By Tom Sweezy
Kwadwo Opoku (Photo courtesy of MLSsoccer.com)
Colorado Rapids Acquire Much Needed LB From Atlanta United:
Heading into the 2023 season, the Colorado Rapids needed to address the lack of left-backs on their roster. Since the sale of Sam Vines during the summer of 2021, the Rapids have had a major hole in that position. The wait is over as the Rapids have acquired MLS veteran left-back Andrew Gutman from Atlanta United. As part of the transfer, Colorado sent a guaranteed $400k in GAM, an international roster spot, and the potential for an additional $150k in GAM via incentives to Atlanta. Gutman has racked up over 100 career games in his career playing for the likes of Atlanta United, New York Red Bulls, FC Cincinnati, and the Charlotte Independence. In that time he has scored 12 goals and racked up 13 assists. Gutman almost immediately slots into the starting left-back role for the Rapids who can now finally play in a back four.
As for Atlanta United, this shows me that they are going all in on American youngster Caleb Wiley. The 18-year-old Wiley has already made an appearance for the U.S. senior team but also featured in all five of the U.S. U20’s World Cup games this summer. To me, this seems like a win-win situation for both clubs, Wiley, and Gutman as well.
New England Revolution Sign Free Agent American Midfielder:
Ian Harkes, son of U.S. Men’s National Team legend John Harkes, is headed back to Major League Soccer. Ian Harkes has been signed by Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution after playing his last professional soccer over in Scotland in 2019. The 28-year-old played his entire Scottish career with Dundee United FC where his time was spent in both the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Championship. Harkes now finishes his time at Dundee United with 165 games played, 12 goals, and 12 assists. Harkes did win the Scottish Championship during the 2019/2020 season.
Harkes is a true central midfielder who looks like he could pencil in nicely next to stud Defensive Midfielder Matt Polster. With Revolution youngster Noel Buck exploding onto the scene this season, it has to make you wonder if his future with New England is coming to a close sooner rather than later. If Buck is gone, a talented American midfielder like Harkes would get a perfect opportunity to step into that role. Nevertheless, the Revolution is in a prime spot to go for the MLS Cup this season. Depth pieces like Harkes will bolster the squad to make that run.
Austin FC Sign American Youth International On Loan From Philadelphia:
One of the stars from the U.S. U20 squad that made a nice little run at this summer’s U20 World Cup is headed to Texas for his club soccer. Center-back Brandan Craig will go on loan to Austin FC from the Philadelphia Union for the rest of the 2023 season. The Union will receive $125k in 2024 GAM along with a 2024 third Round SuperDraft pick. The 19-year-old has only played in six MLS Next Pro games this season, scoring one goal and one assist in those matches. However, he’s played with the U.S. U20 squad a ton, racking up over 700 minutes played for them across friendlies and the U20 World Cup.
Craig’s potential is very high, especially for a position where you don’t traditionally see a ton of young talent. Unfortunately for him, at Philadelphia, he was sitting behind arguably the best center-back pairing in the league. This loan for him ultimately benefits all parties; Criag in getting consistent MLS minutes, Austin FC in getting an uber-talented player in a position of need, and the Union in getting one of their young talents more minutes to develop and grow at a high level. I’m sure it’ll take Craig some time to adjust, but ultimately I can see him slotting in as a starting center-back next to Julio Cascante on that Austin FC backline.
LAFC Ship Off Top Attacking Talent To Montreal For $1.75m In GAM:
CF Montreal has acquired 21-year-old winger Kwadwo Opoku from LAFC for $1.75m in General Allocation Money. This move becomes one of the largest exchanges for GAM in MLS history. Opoku won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup with LAFC during the 2022 season. In roughly 1,600 minutes this season for LAFC, Opoku has scored four goals and assisted on three more across the MLS regular season, U.S. Open Cup, and CONCACAF Champions League. Overall during his time in Los Angeles, the young Ghanaian attacker has scored 13 goals and nine assists in 79 games for the black and gold side of LA.
