MLS 2022 kickoff rapidly approaching

By Dylan Butler | Posted 2 years ago

A new Major League Soccer season is on the horizon. Thereare new players, a new team in Charlotte FC and a first-time champion looking to defend their MLS Cup title. 

We’ll break down both conferences in the OSDBsports.comseason preview, beginning with the Eastern Conference. 

Atlanta United 

2021 record: 13-9-12, 51 points

Key additions: M - Thiago Almada (transfer from Velez Sarsfield); M - Osvaldo Alonso (free agent)

Key departures: M - Ezequiel Barco (loan to River Plate); D - George Bello (transfer to Arminia Bielefeld)

Outlook: Gonzalo Pineda begins his first full season as head coach after taking the helm in August and the first big incoming move under his watch was signing attacking midfielder Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield in Argentina for a reported MLS-record $16 million transfer fee. He should play a pivotal role in the attack, alongside Josef Martinez and winger Luiz AraujoAndrew Gutman is back after a successful loan spell with the New York Red Bulls and he’ll likely fill the void left by George Bello at left fullback/wingback after the 20-year-old US men’s national team defender was transferred to Arminia Bielefeld in the German Bundesliga. And the free agent signing of veteran defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonso was a shrewd move that could yield huge dividends. 

Charlotte FC

2021 record: N/A 

Key additions: F - Karol Swiderski (transfer from PAOK); M - Sergio Ruiz (signed from Racing Santander); D - Christian Fuchs (signed from Leicester City); M - Alan Franco (loan from Atletico Mineiro)

Key departures: M - Riley McGree (transfer to Middlesbrough)

Outlook: The MLS expansion side is bullish about their expectations, which includes not just making the MLS Cup playoffs, but also playing host to a postseason match. They begin the season as an incomplete team, especially after a reported $6 million deal for Venezuelan winger Darwin Machis fell apart at the last minute. In the immediate aftermath, head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez said his team at the moment are “screwed” when it comes to achieving said goals. The spine appears solid, but there’s questions in the attacking third. Riley McGree was expected to be a big part of the club’s midfield, but he was transferred to Middlesbrough having never played a minute for Charlotte FC. 

Chicago Fire FC

2021 record: 9-18-7, 34 points

Key additions: M - Xherdan Shaqiri (transfer from Lyon); F - Kacper Przybylko (trade with Philadelphia Union)

Key departures: M - Alvaro Medran (option declined); F - Ignacio Aliseda (transferred to FC Lugano)

Outlook: There’s a new coach in the Windy City with Ezra Hendrickson trying his luck with a team that’s struggled for afew years. Former Liverpool standing Xherdan Shaqiri is the big offseason headline-grabbing signing and considering the reported $7.5 million transfer fee paid to Lyon, it’s also a big-money gamble for the Switzerland national team player. Kacper Przybylko has been one of the league’s top strikers the last few years and he’ll be tasked with being the productive No. 9 that was missed this year. Also keep an eye out for Gabriel Slonina, the 17-year-old starting goalkeeper who is a rising star. 

FC Cincinnati 

2021 record: 4-22-8, 20 points

Key additions: GK - Alec Kann (trade from Atlanta United)

Key departures: D - Joe Gyau (option declined)

Outlook: There’s a new head coach (Pat Noonan) and general manager (Chris Albright), who will both hope to bring some of the success they had in Philadelphia to a club that has finished at the bottom of the table in each of their first three seasons in MLS. Alec Kann arrives to fill a huge role in the net, but things have been eerily quiet in the impactful signing department heading into the regular season.

Columbus Crew

2021 record: 13-13-8, 47 points

Key additions: F - Yaw Yeboah (signed from Wisla Krakow); M - James Igbekeme (loan from Real Zaragoza)

Key departures: D - Milton Valenzuela (signed with FC Lugano)

Outlook: From MLS Cup champion to missing the playoffs altogether, the Crew are hoping for a big bounce-back season. There are fresh faces, especially at the fullback positions with the club unable to re-sign left back Milton Valenzuela, while veteran right back Harrison Afful was signed by Charlotte. Pedro SantosLucas Zelarayan and Gyasi Zardes are all back to key an attack that was fortified by the signing of winger Yaw Yeboah. 

