The Summer Transfer Window has arrived for the 2018 MLS season, and plenty of teams have already been busy and made good use of it. Minnesota has been one of those teams, acquiring both Ecuadorian international Romario Ibarra and Colombian striker,Angelo Rodriguez. Rodriguez becomes the second designated player for the Loons, joining fellow Colombian Darwin Quintero. Besides those two players, Minnesota has been relatively quiet regarding moves within the league (and yes, we are excluding all Benedetti rumors here... mostly). A few of our writers have ventured off into the universe of hypothetical trades that should and probably could happen. So, without further ado, the first hypothetical trade:
Jacob Schneider (@_jacobschneider) makes his case about a trade that could change the path Minnesota United are on this season, assuming the Angelo Rodriguez signing pans out according to plan.
The Breakdown: As you all know, Minnesota has recently signed their second DP in Angelo Rodriguez, and he comes in to presumably to claim the starting striker position from Christian Ramirez. Ramirez has had a career-slump this season. The big man up-top has only scored five goals, in comparison to the 10 goal tally he had at this point last season. Ramirez scored 14 goals in total last season, but given his goal this past Wednesday against the New England Revolution, he may be getting back into form. Ramirez has been the only striker to find the net for MNUFC this season, with rookie Mason Toye still looking for his shooting boots and last year’s runner-up Rookie of the Year, Abu Danladi, being injury plagued. Danladi has missed 12 matches this season, but is ready to be in pole position for being on the bench this Sunday against LAFC. The 22-year old Ghanaian has so much to offer to this league, with no ceiling to the levels he can reach with this club. However, Minnesota already has Christian Ramirez and Angelo Rodriguez, along with Mason Toye.
After starting the year as a starter, Danladi seems capable of taking that role when healthy. Dallas could be the perfect place for him to land, considering he could either win the starting role over Maxi Urruti or be a good complement for his target skills. For Minnesota, however, there has been a notable hole in the heart of the midfield, specifically in the #6, or defensive midfield position. In 2017, Sam Cronin occupied that space, but the midfielder has not played in over a year due to reoccurring concussion problems. The Loons have a gaping hole, and they need to fix it fast; how do they fill it?
The Deal: Minnesota send $500,000 in a mixture of TAM/GAM along with the 4th Allocation Order Ranking and FW Abu Danladi to FC Dallas for the 5th Allocation Order Ranking and MF Kellyn Acosta.
Why it makes sense: FC Dallas are top of the Western Conference, but now that playmaker Mauro Diaz has left the club, they need to opt for more creativity up top. Maxi Urruti is a poacher, and has a similar style of play to Christian Ramirez. Urruti is a great player and all, but he does not have the athleticism to fill Diaz’s shoes now that he is gone. Danladi has the pace and creativity to fill the void that Diaz left with Dallas, and he could become a starter for years to come, especially under the guidance of Oscar Pareja.
Minnesota on the other hand desperately needs help in the midfield. They need somebody to play that sweeper role above their back three of Francisco Calvo, Brent Kallman and Michael Boxall. By bringing in a young and promising midfielder in Kellyn Acosta, they can fix that hole for years to come. Acosta has been capped by the USMNT twice, and he is only 22 years old, the same as Danladi. To start 2018, Acosta had a groin operation that kept him out for both months of March and April, but he has since featured in twelve matches for Dallas, starting 8 times and being subbed on another four times. He has only played 90 minutes twice this season however, which could be a persuading factor if he wants more minutes. He would undoubtedly have the ability to slide right into the starting XI in Minnesota.
Dallas would be losing a promising talent, but they would also be gaining one. The squad has more need for promising talent up top rather than in their midfield, where they already have a Young DP in Carlos Gruezo. Both teams would win in this deal, and both would gain a complementing player that could help take their side to the 2018 MLS playoffs. Danladi could add some pace and creativity to an attack that lost a core member this month, while the Loons would gain a rock for their midfield. Both players have had injuries that have affected their 2018 seasons, but now that both are back on track it could be the perfect time to flip them. Last, but not least, the allocation rankings. One spot may not seem like a lot, but that spot can go a long ways when it comes to future trades and/or acquisitions. The ranking is there to offer just a little bit more incentive to convince Dallas this is the time to trade.
Zak Lippert (@ZacharyRLippert) suggests that the need for a #6 is so obvious for MNUFC that it’ll make prices prohibitive, meaning the team have to take different ways to bolster the midfield.
The Breakdown: So far this summer, Minnesota has brought in two players. One is an out and out winger, the other is our new DP striker. As stated before, there is a gaping hole in the roster, despite the emergence of Collen Warner, a standout #6. A midfield bruiser to break up attacks or knock someone (legally) around when they’re having too much fun the middle of the park. A #6 of that caliber, however, does not come easily, or cheaply. Given that we are getting to the business end of the season and the Loons executive staff have made it clear that the only transfers for here on out would be domestic, any holding midfield acquisition would likely be an exercise in extortion. The Loons are currently three points off the playoff positions, which means the right acquisition now could push them over the top. My first thought was Diego Fagundez: someone to slot into a front three with Quintero and Ramirez and cause chaos whenever the defense was caught off guard. He is not only well paid, but also a valuable asset for Brad Friedel’s squad. While watching video on him, I noticed someone else who had previously caught my eye during last year’s Gold Cup.
