Better Know a Signing
There are still a lot of unknowns about the upcoming season. Like, will Nick DeLeon infect the entire Toronto FC team, and by extension the broader Miami-Dade County, with COVID-19, measles, polio, and whatever else he hasn’t been vaccinated for?
“I never have,” he said. “I’ve never had vaccines. I don’t get the flu shot. I don’t get any of that. I don’t take medicine. I don’t take prescription crap. Any of that.
“That’s just my personal choice and that’s the way I choose to live my life and I will not change that for anybody. I know who I am and I’m confident in it,” DeLeon continued, stressing that there’s “no chance” anyone will ever make him get a COVID-19 vaccine. He said his teammates know exactly where he stands, admitting that he’s only “one of a few” on the team who feel the way he does.
And it turns out Nick DeLeon isn't the only person skeptical of the vaccine. Louisville coach John Hackworth expressed skepticism about precautions FCC took while getting its players vaccinated, implying that FC players either should have scheduled their vaccinations around Louisville's schedule or should be more than happy to play a friendly against a lower-division side with a chip on its shoulder while feeling the full force of any vaccine side effects.
I'm not saying definitively that Lou City suffers from COVID denialism, but I don't think it's a coincidence that it tweeted this the same day as the Capitol insurrection:
Compare that to Trump's own words, the same day:
So there's a lot of uncertainty about whether teams will be able to transition safely and smoothly to a post-COVID environment, and whether certain USL teams want to overthrow the Biden administration.
But one thing we know for certain is that it will be a new look FC that takes the field at the West End Revitalization Stadium Sponsored By Jared Kushner this May. While some of us have brain damage from how many times we’ve heard the music from highlight videos of players we never signed, a lot of people might not recognize a few of the fresh faces brought on to finally put a winning product on the field.
To help out the normies, I thought I’d put together a profile of some of our new signings (draft picks excluded). Now, I’m not going to go in-depth with stats, except to cherrypick them to make our players look better. And I’m not going into formations – save that nerdy shit for Bobby Warshaw and everyone else at Extratime.
Me? I barely even care about positions.
This is going to be the most surface-level analysis possible, comparing our new boys to other players (again, cherrypicked) solely for the purpose of helping you argue online.
You know Moneyball? Where Brad Pitt revolutionizes the Oakland Athletics through granular, objective statistical analysis? Think of me as the scout who only cares about if the prospect has a hot girlfriend.
(I will not be rating anyone’s girlfriends.)
Now, here are the cheap and lazy comparisons for the members of FC’s blockbuster offseason class.
Luciano “Lucho” Acosta
There’s our perfect beautiful boy.
Acosta, a 26-year-old Argentinian, was a Best XI player for DC United – 10 goals and 15 assists in the league in 2018 – who was so close to a transfer to Paris St. Germaine that he actually flew to Paris before the deal was called off. (I hope it wasn’t because he was late for a meeting trying to wait in line for the Louvre. If you’re short on time, you can usually just walk right into the l’Orangerie, which has some breathtaking Monets and plenty of other, equally stunning, paintings.)
Anyway, his relationship with DC soured completely after that, his performance suffered, and he was sold (Does it make anyone else queasy that we refer to soccer players being “bought” and “sold”?) to Club Atlas in Liga MX.
Acosta is an Argentine attacking midfielder, kind of a prototypical MLS player. So how does he square up to other players?
Lucas Zalarayan, Columbus: Zelarayan certainly looked great in MLS last year, scoring six goals and adding two assists between MLS is Back and the regular season. But that’s not up to Acosta’s 2018 production, despite the fact that Lucas played on the best team of the league, stacked with talent around him.
(No, I don’t want to talk about Wayne Rooney right now, so stop bringing him up.)
Hany Mukhtar, Nashville: Nashville’s first designated player came straight from the Danish league, a far inferior league to both MLS and Liga MX. Before that, he appears to have been a pretty successful youth player in Germany, but did not manage a single goal or assist in either the German Bundesliga or the Portuguese league.
Carles Gil, New England: Carles Gil was just ranked one of the top five attacking midfielders in MLS by Extratime. So he must have quite the pedigree, right? Well, in 2019 he put up 10 goals and 12 assists – not quite Lucho numbers. Before joining MLS, his best professional season was one goal and four assists in La Liga for Deportivo La Coruna. He also scored two goals and had one assist in the Premier League for Aston Villa. His last stat before joining New England was an assist in the Spanish second division.
The clear conclusion here is that Lucho can do it in MLS, he has done it in MLS, and there’s no reason to believe, based on his pedigree and past performance, that he can’t be one of the best attacking midfielders in the league.
*Kyle Scott turned down a contract offer from FC and he has moved back to England. The silver lining is that there's no risk we have to deal with any PR fallout from when Paul Daugherty asks him for his thoughts on Meghan Markle.
In all seriousness, I wish Scott the best. I genuinely do. And I'm not going to dwell on it.
Anyway, blame Scott for Edgar Castillo's exclusion from this list. I'm not getting hurt again.
Matarrita joins FC from NYCFC, where he managed to be one of the best left backs in the league despite playing half of each game on the infield dirt. He is a regular for the Costa Rican national team, and he’s a defender who nevertheless likes to get forward up the field. He plays a dangerous cross and is even known to score a goal or two.
