Whilst in Europe currently none of the transfer windows are open, the MLS transfer window is well underway with plenty of transactions already having taken place. The rumours keep on coming as well ,the likes of Quaresma, Drogba, Anelka, Cudicini, Grafite, Rustu Recber, Pat McCourt and the possible Galaxy bound duo of Lampard and Kaka are all tipped to be making moves across the Atlantic this offseason. For now though here are just a few of the stand out transfers that have already been completed.
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A completely new front office for the New York Red Bulls (Gerard Houllier and former UEFA technical director Andy Roxburgh being part of that) weren’t afraid to make the first big signings of the offseason without even appointing a replacement head coach for Hans Backe yet. Olave, the 2010 MLS defender of the Year and two time Best XI selection, is clearly a bold move from the Red Bulls as the hole marked ‘commanding centre back’ needed filling. The 6ft 3’ Colombian looks to rid himself of past injuries which left him sidelined for large periods of 2012 and play a key role in trying to take the Red Bulls to their first ever MLS Cup in 2013. The signing of Olave also seemed to have been imperative as the worst DP in MLS history Rafa Marquez has finally departed the club after two tempestuous years.
Fabián Espíndola, who recorded nine goals and seven assists in 30 appearances last season for Real Salt Lake, will look to try and break into an attack ahead of Kenny Cooper (NYRB’s leading goal scorer last season) and show his true quality. The Argentine’s technique on the ball and the pace he possesses complemented by his upper body strength has terrorized MLS defenses in the past three seasons and will look for more consistency in his play. A combination of Espíndola and Thierry Henry would be a real danger to any team and adds yet another threat to a team with plenty of attacking potency.
2) Claudio Bieler – LDU de Quito to Sporting Kansas City – Undisclosed
A very exciting prospect who could be the man to help Sporting Kansas City to finally win that MLS Cup. Claudio Bieler is a goalscorer, the Ecuadorian was the second leading scorer in his native country this year with 20 goals in 34 games during the regular season. He was top scorer in 2009 with 22 goals in 32 appearances and was also part of the only Ecuadorian in history to lift the Copa Libertadores in 2008, contributing 3 goals. He also started in the team which played Manchester United in the FIFA World Club Championship and scored goals in the run up to that match.
Bieler has signed as Sportings’ first Designated Player in two seasons and it will be interesting to see how he fares in a very physical and fast paced league. He is known to be a bit like Fernando Torres (when he was good of course) he has been known to slip under the radar during matches yet score goals when it matters. He will face stiff competition from 2011 Rookie of the Year C.J. Sapong and Teal Bunbury for that one forward spot in Head Coach Peter Vermes’ 4-3-3 high pressure system. Bieler has stated that he is willing to work hard and he will need to if he wants to claim a starting position as Peter Vermes will demand nothing less than maximum work rate from his players and Bieler will be no exception to that. A front three of Zusi, Kamara and Bieler (if he performs) could be one of the most threatening trios the MLS has seen.
3) Juninho Pernambucano – Vasco da Gama to New York Red Bulls – Undisclosed
The biggest signing so far. The 37 year old former Brazilian International Juninho is known to be one of the greatest dead ball specialists ever to play the game and even with his age is still a player who can be a game changer. Juninho decided to turn down offers from other top Brazilian clubs including an Athletico Mineiro side featuring Ronaldinho. The signing is clear evidence of how far the MLS has developed as a league. What’s even better for New York is that he isn’t even signing on a DP contract! Even though the former Lyon man is 37 years old he played 29 league games last season, scoring the second most goals for Vasco with 7 goals and first in assists with eight, not too bad considering he was playing for a 5th placed team.
Juninho will most likely play the number 10 role for New York, playing in behind Thierry Henry, his ability to create chances out of nothing is not lost on Juninho and his set pieces should certainly be something to look forward, with Beckham now gone it was only right for someone else to take the mantle of set piece specialist. With the likes of Espindola, Olave, Henry, Dax McCarthy, Tim Cahill and Juninho all in the starting line up, magic could be made.
The off season has got off to an exciting start in the MLS and with more than three months left until the season begins a lot more signings will certainly be on their way.