January 2019 Record year for USMNT transfer fees

Years from now, January 2019 will likely be revered as a watershed month for the movement of USMNT players and prospects, as well as the involvement of MLS in professional soccer’s $1bn+ global transfer market. MLS Commissioner Dave Garber proclaimed last fall that MLS would be a “selling league,” and the first available transfer window affirmed this commitment. MLS clubs bought, sold, loaned & accepted loans with dozens of trading partners around the globe, which surely has to be encouraging for MLS owners, players and fans alike.

In this piece, we will focus on the most notable transfers for USMNT players. We have broken down the impact to current, prospective and future candidates, with a short overview of the three (3) most important in each buckets. Have a read, and please share your thoughts! Also, with the beehive of player movement, we may have missed some, so please let me know on @DisgruntleUSMNT on Twitter.

Most Notable: Current USMNT Player Pool

Hope for the future

These players would presumably be first-choice starters for Berhalter at this summer’s Gold Cup. What will their moves mean for the short & long term?  

Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (Germany) to Chelsea (England), loan back to Dortmund. Did you hear about this one? Us, too! So we will not belabor it with any further commentary. We wish him best of luck in the long term. In the short term, there is virtually zero risk to his missing out on a USMNT roster spot. But our hope is that he can still feature regularly for Dortmund, who will face a grinding stretch of games in the months ahead in the Bundesliga, German League Cup (DFB Pokal) & Champions League.

Tyler Adams, RBNY (MLS) to Red Bull Leipzig (Germany). Adams has shown brilliantly in his first two Bundesliga matches for a club contending for a spot in next year’s Champions League.

Few would question his upside, and playing against better competition each week will only help his confidence and form in the USMNT midfield.

Matt Miazga, Chelsea (England) Loan to Reading (England). Miazga’s loan to Nantes was an endeavor to forget, but now he is back and playing full ninety-minute matches for a team desperate to win. (Reading currently sits in the Championship Relegation zone.) Some are speculating his USMNT CB spot alongside John Brooks is at risk, but a strong showing on a weekly basis should keep him in pole position. We do hope, however, that he lands in a better league than the Championship after this spell.

Honorable Mention:

  • Zack Steffen, Columbus Crew (MLS) to Manchester City (England), loan back to Columbus.

Will Their Transfers Help Their Cause? USMNT Fringe Players

These players are currently at the outer edges of USMNT roster consideration but likely increased their chances of a Gold Cup look with these moves, whether it was to a better league or to a club where they are likely to see more minutes.   

Keaton Parks, Benfica (Portugal) loan to NYCFC (MLS). The extremely fluid midfielder could not crack the Benfica first team after a spell there last spring, so going somewhere for first-team minutes was a solid move. Although some will bemoan his moving to MLS, we have to consider Parks took a very unconventional route to Benfica. He never played for a Development Academy team or featured for a USYNT, so he may have growing pains adapting to the grind of a top European club. Speculation aside, we hope the loan works well and lands Parks in a Gold Cup consideration, because he has a special blend of ball-handling talent for a US midfielder.

Matt Polster, Chicago Fire to Rangers (Scottish Premiership). The 24-year-old Polster has only one USMNT camp under his belt and has a serious climb on the USMNT RB roster chart, especially after Nick Lima’s showing in the January camp. But he joins one of the most storied clubs in Europe and will be deep in a title race if he can find the field for Rangers. Playing a key role in an important situation could go a long way should Yedlin or Lima get injured.  

 

Terrence Boyd (Rumor) SV Darmstadt 98 (Germany) to Toronto FC (MLS). The 27-year-old striker is likely to never see the field again for USMNT – in a meaningful game at least – but could improve his prospects by becoming the most prolific US scorer in MLS.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Caleb Stanko, Freiburg (Germany) to Cincinnati FC (MLS)
  • Ian Harkes, DC United to Dundee United (Scottish Championship)
  • Gedion Zelalem (rumor) Arsenal U-23’s (England) to Kansas City (MLS)
  • Gboly Ariyibi, Nottingham Forest (English Championship) loan to Motherwell (Scottish Premiership)

Looking Ahead: Future USMNT Player Pool

These moves could be compelling immediately, but are more noteworthy for their long-term prospects. Most of these players figure to be on the field for the US U-20 World Cup team this spring (assuming their clubs release them), and some could finagle their way into the senior USMNT through strong club performances. We list them below in order of most likely to make that jump.  


