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MLS 2023: Martinez, Long and the familiar faces in new places


Blockbuster trades and major free-agent signings have continued to headline most of the MLS news over the past few months, and as move closer to the 2023 season, the new campaign will feature many familiar faces with new clubs.

Defending MLS Cup winners Los Angeles FC bolstered its defensive options with U.S. men’s national team defender Aaron Long making the move out west. Long became LAFC’s top signing this offseason as Steve Cherundolo’s squad fights to repeat as league winners.

Another USMNT player was on the move this winter with Sean Johnson heading up north to join Toronto FC. Johnson heads into Bob Bradley’s squad, fighting to get the Canadian club back on track in 2023.

Josef Martinez’s time with Atlanta United came to an end, with the Venezuelan making the short trip east to Inter Miami. Martinez will now prepare to square off with his former club as Inter Miami tries to continue its surge among the East’s contenders.

A former MLS talent also returned to the United States with Christian Ramirez leaving Scotland for a new chapter with the Columbus Crew. Ramirez has past experience with several MLS clubs and should gel right in to Wilfried Nancy’s attacking front.

Here is a look at the top familiar faces in MLS who have made the move elsewhere in the league:

Josef Martinez, Inter Miami

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Josef Martinez left Atlanta United a club legend, but will now have many enemies after joining one of the Five Stripes biggest rivals.

Martinez signed with Inter Miami as a free agent this offseason, ending a six-year stay in Atlanta and joining Phil Neville’s growing project in Miami. The 29-year-old totaled 103 league goals in 144 appearances, bringing three trophies, including one MLS Cup to Atlanta United.

With Gonzalo Higuain now gone, Martinez will fit right into the plans of the Herons attack.

Aaron Long, LAFC

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Los Angeles FC solidified its defensive corps with Aaron Long making the move to the defending MLS Cup winners.

The 30-year-old centerback has continued to be one of the league’s best and will now have a strong chance to pick up several trophies in 2023. Long has totaled over 140 MLS appearances to date and should learn plenty from former USMNT defender and current LAFC head coach, Steve Cherundolo.

Sean Johnson, Toronto FC

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Bob Bradley watched two of his goalkeepers leave Toronto FC this winter, but filled the void in a major way with USMNT shot-stopper Sean Johnson signing for the Canadian club.

Johnson has continued to be one of the best that MLS has to offer, heading into his 15th professional season in the United States. The 33-year-old delivered a career-high 15 clean sheets for NYCFC last year and should be a major boost to a TFC squad with high aspirations to rebound in 2023.

Gyasi Zardes, Austin FC

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Austin FC took a major step forward in 2022 and Gyasi Zardes’ arrival to Josh Wolff’s attack should help make the Western Conference club a serious contender this year.

Zardes totaled 10 goals in 2022, featuring for the Columbus Crew before joining the Colorado Rapids in a trade. The 31-year-old has totaled 102 league goals in over 270 appearances, continuing to be a nuisance to defensive backlines in MLS.

With Sebastian Driuissi now having a top target in front of him, Austin FC’s offense will be eager to set new club records in 2023.

Christian Ramirez, Crew

Christian Ramirez’s time in Scotland came to an abrupt end, but the veteran forward still has much to offer with Columbus set to be his new home.

Ramirez made the move to the Crew this winter, ending a two-season stay with Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership. The 31-year-old has previously played for Minnesota United, LAFC, and the Houston Dynamo, with his best statistical campaign coming back in 2017.

Ramirez may not start right away in Wilfried Nancy’s attack, but could push Cucho Hernandez for minutes due to his physical style of play.

Tim Parker, St Louis CITY SC

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St Louis CITY SC will hope for a strong defensive foundation in its debut MLS campaign and Tim Parker should contribute right away.

Parker, 29, joined the expansion side in a trade with the Houston Dynamo, giving the New York native his fourth stop of his MLS career. The former USMNT defender has logged over 210 MLS appearances to date and will bring valuable experience to Bradley Carnell’s squad.

Aaron Herrera, CF Montreal

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CF Montreal lost a top right back in Alistair Johnston this winter, but made a major replacement in adding Aaron Herrera from Real Salt Lake.

The 25-year-old Herrera was a mainstay in RSL’s backline over the past four seasons, totaling over 130 appearances and 19 assists for the Western Conference play. Herrera fits the mold of what a right back in Hernan Losada’s system looks like and should jump right into a starting role.

Fafa Picault, Nashville SC

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Nashville SC possesses a top scoring talent in Hany Mukhtar, but outside of the German it’s pretty slim for Gary Smith. Enter FafĂ  Picault.

Picault is coming a productive two seasons with the Houston Dynamo, where he scored 18 goals and added eight assists in 61 appearances. The 31-year-old brings flair and creativity to Nashville SC’s attacking third, which desperately needs a supporting cast to help Mukhtar.

Franco Escobar, Houston Dynamo

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Franco Escobar is trying to get back to being a starter in MLS and his move to the Houston Dynamo should provide a great opportunity to accomplish that.

The 25-year-old is a two-time MLS Cup winner (Atlanta United, LAFC) but has been reduced to only 20 league appearances over the past two years. Escobar now heads to Houston where Ben Olsen will want his fullbacks to play confidently on both sides of the field.

A strong season in Houston could be exactly the spark that Escobar needs to get back to his best.

Memo Rodriguez, L.A. Galaxy

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The L.A Galaxy needed midfield help this offseason and Memo Rodriguez’s arrival should be a great addition for Greg Vanney’s squad.

Rodriguez, 27, totaled 136 MLS appearances with the Houston Dynamo, contributing 17 goals and 14 assists. The attacking midfielder can play a number of different roles for Vanney in L.A. which would be a huge boost following Victor Vazquez and Sacha Kljestan’s departures.

Matt Hedges, Toronto FC

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Toronto FC not only added one of MLS’ experienced goalkeepers, but also boosted its defense with Matt Hedges moving to Canada.

The 32-year-old contributed over 320 appearances during his FC Dallas career, being one of the league’s most consistent center backs in recent history. Only D.C. United and the San Jose Earthquakes finished with more goals conceded than TFC, but Hedges should help trim that number down immediately in 2023.

Heber, Sounders

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Injuries have derailed parts of Heber’s MLS career, but the Brazilian will be hoping his time in Seattle can get him back on track.

The 31-year-old hit the ground running with NYCFC in 2019, scoring 15 goals for the Eastern Conference club. Since then, Heber has only totaled 11 goals over the past three seasons, with a serious knee injury forcing him to miss most of club’s MLS Cup-winning 2021 campaign.

Brian Schmetzer has relied on veterans to play a key role in the Sounders squad and Heber will be up for the new challenge.

Other Familiar Faces in New Places

Damion Lowe, Philadelphia Union

Victor Vazquez, Toronto FC

Felipe Martins, Orlando City

Alex Bono, D.C. United

Latif Blessing, New New England Revolution

Cory Burke, New York Red Bulls

Tony Alfaro, New York City FC

Dave Romney, New England Revolution

Kevin Cabral, Colorado Rapids

Brad Smith, Houston Dynamo

Quentin Westberg, Atlanta United

Doneil Henry, Minnesota United

Chris Mavinga, L.A. Galaxy

Tyler Miller, D.C. United

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