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MLS Ticker: MLS to implement concussion substitutes, Larentowicz retires, and more


Major League Soccer will join in FIFA’s concussion substitute pilot program for the 2021 season, the league announced on Monday.

The program allows for up to two substitutions per team during a match to replace players suffering from a concussion or a suspected concussion, regardless of the number of substitutions already used. It is the continuation of the league’s role as a leader in prioritizing player safety,

A concussion task force comprised of sporting and medical leaders from MLS, NWSL, U.S. Soccer, the USL and NISA, have worked collaboratively to implement the initiative and have been approved by The IFAB and FIFA to participate in the trial.

Above and beyond the five “normal” substitutions in three opportunities, each team will be permitted to make up to an additional two “concussion substitutions” when there is a suspected/possible concussion.

These two “concussion substitutions” are permitted regardless of how many “normal” substitutions or opportunities have already been used.

A “concussion substitution” may be made:

  • immediately after a concussion occurs or is suspected;
  • after an on-field assessment, and/or after an off-field assessment; or
  • at any other time when a concussion occurs or is suspected (including when a player has previously been assessed and has returned to the field of play).

A full and detailed breakdown of the new protocol can be found here.

mls veteran Larentowicz announces retirement

Longtime MLS midfielder Jeff Larentowicz is hanging up his playing boots after a 16-year career.

Larentowicz announced his retirement in a social media post on Monday, ending his lengthy career prior to the start of the 2021 season. The 37-year-old is a two-time MLS Cup champion and the all-time leader in minutes played in the Opta-MLS era.

He finishes his MLS career with 437 career regular season appearances, only the second field player in league history to reach that number. Larentowicz helped Atlanta United win its first-ever MLS Cup title in 2018, serving as a team captain and a key part of the squad.

The former No. 45 overall selection in the 2005 MLS Supplemental Draft, Larentowicz also lifted MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids in 2010. He also spent time with the L.A. Galaxy, New England Revolution, and Chicago Fire during his MLS career.

Larentowicz earned four caps with the U.s. men’s national team in his career as well.

ORLANDO CITY signs homegrown midfielder

Orlando City made its 10th Homegrown signing of all-time on Tuesday, inking Raul Aguilera to a one-year first team contract.

Aguilera’s deal also comes with options for 2022, 2023, and 2024 and he also becomes the second Homegrown signing this year.

A native of Sanford, Fla., Aguilera joined the Orlando City Academy in 2013. Following his time in the Lions Academy, the midfielder attended the University of North Carolina and played collegiately from 2017-19. Aguilera made 30 starts in 44 career appearances, scoring two goals and providing six assists.

Aguilera made eight appearances for Orlando City’s B team in 2020, scoring one goal. He joined the First Team for the 2021 preseason, including training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

earthquakes land new stadium sponsorship deal

The San Jose Earthquakes will play in front of a newly-named stadium in 2021 after announcing the news on Monday.

PayPal Holdings Inc. announced a multi-year sponsorship agreement that includes naming rights for the Major League Soccer (MLS) team’s stadium located in San Jose, California, which will be called PayPal Park. The 10-year partnership will begin effective immediately, which sees PayPal Park take the place of Avaya Stadium going forward.

PayPal and the Earthquakes’ commitment to the San Jose community will be an integral part of the matchday experience. PayPal Park will feature a 250-seat reserved section of the stadium that will host underserved members of the community and provide them with access to complimentary tickets and transportation to and from home matches.

Local youth and nonprofit organizations will be invited to Earthquakes training sessions and have opportunities to play games on the stadium field. Additionally, Quakes fans will be given special offers and discounts, giveaways, and surprise and delights from PayPal and Venmo.

atlanta united signs defender gurr

Atlanta United bolstered its defensive options on Monday, by signing Jack Gurr to a semi-guaranteed one-year contract through 2021.

Gurr’s contract comes with two additional option years through 2022 and 2023. The 25-year-old defender joins from Atlanta United 2, becoming the fifth player to sign from the club’s USL team.

The Newcastle, England native originally signed with ATL UTD 2 in December 2019. During the 2020 season, he started in 15 games, and also scored one goal to go along with three assists. After signing a short-term deal in December 2020, Gurr made his first team debut in the Concacaf Champions League against Club America.

