81017_isi_arriolapaul_usmntbd072617137 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
Major League Soccer

Arriola to DC, Vela to LA, and Nemeth Joins the Revs

DC United splashed some cash to pry Paul Arriola away from Club Tijuana, while 2018 expansion club LAFC continues to make headlines, this time with Mexican international winger Carlos Vela.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
August 10, 2017
8:00 AM

THE MLS TRANSFER and trade deadline arrived Wednesday, marking the end of a wild week as several teams made moves for the future while others attempted to bolster their roster for a playoff push.

Nothing that transpired this year is likely to have the same effect as Seattle's 2016 move to acquire Nicolas Lodeiro, lifting a struggling Sounders team into a league champion, but there is plenty of change to consider.

And teams may not be done making moves, as the roster deadline is in September—meaning teams can still sign free agents and loans are still permitted. Here’s what to make of the recent transactions.

D.C. United Hits Reset Button

The top story is D.C. United’s major shakeup—which was way overdue. The fact it took so long had its fans rightfully questioning the team’s ownership.

United has been completely unwatchable this season and has one of the worst offenses in league history. Through 23 games the club has managed just 19 points. Ben Olsen's men have tallied just 19 times while conceding 43 goals, resulting in a woeful -24 goal differential.

Worse, the club featured many older players and few players with any real long-term potential outside of Ian Harkes, the son of former U.S. national team captain John Harkes.

This week D.C. United offloaded several veterans and opted to go younger. Lamar Neagle, 30, was shipped to Seattle and Bobby Boswell, 34, is now with Atlanta United. There are reports that Sebastien Le Toux, 33, could also be on his way out. (MLS deals do not have to be announced by Wednesday). 

In their place United brought in former U.S. youth international and Russell Canouse, 22, from Hoffenheim. The Pennsylvania native is a defensive midfielder and was the captain of the 2015 U-20 team during World Cup qualifying. Then it brought in Hungarian international midfielder Zoltan Stieber, 28, who will play in an attacking midfield role. It also signed Bolivian international forward Bruno Miranda, 19, on loan from the Universidad de Chile on a deal that includes an option to buy.

The marquee name, however, is 22-year-old Paul Arriola. United made a massive investment in the U.S. international winger, paying a transfer fee of around $3 million to Club Tijuana and an annual salary north of $1 million. In addition it sent $500,000 of allocation money to the LA Galaxy for Arriola’s rights.

Despite all of the maneuvers, D.C. United will not make the playoffs this season and still has too many holes to reverse its fortunes immediately. The focus is on 2018, when the club moves into a new stadium, and the roster still needs a ton of work—including help on the backline and another forward.

The good news for United fans, however, is that the team will now be watchable. Canouse will likely sit in back of Arriola, Harkes, and Stieber—a young and potentially dangerous midfield. 

There's a lot to like about Arriola. He’s fun to watch, he plays with a ton of heart, he carries himself well off the field, he’s popular with teammates, and he is likely to make the World Cup team (if the Yanks qualify). That said, he has scored just four goals in 3,277 Liga MX minutes. Will Arriola be able to produce like Major League Soccer's other million dollar men? Can he deliver at the same level as Ignacio Piatti, Federico Higuain, David Accam, and Diego Valeri?

D.C. United is betting big on Arriola’s potential and upside and he will be a focal point of the team as it moves into its new home. It’s a big shift for the California native, who saw quite a bit of time in the 2017 Gold Cup and seems to be in Bruce Arena's national team plans

Arriola's deal reportedly expires in 2019 with an option for another year so if he wants to make a move to Europe or head back to Mexico, he can do so at age 24 or 25. He is also going to be a regular starter for United—something that was not certain under Tijuana’s new manager Eduardo Coudet. 

Arriola is also going to be a regular starter for United—something that was not certain under Tijuana’s new manager, Eduardo Coudet. Coudet is off to a terrible start after taking the job from Miguel Herrera and the team has lost its first three games of the season and has yet to score a goal. There are reports that the club is a total mess at the moment and this might have factored into Arriola's decision to leave. 

It's clearly a good move for Arriola, but wow—D.C. United sure spent a lot to get the speedy attacker. 

Carlos Vela joins LAFC  

LAFC won't play its first competitive match for six months or so but the expansion club is already making noise. Former U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley will be calling the shots next season and Mexican winger Carlos Vela will be the club's first designated player. The announcement, made Wednesday, is an absolute stunner and should give notice to the LA Galaxy that there's a real rivalry brewing. 

And there's a legitimate El Tri flavor in Los Angeles now, with the Dos Santos teaming up for the Galaxy and now Vela starring for LAFC. 

Columbus upgrades for playoff push

Columbus Crew made some noise of is own, signing Portuguese winger Pedro Santos as its third designated player and then selling Ethan Finlay to Minnesota United for Targeted Allocation Money and General Allocation Money. Finlay was a league Best XI in 2015 and used that to earn a pair of U.S. national team callups. But he has struggled since then, registering just seven goals and 10 assists in 53 appearance. This season Finlay has just one goal and one assist.

Santos, 29, will be an upgrade over the struggling Finlay and will bring plenty of experience after spending most of his professional career with SC Braga in Portugal. Columbus needed an offensive boost—it has just 34 goals in 24 games this season, the lowest output among the six teams in the Eastern Conference playoff spots.

As we've seen over the years, any team that makes the MLS playoffs has a real shot to win the championship. The Crew suffered through a very poor 2016 after making the final in 2015. The current squad is not as good as the 2015 edition but the team is now in much better shape to return to the postseason.

Nemeth returns to MLS

In 2015 Hungarian international midfielder Krisztian Nemeth, 28, logged 16 goals and seven assists across all competitions for Sporting Kansas City. After that season he was transferred to Qatar’s Al Gharafa, where he has toiled in obscurity.

In Febrary, Nemeth took to Twitter to express his frustration.

And on Wednesday night Taylor Twellman reported that Nemeth would be returning to MLS—but not to Kansas City. Instead, Nemeth will join the New England Revolution, great news for the league but perhaps not the same sort of environment the Hungarian experienced with SKC.  

For New England, this acquisition doesn’t solve anything. The team continues to ignore its porous defense. It was a known problem heading into the season and through 22 games the Revolution has conceded 38 goals, making it a longshot to reach the playoffs.

Maybe after this season New England and Kansas City can work out a trade; Sporting Kansas City has central defenders to spare. 

What do you think of these updates? Like the Arriola move? Share your take in the Comments section below.

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