January transfer window

From Pepi to Paredes to Bello, ASN breaks down the January transfer window

The January transfer window saw huge movement for American players and ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it all down with his thoughts and analysis of most of the moves. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 01, 2022
6:00 AM

THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW is now officially over and for American players and MLS, it was a remarkable month. In MLS, the league is far different than it was 10 or even just five years ago. This past month, MLS teams both bought and sold an impressive amount that will help the league as it grows into the global marketplace.

Certainly, the window is not yet closed for the league to important players ahead of the season. And FC Dallas is actively pursuing star Argentine winger Alan Velasco from Independiente. Former Juventus and Brazilian winger Douglas Costa is rumored to soon be joining the Galaxy. This summer, Lorenzo Insigne will join Toronto. U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin recently departed Galatasaray and the reports are that Inter Miami will be his next destination – thereby making his return to the league after earning a sale from Seattle Sounders to Tottenham after the 2014 World Cup. Meanwhile Yeferson Soteldois on his way from Toronto to Tigres.

Within MLS, there has also been a ton of movement. Paul Arriola is moving from DC United to FC Dallas in a move that should bring some stability to Dallas after a wave of foreign imports did not work out. Albert Rusnak left Real Salt Lake and with him heading to Seattle, it helps address the aging problem the club has with many top players.

The big story of the window, however, is the exporting of American talent. It marks the latest major turning point when the league began heavily investing in academies and mechanisms to make the league younger – especially for domestically produced talent.

First the academies were formed and the implementation of rules, such as homegrown signings, were made. Then there was the first wave of players. Some were sold at young ages – like Matt Miazga and DeAndre Yedlin. Others stayed and had strong careers domestically – like Jordan Morris. It continued in waves with the likes of Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies, followed by Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, Reggie Cannon, Bryan Reynolds, and others. Last summer it was Gianluca Busio, Sam Vines, Christian Ramirez, and Tanner Tessmann.

This January, however, was on another level. It wasn’t just limited to American players either. Top Canadians such as Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea also made moves from MLS clubs to European teams with Buchanan fetching a fortune from Club Brugge.

The American list, however, was long. Here is a breakdown and analysis for most of the moves American players made from MLS teams to European teams in January along with a look at American players who moved within Europe this window.


MLS to Europe


Ricardo Pepi: FC Dallas to Augsburg


This was the most high-profile move of the month for an American player as Pepi because it saw a teenage American forward fetch a $20 million fee from a small, relegation-battling Bundesliga team. At the time, it was figured Pepi would head to one of Germany’s big teams but instead, it was to a team that now sits in the relegation playoff position.

This move certainly brings about pressure and uncertainty. The club smashed its own transfer record on Pepi and that price is going to bring about expectations that he is going to have a huge impact on keeping the club up. If he struggles, supporters will want to know why the money wasn’t spent on multiple players who would be more proven.  

If the club gets relegated, what happens? Assuming he remains with Augsburg, Pepi will be expected to play a role in helping the club earn a quick promotion next season. Typically, top goal scorers from promoted teams push towards 20 goals a season.

Pepi is talented and he developed very well at FC Dallas to earn a spot on the national team. Now he made a move that he can’t hide with the club he moved to for the price that was paid. Instead of moving to a place where his integration would be gradual, expectations are high on him right of the bat.

It’s one of the most unusual transfers we’ve seen in American soccer.


Cole Bassett: Colorado to Feyenoord on loan


Playing in a smaller media market in Colorado, Cole Bassett hasn’t earned the attention other top young players in MLS have earned, but he has accomplished quite a bit. The 2021 season started off poorly for Bassett (and he was subsequently dealt a setback with the cancellation of the U-20 World Cup) but he completely reversed course and had a season where he was a key contributor to a team that surprised and finished first in the Western Conference.

Bassett has a flair for the dramatic. He can make big plays – score impressive goals, hit passes. He hit the woodwork a high number of times and with only slightly better finishing, he would have pushed double digits in his output. Last summer he turned down a deal to Benfica to remain with the Rapids and push for a better fit in January. Now he found it with a top four team in the Eredivisie.

