Coming Soon? Players with contracts expiring this summer and where they might fit in MLS

10 names to keep an eye on in the coming months

Keisuke Honda training with Milan…for now (AC Milan)

Each transfer window, Major League Soccer is inevitably dragged into global transfer rumors. Before the Chinese Super League became the overpaying foreign bidder at the bachelor auction, MLS was seen as a landing spot for any player who was past their prime. Finally, the league has started to shed the “retirement league” moniker, but is still often thrown around as a bargaining chip by players and agents to try and secure a contract in their domestic league. It isn’t called the “silly season” for nothing!

Still, there are plenty of players coming off of their clubs’ books at the end of June, and some will certainly be rumored to head to North America. Here are 10 names that either have been circulated in transfer gossip or could be good fits for an MLS club.

  1. Keisuke Honda, AC Milan (Italy)

Honda is hardly a new name to lists like these, so let’s get him out of the way. The Japanese attacker hasn’t even eclipsed 100 minutes with Milan this season and is certainly on the outs this summer. While he turns 31 in June, there’s reason to believe he can be a key contributor to a side with better attacking players around him.

It’s why the continued links to the Seattle Sounders make perfect sense. A front four of Nico Lodeiro (last summer’s best signing), Clint Dempsey, Honda, and Jordan Morris would become the class of MLS. There would be some roster-rules gymnastics needed for Seattle to secure Honda (they already have three DPs, including Osvaldo Alonso). Still, if they can buy Alonso down with TAM, Seattle could be in good shape to land Honda.

2. Luciano Slagveer, SC Heerenveen (Holland)

The 23-year-old Dutchman is a lethal attacking piece. In just shy of 1,000 minutes, Slagveer has four goals and three assists in league play. He’s prime for a full-time starting gig, and can play anywhere on a front line. His best success, however, has come on the right wing, where his pace and dribbling ability can cause matchup nightmares.

Few teams need an infusion of attacking talent as desperately as the San Jose Earthquakes. Playing a 4–4–2 this year, they’ve struggled to get consistent attacking play from anybody but the ageless Chris Wondolowski. Slagveer would be an upgrade at either wide position or as a second-striker, and as San Jose looks to get younger, he could be a cornerstone for years to come.

3. Federico Dionisi, Frosinone (Italy)

Dionisi is one of the hottest strikers in Italy this year. Playing with Serie B’s Frosinone, the Italian has netted 15 goals thus far. He’s a fairly complete striker as well, with deceiving breakaway speed and an ability to shoot from distance.

This year, the New York Red Bulls have started to use a second striker more frequently. While Bradley Wright-Phillips recently netted his 80th goal in all competitions since joining RBNY in late 2013, teams are able to put multiple defenders on the Brit. Dionisi would provide the potential for a similar second-division-to-MLS success story as BWP. New York has an open international spot as well, making this move feasible.

For a sampling of Dionisi’s ability, check out the second and third goals below.

4. Desevio Payne, FC Groningen (Holland)

The youth international has had a rollercoaster start to his professional career. After starting in the U.S.’s Olympic play-in matches against Colombia, Payne’s stock was on the rise. A long-range goal in January for Groningen reminded many of the unique skillset he possesses. However, Payne has found himself on the outside looking in recently.

A move to MLS could give Payne a chance to develop near the national team’s base while also earning regular minutes. To both ends, a move to the LA Galaxy may make sense for the young fullback. While the Galaxy have one of the best fullback pairings in the league, there’s speculation that this may be Ashley Cole’s last season in Hollywood. The Galaxy could move Robbie Rogers back to his natural left back position, giving Payne time to ease into a starting role next year.

5. Martín Cáceres, Southampton (England)

The 30-year-old centerback hasn’t had any first-team action in nearly a year. The former Barcelona and Juventus man didn’t sign with a club last summer, and had his move to Southampton delayed due to the death of his brother. Still, Cáceres was seen as a potential stop-gap replacement for Virgil van Dijk, and he never saw the pitch. It may be prime time for the Uruguayan to head to the Western Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, few teams have been as snakebit along their backline as the Portland Timbers. After signing Nigerian Gbenga Arokoyo in the winter, he suffered a season-ending injury before the season kicked off. Summer 2015 acquisition Liam Ridgewell hasn’t played since their season-opener, and Rose City is desperate for an infusion of backline stability to match their impressive attack fleet. If Cáceres would sign in the sub-$1M range, he would be a great pickup for the MLS Cup contender.

