A look back on a very busy transfer window for Americans. Who made the best moves?
September 01, 2021
WITH THE CLOSE OF the summer transfer window, several deals were made for American players and it wrapped up one of the busiest transfer windows in American soccer history with players moving within Europe, to and within MLS, and even a few moves in South America.
As within every transfer window, busy does not always equal good. In this window you had players who:
- 1) Made transfers that indeed were positive steps for the careers of the players involved.
- 2) Made moves where it is simply too early to tell if it was positive. This is mostly due to playing time or relegation issues.
- 3) Made escape moves to flee a bad situation.
- 4) Made lateral moves that really didn’t move the needle either way.
- 5) Made moves that were clearly a step down
On top of that you also had players who:
- 1) Made the smart decision to remain with their current club
- 2) Had a tough window because they didn’t secure a move
- 3) We always going to remain with the current club but had a tough window because other players (competing for minutes) didn’t move.
With that said, let’s look at the summer window for American players from that context
The Most Positive Moves
Without a doubt, the best move this summer was Konrad de la Fuente and his move from Barcelona (where he never made a league appearance) to Olympique Marseille where he is a starter and an impact player in the early part of the season. For a young player, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Chris Richards earning another loan back to Hoffenheim was also a very smart move. While he was in preseason with Bayern, he now gets to return to a club that rates him and with a team where he knows he will play. He doesn’t have to start from square one.
Nicholas Gioacchini made a move to Montpellier on a one year loan from SM Caen with an option to buy. He’s not the only American player who is making his first move into one of Europe’s “Big 5” leagues this window, but Montpellier needs offensive help and seem to be bringing Gioacchini into to this. France is a league with a lot of open play, that is going to benefit an attacker like Gioacchini. I think this this could go down as one of the most underrated moves of the window for American players. He’s not going to a club likely to face a relegation battle and he’s not going to a club that is too good where he won’t play.
Sam Vines moving to Royal Antwerp was a good move. Vines had a good gig going in Colorado and staying wouldn’t have been the worst thing. But Antwerp is an ambitious club in Belgium that wants to join the country’s top echelon. Vines is still going through an adjustment period, but the safe bet is that he locks down a starting job there. He’s set himself up for a better move in a few years if he plays well.
Owen Otasowie moving to Club Brugge on a permanent deal is an impressive transfer. We’ve heard very positive reports about his performances at youth levels and with U.S. youth national teams, but now he is going to a high level where he seemingly will play. The Belgian champions look eager to have him and Otasowie has set himself up to play in the Champions League. This is a smart move to set himself up for both current and future success. Now he has to take advantage of it. But he will get the chance given the financial investment Brugge has made.
Erik Palmer-Brown move to Troyes on deadline day and that will keep him within the City Football Group empire. Troyes is a newly promoted team, and it will be interesting to see if they can remain up. While relegation battles are never fun, this will give Palmer-Brown his first taste of a “Big 5” league after stints at Sporting Kansas City, Porto B, Kortrijk, NAC Breda, and Austria Vienna. He wanted this chance and now he will get it. At some point he needed to get a chance and now it has happened.
Christian Cappis secured his move to Brondby back in December but was only able to join the club this summer. It’s a massive step up for him and it appears to be successful. He’s gone from a poorly-managed Hobro team that was relegated to the Danish Champions where he is playing regularly – albeit sometimes off the bench. His career is massively improved from this move.
Christian Ramirez is out of the national team picture, but going from a role where he wasn’t playing for the Houston Dynamo to now starting and scoring for Aberdeen is a huge improvement.
Cameron Carter-Vickers will look to play his first league minutes outside of the Championship after securing a loan to Celtic on Deadline Day. After six loans to Championship teams, Tottenham has sent Carter-Vickers on loan to Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. It’s tough to say how much of an improvement this is from a Championship promotion contender, but at least it is different. Success at Celtic would certainly help to boost his resume that a Championship club could not do. Carter-Vickers seems to eventually find a starting job where he is sent, we think he will do it again here. This is probably going to be a positive move.