This is an 18-month loan with an option to buy. That should allow Bassett plenty of time to get adjusted and give Feyenoord long and fair look to evaluate him. This will be a challenge and his biggest task will be to become the playmaking midfielder who elevates his team’s entire attack while making his teammates better. Starting attacking midfielders at top Eredivisie teams typically learn how to do that. Bassett can score but can he elevate? That is the test.

Bassett is a good player who could find a spot on the national team in 2022 (if not this year, then in the start of the next cycle). He has the talent to succeed. This was a big step and certainly one of the transfers that could most improve the fortunes of one player if it goes well.


Daryl Dike: Orlando to West Brom


Unfortunately, this was a promising transfer that is off to a tough start. In just his first start for West Brom, Daryl Dike suffered a hamstring injury and is out for an estimated eight weeks.

That is just a short-term set back in what should be a nice move. Dike has already had success in the Championship last season with Barnsley. Now he is with the same coach (who rates him) at a much better team in the same league. If West Brom doesn’t get promoted this season, they’ll be a contender next season. Dike also won’t be required to do the heavy lifting he was doing at Barnsley for the team to be successful.

There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic for this move. In the meantime, the best scenario is that West Brom remains in the promotional playoff hunt through March and Dike can play a role starting in April. That will be a close call.

If Dike can have success later in the season, he could return to the national team this summer ahead of the World Cup given that the forward situation is still not settled.


Kevin Paredes: DC United to Wolfsburg


The 2003-birth year is strong for Americans and Paredes, a left winger, is one of the best players in this class. The Virginia native developed at DC United and was extremely impressive in 2021 with three goals and four assists (while also playing extensively at left wingback).

Paredes checks a lot of boxes. He is fast, he has an ability to create and finish, and he works extremely hard on both sides of the ball. At 5’9”, he has an impressive ability to win 50-50 balls and help maintain possession. DC United was a very high-energy team with an aggressive pressing approach under Argentine manager Hernan Losada. That is a system that seemed to be a really good fit for Paredes.

Paredes is an exciting young American prospect but the question about this move is more about Wolfsburg than the player. Wolfsburg has been imploding since November. It hasn’t won a Bundesliga game since November 9 and has just two points from its last nine games. In all competitive games, it is winless in its last 11 games with two draws and nine losses. Manager Florian Kohfeldt was hired on October 26 and is already on the hotseat. The club is now just two points clear of the relegation playoff position.

On top of that, Wolfsburg scrapped its reserve team last year and has just the U-19 team below the first team. Paredes can play games for the U-19 this season but he will age out after this season. Wolfsburg needs offensive help in a relegation battle (scoring just 17 goals in 20 games this season) but turning to a young kid like Paredes who is new to Germany seems like a stretch. He might get some first team minutes, but an extensive runout seems unlikely this season.

Wolfsburg paid DC United a lot for Paredes (north of $7 million) so they rate him. But the club is dysfunctional at the moment and is woefully underachieving after qualifying for the Champions League last season. The likely plan is that Paredes makes the first team bench for Wolfsburg occasionally while also playing for the U-19 team. Whether or not the club remains in the Bundesliga, they will probably want to give Paredes a big audition in preseason with hopes he can contribute. They are so heavily invested in him that he will get a chance.

Still, it is always tough to join a club where so much isn’t working and there is instability with the coaching staff.


James Sands: NYCFC to Rangers on loan


James Sands was due for a move this January after having a 2021 where he accomplished a lot. In August he won the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team and in December he won MLS Cup with NYCFC. When players win, they tend to look for different challenges.

Sands, 21, now heads to Scotland to play with the league leaders and he is in position to add to his growing trophy collection. He was already pressed into minutes just after arriving due to defensive midfielder Joe Aribo being away at the African Cup of Nations.

With Sands, there is always the issue of position – is he a defensive midfielder or a central defender? His first minutes with Rangers were in the midfield and reviews for his performance was mixed in a 1-1 draw Aberdeen followed by a 1-0 win over Livingston. Aribo is now back and Rangers also added Aaron Ramsey on loan from Juventus for the rest of the season. With these developments, Sands will likely be a bench option as long as he is seen as a midfielder.

Rangers will likely move players this summer and Sands will have an opportunity to play more. He is still getting adjusted and joining a team atop the table always presents the problem of a coach not wanting to tinker with something that is working.

