The Most Significant MLS Signings So Far This Offseason

Posted By Harrison Hamm on January 8, 2020

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We’ve just entered the January transfer window, so there’s plenty of time for MLS teams to pull the trigger on their big summer signings. There are a number of teams — including FC Cincinnati, Inter Miami, and the LA Galaxy, among others — that will be out looking for the next big DP attacker.

But up to this point, with training camp starting this month, some major players have already arrived. More teams, including many that you wouldn’t have expected a couple of years ago, are making aggressive moves to put centerpieces in place. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant newcomers up to this point.

Lucas Cavallini, Vancouver Whitecaps

Cavallini is a 27-year-old proven goalscorer who has played well in the Uruguayan Primera Division and Liga MX. That is not the sort of signing we’re used to seeing from the Whitecaps. Last year, Vancouver embarked on a total rebuild and tried to incorporate a bunch of new players, only to see many of those players fall flat. They made little real progress.

They let more players go this offseason, and now they’ll hope that Cavallini can make the difference for an attack that scored a meager 37 goals last year, second-worst in the league. The problem: They haven’t signed any other players yet. Cavallini is their only signing of the offseason. They’ll have to hope that their new Canadian DP comes through, and that a player like Theo Bair makes a leap. (I think Bair has a chance at one of those leaps.)

Alan Pulido, Sporting KC

At long last, SKC signed their striker. It’s been clear that they’ve needed to fill that position basically since they traded Dom Dwyer. Pulido is a big signing: He’s a Mexican national team veteran who has won trophies in Liga MX and comes to Kansas City after a best XI season in the Mexican league.

After a disappointing season in which they conceded 67 goals, Sporting are bound to improve to at least some extent. They brought back Khiry Shelton after a brief stint in Germany, and they signed Croatian center back Roberto Puncec to pair with Matt Besler. A front three of Johnny Russell, Pulido, and either Daniel Salloi, Gerso Fernandes, or Shelton would be very promising.

Alex Buttner and Adam Buksa, New England Revolution

It was an amazing offseason for the Revs, who have all of a sudden shown significant ambition. After finding success with DP attackers Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou in 2019, they added Buksa as their third DP in the offseason, and signed Buttner to contribute on defense. They also signed French center back Samba Camara, versatile MLS (and Revs) vet Kelyn Rowe, and proven MLS fullback Seth Sinovic.

With Bruce Arena at the helm, this looks like the most complete Revs team we’ve seen in a while. They announced the creation of a USL team, an expansion of their academy, and the signing of 17-year-old Homegrown Damian Rivera. Things might be more promising long-term for the Revs than for their stadium partners.

Lucas Zelarayan, Columbus Crew

The departure of club icon Federico Higuain opened a gaping hole in center attacking midfield for the Crew, who endured an injury-riddled transition season last year. They filled the hole emphatically by dropping the biggest transfer fee in club history on Zelarayan, a 27-year-old key figure for Liga MX juggernaut Tigres.

Darlington Nagbe is already in the midfield after a trade with Atlanta, and the return to full health of fullbacks Milton Valenzuela (a best XI-caliber left back who missed all of last season) and Harrison Afful should make Columbus a sure playoff team. They’re deep on defense, with new additions Axel Sjoberg and Vito Wormgoor adding to a solid cast. The Crew project well.

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