6. Andrew Wooten, SV Sandhausen (Germany)

It’s been a year of highs and lows for the German-American . The 6'2″ striker scored nine goals and added four assists in his first 18 league games, one of the most impressive tallies for anyone in the 2.Bundesliga through the first half of the season. However, he failed to find the scoresheet in his next five appearances. A recent thigh injury has likely ended his time with Sandhausen.

Earlier in the month, the Colorado Rapids traded Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. The two were crucial to their identity as a defensive stalwart, and they were offloaded for two attack-minded players in Mohammed Saeid and erstwhile U.S. winger Josh Gatt. Still, their production from strikers Kevin Doyle and Dom Badji has been minimal. Adding the incredibly strong Wooten would give a target for their offense to work around, increasing the odds of them increasing their attacking prowess.

7. Antonio Di Gaudio, Carpi (Italy)

Di Gaudio is something of a late bloomer. The left winger didn’t debut in Serie B until August 23, as Carpi was promoted. Still, the Italian is having his best year yet, with four goals and five assists in 1,772 league minutes. Di Gaudio has world-class pace and a sharp left foot.

It’s well-documented that MLS newcomers Minnesota United don’t have a designated player. A frontline led by Kevin Molino, Johan Venegas, and U.S. national team-hopeful Christian Ramirez has produced 12 goals in the club’s first seven games. However, the tandem of Miguel Ibarra and Bashkim Kadrii have left much to be desired on the left wing. Di Gaudio could provide a relatively low-cost solution out wide, able to score and set up the Loons’ already capable attackers.

To see what Di Gaudio is capable of, check out this highlight reel from last year. Brace yourself for an inexplicable mix between smooth-jazz saxophone and face-melting EDM.

8. Junior Flores, Borussia Dortmund II (Germany)

Flores may be the least-proven commodity on this list, but he also makes a lot of sense. He nearly landed with Columbus this winter, in a deal that fell through in the final hours. He’s been unable to crack the regular rotation for BVB2, and a move stateside may help get his development back on track.

There’s something of a youth movement going on in D.C. United. While the club is known to rely on league veterans, players like Luciano Acosta, Steve Birnbaum, and Ian Harkes have carved their roles in the nation’s capital. Flores would also have the benefit of veterans ahead of him. D.C. could ease him in behind Lloyd Sam or loan him to their USL affiliate in Richmond for increased minutes.

9. Lebogang Phiri, Bröndby IF (Denmark)

Phiri is one of the hottest prospects in the South African pool these days. The diminutive central midfielder has been a key part of Bröndby’s side, after the Danish club blocked his request to play for his country in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The club also rejected a bid from Austrian giants SK Rapid Wien, and a move seems imminent.

This season, New York City FC has evolved into playing something of a 3–4–3. While the attack seems to be clicking, the weakest link in the lineup has been Andrea Pirlo playing as something of a defensive midfielder. Phiri is a skilled defender and distributor, and with his paciness and tireless motor could be the future of NYCFC’s midfield.

10. Junior Hoilett, Cardiff City (England)

I’m bookending this list with two players who have been in multiple-year flirtations with Major League Soccer. Hoilett was at his best in ‘tweener English sides Blackburn Rovers and Queens Park Rangers, but an inflated salary amidst QPR’s budget cuts left him on the outside looking in. He joined Cardiff City and has two goals and five assists in 31 appearances. Still 26, Hoilett has plenty of good years ahead of him.

Now that he’s committed to the Canadian national team, it may be a prime chance to collect a DP salary in his home country. Meanwhile, Impact de Montréal has just one designated player (the versatile, underrated Ignacio Piatti) on their books. Hoilett could slot in out left or central, giving Montreal a second lethal piece of their attacking core.

While many of these name have links (loose or sturdy) to MLS, a few are total reaches. That’s the fun of the transfer window, though. Did I miss anybody? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.