Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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USMNT January transfers analyzed: Gio Reyna’s Premier League switch, goalkeepers on the move

The summer saw the USMNT’s big stars get new club situations sorted: Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah moved to AC Milan; Tim Weah joined Weston McKennie at Juventus; Sergino Dest, Ricardo Pepi and Malik Tillman all landed at PSV Eindhoven; Tyler Adams transferred to Bournemouth; Folarin Balogun to AS Monaco and Brenden Aaronson was loaned to Union Berlin.

The winter window obviously couldn’t contain quite so many high-profile moves, but it was certainly still busy. There were still 10 moves in January (plus whatever you want to call the Duncan McGuire saga) around the U.S. national team pool, with many players securing the deals they needed to try to get more playing time ahead of this summer’s Copa America and Olympic Games. In a relatively quiet transfer window, USMNT players were particularly active — especially the goalkeepers.

Here’s what happened — and an early lookahead to what this summer might bring.

Gio Reyna to Nottingham Forest (loan)

Reyna makes his Forest debut against Bournemouth (MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The headliner this winter was Gio Reyna, who sealed a loan to Nottingham Forest from Borussia Dortmund on deadline day (Feb. 1).

A change of scenery was imperative for Reyna, who had played just 280 minutes in the German Bundesliga this season. The move was needed even before Dortmund signed another attacking midfielder, Jadon Sancho, on loan from Manchester United.

Reyna, 21, has a lot riding on the next few months in a difficult environment. Forest is fighting relegation from the Premier League, just two points above the line with 15 matches left.

Reyna has played 1,000 league minutes in a season only once in his career (2020-21). He needs time on the grass, both for himself and to prove to interested clubs in the summer that he can be relied on.

Johnny Cardoso to Real Betis


Cardoso has started Betis’ last three games (Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

New Jersey-born defensive midfielder Johnny Cardoso has adapted to life in Spain immediately after a transfer from Internacional in Brazil to Real Betis, starting the club’s last three games.

Cardoso, 22, made 144 appearances with Internacional. He has seven caps with the USMNT and is staking a claim on the wide-open backup No. 6 role, which offers plenty of minutes given Tyler Adams’ recent time out with hamstring injuries.

Miles Robinson to FC Cincinnati


Robinson playing against Slovenia in January (Elizabeth Kreutz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Miles Robinson’s contract with Atlanta United expired this winter and, despite some interest from abroad, the center back opted to stay in MLS and sign with FC Cincinnati.

One key detail: both sides can get out of the deal in a year, making Robinson a potential free agent once again in the 2025 winter window. In the interim, Robinson, 26, gets guaranteed playing time for one of MLS’s best teams as he pushes to make the Copa America squad this summer.

Robinson will play alongside center back Matt Miazga in Cincy. Miazga made his return to the national team last year thanks to his excellent form in MLS, which netted him Defender of the Year honors. Robinson should fit snugly alongside Miazga and in Cincy’s game model, with an emphasis on ball-winning and attacking in transition.

Brandon Vazquez to CF Monterrey

Brandon Vazquez

Vasquez has scored three goals in his first four appearances for Monterrey (Agustin Cuevas/Getty Images)

Shortly after Robinson joined Cincy, Brandon Vazquez departed the MLS club. Liga MX’s CF Monterrey signed the forward for an initial $7.5 million (£5.9 million) fee plus another $1 million in performance-based add-ons.

Vazquez has settled quickly, scoring three goals in his first four appearances. He has started three straight games in a star-studded, crowded attack.

Will the move to Mexico help his standing in the national pool in a crowded group of center forwards that includes Folarin Balogun, Josh Sargent, Ricardo Pepi and more? It remains to be seen. The 25-year-old has four goals in eight caps with the USMNT.

A move to Europe and succeeding in a top-five league would have been more advantageous, but there weren’t as many suitors this winter as there were last summer when Borussia Monchengladbach led the charge. The only other offer this winter was from Middlesbrough in the EFL Championship (England’s second tier).

Ethan Horvath to Cardiff City


Horvath joined Cardiff on deadline day (John Dorton/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Ethan Horvath helped push Luton Town to promotion last season and it seemed likely he would remain at the club, but no permanent deal came in the summer. Back he went to parent club Nottingham Forest but playing time did not follow: the goalkeeper has yet to register a single minute this season and was not selected in Forest’s 25-man squad to play in Premier League matches.

Horvath, however, secured a move to Championship side Cardiff City on deadline day.

The 28-year-old made the 2022 World Cup squad as a reserve goalkeeper behind starter Matt Turner, his now-former teammate at Forest. He has nine caps for the national team but needs to play to remain in the picture. With Turner’s struggles at Forest and the likelihood he will be on the bench as well, competition for the starting role is open.