D.C. United

2021 record: 14-15-5, 47 points

Key additions: F - Michael Estrada (loan from Toluca); D - Brad Smith (trade with Seattle Sounders), F - Taxiarchis Fountas (signed from Rapid Vienna)

Key departures: F - Paul Arriola (trade with FC Dallas); D - Kevin Paredes (transfer to Wolfsburg)

Outlook: The biggest noise D.C. United made in the offseason was a pair of big-money departures with winger Paul Arriola traded to FC Dallas for an MLS-record $2 million in general allocation money and young wingback Kevin Paredes transferred to Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga for $7.35 million. That’s two of 14 players off the roster from last season. Michael Estrada, an Ecuadorian forward on loan from Toluca, and Greek international forward TaxiarchisFountas, are the big signings while Brad Smith, who arrived via a trade with Seattle, should fill in at left wingback. But there’s still plenty of question marks for D.C. United. 

Inter Miami CF

2021 record: 12-17-5, 41 points

Key additions: D - DeAndre Yedlin (signed from Galatassaray); F - Emerson Rodriguez (transfer from Milionarios); F - Leonardo Campana (loan from Wolves); D - Chris McVey (transfer from IF Elfsborg); M - Jean Mota(signed from Santos FC)

Key departures: F - Lewis Morgan (trade with New York Red Bulls); M - Rodolfo Pizarro (loan to CF Monterrey); D - Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (loan to River Plate); D - Nicolas Figal (transfer to Boca Juniors)

Outlook: Will Inter Miami be better? That remains to be seen, but Chris Henderson deserves some kind of award for the remarkable roster turnover he did, acquiring the needed cash to make the squad younger, hungrier and more athletic by offloading 18 players through various mechanisms — it will be 19 once Blaise Matuidi’s contract is bought out. Gonzalo Higuain is that rare high-priced veteran returning player and Inter Miami coach Phil Neville has been high on his work rate during the preseason. The club also landed veteran defenders in DeAndre Yedlin and Damion Lowe 

CF Montreal

2021 record: 12-12-10, 46 points

Key additions: D - Alistair Johnston (trade with Nashville SC); D - Gabriele Corbo (loan from Bologna)

Key departures: D - Kiki Struna (option declined); M - Emanuel Maciel (option declined)

Outlook: CF Montreal just missed out on the postseason last year with Wilfried Nancy a low-key Coach of the Year candidate and Djordje Mihailovic in conversation for league MVP. The club made what might be one of the most impactful moves of the offseason, sending $1 million of allocation money to Nashville for Canadian international wingback Alistair Johnston. That signing alone should make Montreal, which still have a pair of Designated Player slots open, a better side than last year. 

New England Revolution

2021 record: 22-5-7, 73 points

Key additions: M - Sebastian Lletget (trade with LA Galaxy

Key departures: M - Tajon Buchanan (transfer to Club Brugge); Teal Bunbury (trade with Nashville SC)

Outlook: How do you improve on a 2021 season in which you set an MLS record for points in a season en route to running away with the first Supporters’ Shield title in club history. Trading for Sebastian Lletget is a big addition, as is the soon-to-be-announced trade for Jozy Altidore, who won’t have to be the man in Foxborough with forwards Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou the regular starters. Tajon Buchanan, who transferred to Club Brugge, will be a big loss, but Matt Turner’s summer departure to Arsenal is bigger. Outside of that hole to fill during the summer, the Revs really don’t have any holes and should be primed for another run at MLS Cup, as well as the Concacaf Champions League. 