Moving forward, Sands might have to settle into a position and focus on it so that he can compete and start. It wouldn’t be surprising if that position is central defense and he might have the best chance there.

Rangers have acquired Sands on an 18-month loan that includes an option to buy so they have time to work with him extensively before committing to him.


Matt Turner: New England to Arsenal


This deal is still yet to be announced but by all reports in the English media, he will remain with the New England Revolution until the summer before heading to England. A move to Arsenal’s first team is a special opportunity for any player and the fact that he will remain with the Revolution through the summer gives him the opportunity to play for the next five months. Then in the preseason, he will certainly get a chance to play as teams rotate heavily.

With Turner having a good chance of being the No. 1 for the U.S. team (given that Zack Steffen has struggled to stay healthy since moving to Europe), there is the question of his playing time. Playing at Arsenal will be tough but if he joins this summer, Turner is looking at only two moths of riding the bench behind Aaron Ramsdale before the World Cup as opposed to 10 months if he moved now.

Of course there are questions in the long term for Turner beyond the 2022 World Cup.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta places a huge priority on playing out of the back. Turner’s strength is in his shot-stopping not playing out of the back and Arsenal surely knows this. Turner can certainly improve, but to be at the level Arteta demands? That’s a tall ask.

If he continues to playing behind Aaron Ramsdale, will Turner get a chance for a loan or a transfer or is the plan for him always to be a dependable backup who gets occasional minutes in the Carabao Cup?

Long term, there are questions. In the short-term with him staying at New England through the summer, it is a huge move for Turner who has accomplished more than anyone ever thought when he seemingly had no professional opportunities out of college. It’s a great story.


George Bello: Atlanta United to Arminia Bielefeld


Just before the transfer window closed, Atlanta United and part-time USMNT left back George Bello inked a transfer from Atlanta United to Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga.

Bello, who turned 20 last week, has developed into a nice player for Atlanta and he has over 4100 minutes of first team experience with the club. This has put him in the mix for the national team where he has pushed for a backup to Antonee Robinson – although he fell behind Sam Vines at the Gold Cup.

He is a technical player with skill but in the Bundesliga, he is tactically going to have to grow. At Arminia Bielefeld, he is joining a smaller club that was recently promoted to the top-flight in 2020 and is trying avoid yo-yo like status. It seemed like the club was heading for relegation at midseason but has been playing significantly improved soccer the past five games and is now out of the relegation zone.

There is an opening for Bello at Arminia Bielefeld to as Danish left back Jacob Barrett Laursen has lost his starting position and the other options, Lennart Czyborra and Andreas Andrade, are with the club on loan and are set to return to their parent clubs in the summer.

For Bello, he is going to have to hit the ground running. It will be tough for Arminia Bielefeld to remain in the Bundesliga long-term. The quality of the top of the 2.Bundesliga is unusually strong with a lot of historically big clubs who will eventually find their footing (Hamburg, Werder Bremen, Schalke, St. Pauli, etc). Bello is ambitious and wants to be a player in a top five European league. He now has his foot in the door albeit with a club that has a loose grip on a Bundesliga spot. Bello will need to impress quickly but the good news is that he should get minutes.


Auston Trusty: Colorado to Arsenal


Auston Trusty became the third young American player sold or loaned by Colorado to a strong European team inside of the past six months when the club announced on Monday that it had reached a deal to send the former Philadelphia Union homegrown to Arsenal FC – a team that has common ownership with Colorado.

Trusty, 23, enjoyed a strong rebound year in 2021 when he anchored Colorado’s backline. The left-footed central defender was once a prized homegrown prospect for the Philadelphia Union but eventually fell out of favor and was sold. In Colorado, he has returned to the level that he hoped he would be.

There is a very good likelihood that Trusty will head on a loan army stint and his first destination is known – back to Colorado through mid-July. The next five months are going to be critical for Trusty at Colorado because it will help build up his resume for his first landing spot in Europe. The better he plays, the higher the league. As of now, he doesn’t have the ability to even get a work permit to play in England but that could eventually change over the course of going on loan.

The good news for Trusty is that there are always going to be teams interested in a left-footed central defender.


Justin Che: FC Dallas to Hoffenheim on loan


Justin Che is expected to be a key contributor to the United States U-20 team this cycle and he is coming off a 2021 where he spent time on loan at Bayern Munich’s youth teams and then returned to play the second half of the season for FC Dallas.

