Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Charlotte signs Abada; Miami move for Sergi Roberto unlikely: MLS notebook

A club-record signing is all but finalized for Charlotte FC, a rising U.S. international has signed a new contract, another Barcelona player has been linked with Inter Miami…the MLS season is underway but the transfer activity remains.

Here’s the latest I’m hearing around MLS.

Charlotte sign Abada for club-record fee: Sources

Charlotte FC is on the verge of completing a deal to sign Israel international winger Liel Abada from Celtic, sources briefed on the deal tell The Athletic.

Abada joins for a club-record fee of around $8 million, sources add. He completed his medical with no issues and will hit the roster as a young designated player. With Abada on board, the club still has another designated player slot open as well as a U-22 initiative slot.

The 22-year-old winger had 22 goals and 29 assists in just under three years with Celtic, but has played just 568 minutes across 11 appearances in all competitions this season.

Last year, Abada had 10 goals and five assists in 29 league appearances (1,257 minutes) and another 10 goals and seven assists the season prior. He broke through with Maccabi Petah Tikva in Israel before joining Celtic.

Abada has 10 caps with Israel. He is projected to lead a Charlotte attack including Argentine forward Enzo Copetti under head coach Dean Smith.

Real Salt Lake has signed rising U.S. international attacker Diego Luna to a new contract under the league’s U-22 initiative, sources briefed on the deal tell The Athletic. The deal, including options, runs through 2028.

Luna now occupies one of the club’s U-22 initiative slots, with Colombian winger Diego Gomez moving to a young DP slot. The roster movement means all of the club’s DP and U-22 initiative slots are filled for the moment, but that can change in the summer. Gomez, Chicho Arango and Matty Crooks occupy the three DP spots, but Crooks is only a DP for now to save allocation money and can be bought down to open the slot if RSL wants to add another DP-level player in the summer.

Luna, Diego Palacio and Braian Ojeda take up the club’s three U-22 slots.

Luna, 20, made his senior USMNT debut in January after starring at the U-20 World Cup for his country last spring. He broke through with El Paso Locomotive in the USL Championship before being acquired by Real Salt Lake in the summer of 2022 for a then-USL record fee of $250,000. Luna is likely to be subject of big transfer offers from Europe in future seasons.

The creative attacker grew in consistency and importance for RSL as the 2023 season went on, ending with seven goals and one assist in just under 1,500 minutes between the league and playoffs last season.

Luna is an unquestioned starter for RSL this season, the key creative presence for Pablo Mastroeni’s side. He’s nearing his 100th competitive senior club appearance between RSL and El Paso, a milestone he’ll likely pass long before his 21st birthday in September.

Luna is expected to play a part for the United States at the Olympics this summer. He had one goal and five assists as the United States won the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in 2022, the tournament that also served as Olympic qualifying.

Mukhtar has been limited by injury to start the 2024 season (Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean-USA TODAY NETWORK)

Former MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar has agreed to a new, long-term contract extension with Nashville SC, sources briefed on the deal tell The Athletic.

Fabrizio Romano first reported the agreement. The deal is not yet signed or finalized.

Mukhtar, turning 29 this month, has been one of the best players in MLS the last three years, winning one MVP and being named to MLS Best XI three consecutive seasons. He was signed as Nashville’s first DP ahead of their 2020 expansion season and has been central to the club’s success, making the playoffs in each of their first four seasons.

Mukhtar has 68 goals and 37 assists in 133 appearances for the club.

With the departure of USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin to FC Cincinnati, it’s likely Inter Miami is now in the market for a right back. As has been the case for the last year, they were immediately linked with a player formerly in Lionel Messi’s orbit.

Various reports have suggested Miami would sign Barcelona captain Sergi Roberto, but such a move seems unlikely at the moment, according to sources briefed on the situation. Roberto, though, can be a free agent this summer.

Roberto, 32, has appeared in just six league games and three Champions League games for Barcelona this season, but the team has been hit with a rash of new injuries which should see Roberto get more minutes in the near future.

He has spent his entire career at Barcelona, spending a decade with Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. He’s made 363 first-team appearances.

Roberto has been linked to MLS clubs in the past, namely LAFC and LA Galaxy.

– Pol Ballus and Paul Tenorio contributed reporting

San Jose cools pursuit of Carlos Vela

The San Jose Earthquakes’ talks with free agent Carlos Vela have cooled, but the club continues their search to add a DP attacking midfielder, sources briefed on the talks tell The Athletic.

San Jose was in advanced talks with Vela, The Athletic reported on Friday, but could not finalize a deal over the weekend. LAFC remains in talks with Vela about a return, sources say. Barring a reversal of fortunes and revival of talks, San Jose is not currently an option for Vela.

Another option for San Jose, according to sources, would be Dutch free agent attacker Jean-Paul Boëtius. However, talks with the player are not at an advanced stage.

Boëtius, turning 30 this month, is a versatile attacker who can play on either wing but is likely to be preferred as a No. 10 to MLS. He was most recently with Hertha Berlin but has been a free agent this season after Berlin was relegated. He excelled with Mainz in the Bundesliga and Feyenoord in the Eredivisie. With Mainz, Boëtius had 12 goals and 22 assists in 122 Bundesliga appearances.

Boëtius was also on the radar of a few other MLS clubs this offseason.

Ruiz figured to be a key part of RSL’s midfield (Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

Pablo Ruiz out for the season again

Key RSL midfielder Pablo Ruiz suffered a knee injury in training on Tuesday and is likely ruled out for the 2024 season, sources briefed on the injury tell The Athletic. 

Ruiz missed the second half of 2023 with a meniscus injury to the opposite knee injured on Tuesday. The club struggled mightily in the aftermath of Ruiz’s injury, with the midfielder a key starter for Mastroeni’s side.

The 25-year-old has made 125 appearances for RSL. Colombian youth international Nelson Palacio is likely to play a bigger role with Ruiz out.

Houston working to add young attacker

The Houston Dynamo is in the market to add a young attacker, either with a young DP tag or a U-22 initiative slot, in the coming weeks, sources briefed on the team’s plans tell The Athletic.

MLSsoccer.com’s Matt Doyle first reported the club were working through targets to bring in the near future.

Houston is dealing with injuries to several key players early in the season. DP midfielder Hector Herrera is still “a couple months” away from returning from injury, Nelson Quinones is out for the season with a knee injury and DP forward Sebas Ferreira out another four weeks as well.

Colorado loan GK Ilić to Sarpsborg

The Colorado Rapids has loaned goalkeeper Marko Ilić to Norwegian club Sarpsborg, sources briefed on the deal tell The Athletic. 

Ilić, 26, was expected to be the Colorado Rapids’ starting goalkeeper in 2024 after the club picked up his purchase option, but then made a surprise move to sign Zack Steffen from Manchester City. Now, Ilić departs on loan to have the chance to play regularly.

The move also shows the trust Colorado has in highly-rated homegrown and U.S. youth international Adam Beaudry, who is now the club’s primary option behind Steffen.

Beaudry, 17, was the first-choice keeper for the United States at the U-17 World Cup last year.

(Top photos: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images; Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images; Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

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