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Sweezy's news and notes from around MLS

By Tom Sweezy

Colorado Rapids' newest designated player, Rafael Navarro (Photo courtesy of Palmeiras)

New York Red Bulls transfer midfielder to Ligue 1 side

The Red Bulls have sold midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr. to French Ligue 1 side Toulouse FC. The 23-year-old Venezuelan international has grown immensely since he arrived at MLS at the age of 18. Casseres Jr. would rack up 126 games, 15 goals, and 19 assists in his five-and-a-half seasons in New Jersey. He took home silverware by winning the 2018 Supporters’ Shield title and even grew into a Venezuela Men’s National Team member with 21 caps for his home nation. I want to wish him nothing but the best as his time to make the move to a top European league has come!

What hole does this leave for the Red Bulls post-Casseres Jr.? I would argue a pretty big one as the paragraph above shows his importance over the years. As far as true midfielders go, it seems like it’s time for another former youth addition to step up, Wikelman Carmona. Carmona is a fellow Venezuelan who we’ve seen a bit in MLS this season with 12 appearances and one goal. If we are going to see anyone step up as the next Red Bulls' young midfielder, I think Carmona could be their guy.

LAFC brings back young center-back after a stint in Spain

The loan of Mamadou Fall to La Liga’s Villarreal has come to an end as the Senegalese defender makes his return to Los Angeles. The 20-year-old center-back made two appearances for Villarreal’s first team during his loan stint with an additional 25 appearances for Villarreal B in LaLiga 2. Before his loan move to Spain, Fall would play a major part in LAFC’s 2022 MLS Cup title run and has racked up 40 games for the black and gold in his career.

How can the return of Fall help LAFC right now? Well… LAFC are struggling ever since their CONCACAF Champions League Final loss. They have only one win in their last five games, and only three wins in their last 10 games. The red-hot LAFC that we saw start the 2023 MLS season has cooled off a bit. Injuries have played a factor in this, but LAFC need help in reassuring the backline. I think adding an uber-talented, big-bodied defender can help with that. Whether he is a starting center-back or your third man up… I love what Fall can add to LAFC for the rest of the 2023 season.

NYCFC signs 12th homegrown in club history

NYCFC add another player to their Homegrown list, this time a 16-year-old right-back in Drew Baiera. Baiera has been a staple of the U.S. U16 squad this summer with minutes played against Japan, the Netherlands, and Nigeria’s U16 squads. He has also been able to make some appearances within MLS Next Pro for NYCFC II this season. Baiera has 219 minutes played in MLS Next Pro with one assist to his name.

NYCFC’s homegrown list has been pretty talented. The list includes; the USMNT’s James Sands and Joe Scally, MLS Cup Champions Tayvon Gray, Justin Haak, and Andres Jasson, as well as more!

Atlanta United loaned midfielder Franco Ibarra to Toronto FC

Atlanta United has loaned U22 Initiative midfielder Franco Ibarra to fellow MLS side Toronto FC for the remainder of the 2023 season. As part of the deal, Toronto FC will send $50k in GAM to Atlanta. With the return of winger Edwin Mosquera to Atlanta United via his loan ending, Atlanta United had an issue with too many U22 Initiative players on the roster. Atlanta had to choose between Mosquera, striker Erik Lopez, and midfielders Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra. Atlanta made the tough choice and decided to loan out Ibarra.

As stated before in one of these “News and Notes From Around the League”, Atlanta United also needed to clear up space with the signing of Tristan Muyumba from Ligue 2 side EA Guingamp. It seems easy to assume that Muyumba will be one of the two starting midfielders in the lower block for Atlanta United, taking Ibarra’s spot. Next to Muyumba will most likely be central midfielder Matheus Rossetto.

But this squad will also continue to utilize a combination of those two; Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdic, Ozzie Alonso, and Ajani Fortune. As for Toronto FC, they add another depth piece to the interesting situation of a 2023 season for the club from The Six. Ibarra joins a midfield that should include Jonathan Osorio, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Michael Bradley, and Brandon Servania for the rest of this season. This move should improve the Toronto FC side… but I don’t know if there is any saving for this club in 2023.