Che, 18, is young, supremely athletic, but also still raw. Hoffenheim has a player who has an upside but will need coaching to help him get to where he could be. With an 18-month loan that includes an option to buy, Hoffenheim will have the time to work with him and perhaps let him play for their youth teams for awhile as he gets adjusted. The preseason over the summer will be an interesting time for Che to see what he has learned since arriving and see if he is ready for the Bundesliga – and if now, how far away he is. Meanwhile, the U.S. U-20 team staff will have to hope Che is released for duty in the coming camps and for the big tournament this summer.

The big question for Che will be whether he plays right back or in central defense. His best long-term bet is probably central defense, but he has the athleticism to play right back.


Kyle Duncan: New York Red Bulls to Oostende, free transfer


Kyle Duncan has been an excellent right back for the New York Red Bulls since signing in 2018. He missed nearly his entire first pro season with a torn ACL but rebounded strong and was one of the best American right backs in the league. The New York Red Bulls will certainly miss him.

Now Duncan, 24, is heading to the Belgian Pro League with Oostende. For the New York native, this will hopefully only be a quick stepping stone as Oostende is one of the smaller teams in the league and could be in a relegation fight if it is not careful.


This has the potential to be a sneaky-good move for Duncan, who is underrated as far as American players go. He already made a strong first impression getting named to the league’s team of the week in just his first week with the club.

If he impresses, he can move on quickly. Perhaps he could eventually push for a spot on the national team given that the backup right back spot behind Sergino Dest hasn’t been firmly claimed with DeAndre Yedlin and Reggie Cannon having mixed seasons. That is still a long way off, however, but this is an promising move that is good for Duncan.


Chris Mueller: Orlando to Hibernian, free transfer


There are a lot of Americans in the Scottish Premiership right now and most have been doing well. Chris Mueller will also push for similar success, and he seems to fit the mold as an athletic winger who performed well in Orlando, although his 2021 season wasn’t as strong as his 2020 season.

This is probably a bit of a gamble for Mueller who probably could have earned more pushing Orlando for a bigger deal. MLS might be a good stepping-stone to top leagues for young players, but Mueller at 25 isn’t young anymore and wanted something different. He is betting on himself because if it doesn’t go well, his value back in MLS won’t be as high (think of Perry Kitchen who turned down a very big offer from DC Untied to push for a move to Hearts on a smaller deal. – This went well at first and he was named the team’s captain, but he failed to climb from there and his subsequent MLS deals were lower).

The national team is probably a long shot for Mueller and Gregg Berhalter didn’t seem to rate him highly at Orlando. Now in Scotland, even the Americans performing well aren’t getting calls. For his future on many levels (financially, internationally, and to climb to a higher league), Mueller is going to have to perform well quickly.

The ambition is respectable, but this is a high risk move.


Caleb Stanko: FC Cincinnati to PAS Giannina, free transfer


There isn’t too much specifically to say about this move other than it is interesting to see a player who had his option declined by the worst team in MLS, FC Cincinnati, get a first team deal with PAS Giannina where he is currently a starter. PAS Giannina sits sixth in the Greek Super League and Stanko’s connection to the club is through its head coach Iraklis Metaxas used to manage Stanko at the reserves of SC Freibrug in Germany.

Stanko, 28, is a versatile player who can play multiple positions and bring a physical edge to the game. It didn’t really work out for him in Cincinnati, but he wasn’t forced to drift to the lower tiers after the club declined is option.


USL to Europe


Jonathan Gomez: Louisville City to Real Sociedad


Gomez is likely the starting left back to the United States U-20 team and he is coming off a strong season for Louisville City where he was one of the best fullbacks in the league. Per the details of his contract, he was able to get sold for a low price – which may not be a great thing if Sociedad is taking a flyer on him. Moving to Real Sociedad (6th in La Liga) is an unbelievably big jump and he will start out with the club’s reserve team – which is deep in the relegation zone of the Segunda.

It is an ambitious move, and it could work if Sociedad rates him. He needs to perform well for the reserve team and hopefully he is released to play with the U.S. U-20 team, because that can also continue to raise his profile. While he is young, he still needs to play to develop and have an avenue for minutes.