Djordje Mihailovic to the Colorado Rapids

Djordje Mihailovic

Mihailovic’s last USMNT appearance came in July 2023 (Bill Barrett/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The first of three USMNT players coming to Colorado, Djordje Mihailovic is the Rapids’ new club-record signing for a transfer fee north of $3 million.

Mihailovic spent a year at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands but never became a consistent starter. He was ready to come back to MLS for what he described as family reasons, and also to get playing time to reappear on the USMNT radar.

The 25-year-old will certainly find consistent playing time in Colorado, where he will be tasked with carrying the club’s attack in the same way he did with CF Montreal before heading to AZ. He has 11 caps with the USMNT, the last of which came at the 2023 Gold Cup.

Zack Steffen to the Colorado Rapids


Steffen will be hoping to get back into the USMNT picture (Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Like Mihailovic, Zack Steffen is a key part of the Rapids’ overhaul this offseason, having joined from Manchester City.

Steffen has recovered from the knee surgery which scrapped all talks of a potential loan elsewhere in Europe last summer. The 28-year-old was surprisingly left off the 2022 World Cup squad but with Turner’s struggles, the fact Horvath hasn’t had any minutes this year and other factors, the USMNT goalkeeping depth chart remains open. Steffen will be first choice in Colorado with the chance to work his way back into the picture.

Steffen has 29 caps with the USMNT. He made 21 appearances with Manchester City and also spent time on loan with then-Bundesliga side Dusseldorf and Middlesbrough of the Championship. He was named 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, his last full season in the league before his transfer to City.

Sam Vines to the Colorado Rapids

Sam Vines

Vines joins Colorado from Royal Antwerp (John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The third USMNT pool player to join Colorado this winter is former Rapids homegrown Sam Vines.

The left back moved from Colorado to Belgian side Royal Antwerp in 2021, but inopportune injuries and falling out of favor limited his playing time by this winter. The Rapids swooped in, adamant that if he came back to MLS it would be with them, and got a deal done.

Vines, 24, valued the expected playing time he will get at Colorado. He had played just 352 minutes in the first half of the European season.

Left back is much more crowded than it was a few years ago for USMNT, with up-and-coming talents like Caleb Wiley and John Tolkin pushing behind key starter Antonee Robinson. Natural right backs Joe Scally and Sergino Dest can both play on the left as well.

Cade Cowell to Chivas de Guadalajara


Cowell has made four appearances for his new side (Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Cade Cowell became the first active USMNT player to play for Chivas in January after a $4 million transfer from the San Jose Earthquakes.

Chivas has a policy to field only Mexican nationals, and Cowell had got his Mexican citizenship earlier that month.

“Chivas is such an attacking team, the play style suits me very well,” Cowell said “I think I’m going to do really well here.”

Cowell signed for Chivas after several European clubs failed in negotiations with San Jose, the latest of which was with Italian club Bologna in the summer.

Paxten Aaronson to Vitesse Arnhem (loan)


(Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

A crowded attacking midfield group at Eintracht Frankfurt mostly limited Paxten Aaronson to cameos off the bench, so the German club and Aaronson’s camp agreed it made sense to explore a loan. Aaronson was signed by Vitesse Arnhem, currently bottom of the Dutch top flight.

The 20-year-old played just 374 minutes across all competitions for Frankfurt this year and his last Bundesliga appearance was on Dec. 3. He needs minutes and will get them at Vitesse.

The attacker will likely be called up by the United States for the Olympics in Paris in July and August if Frankfurt releases him.

Early summer lookahead

It’s never too early to forecast who may need to move again in the summer. Some situations to monitor…

Gio Reyna: The loan to Forest is just that — a loan. No purchase option. Still, Reyna’s situation at Borussia Dortmund seems to have run its course. What will the market look like this summer? A lot depends on the next few months in England.

Brenden Aaronson: Aaronson’s loan from Leeds United to Union Berlin hasn’t quite gone to plan, with only five Bundesliga starts. It expires at the end of the season and he could head back to Leeds or look elsewhere.

Sergino Dest: Hopefully PSV can make their loan of the right back from Barcelona a permanent deal. He’s been a consistent starter for the leaders of the Dutch league.

Taylor Booth: It looked like he might be on the move last summer after a breakout season with Utrecht, but nothing materialized.

Bryan Reynolds: A successful second year at Westerlo is unfolding. It might be time for another step up this summer.

Duncan McGuire: After a deadline day move to Blackburn fell through thanks to the English club making an error on the paperwork, McGuire is a player to watch in the summer again (Unless the EFL reverses the decision on appeal on Thursday). Will a third deal with Blackburn be agreed or will he head elsewhere?

Caleb Wiley: Will all the interest abroad in the rising U.S. international left back turn into offers after the Olympics?

John Tolkin: Another left back, and another one to keep an eye on after the Olympics.

Each Monday, we bring you updates on how the USMNT players and aspirants plying their trade in various leagues around Europe fared over the weekend. Keep up to date with the USMNT Player Tracker from Greg O’Keeffe.

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