In college, he was a four-year starter at Georgia Gwinnett from 2014-2017 where he was among the program’s most accomplished players. He finished in the top-five of the program’s history in nearly every major category and finished as Gwinnett’s all-time leader in assists, finished second in shots and fifth in games played, goals and points.

inter miami announces three friendlies

Inter Miami announced a trio of friendly matches to close out its 2021 MLS preseason.

The Eastern Conference club announced Tuesday it will face both Miami FC and Toronto FC over a four day period in the state of Florida. Inter Miami will host Miami FC in a closed door friendly on April 7th before having a split-squad game on April 11th.

Miami FC and Toronto FC will also be Inter Miami’s opponents on April 11th, with half of the squad facing Miami in a closed doors match while a second half of the roster hosting TFC at Inter Miami Stadium.

Inter Miami opens its 2021 regular season schedule on April 18th at home against the L.A. Galaxy.

Minnesota United loans out chacon

Minnesota United has loaned midfielder Thomas Chacon to Uruguayan club Liverpool FC for the 2021 MLS season.

The Western Conference club announced the roster move on Tuesday, which also comes with an option for Liverpool to buy the 20-year-old midfielder. Chacon, a Uruguayan native, made the move to MLS from Danubio in 2019, and made six appearances for the Loons to date.

After scoring two goals in 20 appearances at Danubio, Chacon was acquired by Adrian Heath’s side as a Young Designated Player. However, this loan move away could give him valuable first team experience back in his home country.

Sporting KC signs defender Rad to Homegrown deal

Sporting Kansas City also was in the news today, signing 19-year-old center back Kaveh Rad to a Homegrown Player contract.

Rad signed a two-year MLS contract through 2022 with options for 2023 and 2024, becoming the 16th Homegrown Player to emerge from the Sporting Kansas City Academy.

A native of North Carolina, Rad has started in 34 of 38 matches for SKC II in the USL Championship over the last two seasons. He enjoyed a breakout year for the club in 2019, signing an amateur academy contract and making 22 USL Championship appearances under head coach Paulo Nagamura.

Rad is coming off an impressive preseason campaign with the Sporting KC first team that saw him start three of four appearances in Arizona and contribute to two shutouts for Peter Vermes’ side.

He joins Gianluca Busio, Felipe Hernandez, Jaylin Lindsey, and Daniel Salloi as Academy products on SKC’s roster.

fc cincy acquires defender Vallecilla

FC Cincinnati added defensive reinforcements on Monday with the loan signing of Gustavo Vallecilla.

Vallecilla joins FC Cincy on a one-year loan from Ecuadorian club SD Aucas for the 2021 MLS season. He will occupy an international roster spot on the Eastern Conference club’s roster this season.

The 21-year-old made four appearances in the Ecuadorian Serie A this season before being acquired by FC Cincy. In his career, the center back has made 47 career appearances across all competitions since earning his first professional appearance at 17-years-old with Deportivo Cuenca.

Vallecilla has spent the entirety of his career in Ecuador, having played for Deportivo Cuenca (2016-18), SD Aucas (2019-2021) and Barcelona SC (2020) on loan.

Internationally, Vallecilla has made a combined 21 appearances for Ecuador’s Youth National Teams at the Under-20 and Under-23 levels.

Atlanta United signs Rios Novo to short-term deal

Atlanta United made a second roster move on Monday, signing goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo to a Short-Term Agreement ahead of the club’s Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 first leg.

The Eastern Conference club will travel to LD Alajuelense on Tuesday night and per the MLS rule, clubs can sign players on loan from their USL affiliate for U.S. Open Cup, Concacaf Champions League, Canadian Championship and exhibition matches.

Ríos Novo, 18, signed with Atlanta United 2 on loan from Lanús on March 2, 2021. He was born in Los Angeles, California but moved to Argentina at a young age where he joined Lanús’ youth academy. He has been a fixture with Argentina’s Youth National Teams representing the Under-15’s and the Under-17’s.

He was the starting goalkeeper during the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and the 2019 South American Under-17 Championship, where Argentina won its fourth title as Ríos Novo collected five clean sheets in eight matches.

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