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Five incoming MLS players who provide litmus tests

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Even with a name like Pogba in the running, it will not make the list of most intriguing MLS transfers so far this offseason (and there may be more to come, especially with Toronto FC holding a Designated Player spot and reportedly chasing a star in the Belgian top flight).

Though Paul’s older brother Florentin is an intriguing center back addition for champions Atlanta United — he’s a season-and-a-half removed from a very good Ligue 1 campaign for Saint-Etienne — he’s not close to the five players leaping to the front of our minds.

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That list was made trickier to assemble this week when Philadelphia signed Mexican playmaker Marco Fabian from Eintracht Frankfurt. Where will he meet our list, if anywhere?

So we added another qualifier to our list, and that’s whether the player’s standing and form provide us any sort of litmus test for the current state of MLS.

There have been outlandish talents like Pity Martinez and rising international midfielders like Hwang In-Boem before, but the gentlemen below could help teach us some things.

Also, we’re going to cheat and include six players, on five teams. It’s our list.

Fabian, Philadelphia Union —  If there ever was a case to be made for an automatic game-changer, it’s Fabian. The Mexican 29-year-old is two seasons removed from significant playing time with Eintracht Frankfurt, but his first season was very good — 7 goals, 4 assists — and he’s scored against Germany and Iceland in the last two years for El Tri. If he doesn’t control games, MLS has progressed even more than we suspected.

Carles Gil, New England Revolution — One day, La Liga players coming to MLS won’t be that big of a deal, and we’ll find out how accelerated that timeline has come in part through the play of Gil. The right winger and La Liga regular until this year has been with Deportivo de la Coruna’s second team all year. Is Brad Friedel the man to help Gil finally meet his potential head-on?

Terrence Boyd, Toronto FC — Boyd is one of the toughest-to-digest stories for American soccer, mostly because for a time it seemed he could be the next true USMNT star striker. But his time in the Bundesliga was cut by injuries, and he’s been unable to brand himself a regular 2.Bundesliga starter. It’s a rebirth story, but how quickly will he refind his footing? And is he a 10-goal contributor, which should be the minimum expectation, or a guy who can dominate a game?

Allan Cruz and Manu Ledezma, FC Cincinnati — The 22-year-old Cruz is one of the rising stars for Costa Rica, scoring against Peru in November after staring his first 7 appearances for Los Ticos. He’s moving from one of the biggest clubs in an inferior league to another CONCACAF testing ground.

As for Ledezma, the well-traveled 30-year-old Argentine absolutely tortured USL defenses last season, with 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 league games. The prior season, he bagged 10 goals with six assists in 19 NASL appearances with the New York Cosmos. MLS is a step-up, but not enough to deter optimism that the former Middlesbrough man cannot be a significant factor for manager Alan Koch.

Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC — Here’s another litmus test for the league, in a different way. Mitrita left the Romanian first tier — UEFA coefficient 26th — got some good experience in Italy’s top two tiers with Pescara, and came home to light his domestic league on fire. The next step here is an interesting one for both the development of a player and a league. Mitrita wasn’t a star in Italy, just productive. He’s on fire in Romania. We’ll guess it’s a little bit of the former, at least to start. He’s just 24, and will continue to improve.

FC Cincinnati reveals inaugural MLS kit

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Featuring its trademark orange and blue, FC Cincinnati is now ready to take the field for its inaugural MLS season.

The club revealed on Monday evening in a ceremony event with proceeds going to charity its home and away kits for the 2019 MLS season. The home uniform features a blue jersey with accented orange stripes down the front, blue shorts with stripes and blue socks as well. The away kit is a clean, solid white uniform. Shorts and socks are not listed for the away kit, but it’s likely to be white shorts and white socks, making it one of the many all-white kits in MLS this season.

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As it’s Adidas designing the uniforms, there’s not a ton of unique aspects in the design, though the accented stripes are certainly different than Atlanta United and the Montreal Impact. The away kit is a bit disappointing though. However, as the team grows in its time in MLS and begins to create its narrative and story in the league, the designers will have more aspects to work with.

Take a look at some photos of the uniforms.

MLS releases home openers for all 2019 teams

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On Thursday we learned that Portland is going to be insane on June 1, as the Timbers host their home opener a mere three months into their 2019 MLS season.

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Major League Soccer released the home opener dates for all of its teams, and the Timbers will be away for months thanks to renovations at Providence Park (via MLSSoccer.com).

The Timbers will be the visitors for the first home match in the MLS history of FC Cincinnati on March 17, a week after FCC opens up the home schedule for reigning champions Atlanta United.