New York City FC

2021 record: 14-11-9, 51 points

Key additions: D - Thiago Martins (transfer from Yokohama F. Marinos)

Key departures: M - James Sands (loan to Rangers FC); M - Jesus Medina (option declined); F - Ismael Tajouri-Shradi(selected in Expansion Draft)

Outlook: After getting hot at the right time to win the club’s first MLS Cup, NYCFC will open the 2022 season under the microscope. Losing the steadying defensive presence of James Sands hurts, but the club made a splash by signing center back Thiago Martins to a Designated Player contract. The big question will be when Taty Castellanos gets moved. There’s been numerous offers, but none have yet to match NYCFC’s valuation. The return of Brazilian forward Heber, who has looked good in the preseason, and midfielder Keaton Parks from season-ending surgery for a blood clot a year ago, could be massive. 

New York Red Bulls 

2021 record: 13-12-9, 48 points

Key additions: F - Lewis Morgan (trade with Inter Miami CF)

Key departures: M - Sean Davis (signed as free agent by Nashville SC); F - Fabio (option declined); D - Kyle Duncan (contact expired)

Outlook: The fanbase, who are none too pleased the noisy neighbors across the Hudson River won an MLS Cup before this original franchise, are scouring the Internet on a daily basis for any news of incoming players. The Red Bulls did some important business early in the offseason by acquiring Lewis Morgan in a trade with Inter Miami CF and picking up the loan option for goalkeeper Carlos Coronel, who was one of the best in MLS a year ago. Most recently, RBNY had to get creative to get Caden Clark back on loan from sister club Leipzig and are in talks to bring back versatile Tom Edwards from Stoke. This is another team, unless they make a major splash in the coming weeks, that doesn’t appear to be significantly improved from a year ago. 

Orlando City SC

2021 record: 13-9-12, 51 points

Key additions: F - Facundo Torres (signed from Penarol); F - Ercan Kara (transfer from Rapid Vienna); M - Cesar Araujo (signed from Montevideo Wanderers)

Key departures: F - Nani (option declined); F - Chris Mueller (free transfer to Hibernian); F - Daryl Dike (transfer to West Brom)

Outlook: With all three players in their three attacking positions gone, most notably forward Daryl Dike, who was transferred to West Brom, Oscar Pareja knew the attack had to be rebuilt. Ercan Kara from Rapid Vienna is the like-for-like replacement for Dike, while Facundo Torres, signed on a reported $7 million transfer fee from Penarol, is a 21-year-old Uruguayan international who is a rising star and he’s expected to be another key attacking piece, either on the wing or as an attacking midfielder. 

Philadelphia Union

2021 record: 14-8-12, 54 points

Key additions: F - Julian Carranza (loan with Inter Miami); F - Mikael Uhre (transfer from Brondby)

Key departures: F - Kacper Przybylko (trade with Chicago Fire); M - Jamiro Monteiro (trade with San Jose Earthquakes)

Outlook: After playing host to the Eastern Conference final and falling just short of a firs appearance in MLS Cup, the Union are among the most complete teams in MLS this season. There’s strength throughout the roster and a real understanding of style of play. Even when you consider key departures, like forward Kacper Przybylko and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, who were were part of big intra-league moves, Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza arrived as attacking help and the Union will look inward at the likes of Leon FlachQuinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn to fill Monteiro’s void. 

Toronto FC

2021 record: 6-18-10, 28 points

Key additions: F - Lorenzo Insigne (signed from Napoli); D - Carlos Salcedo (transfer from Tigres); F - Jesus Jimenez (transfer from Gornik Zabrze)

Key departures: M - Mark Delgado (trade with LA Galaxy); F - Yeferson Soteldo (transfer to Tigres); D - Richie Laryea (transfer to Nottingham Forest)

Outlook: It’s been an offseason makeover for Toronto FC after missing out on the postseason in 2021. There’s a new coach in Bob Bradley, who makes the move from LAFC, and one of the biggest acquisitions in league history with the record signing of Lorenzo Insigne from Napoli, who arrives in the summer. Carlos Salcedo is expected to help shore up a leaky defense from a year ago and there’s still room to add for TFC, especially after the imminent move of Jozy Altidore to the Revolution. 


Next week: The Western Conference

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