Major League Soccer

MLS transfer roundup: Diego Valeri leaves a legend, LAFC break record & more

Chris Smith
Valeri leaves as one of the most iconic players in MLS history.
Valeri leaves as one of the most iconic players in MLS history. / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The closer we get to the start of the 2022 MLS season, the busier the transfer market becomes.

On Thursday, Cole Bassett completed a move to Feyenoord, joining the Eredivisie giants on an 18-month loan with a view to a permanent transfer.

But his departure was by no means the end of the day's wheeling and dealing. Here's a roundup of all the other transactions:

1. Maxime Crepeau completes record-breaking move to LAFC

LAFC have made some big moves recently, but the signing of Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau might just be the best of the lot.

The Black and Gold have paid $1m General Allocation Money (GAM) for the 27-year-old's services - a record-breaking amount for an MLS goalkeeper. But for that, they're getting someone who has been one of the top stoppers in the league over the past few years, with 14 caps for Canada under his belt, too.

"We are thrilled to add a goalkeeper of Maxime’s quality to our roster,” LAFC co-president & general manager John Thorrington said in a release. “We consider Maxime to be one of the top goalkeepers in MLS. Like us, we know he is committed to winning, and his leadership and experience will contribute to our success on the field.”

2. Portland Timbers legend Diego Valeri departs

It's been on the cards for a while, but on Thursday we finally said goodbye to an MLS legend as Diego Valeri departed the Portland Timbers for boyhood club Lanus.

During his nine-year spell at Providence Park, the Argentine achieved almost everything you could in North American soccer, including winning MLS Cup in 2015 and playing in two other finals. Individually, he scored 100 goals and set up another 78 in 309 appearances across all competitions for the Timbers.

Alongside the move, the Timbers will face Lanus at Providence Park in a testimonial match, with Valeri playing one half for each side. When the 35-year-old eventually retires, he will take up an ambassadorial role with Portland.

“I do not believe there has been a more impactful Designated Player signing in the history of MLS than Diego Valeri,” Timbers owner and CEO Merritt Paulson said in a release. “He changed what clubs looked for in a DP – not a brand to put fans in the seats and sell sponsorships, but a rising European-level talent who chose to make America his home and legacy.

“In Portland, he has meant everything to us on the pitch and in the community. While one chapter ends today, this is not the end of Diego Valeri in Portland, and I cannot wait for fans to have the opportunity to properly honor him in person. Thank you, Diego. For everything.”

3. Ayo Akinola remains in Toronto

There had been much speculation regarding Ayo Akinola's future after his contract with Toronto FC expired at the end of last season. The Vancouver Whitecaps had been linked with the Canada international, while there were reports of European interest.

In the end, it was all smoke, with Akinola re-signing with TFC as part of the MLS U22 Initiative through 2024 with an option for 2025.

“Ayo has great starting points for a young attacker,” TFC head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said in a release. “He moves well and puts himself in position to score goals. He has the ability to finish in a number of different ways. We are excited to continue working with him and pushing him to become even better.”

After a strong 2020 campaign in which he scored nine goals in 16 appearances, Akinola suffered a heavily disrupted 2021 season due to injury, managing three goals in just 11 MLS games.

However, he clearly has the potential to be a potent goalscorer in MLS and his return could prove to be a key move alongside TFC's landmark acquisition of Italy international Lorenzo Insigne.

4. Leonardo Campana bolsters Inter Miami attack

Given they've let an entire roster's worth of players leave this winter, Inter Miami are going to be very busy rebuilding over the next couple of weeks.

Their latest addition is Ecuadorian forward Leonardo Campana, who joins on loan from English Premier League side Wolves through 2021, with an option to make the move permanent. The 21-year-old only joined Wolves in 2020 but has since spent most of his time on loan in Portugal with Famalicao and Switzerland with Grasshopper.

“We’re excited to acquire a player of Leonardo’s pedigree,” chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson said in a release. “He’s a hungry young forward with a lot of promise, and we’re confident we’ll be able to develop him and help him reach his full potential with us. He’ll add to our attack and give us a great option up front that we believe can score goals in this league.”

Campana - a ten-time Ecuador international - already has American citizenship so won't take up an international roster spot.

5. Seattle Sounders re-sign key duo Roldan and Bruin

Though they initially allowed them to leave as free agents, the Seattle Sounders have re-signed Alex Roldan and Will Bruin to new contracts.

Roldan, the younger brother of teammate and USMNT midfielder Cristian, has penned a deal through 2024 with an option for 2025 after emerging as one of the top full-backs in MLS over the past couple of years.

Bruin, meanwhile, had been linked with a move to Atlanta United - managed by former Sounders coach Gonzalo Pineda - but has instead re-signed through 2022 with an option for 2023.

6. Jesus Castellano the latest Venezuelan Red Bull

With Cristian Casseres Jr and Wiki Carmona already at the club, the New York Red Bulls once again dipped into the Venezuelan market with the signing of 17-year-old Jesus Castellano.

The midfielder will arrive from Yaracuyanos FC on March 22 with his contract running through the 2022 season with option years from 2023-25.

“Jesús is an exciting young player,” head of sport Kevin Thelwell said in a release. “He’s a versatile offensive midfielder with sound technical abilities and a creative mind. We look forward to his continued development within our environment."

On Thursday, the Red Bulls also signed youngsters Jake LaCava and Zach Ryan to homegrown deals.