Friday, June 21, 2024
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What I’m hearing on MLS DP arrivals and more ahead of opening weekend: Tom Bogert

The 2024 MLS season is officially underway after Inter Miami’s 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night. Ahead of a full slate of matches this weekend, here’s the latest I’m hearing on transfer deals and debuts.

Cincy’s wingback swap: Barreal out, Orellano in

FC Cincinnati continues to evolve its roster as the 2024 season starts, with star wingback Alvaro Barreal off to Brazilian club Cruzeiro on loan and Cincy signing wingback Luca Orellano on loan from Vasco da Gama, sources briefed on the deals tell The Athletic.

Barreal was expected to leave this winter, but European interest didn’t turn into acceptable bids. By the time the January transfer window closed for most European leagues, no deal was set for Barreal, who was ready to move on. With the Brazilian transfer window open, Cruzeiro came in and Cincy agreed it was best for all parties.

The deal is a one-year loan that includes an initial fee as well as a purchase option around $4 million, sources say. Part of the purchase option would include a sell-on clause for Cincy. Another clause in the deal stipulates that if another club submits a bid greater than the value of the purchase option (i.e. the $4 million plus the value of the sell-on percentage), Cincy can terminate the loan and accept that deal.

Barreal posted a goodbye message to Cincinnati on social media, though the deal hasn’t been announced officially yet.

Cincinnati already had a deal ready for Barreal’s long-term replacement, Luca Orellano, who is Barreal’s former teammate from their days at Velez Sarsfield.

Orellano, like Barreal, is a natural winger who will play left wingback in Cincy’s preferred 3-5-2, with license to get forward as much as possible. He made 119 appearances for Velez and then moved to Vasco, where he made 25 appearances but didn’t quite win a regular starting spot. 

Cincy remains in the market to add a right wingback and potentially more, sources say. The MLS primary transfer window remains open for another two months. Cincinnati kicks off its competitive season with a CONCACAF Champions Cup match against Jamaican club Cavalier FC on Thursday night before hosting Toronto FC on Sunday.

Timbers DP latest

The Portland Timbers remain at the finals stages of their search for a DP forward, but have not yet finalized anything with their three remaining targets.

Portland has been linked with Club America star forward Jonathan Rodriguez. Sources briefed on the situation confirm that interest is real and Rodriguez is among the club’s final targets. The 30-year-old Uruguay international has nine goals and three assists in 23 appearances (1,065 minutes) this season. He starred for Cruz Azul and Santos Laguna in Liga MX before joining Club America.

“If I were to give a timeline right now, I’d say we’re in position, hopefully, within the next 7-10 days,” GM Ned Grabavoy told the media this week. “Hopefully it’s a player that can get in quickly once we have things finalized.”

The Timbers have two long-term targets, plus Rodriguez as their finalists. Sources expect a resolution in the near future on one of the deals to bring in a DP attacker. 

Grabavoy also clarified that the club only has one unrestricted DP spot they can use at the moment. That is earmarked for the forward search. Club-record signing Evander has the other and forward Felipe Mora is currently holding the final DP spot, allowing the club to use all three U-22 initiative slots. Portland could only add a young DP with the slot Mora is currently holding.

New Chicago Fire stars ready to debut

Chicago Fire club record signing Hugo Cuypers joined training this week, his visa situation is sorted out and he is available to debut as the Fire face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, sources briefed on the situation tell The Athletic.

Cuypers, who turned 27 this month, was acquired from KAA Gent for an initial fee of $12 million, with another $2 million in add-ons, making him one of the most expensive inbound transfers in league history. He excelled with Gent after joining in the summer of 2022, with 51 goals and 15 assists in 90 appearances. The center forward had 17 goals and six assists in 34 appearances (2,546 minutes) across all competitions this year before joining the Fire.

Shortly after finalizing a deal for Cuypers, the Fire added key free agent midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who was able to join training immediately.

Acosta, 28, just went to consecutive MLS Cups with LAFC, winning the trophy in 2022. He’s made 252 regular season appearances in MLS between LAFC, Colorado and Dallas. He was on the USMNT squad at the 2022 World Cup.

“Both players are fit,” head coach Frank Klopas told the media this week. “You’ll just have to watch the game and come out next week.”

Will Joseph Paintsil make his Galaxy debut Sunday?

The LA Galaxy are unsure whether or not new signing Joseph Paintsil will be available to debut this weekend or not — pending the visa process — but are doing everything they can and it’s still on the table that he will be cleared in time, sources briefed on the situation say.

The Galaxy host Inter Miami on Sunday.

Paintsil, 26, was officially signed Wednesday from Genk for a fee around $9 million, a deal nearly two months in the making. The winger had 17 goals and 14 assists in 36 Belgian Pro League appearances in the 2022-23 season.

Fellow new Galaxy DP winger Gabriel Pec, fresh off his time with the Brazil U-23 squad, landed in California on Wednesday and will be available to make his debut this weekend.

Will Luis Muriel make his Orlando debut Saturday?

Orlando City is confident that the visa for Luis Muriel will arrive in time for the Colombian to make his debut on Saturday, sources briefed on the situation say. It’s not a foregone conclusion, of course.

Muriel, 32, was signed from Atalanta, where he had 68 goals and 28 assists in 184 appearances. In his first two seasons at the club, from 2019-21, he scored 40 goals and added 10 assists. This year, Muriel was relegated to a bench role, with two goals and one assist in 394 league minutes. He still had four goals in 269 minutes in the Europa League. Muriel has 45 caps with Colombia.

Orlando opened their season on Wednesday night, beating Canadian club Cavalry FC 3-0 in leg one of their CONCACAF Champions Cup tie.  

Dallas to wait for Petar Musa

FC Dallas record signing Petar Musa still isn’t in the United States yet, as he awaits his work visa.

The Croatia international got married last weekend and the club hopes his arrival will come in the next few weeks.

Musa, 25, was signed by Dallas from Benfica for a club record fee of $9.7 million with another $3.3 million in add-ons. The forward has six caps for Croatia.

(Photo of Joseph Paintsil: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)


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