Alex Mendez (18), LA Galaxy 2 to Freiburg (Germany). Mendez has had a tremendous 2018 and figures to build on it by fighting for first-team minutes at Freiburg come spring time. He will start with their U-19’s, but Freiburg is a program that regularly promotes youth. Further, their table position should be tenuous come spring, and they will likely need ball-possessing midfielders to alleviate pressure and drive counter attacks in key games. If Mendez becomes that guy, he could easily raise his hand for a midfield role for Berhalter. If he does not crack Freiburg’s senior team, he figures to be contending for a first-team Freiburg spot by next fall and be a USMNT midfield stalwart for the next decade.  

Richie Ledezma (18), Real Salt Lake (MLS) to PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands). Ledezma has also had a tremendous 2018 and has a tremendous ceiling as an attacking midfielder. A recent injury means he will get a later jump than Mendez, but if he can stay healthy and work his way into the PSV first team, he will likely have a look from Berhalter as well. Regardless, moving to a program like PSV for the long-term cements Ledezma as one of the top USMNT midfield prospects alongside Mendez.

Chris Richards (18), FC Dallas (MLS) to Bayern Munich (Germany). Richards had been on loan at Bayern from Dallas since the summer and made the move permanent by signing a 4-year contract in January. He has been a rock in their U-19 team’s backline. He will likely not compete for senior team minutes at Bayern or USMNT for the next 12-18 months, but the fact that Bayern paid the transfer fee for him AFTER seeing him in their ranks for six months is hugely promising for the young Alabamian….and Gregg Berhalter.

Honorable Mentions:  

  • Giovanni Reyna (16), NYCFC (MLS) to Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
  • Taylor Booth (17), Real Salt Lake (MLS) to Bayern Munich (Germany)
  • Kevin Lankford (20), Heidenheim (Germany) to St. Pauli (Germany)  
  • Sidney Friede (19), Hertha Berlin (Germany) loan to Royal Excel Mouscron (Belgium)
  • Juan Pablo Torres (19), FC Lokeren (Belgium) to NYCFC (MLS)
  • Andrew Gutman (22). Indiana University (MLS rights: Chicago Fire) to Celtic (Scotland)  
  • Manny Perez (19). North Carolina State University to Celtic (Scotland), loaned to North Carolina FC (USL)

Say what? – why did these moves NOT happen (yet)?

Besides the commerce that actually transpired, we should consider that a few USMNT candidates were rumored to be on the move but ended up staying put. Here are the most noteworthy.


Kellyn Acosta, Colorado Rapids to English Championship. After being dismissed from Greg Berhalter’s inaugural January camp, Acosta was rumored to be the subject of bids from multiple English Championship clubs. Nothing transpired, and speculation is that FC Dallas (who owns a percentage of any transfer fee going forward) had a hand in nixing the size of the bids. Poor dude cannot catch a break, but our hope is he continues to show well for Colorado and maximize his USMNT potential.  

Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth to….anywhere. Hyndman enjoyed a decent stretch while on loan at Hibernian in Scotland for the first half of the season, most notably in his latter few games, where he featured prominently in a win over league leaders Celtic and a draw to second place Rangers. But Hibs elected to end the loan in January, and Hyndman returned to Bournemouth, but not first-team football. Last year, after Rangers elected not to extend his loan at mid-season, Hyndman made only one “token” Premiership start on the last day of the season, with nothing meaningful at stake for the club. This year’s loan recall appeared more to do with Hibs not wanting him than Bournemouth needing him, so we are curious why he did not land with (say) a Championship club on loan for the rest of the season. Guy needs to final a stable club situation before getting any serious USMNT consideration.

Andrija Novakovich, Reading loan recall from Fortuna Sittard. Reading doubled-down on their defensive posture by grabbing Miazga in the transfer window. But they currently have the fourth fewest goals in the Championship. Wouldn’t it have made sense to recall a prolific striking option like Novakovich? Surely, they will have to sell him and other players if they are demoted to League One next year.

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