Jose Gallegos: San Antonio to SonderjyskE


In 2020, Gallegos impressed at San Antonio and was set for call-ups to the U.S. U-20 team. That cycle was cancelled, and he lost that important showcase opportunity. Now he was able to earn a sale to SonderjyskE in the Danish Superliga – which is a club that helped to revive the career of Haji Wright.

Now the two-time young player of the year finalist in USL will head to SonderjyskE – which is in a relegation battle in Denmark.


The Danish Superliga isn’t too high of level but it is a good opportunity for a young player seeking to get minutes and exposure. It’s a step up for Gallegos, as long as SonderjyskE remain up.


Moves within Europe


Bryan Reynolds: Roma to Kortrijk, on loan


This isn’t the place where American fans hoped Reynolds would be after his move from Dallas to Roma one year ago - but this was the move that was needed. It would be harsh to say 2021 was a lost year for Reynolds given the rare minutes he played (after he wasn’t even a starter for very long at Dallas, and just before that, he was a convert from being a forward), but he needs to play now.

Kortrijk is not one of the big Belgian clubs and the minutes will be there for Reynolds to get back on the field. That is what this is about, and it was a pragmatic choice for a move. Reynolds is very athletic, but he needs to play to learn the game and the right back position. He lacks a lot of the experience many top American players have when they move to Europe so any opportunity to get him on the field is smart.


Taylor Booth: Bayern Munich to FC Utrecht, pre-contract


After this season, Taylor Booth will move from Bayern Munich’s U-23 team to FC Utrecht – a move that is made easier with his Italian passport since he doesn’t have to be paid the high non-EU minimum salary.

Booth is a promising 2001-born player and he showed well in his brief loan to the Austrian Bundesliga with St. Poelten, despite relegation. The central midfielder simply joined a Bayern Munich team that is loaded with some of the best players in the world. It would have been better if he was able to get out sooner, but he still has plenty of time to build his career and Utrecht is a top seven Eredivisie team.

It’s a promising move that is a big step up from Bayern’s reserve team or the bottom of the Austrian Bundesliga, but it shouldn’t be too high of a step where Booth won’t be given a chance to show what he is capable of.


Sebastian Soto: Norwich to Livingston, on loan


Sebastian Soto’s career was promising at the youth levels, especially with the United States U-20 team, but the transition to adults has been very tough for him. He left Hannover where he never stood out for the first or the reserve team (only the U-19 team) to move to Norwich. His loan to Telstar in the second tier of Holland was promising but he was recalled to play for Norwich’s youth team. In the fall, he was loaned to Porto B but didn’t standout. Now he’s heading to the Scottish Premiership to play for relegation battling Livingston.

Americans have done well in Scotland. Christian Ramirez struggled for Houston last season but has emerged as one of the league’s better strikers. Ian Harkes has had a very good season with Dundee United and he moved to Scotland only after being waived by DC United.

Soto needs similar success that these players found after being in a tough spot. It’s tough to think what is next if it doesn’t work out.


Joe Efford: Waasland Beveren to Motherwell


Joe Efford, 25, is a hard-working journeyman in Europe who has played unusual places. The winger from Georgia did well in the Greek second tier. He moved to Belgium and played decently for Waasland Beveren when they were in the top-flight and then relegated to the second tier. Now he’s off to the Scottish Premiership to join fourth place Motherwell.

It’s a nice step up for a player who has toiled hard to make a career. Now he has a chance to play for a team in a top tier that isn’t relegation fodder.


College to Europe


Dante Polvara: Georgetown to Aberdeen


Dante Polvara, 21, won the Herman Trophy earlier this month in recognition of being the top player in the NCAA. The tall (6’4”) midfielder from Georgetown University was in negotiations for a homegrown deal with New York City FC but it fell through, and he instead signed for Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership. His debut will have to wait for at least a month as he is currently dealing with an injury.

NYCFC is coming off a great year, but this is a setback to lose one of its top homegrown targets. The minutes were likely there for Polvara. He should do well in Scotland too if he can use his big frame to play a physical style.


While the NCAA to any professional level is tough, Polvara is smart and he should do well in Scotland. The test for American players who succeed in the Premiership has always been what is the next step and how long does it take to make a move? Polvara will help to provide answers if he plays well since this is the start of his career.


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