We're just over a month away from the 2022 MLS season and the transfer market is only going to get busier from here.
Most clubs have already started their pre-season preparations, meaning they'll need to move quickly if they want their new players up to speed in time for the big kick-off.
Things got a little more serious on Thursday, so here's a roundup of all the deals that took place:
1. Seattle Sounders win the race for Albert Rusnak
Ever since it was confirmed Albert Rusnak wouldn't be re-signing with Real Salt Lake, there has been fierce competition for his services. Hardly surprising given his record of 40 goals and 29 assists in 138 MLS regular-season appearances.
In the end, the Seattle Sounders won the race, signing the Slovakia international to a DP contract through 2023 with an option for 2024.
“We are very excited to welcome such a quality player like Albert to Seattle,” Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a release. “At 27, he is in the prime of his career and already knows our league very well. We’re confident his addition puts our roster in a very good position to succeed in 2022.”
Whether or not the Sounders will be able to buy down Rusnak's DP status remains unclear. But either way, they have themselves an MLS-proven attacking commodity via free agency, so value is all but guaranteed.
2. Portland Timbers make double goalkeeper signing
With long-time goalkeeper Steve Clark gone, the Portland Timbers needed someone to man the sticks. In the end, they managed to bring in two stoppers.
Aljaz Ivacic has re-signed with the club after playing a bit-part role for the Timbers over the past few years. The Slovenian is joined by David Bingham, an MLS veteran of 181 combined appearances during stints with the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.
“We lost a very talented player in this position and in following the same philosophy that has helped this club over time, we have signed two quality goalkeepers to challenge for the starting role,” Timbers general manager and president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson said in a release. “Aljaz has been waiting for this opportunity and David has proven himself in this league. Our coaching staff is excited about these players, and we look forward to both of them continuing to show their talents with the team and in the league.”
3. Abu Danladi seals Minnesota United return
Since leaving for Nashville in 2020, things haven't quite gone to plan for Abu Danladi, who managed just three goals in 23 appearances in Tennessee.
So, why not go back and dance with the one that brung 'ya?
Danladi has re-signed for Minnesota United for the 2022 campaign with an option for 2023. His last spell with the Loons saw him net 11 goals in 72 appearances, including eight in 27 during the 2017 MLS campaign.
“I’m really pleased because I think we as a club, and Abu [Danladi], have a little bit of unfinished business,” head coach Adrian Heath said. “Everybody knows I was really disappointed when we lost him [in the Expansion Draft]. There’s a top player there. I love him as a kid and he’s got great potential.
“People forget that he scored eight goals in his first year as a professional and if we can get him back to playing in that vein of form, then I know we’ve got somebody who can contribute for years to come.”
4. Inter Miami rebuild continues with two young signings
Inter Miami continue to be busy this offseason and completed two more pieces of business on Thursday.
The Herons have re-signed George Acosta, who was one of the club's first acquisitions ahead of their 2020 expansion year but has suffered from knee problems since. Like Acosta, defender Aime Mabika has been moved up from USL affiliate Fort Lauderdale FC.
“This is another great step for our development program, which will be vital to our success in the long term," said Inter Miami chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson. "George and Aimé are promising young players who have developed well in our system and are ready to be integrated into the First Team. We hope to continue to aid them in their professional growth this season."
5. Jhojan Valencia bolsters Austin FC midfield
Though they struggled at the foot of the Western Conference, Austin FC had plenty of positives to take from their expansion year. Now, it's time to build and progress.
Colombian Jhojan Valencia is the latest to arrive at Q2 Stadium, signing from Deportivo Cali through 2024, with an option for 2025. The 25-year-old will likely sit at the base of Josh Wolff's midfield, screening the center-backs and moving the ball forward.
"Jhojan is a young, talented midfielder with great defensive instincts and an eye for the ball,” sporting director Claudio Reyna said of Valencia, who arrives fresh from helping Cali win the Colombian league title.
“His presence will add a new dimension to our midfield and free up some of our more attack-minded players to get forward and create chances. We look forward to welcoming him to Austin.”
Valencia himself added: “I’m very excited to come to Austin. It’s such an amazing city, with great support for the club and everything needed to compete for trophies. I want to thank Claudio and Josh for their support, and I look forward to all of the great moments ahead.”