Atlanta United has been not-so-quietly building a serious team down south, and their latest addition only confirms that if you’re not paying attention, you should probably start.
The team confirmed the loan signing of Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez on a DP contract, joining Hector ‘Tito’ Villalba and Miguel Almiron as the team’s third DP, all 23 years old or younger. Formerly plying his trade in Serie A with Torino, Martinez joins Atlanta for the season with an option to buy at the end of the loan deal. In addition to his time in Italy, Switzerland, and Venezuela’s top flights, Martinez has also made 37 appearances for his country and has scored nine goals in that span.
“We’re excited to have acquired another player who’s entering the prime of his career and who has already experienced top competition in Europe and South America,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “Between Serie A, Europa League and various international competitions with the Venezuelan National Team, Josef has already proven himself on some of the biggest stages in our sport and we’re confident in his ability to make a difference in MLS.”
PORTLAND TIMBERS SIGN BLANCO TO DP DEAL
Meanwhile, after a down year for the Portland Timbers following their MLS Cup title, the team seeks to bounce back by adding a new DP of their own.
The team announced the signing of Argentinian winger Sebastian Blanco on Thursday, with help from a side trade with the Seattle Sounders. The 28-year-old Blanco joins from former club Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro in the Argentinian Primera Divison, where he tallied 12 goals and 14 assists over 84 appearances since 2015. The Timbers acquired the right of first refusal for Blanco from the Sounders in exchange for $75,000 in general allocation money.
“Sebastián Blanco is a talented player we have been aware of and tracked for quite some time,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for the Timbers. “To say the process of acquiring him was complex is an understatement, and we are delighted to confirm the transfer and that he wanted Portland to be his new home.”
TORONTO FC RESIGN TOSAINT RICKETTS
Toronto FC have had little to change after their MLS Cup Final appearance, simply holding on to their current roster should be enough to make them a contender once again.
The team took a step in that direction on Thursday morning by announcing the resigning of Canadian forward Tosaint Ricketts after a very successful tenure since joining the team on July 20, 2016. In the second half of 2016, Ricketts appeared in 17 matches, scoring five goals and one assist for the Reds, including some key playoff appearances to help Toronto to their first final.
“We are pleased to sign Tosaint to a new contract that will keep him at the club for the foreseeable future,” said Toronto FC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Tosaint is a valued player for both TFC and the Canadian Men’s national team. He made an immediate impact upon signing and that continued throughout the season and our run to the MLS Cup.”
NYCFC LINKED WITH SENEGALESE MIDFIELDER BADJI
With their reported offer for Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe turned down, New York City FC have not hesitated before moving on to their new target.
The team has been linked with RSC Anderlecht midfielder Stephane Badji as a potential DP acquisition. The Senegalese defensive midfielder has played at right back and centerback in the past, making him similar in playing history to former player Andoni Iraola, who starred when moved to a CDM role for NYCFC. Badji is reportedly unhappy with his playing time and Anderlecht has reportedly agreed to the loan deal, with final details still to be worked out.
Badji has featured only 15 times across all competitions for the Belgian giants, and hasn’t made the bench for the last four matches.
KREIS: SOME PLAYERS ‘DON’T HAVE FUTURE’ WITH ORLANDO CITY
Jason Kreis has never been a manager who beats around the bush with his players, and he isn’t starting in Orlando City.
The former NYCFC manager stated that some players at his new club are actively being shopped and having their departures planned, according to reports. As new Minnesota United star Kevin Molino did not practice with the team prior to his trade, neither have David Mateos, Bryan Rochez, and Devron Garcia, leaving their futures in jeopardy.
“We’ve been trying to work with those players the entire offseason,” Kreis told the Orlando Sentinel on Wednesday. “During end-of-season meetings with those players we made it clear there wasn’t really a future for them in our club, and we tried to work with those players, have those players work with their agents, as well as us. A lot of work was put in the offseason to try to find them better solutions or different solutions, whether that be in the league or outside of the league, and we haven’t found answers.
“Those players haven’t found their own answers, and we weren’t able to find answers that suited them. So, right now we’re continuing to look for better solutions, and we don’t believe that any of those players has a future at Orlando City.”
LIMITS PUT ON PUBLIC FUNDING FOR POTENTIAL DETROIT SOCCER STADIUM
Detroit was one of twelve markets to place an official bid to become the next MLS expansion club, and a new wrinkle appears to have arisen in their stadium plan.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans has made a clear delineation on the amount of public funding that will be approved for a stadium on a stalled jail site that owners Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores are attempting to purchase. Evans stated that any public funding must not cost taxpayers more than simply finishing the jail as originally planned would, placing a restriction on the amount of money able to be raised via taxes.
While this raises concerns over the viability of the bid, Detroit Pistons owner Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Gilbert should have enough clout and financial backing to make a stadium deal happen. Whether the will is there remains to be seen.
ST. LOUIS SOCCER STADIUM PROPOSAL PASSES COMMITTEE VOTE
While Detroit has a new wrinkle to work around, St. Louis’ MLS bid has just cleared a big wrinkle of their own.
After having their previous proposal rejected, SC STL’s revised bid for stadium funding has been passed by the Aldermanic Ways and Means Committee by a 5-3 vote. The revised proposal is requesting $60 million in public money, down from the original $80 million suggested, and would see SC STL put up $95 million for the stadium as well as pick up any overruns, maintenance, and shortfalls in city revenue.
The revised bid’s approval lends extra stability and appeal to SC STL’s MLS bid, which was made ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, placing them towards the front of the line of twelve markets who bid.