Promising, but too early to tell
There are some players who made moves and, while it could be promising, we still need to revisit it later in the season.
Gianluca Busio moved from Sporting Kansas City to Venezia and has already joined the short list of American players to have played in Serie A. Venezia spent a ton of money on Busio, 19, and that is a good thing that will likely see him continue to play. But if Venezia struggles mightily in Serie A, is Busio going to develop? Will he be able to escape the club if it is relegated or will he go down with the ship (or gondola) into Serie B? Will he get to play his type of soccer at Venezia and/or will he improve his defense there?
Tanner Tessmann is much the same as Busio after moving from FC Dallas to Venezia. He’s probably more equipped to benefit from Serie B if they’re relegated.
Josh Sargent moved from Werder Bremen to Norwich City and it was probably a wise move to get out of Werder Bremen as that club does not look ripe for an immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga. Norwich City, on the other hand, are likely going to be in a relegation battle (to be fair, they’ve had a tough schedule to start the season). Sargent will probably continue to see minutes off the bench but occasional starts of Teemu Pukki is possible. It’s just up to him to take advantage of it.
Matt Miazga has been on a ton of loans to a ton of different countries – USL, MLS, Premier League, Eredivisie, Ligue 1, Championship, Belgian Pro League, and now La Liga with Deportivo Alaves. This is his fifth and likely final loan from Chelsea. Not including two appearances with Chelsea, this is his second extended run-out in a “Big 5” league after Nantes in Ligue 1 (which did not go well). At Alaves, it is simply helping to keep the club up while playing regularly – that would define success. He brings a ton of experience with him and a brighter future after Chelsea awaits – it just remains to be seen how this season fits into that.
Matthew Hoppe got of Schalke – which ran contrary to his statements last season. He will now head to newly promoted Mallorca in La Liga. He’s leaving a better situation than expected at Schalke – which might not be a candidate for another relegation. He could have stayed in the 2.Bundesliga and played consistently while eventually helping the club rebuild. Now he will head to La Liga. If he plays, it’s a great opportunity. If he doesn’t he left something that wasn’t too bad. It’s hard to say how invested Mallorca is with him from a €3.5 million fee.
Ethan Horvath moved from Club Brugge to Nottingham Forest. This move will only be successful if he plays, but his chances of playing are better here because replacing a struggling Bryce Samba is easier than Simone Mignolet at Brugge.
Jeremy Ebobisse made a move from Portland to San Jose and while it could be viewed as lateral, he is in a much better fit at San Jose – who rate him more than Portland ever did. He could become one of the top American forwards in the league his season. He seems like a player who could be one of the types who moves to Europe later in his career.
A few players made moves that didn’t really move the needle either way in terms of progressing their careers.
Tyler Boyd has work to do if he wants to get back into the national team picture. Yes, he hit a rough move when he went to Besitkas – which didn’t really want him. Last season he was loaned to Sivasspor where he played well in stretches but wasn’t consistent. Now he heads to Rizespor and is in pretty much the same situation.
Joel Sonora moved within Argentina’s Primera from Talleres de Cordoba to Banfield.
Haji Wright left Sonderjyske in Denmark to join Antalyaspor in Turkey – both clubs are expected to finish in the bottom half of their leagues.
Matthew Olosunde left Rotherham after it was relegated out of the Championship and will instead join a more stable Championship team in Preston North End. That could work out, but playing time will also be harder.
Earlier this summer, Geoff Cameron moved from Queens Park Rangers in the Championship to FC Cincinnati. It’s not a bad opportunity for Cameron to return home and, while Cincinnati is still a poor team, he’s made them a tougher out.
Youngsters seeking minutes
The biggest contingent of moves this summer, in terms of volume, consist of young players looking for a place where they can earn valuable minutes to build their career.