Opoku now heads north to the five-time Canadian Championship winners. Under Manager Hernán Losada, CF Montreal has continued to play their 3-5-2 formation. I think when the roster is fully healthy, Montreal will ideally have Opoku start up top with Romell Quioto. Under them, newly acquired youngster Bryce Duke should complete a young but promising attack. Montreal continues to find inter-MLS moves to bolster the roster; adding talents like Aarón Herrera and George Campbell to that list as well. As for LAFC, their attack is still led by the likes of Denis Bouanga and Carlos Vela. The front three for LAFC also has seen glimpses this season of Croatian youngster Stipe Biuk and Poland youngster Mateusz Bogusz. But if we’ve seen anything from LAFC over the last few seasons, something seems like it could be around the corner as far as a transfer. We will just have to wait and see.
Atlanta United Bring In Midfield Reinforcements From France:
Atlanta United has signed 26-year-old Defensive Midfielder Tristan Muyumba from Ligue 2 side EA Guingamp. Muyumba came up the youth ranks in the Monaco system, eventually making an appearance for them in the Coupe de France. After a short period in France's lower divisions, Muyumba moved to Ligue 2 and EA Guingamp in 2020. There, he would rack up 72 appearances and roughly 4,400 minutes.
With social media posts from Franco Ibarra looking like the midfielder is leaving the club, there seems to be a spot open for Muyumba to start. Atlanta’s midfield needed a presence that can truly impact a game from the defensive side. With Muyumba’s ability to play the six, but also quickly transition into the attacking half, he has every opportunity to play well (especially with a player like Thiago Almada on the other end).
Sporting Kansas City Re-Signs A Familiar Face To The Organization:
Sporting Kansas City has signed former Chilean international midfielder Felipe Gutiérrez for the remainder of the 2023 season. The 32-year-old Gutiérrez now begins his second stint with Sporting Kansas City, previously playing with the club for the 2018 and 2019 MLS seasons. Gutiérrez has played all over the world racking up minutes within La Liga, MLS, the Eredivisie, the UAE Pro League, the Primera División de Chile, Campeonato Brasileiro Série B, and more.
If we know anything about Peter Vermes and the Sporting Kansas City front office, they like familiar faces who understand how that building is run. Gutiérrez brings a sense of that back to the Kansas City locker room, along with an almost endless amount of global soccer experience. But for me when I look at this Sporting Kansas City side, the biggest question mark is still who gives you that winning edge? I like what Erik Thommy has brought to this midfield but with an aging Róger Espinoza, an injury-prone Gadi Kinda, an unproven Felipe Hernández, and a newer addition player of Nemanja Radoja… even with Gutiérrez, nobody here feels like Sporting Kansas City are pushing for titles any time soon.
Minnesota United Sign 2021 MLS Cup Champion To Bolster Attack:
One of my personal favorites is returning to Major League Soccer! Winger Ismael Tajouri-Shradi has signed back in MLS for Adrian Heath and Minnesota United. The Liberian international winger is coming back to the U.S. after a 14-game stint in Cyprus with Omonia Nicosia. Though it was a short time in Cyprus, Tajouri-Shradi was able to win the Cypriot Cup! Trophies are not hard to come by in his resume as he also won the Austrian Football Second League back in 2013/2014 as well as winning MLS Cup with NYCFC in 2021.
Tajouri-Shradi knows MLS and knows how to be a productive MLS attacker. Between his two stints at NYCFC and LAFC, he was able to appear in 104 games and score 31 goals with 10 assists. With injuries in the attack for the Loons, I could see Tajouri-Shradi quickly becoming a go-to starting option for them. I will fully admit though, I am a bit biased here as I LOVED this man on NYCFC. Also, a fun fact, I met him once walking around a local mall to me here in New Jersey.