The Deal: Minnesota sends Alex Kapp and $50,000 in GAM to Chicago for Kevin Ellis, Minnesota sends Kevin Ellis and the discovery rights for Nicolas Benedetti to New England Revolution in return for Kelyn Rowe.
Why it makes sense: A new #6 would be cool, but expensive, so rather than trying to shore up a backline that has already been improving with the new formation, the Loons should continue improving the attacking side of midfield. No team will want to lose a major piece right before playoffs start and a #6 who would lift the Loons above the playoff line would likely be coming from a team already above the playoff line. The hardest part about this deal would be finding something for New England to receive. The one thing they really lack is depth at center back, something the Loons can’t really offer without giving up lots of cash and one of their prospects. Looking around the league shows a surplus of Fire centerbacks and a lack of goalkeeper quality. Richard Sanchez has been the direct cause of too many goals this season and they could use an in-house backup to push him. I’ve been a big fan of Kapp since his college days and with Chicago’s current backups either injured or splitting time in USL, this could be a chance for Kapp to get more minutes on the field.
Kevin Ellis endured a torrid time in Kansas City last year and was eventually chased out. Chicago picked him up for free and he has been an able deputy whenever called upon. Ellis is a versatile defender and could easily be the first one off the bench to close out a game or make spot starts whenever called upon. Adding in the rights to Benedetti allows the Revs to replace their outgoing playmaker in Kelyn Rowe with a new one. Benedetti would be an investment, but one that would almost surely pay off on the field and in terms of the future transfer fee.
Back in Minnesota, Kelyn Rowe would offer the Loons a lot of flexibility in the front half of their 3-5-2. Rowe could line up on either wing or in the middle. With two of Ibson, Schuller, Martin, and Warner, and Rowe slightly ahead as an 8 or a more reserved 10, it would allow for continued defensive stability and better linkage with Quintero and Ramirez. Worst case scenario, if Ibarra I or Ibarra II get injured, he can slide out to wingback where he can deliver balls into the box and stretch the defense not with pace like one of the Ibarras, but with his movement. He has averaged just under .4 xG+xA per game for he past 4 years, despite only notching 2 assist so far this year. While appearing in almost every game this year, he has only started half of them, so a change of scenery might be just what he needs.
Rowe impressed in last summer’s Gold Cup with a goal and an assist before being sent home. Here he picks out Dom Dwyer after some impressive footwork against two defenders:
Signing Benedetti is a longshot, and trading his rights away saves the Loons $10 million from his transfer fee and nets them a great player who is just about to enter his prime. The long offseason will allow the Loons to properly scout a proper holding midfielder from a larger international pool and give them time to get integrated before the season starts.
Colin O’Donnell (@theattachment) argues that the time is right to take a big risk on youth while looking toward the future.
The breakdown: Part of making fake trades involves understanding what’s actually feasible versus magical realism. It involves understanding trade values, and it especially involves understanding what players are legitimately available based on where they fall in the pecking orders for their teams. Buying low on someone like Kellyn Acosta still involves significant investment of allocation funds—something that, at least in terms of TAM, the Loons probably have exhausted. It involves understanding the needs of the other team. And it involves the recognition that discovery rights are usually only worth the equivalent of $50,000 to $100,000 in GAM for good players; consider that Red Bulls paid just $50,000 for Kaku this offseason, while the rights to Sebastian Blanco went to Portland for $75,000. This means that if a team was looking to bring in Nicolas Benedetti, it’d only make sense to package his discovery rights as a makeweight to drop the cost of another player. With that caveat in mind...
The Deal: Minnesota trades $350,000 in 2018 GAM, $150,000 each in 2019 TAM and GAM, the 4th ranking in the allocation order, the discovery rights to Nicolas Benedetti, and future considerations (25% of net GAM in the event of an overseas player sale) to DC United for midfielder Chris Durkin and the 2nd ranking in the allocation order.
Why it makes sense: With no academy system capable of churning out a first-team player anytime in the next few years, the Loons need to make moves for players with reserve homegrown eligibility to max out their use of the roster. Chris Durkin is arguably the best fit for Minnesota’s needs of players in that segment—namely, he’s a #6 and already a good one—and of the ones that fit a need he certainly projects as the best player three to five years down the line. The 18-year old Virginia native has been a dynamo for the Black and Red this year, picking up 2.3 tackles and interceptions, 2.4 clearances, and 2.1 blocked balls per 90 over the course of fourteen appearances (ten starts), and passes at an 85.5% completion rate—90% on short passes, no less. He’s been a regular for the USYNT set up, and would have gotten a call up for the preparatory camps for the U-20 World Cup if his professional commitments wouldn’t get in the way.
