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What I’m hearing on Carlos Vela, Kellyn Acosta, and MLS January transfers: Tom Bogert

MLS clubs have reported for preseason, Lionel Messi and Inter Miami have played their first friendly, a few big MLS free agents remain on the market and the winter transfer window closes in Europe in less than 10 days.

There’s plenty going on in the world of MLS. Here’s the latest I’m hearing about players from around the league.

One of the biggest free agents still on the market is U.S. national team midfielder Kellyn Acosta.

The midfielder has been heavily pursued by several clubs this winter, none more intensely than the Chicago Fire. Sources briefed on the talks say the Fire remain hopeful of landing Acosta, but those same sources add that Sporting KC remains in the mix, as do the Colorado Rapids, who joined the chase late and would love to facilitate a return for the midfielder, who played for the Rapids from 2018 to 2021.

The Rapids have signed several players from the USMNT pool this winter, including Djordje Mihailovic, Zack Steffen, and Sam Vines.

Acosta, 28, has 58 caps with the USMNT and is out of contract following two successful seasons with LAFC, making back-to-back MLS Cups, winning one. He was acquired by LAFC in a trade with the Rapids, where he made 82 appearances. He began his career with FC Dallas.

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Sources briefed on the situation say Carlos Vela is in talks to potentially stay with LAFC, and that rumors suggesting the LA Galaxy were in talks with Vela were false. However, Vela remains available as a free agent and would consider interest elsewhere.

Vela, 34, was LAFC’s first-ever designated player and has been integral to LAFC’s success since joining the league in 2018. He didn’t have his most productive season in 2023, but appeared in all 34 regular season games for the first time in his MLS career. He played north of 3,000 minutes across all competitions.

Longtime Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya is also technically still available. Bedoya has been engaged in talks with the Philadelphia Union about a new deal all winter and sources continue to describe the deal as “very close” but nothing is yet finalized or signed.

Bedoya, 36, is a Union legend after joining the club in 2016, making 247 appearances for the club and captaining the side to their first-ever trophy, the 2020 Supporters’ Shield.

Pablo Maurer contributed to this report.

Five potential January window exits

Dennis Bouanga, LAFC

LAFC is still planning for Bouanga to be the fulcrum of the club’s attack for 2024 after winning both the CONCACAF Champions Cup and MLS Golden Boots last year, but Bouanga wants a new contract but nothing has happened on that front yet.

Clubs in France — specifically Lens, Rennes and Nice — have interest and there have been reports of bids rejected. With more than a week left in the transfer window, there’s still time for things to change, but LAFC remains insistent that Bouanga will remain with the club.

Bouanga, 29, had 38 goals across all competitions in 2023 – a record for an MLS player.


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Coco Carrasquilla, Houston Dynamo

There remains plenty of interest, but no official offers yet for the Dynamo midfielder. Communication between the Dynamo and Carrasquilla’s camp is open and all parties are aligned. If a reasonable bid comes, Carrasquilla will leave. If not, Houston will keep their star a bit longer.

Carrasquilla, 25, played for Spanish side FC Cartagena before joining Houston in 2021. He made 28 appearances in the Spanish second division.

Houston was bracing for bids in August and was happy to keep him through the end of the year, as Carrasquilla played a crucial role in the club winning the U.S. Open Cup and finishing fourth in the Western Conference before going on to reach the conference final.

Noel Buck, New England Revolution

Like Carrasquilla, it’s much of the same for Buck and the New England Revolution. There are a ton of teams interested — particularly in England, but also in Germany and Belgian side Club Brugge, per sources — but no official offers have landed yet. If no big bid comes late before the European transfer windows close on February 1, Buck will continue his development for the Revs for another six months or even a full season, depending on what happens over the summer.

Buck, 18 years old and an England youth international, will no doubt be in Europe in the near future. He won a starting role for the Revs in 2023 and enjoyed a breakout year that ended as a regular with the England U-19 national team.

Duncan McGuire, Orlando City

Orlando City and McGuire still have not agreed on a new contract, and interest abroad continues to stir. He could be a player to watch in the market by the end of the month.

Blackburn Rovers had multiple bids rejected but are believed to still be interested. Clubs around MLS would have interest in a potential trade if possible, but it’s unlikely Orlando would agree to send him within the league.

McGuire, 22, is likely to be on the United States squad at the Olympics this summer. He had 15 goals and three assists across 1,930 minutes across all competitions in his debut professional season in 2023, and just made his senior USMNT debut in a friendly against Slovenia over the weekend.

Thiago Almada, Atlanta United

This situation remains the same: Atlanta isn’t in a rush to sell, and there have been no official bids yet. Atlanta will consider offers and acquiesce to a transfer if his valuation is met. It still seems more likely those kind of league-record bids would come in the summer than the winter.

Atletico Madrid was the latest team to be linked with Almada as a potential replacement should Angel Correa move to Al Ittihad. Correa’s move has not happened yet. Atletico won’t consider Almada this month unless Correa is moved.

(Photo: Bob Drebin/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

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