Just the other day, he kept Diego Lainez in his pocket during a friendly against Mexico, which Costa Rica only lost because a center back who will not be named failed to win a header against a player about a foot shorter than him.
Matarrita is valued at $2.75 million on Transfermarkt, which ties him with Kai Wagner of Philadelphia and George Bello of Atlanta as the most expensive left back in the league.
Since Transfermarkt values are dead on balls accurate, there’s probably no reason to do any further analysis or check out his tape.
FC signed Atanga from FC Nordsjaelland in Denmark, where he has scored five goals in 10 starts this season. Last year, he scored seven goals and added four assists across 25 league appearances. At 20, he has a bright future, and he provides immediate competition for fellow rising star Alvaro Barreal on the right wing.
He comes out of the Right to Dream academy in Ghana, which has produced David Accam (former MLS designated player), Thomas Agyepong (on the books at Manchester City), Emmanuel Boateng (New England Revolution), and Abu Danladi (Nashville SC).
So what should we expect from Atanga? Whose path is he likely to follow?
Heath Pearce and Michael Parkhurst: Although a few years apart, Pearce and Parkhurst both played for Nordsjaelland before moving onto the Bundesliga and then being among the last men cut for World Cups (Pearce made the 30-man squad in 2010, Parkhurst in 2014). Both of these guys were defenders though, so I guess I’m not sure if this comparison really makes sense.
Przemyslaw Frankowski, Chicago Fire: Frankowski has the same Transfermarkt value as Atanga, and he plays the same position. In 2019, Old Franko (his nickname) had five goals and seven assists for the Fire, which is a pretty good showing from the wing if you ask me. Expect similar numbers from Atanga.
Jonathan Amon, Nordsjaelland: Amon was, until recently, Atanga’s partner on the opposite wing. At 21, Amon has scored four league goals and provided four league assists, lesser numbers than Atanga’s. Nevertheless, that performance has been deemed good enough for two appearances with the US Men’s National Team.
Based on the above, I expect Atanga to thrive in MLS, gain United States citizenship, become a fringe national team player, and contend for a roster spot in the 2026 World Cup, which will have games played in Cincinnati (probably maybe).
Gustavo Vallecilla joins FC on loan from SD Aucas in the Ecuadorian first tier, where he has also had stops at Barcelona SC (no, not that one) and Deportivo Cuenca. At 21, Vallecilla is early in his career, but he has made his mark at the youth level for his country. Two years ago, Ecuador finished third at the U20 World Cup. Along the way, they beat a United States team that started Sebastian Soto, Tim Weah, Konrad de la Fuente, Paxton Pomykal, Chris Richards, and Sergino Dest.
So let’s go ahead and use those guys as his comparison points. Based on past results (his team beat their team one time), Vallecilla could easily be playing at Norwich, Lille, Barcelona (the real one), FC Dallas, Bayern Munich, or, uh, Barcelona. But he swiped right on Cincinnati.
Brenner just turned 21 years old, he was a top scorer in Brazil’s top league last season, and he led the line for a team that contended for the league title most of the season. He has a nearly $10 million valuation on Transfermarkt, he was one of Brazil’s leading scorers at the U17 World Cup, and he was linked to the biggest teams in the world (citation needed).
Literally no one. As far as I can tell, no MLS team has ever signed a U21 who was, at the time of signing, regularly hitting the back of the net in a top league. (The Brazilian league is probably the best league in the Americas.)
What were other young strikers doing when they signed for MLS?
Josef Martinez, Atlanta United: Had never scored more than 10 league goals for a first division team, anywhere. In his year 21 season, he scored 8 league goals for FC Thun, aka the team Leonardo Bertone played for last year. He was then transferred to Young Boys, also in Switzerland, where he scored a whopping two goals in the next 18 games. To put that in perspective, that same season another Young Boys player – Yuya Kubo – put in seven goals and five assists in the league. Kubo is seven months younger than Josef. He transferred to MLS in the middle of a season where he had managed one goal in 11 appearances.
Jhonder Cadiz, Nashville: The 25-year-old designated player for Nashville scored two goals in Ligue 1 last year for Dijon, and nine goals in 31 league games the prior season for Vitoria Setubal (who was relegated to the Portuguese second division after that season).
Adam Buksa, New England: The 24-year-old Pole joined MLS from Pogon Szczecin in the Ekstraklasa. Don’t worry about pronouncing those names – you will never have to read them, say them, or hear them again. The Polish League is ranked 30th in Europe, just below Belarus and just above Slovenia. For more perspective, FC signed former USL star Djiby Fall straight from Kazakhstan – the 27th-ranked league. Anyway, playing (I assume) in blue jeans, Buksa scored a respectable 7 goals in 18 league appearances the season he transferred to New England.
So the next time anyone calls Brenner “unproven,” just tell them to stick their face where the Skyline goes 15 minutes after you’ve eaten it.
Remember, losing is a disease. When you add on the draft picks (Calvin Harris and Avionne Flanagan), Ben Mines (who feels like a draft pick), and Alvaro Barreal and Kamohelo Mokotjo (who joined the team late last year), there's no denying that the FC has added a number of new bodies to inoculate itself against a third Wooden Spoon. Let's hope that, in 2021, FC can rip off the shameful last-place "mask" and show the smile of a winner.