahala Opoku from LAFC earlier this summer in a trade with $1.75 million GAM, one of the most expensive in league history. Opoku has since signed a contract extension with Montreal.
LA Galaxy — Free agent market after transfer ban
The LA Galaxy kind of has a loophole around their summer transfer ban. This summer, the club cannot sign players from abroad.
The language of the ban states that it runs through the end of the secondary transfer window (Aug. 2). However, MLS clubs can sign free agents after the window closes until Sept. 2, the MLS roster freeze date. Starting Aug. 3, the Galaxy can sign free agents from abroad, just like any other MLS team.
The Galaxy is actively scouting and pursuing this route, sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking tell The Athletic.
With all three DP spots filled, the Galaxy has some restrictions but do have room to push for additions.
Houston Dynamo — Ferreira loan to Vasco, Carrasquilla market heats up
Vasco da Gama is finalizing a deal to sign Paraguayan forward Sebastián Ferreira on loan from the Houston Dynamo, sources involved in the deal tell The Athletic.
The move will not open up a designated player (DP) spot for the Dynamo, however. When a DP is loaned out of MLS, the size of the transfer fee (offset potentially by any loan fee received) impacts whether or not a DP spot will be freed up. Ferreira was signed in 2021 for a club-record fee reported to be $4.3 million.
Ferreira fell out of favor under new head coach Ben Olson. The loan gives him a chance at regular playing time again, hopefully setting up a more valuable winter transfer, if all goes well.
Interest continues to swirl around Panamanian midfielder Coco Carrasquilla. He won the Gold Cup Golden Ball (given to the tournament’s best player), leading Panama to the final.
No deal is imminent, but his future increasingly looks to be back in Europe. Houston acquired Carrasquilla from Spanish club FC Cartagena in 2021.
Atlanta United — Looking for TAM-able DP
Non-MLS fans may think the line above is a different language, and it may as well be. Atlanta United is in the market for a DP who can be bought down in the winter, thus maximizing future flexibility.
Atlanta transferred DP winger Luiz Araujo to Flamengo to kick off the summer. Sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking say there is no truth to the reports linking the club with Fenerbahce winger Diego Rossi, formerly of LAFC.
Atlanta did, however, make an offer for Georgian winger Sada Lobzhanidze from Turkish club Hatayspor. The 28-year-old fits the profile of a DP who can be bought down in the future. The winger has 11 goals over the last two Turkish seasons.
There’s nothing new on Thiago Almada at this stage, either. As I’ve consistently reported, Atlanta is in no rush to move on from their star No. 10 and is under no pressure to do so.
Columbus Crew — Center back search after adding Gressel, transferring Degenek
The Columbus Crew already swung a key deal to acquire Julian Gressel in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, improving their already league-best attack. They may not be done yet.
After a deal to transfer Australian international center back Milos Degenek to Red Star — one he asked the club for, in order to move closer to family — the Crew is in the market to add another center back to the group. They remain in a position of strength, so if a favorable deal isn’t found on one of their targets, they won’t force anything.
The Crew also already added Ukrainian center back Yevhen Cheberko, who made his debut in the club’s 2-1 Leagues Cup win over St. Louis City.
Vancouver Whitecaps — Squad additions after Gressel trade
The Whitecaps made a very strong contract offer to Gressel, but the player and his family expressed a desire to return back east. Vancouver opted to move Gressel now — for $550,000 GAM, plus $300,000 GAM in add-ons — rather than let him leave as a free agent in the winter.
Now, Vancouver hopes to use that space this summer on new signings.
With Gressel gone, they could use another central midfielder as well as another option for an attacking fullback in case Vanni Sartini wants to play with wingbacks again. Gressel arrived at the club playing as a wingback in a three back system last season, then a central midfielder in a 4-3-1-2 this year.
NYCFC — Will they use $25 million+ raised from Castellanos, Pereira transfers?
It’s been a lucrative window for NYCFC.
The club has sealed deals to send Taty Castellanos to Lazio (for more than $16 million) and Gabi Perreira to Al-Rayan (for at least $10 million). Castellanos initially left last summer on loan to Girona and was never expected to return to NYCFC when the loan ended. Pereira had been the club’s best attacker this season.
NYCFC already added center back Birk Rasa and forward Mounsef Bakrar this summer. With a U-22 initiative slot open following Perreira’s departure, and a bunch of money generated from outbound transfers, will they make another splash?
Journalist CL Merlo is reporting the club is in talks with Velez Sarsfield for winger Julian Fernandez. The highly-rated 19-year-old is an Argentine youth international and has seven goals in 60 professional appearances.
The club sits 13th in the Eastern Conference, in real danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since their expansion season in 2015.
(Photo: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
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