Saturday, March 2

  • 1 p.m. ET – Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC (Talen Energy Stadium)
  • 2:30 p.m. ET – Orlando City SC vs. NYCFC (Orlando City Stadium)
  • 4:30 p.m. ET – Columbus Crew SC vs. NY Red Bulls (MAPFRE Stadium)
  • 4:30 p.m. ET – FC Dallas vs. New England Revolution (Toyota Stadium)
  • 6 p.m. ET – Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake (BBVA Compass Stadium)
  • 6 p.m. ET – Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park)
  • 6 p.m. ET – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Minnesota United (BC Place)
  • 8 p.m. ET – LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire (Dignity Health Sports Park)
  • 10 p.m. ET – Seattle Sounders vs. FC Cincinnati (CenturyLink Field)
  • 10 p.m. ET – San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact (Avaya Stadium)

Sunday, March 3

  • 6 p.m. ET – D.C. United vs. Atlanta United (Audi Field)
  • 8 p.m. ET – LAFC vs. Sporting KC (Banc of California Stadium)

Saturday, March 9, 2019:

  • 1 p.m. ET – Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City SC (SeatGeek Stadium)
  • 2 p.m. ET – New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew SC (Gillette Stadium)
  • 6 p.m. ET – Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Rio Tinto Stadium)

Sunday, March 10, 2019:

  • 3 p.m. ET – NYCFC vs. D.C. United (Yankee Stadium)
  • 3 p.m. ET – Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia Union (Children’s Mercy Park)
  • 5 p.m. ET – Atlanta United vs. FC Cincinnati (Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Saturday, March 16, 2019:

  • TBD – NY Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Red Bull Arena)

Sunday, March 17, 2019:

  • 1:30 p.m. – Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution (BMO Field)
  • 5 p.m. – FC Cincinnati vs. Portland Timbers (Nippert Stadium)

Saturday, April 13, 2019:

  • 1 p.m. ET – Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew SC (Saputo Stadium)
  • 5 p.m. ET – Minnesota United vs. NYCFC (Allianz Field)

Saturday, June 1, 2019:

  • 10:30 p.m. ET – Portland Timbers vs. LAFC (Providence Park)

FC Cincinnati acquires Kendall Waston from Vancouver

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There was some teeth-grinding around MLS circles that perhaps FC Cincinnati bringing many of its USL players to the top flight could be a naive decision that leads to a Minnesota United level first year struggle.

Those concerns should be somewhat if not largely quelled on Tuesday, as FCC added two international quality backs and several other players via trades and the Expansion Draft.

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FCC saved the best for last, acquiring Kendall Waston from the Vancouver Whitecaps for a lot of numbers and slots and stuff (via FCCincinnati.com):

  • $450,000 of General Allocation Money
  • $300,000 of Targeted Allocation Money
  • The 2019 international roster spot obtained from the Colorado Rapids via trade after the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft.
  • Vancouver will retain a percentage of future transfer fees should FC Cincinnati trade or transfer Waston.
  • Additionally, should Waston reach certain performance-based incentives with FC Cincinnati, Vancouver will also receive an additional $75,000 in GAM.

With respect to Greg Garza, no move is more promising than the rescue of Waston from Vancouver.

Waston had a down year this season with the Caps, but so did the Caps. The captain was angered by the firing of coach Carl Robinson, and said he was ready to move on (Vancouver also traded another critic, Kei Kamara, on Tuesday).

Thirty times capped by Costa Rica, Waston scored against Switzerland in his only action of the 2018 World Cup.

If Emmanuel Ledesma is able to have half the impact he had in USL, find steady goalkeeping, and line up a CB to pair with Waston (Forrest Lasso?), FCC is going to surprise a lot of teams.

FC Cincinnati acquires Garza, selects five in Expansion Draft

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FC Cincinnati added plenty of MLS experience on Tuesday in their Expansion Draft, also making two trades involving internationally-capped players.

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FCC picked up forwards Darren Mattocks and Kei Kamara, then trading the latter to the Colorado Rapids in exchange for an international roster spot.

The club also drafted winger Roland Lamah from FC Dallas, midfielder Eric Alexander of Houston, and young center back Hassan Ndam from the New York Red Bulls.

FCC also acquired USMNT left back Greg Garza from Atlanta United in exchange for $250,000 in Target Allocation Money and $200,000 in General Allocation Money.

Kamara has 112 MLS goals including 14 with five assists last season in Vancouver and will give Colorado a big target man while allowing FCC a valuable extra international slot as most of theirs were taken with players retained from the USL.

Mattocks scored 10 goals for DC last season, while FCC has the rights to Lamah, who is out-of-contract after scoring eight goals with five assists last season.