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Report: Montero bringing his game back to MLS

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting close to adding a big and familiar piece to their 2019 team.

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Fredy Montero, one of the club’s 2017 stars, will reportedly return to British Columbia following the termination of his contract by Sporting Libson.

Montero, 31, scored 13 goals with six assists in that run under coach Carl Robinson, and new boss Marc Dos Santos will be thrilled to bring him back to Vancouver.

The winger has nine goals and five assists in 37 appearances since leaving MLS, and joins an intriguing cast in Vancouver. Hwang In-Boem and Lass Bangoura headline a very new-look ‘Caps unit.

Montero was a two-time MLS All-Star with Seattle Sounders before beginning his European adventure.

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.

Vancouver signs South Korean midfielder as new Young DP

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Vancouver’s roster reshape has a potentially massive big piece.

The Whitecaps have signed South Korean playmaker In-beom Hwang from Daejon Citizen for two seasons with options for two more.

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The 22-year-old center midfielder will be a Young Designated Player for the ‘Caps, and becomes their first DP since the departures of Brek Shea (Atlanta United) and Kendall Waston (FC Cincinnati).

He has both attacking and defensive qualities, and has been capped 12 times by South Korea.

Hwang played all five matches of South Korea’s Asian Cup, which ended with a quarterfinal loss to Qatar. He scored against Panama in an October friendly.

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.

The Vancouver Whitecaps had a very lively postseason media day

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You know what sounds terrible? Being a part of the 2018 Vancouver Whitecaps.

Aside from Alphonso Davies’ sale to Bayern Munich, the ‘Caps struggled to keep any semblance of momentum all season and saw their poor campaign cost longtime coach Carl Robinson his job.

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“Robbo” must’ve been smirking a little today, as the Whitecaps had a post-season press conference for the ages. It included tears, a captain asking out (again), and some pretty damning complaints.

Take this one, from 24-times capped New Zealand international and starting goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.

Cue the “This is fine” meme.

Vancouver fired Robinson with five matches left in the season and playoff hopes still alive. They promptly took four points out of the next 12 and were eliminated before winning on the Decision Day and finishing two points back of sixth.

Captain Kendall Waston wasn’t happy with the move then, and spoke out more forcefully on Tuesday. Waston said he “doesn’t like two-faced people” and expects a transfer. Vancouver says he won’t be sold for less than market value.

Felipe Martins was in tears as he recapped a rough personal season that included his father-in-law dying, a loss of a family dog, and further unnamed family issues.

And Efrain Juarez was not pleased with his teammates speaking out in public.