Matko Miljevic was once considered a top 2001-born American player but he hasn’t played with Argentinos Juniors in 18 months due to a club dispute. The attacker is now looking for revival in Montreal.
Alex Mendez struggled at Ajax and is now at Vizela in Portugal and his minutes have been inconsistent to start the season. This is an important year for the midfielder who was a big part of the 2019 U.S. U-20 team.
Indiana Vassilev had two bad loans last season but is now with Inter Miami on loan from Aston Villa – which is good. The attacker been playing regularly again, so thus far it is working out.
Thomas Roberts has struggled for minutes at FC Dallas and the midfielder is now on loan with Austria Klagenfurt of the Austrian Bundesliga – which could be a nice opportunity for him.
Dante Sealy is in a similar situation where minutes at FC Dallas (playing as a forward or a winger) have been irregular but he is now on loan with Jong PSV with an option to buy. It’s a nice opportunity but a big mountain to climb.
Jack De Vries had a tough season fighting through concussion protocol at Philadelphia. Now the midfielder is on loan at Venezia where he will play with the U-19 Primavera team. This will allow him to play through the offseason, make up for lost ground, and be in better shape returning to Philadelphia in 2022.
Charlie Kelman has been loaned from Queens Park Rangers to Gillingham in League One as he looks for consistent minutes in England’s third tier. A forward, Kelman likely would have contended for a spot on the 2021 U.S. U-20 team.
Bryang Kayo was loaned by Wolfsburg to Viktoria Berlin in Germany’s 3.Liga to help him take his first steps at a professional level.
Taking a step down
While there are some moves that are too early to determine their success, there are some that are simply hard to view in a positive light at this moment
Uly Llanez on loan at St. Poelten is a pretty big step down from where he should be right now. Yes, he’s had some injuries. But falling to the Austrian 2nd tier (where he has struggled at the start) is one that should sound alarm bells. He can revive his career, but he is in a very tough spot.
Chris Mueller announced that he is leaving Orlando to join Hibernian in Scotland after this season. It would be one thing if he was making a move to an Old Firm club but Hibs just seems like a far reach – plus he’s probably leaving money on the table from what he could have gotten in a new deal from Orlando. He’s improved a lot under Oscar Pareja and he’s walking away from that.
Sebastian Soto moved from Norwich to Porto B over the summer. His career has been tough to follow since he’s made a bunch of moves but rarely played. Hannover to Norwich to a loan at Telstar (which was ended prematurely) to now Porto B. Yes, maybe he can climb into Porto’s first team and train with them. But he’s 21 years old now and it seems like finding a first team level would be the best bet.
Who didn’t move?
Daryl Dike did not move from Orlando and earlier in the spring, most believed he had played his last game for Orlando when he was tearing up the Championship with Barnsley. He injured himself at the Gold Cup and is only now coming back. Orlando is also aiming for a postseason run with Dike, Mueller, Nani, and others. He will eventually move on, but playing well for Orlando will help. Despite the success at Barnsley, Dike was often forced to play ugly soccer. Under Pareja at Orlando, he’s developing a wider rage of a skillset. That will only help him.
Reggie Cannon didn’t leave Boavista. That’s surprising given that the club reportedly needs cash and Cannon seemed to want a move. But Boavista has started off the Portuguese season well and if Cannon can return to the starting lineup, it wouldn’t be the worst place for him in the coming months.
Taylor Booth did not secure a loan away from Bayern Munich. It was a disappointing result from Booth who was looking to build off the progress he showed last year in the Austrian Bundesliga. Now he will remain with Bayern and likely be in the mix for Pokal and reserve minutes. This January will be big for him.
Mark McKenzie wasn’t expected to move from KRC Genk but he was adversely affected by the transfer window. It was previously thought when McKenzie signed that other central defenders, such as Jhon Lucumi, would move this summer. But that didn’t happen and McKenzie will have to fight for playing time.