New England adds winger on loan from Argentina

The New England Revolution have signed winger Tomás Chancalay on loan from Argentine side Racing Club. This past season, Chancalay was on loan to UAE club Al-Wasl SC where he had 10 goals and five assists across his 26 games there. Before Al-Wasl SC, Chancalay spent his career in Argentina where he played 160 games across two clubs; Racing Club and CA Colon. In those 160 games played, he racked up 25 goals and 15 assists. Chancalay joins a New England Revolution side that has seen a ton of success in this 2023 season, even with players missing time for National Team competition or through long-term injuries. Long-term injuries especially affected the Revolution’s attack as Dylan Borrero, Nacho Gil, and Tommy McNamara have all missed long periods.

This team is obviously at its best when fully healthy (what team isn’t?) but the idea of what this starting XI could look like with Chancalay excites me. An attack including former MVP Carles Gil and now Chancalay sounds like a ton of fun. I always say this, if there is any manager in MLS that I can go to trust to build a winning squad, it’s Bruce Arena.

Colorado Rapids sign DP striker from Brazil

The Rapids have signed 2023 Supercopa do Brasil, 2022 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, 2022 Campeonato Paulista, 2022 Recopa Sudamericana, and 2021 Campeonato Brasileiro Série B Champion striker Rafael Navarro from Brazilian club Palmeiras. The deal is a 12-month loan in which Navarro will occupy a Designated Player spot. In his career, Navarro has played in 128 games between Palmeiras and Botafogo. In these games he has scored 29 goals and 14 assists, his best season coming in 2021 with 16 goals and 10 assists.

The Rapids in this 2023 season are dead last in goal scored with only 16 goals scored in 21 games. The Rapids and Robin Fraser are hoping that the 23-year-old striker can change things a bit and give some hope to the Rapids' second half of the 2023 season. The Rapids Designated Player history in recent years hasn’t been the greatest… However, this move has given fans hope that the club is addressing a major need.

Orlando City SC adds the club’s 15th homegrown player

Orlando City have signed Homegrown goalkeeper Javier Otero to their MLS roster. Otero becomes the 15th Homegrown player for Orlando City in their history and the 2nd Homegrown goalkeeper in their history. The 20-year-old Venezuelan stands at a towering 6’ 6" and has been able to rack up minutes for Orlando City B within MLS Next Pro and USL League One. In his 33 career games for “OCB”, Otero has been able to record seven clean sheets. The potential for Otero seems to be off the charts as he was even called into the latest Venezuela Men's National Team camp to train.

NYCFC finally lands their striker

NYCFC has signed Algerian striker Monsef Bakrar from Croatian side NK Istra 1961 for a reported sale under $2m (though floated reports are unclear). Bakrar, 22, will sign with the Cityzens as a U22 Initiative player and will be under contract until 2026. Bakrar is a familiar face within the Algeria Youth National Teams as he was called into the U23 side last year and before that appeared and scored for the country’s U20 side. Across two seasons and 51 games for ES Sétif in the Algerian Ligue Professionnelle 1, Bakrar scored 10 goals and had three assists. This allowed him to get a move to Europe in Croatia’s top division, the SuperSport HNL. During his only season in Croatia, he would appear in 33 games with a total of eight goals and three assists to his name. He showed many signs in his first European season that he was a highly intelligent player and his movement was top quality.

Bakrar will join Gabe Segal as NYCFC's only two true strikers on the roster, even though we’ve seen other options start up top for the club. The club has not seen a dynamic player start up top since the departure of Taty Castellanos to La Liga. Bakrar gives NYCFC a shot at returning to being one of the most dangerous attacking clubs in MLS. There is no doubting the potential of this squad with players like Talles Magno, Gabriel Pereira, Santiago Rodríguez, Richie Ledezma, and others in the attack. However, the issue with NYCFC in 2023 has been the final execution of that talent, truly lacking a goal scorer to put the pieces together. Hopefully for (us) NYCFC fans, Bakrar can provide that for seasons to come!