As it stands, he’s at or above the level of Rasmus Schuller in terms of two-way work rate and quality, with a greater ability to maintain energy throughout a game. It’s all but impossible to prize him away from DC knowing that his floor is to be an MLS regular for years, but putting an at-inflation level of GAM that got Dax McCarty to Chicago with added TAM and possible future fees has to be interesting to a DC side that regularly makes incorrect judgments of a market (just see their trade for the rights to Paul Arriola). At the very least, it could start conversations for the more available Russell Canouse, another young holding midfielder probably worth a third of the allocation mix but also worth a starting position.
As for the extra pieces, DC are in a spot to bring in an extra designated player, likely on a Young DP deal. Benedetti would work well with a mobile wing partner like Paul Arriola and could work a double #10 pivot with him and Wayne Rooney; that said, they would best fit him in in should they find a suitor for Luciano Acosta. If that doesn’t fit together, they could flip his rights to another team to open an international slot or allocation funds to bring in someone else. The GAM flexibility could buy down more cap space for a mid-level trade as well. Minnesota, meanwhile, would look to move higher in the allocation order to make a run at an eligible defender; a healthy Fabian Johnson would fit the need for mobility at full back, or the Loons could chase Francisco Calvo’s Costa Rica partner Giancarlo Gonzalez back to MLS after his time in Italy for both Palermo and Bologna.
Colin O’Donnell (again) (still at @theattachment) sells out the future to retain allocation money, while still finding a way to address a glaring issue defensively.
The breakdown: The less fun side of fake trades is realizing that resources are probably more scarce than we realize. I’ve tried to estimate allocation funds in the past and have a sneaking suspicion that the Loons are low on both GAM and TAM for 2018 given how much in buydowns the team needs for cap space. Minnesota has access to 2019’s discretionary TAM, but between the discussion of buying Angelo Rodriguez down next year and the fact that Romario Ibarra required some sort of transfer fee, I have to imagine the team has used or earmarked a good chunk of that money. As a result, it’s important to look lower in terms of assets and in terms of how valuable a player might be for the opposition.
The Deal: Minnesota trades a 2020 SuperDraft First Round pick and 2021 draft considerations based on 2019 starts (say, 15 starts for a First Rounder, ten for a Second) to Colorado for DF Axel Sjoberg
Why it makes sense: Despite their performances, Colorado has a surplus of not terrible center backs, namely ones with height. Axel Sjoberg would be an ideal fit for Minnesota’s general lack of aerial prowess, having used his massive 6’7” frame to win 70% of his 3.7 aerial duels per 90 minutes for his MLS career. He’s grown accustomed to playing as the center of a three man back line, flanked by a rotating crew of other trade targets like Kortne Ford and Tommy Smith, and could still be seen as a reclamation project given the drop off he saw following a 2016 season where he was in the top three of MLS Defender of the Year voting.
Playing with three center backs requires a mix of ball-playing ability, marking strength, and imposing physicality. With Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall, you tack off the first two; that leaves Brent Kallman, whose physicality unfortunately leaves him too short to clear out top jumpers, and Wyatt Omsberg, who needs minutes below MLS level to learn how to leverage his height. Sjoberg is the type of complimentary anchor in the center of the back line capable of blocking out the sun, and his team-friendly deal (just under $200,000 this year following a 2017 extension that has him under control until 2021) means he could work on the grass in Allianz Field.
Alissa Knop (@alissaknop), in similar fashion to our last faux deal, thinks the Loons need to stack on the defense. Why not add another DP while we’re at it?
The Breakdown: The MLS doesn’t have many defending DPs, but there are dozens of possible foreign defenders that could thrive in America’s soccer league. But yes, DPs cost money, and that’s something Minnesota United doesn’t necessarily have at this point in time. MNUFC would have to give up a player for some extra cash, and look for a promising defender out of the MLS that won’t cost an arm and a leg. With the full midfield of players that the Loons possess, there is definite possibility to trade off one of our extra midfielders for some extra money, leaving the door open to shop out of the country. As MNUFC is currently the third worst team in the MLS in goal differential (-11), the current defensive scheme of three center backs would flourish with another experienced and skilled player to protect the goal.
The Deal: Minnesota United trades Kevin Molino and Alex Kapp to Colorado Rapids for $450,000 allocation money, Minnesota United signs Zoran Nižić from Hajduk Split (Croatia) for $2 million.
Why it makes sense: Okay, it’s a little far-fetched, but as a defender skilled enough to play for the preliminary roster of the Croatian National Team (ahem, the World Cup runner-ups), Nižić would create an experienced wall in the back with Francisco Calvo and Michael Boxall. Calvo could even move to the outside of the defense as he plays with the Costa Rican national team and be more of an offensive threat making runs on the outside. Trading Molino is bound to gain us at least a chunk of change; he was originally traded to Minnesota United for the largest sum of allocation money in MLS history ($650,000). Of course, coming off an ACL tear may make him slightly more of a liability, but he’s still Kevin Molino. With the additions of Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez, Molino will be fighting for minutes, and he could bring a lot of offense to a team who is currently near the bottom of the Western Conference. Nižić’s market value is currently at $2.5 million, which is heaps less than the mystical will-he, won’t-he Nicolas Benedetti. A world-cup caliber player as a third center-back would fit in with the Loons’ scheme perfectly
What do you think? What would you do differently and/or who would you agree with? Have any transfer ideas of your own? Share them with us!