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Toronto’s Lorenzo Insigne deal is massive, but highlights MLS restrictions and inefficiencies – The Athletic

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There have been several high-profile outgoing transfers, multiple head coach hires and an announcement of a new owner, but no piece of MLS news so far in 2022 has come close to being as noteworthy as Toronto FC signing Lorenzo Insigne. While the move has the potential to be transformational for both Toronto and MLS, it also serves as yet another indicator of the drawbacks of the MLS model of roster building.

Let’s start with the good news. Insigne, who will arrive at TFC in July on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with Napoli, is coming to the league near the height of his considerable powers. The 30-year-old Italian international helped lead his country to the European Championship title last summer, recorded 19 goals and seven assists in 35 Serie A matches last season and has four goals and five assists in 17 league appearances during the current campaign. As long as he’s fit and motivated, he should be an absolute force in MLS for the bulk of his mammoth four-year, $60 million guaranteed contract. TFC also expects that he’ll significantly boost enthusiasm for the club in the greater Toronto area, something that feels a bit necessary after the misery the club endured in a brutal 2021. Acquiring him is a huge swing by TFC and new head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley, a resounding statement that the club isn’t here just to win, but to win everything.

Signing Insigne is a feather in the cap for MLS, too. He won’t generate the same amount of mainstream media attention or sell as many tickets as previous designated players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry or Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his place in the Italy national team might be secure regardless of his club situation, but his decision to join TFC in a World Cup year is a signal to other international stars that the league is an acceptable place to spend at least part of their primes.





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MLS

Sporting KC acquires winger Marinos Tzionis 

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Sporting Kansas City announced the addition of another young player with the signing of 20-year-old winger Marinos Tzionis from Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus. Tzionis has signed a three-year MLS contract through 2024 with an option for 2025 and will occupy an international spot on Sporting’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P1 visa.

Tzionis has been rumored for a little over a week and he is the third young international signing this month. Robert Voloder was announce on Jan 19th and is a 20-year-old German center back. Logan Ndenbe a 21-year-old Belgian left back signed on Jan 14th. All eligible for the MLS U-22 Initiative.

SKC manager Peter Vermes and staff will likely not designate who is or is not a U-22 Initiative player until roster deadline day shortly before the season. They can take their time to decide while adding other potential players.

Just this morning, reports were coming in that he had signed and gave some numbers around the acquisition The reported transfer fee was said to be between €1.5 and €2 million, between $1.69 and $2.26 million in US Dollars and Omonia would retain 10 percent of any sell on fee. It was also reported that Tzionis would be paid €300,000 plus bonuses, $338,880 in US dollars.

Tzionis was born and raised in Nicosia, Cyprus and grew up playing for Omonia Nicosia’s academy before signing for their first team as a 15-year-old in 2017 and made his first appearance for them in 2018. The young winger made a few appearances for the first team over the next couple of years but he started to really be noticed in the 2020-21 season. Seven goals in 43 appearances and helping his club to first place with a 23-3-10 record.

The young attacker has also represented his country at the U-17 and U-19 youth levels and then the senior team starting in 2020 with a total of 13 appearances.

Tzionis is right-footed and mainly plays on the left wing where Vermes tends to like wingers who can cut inside. He has some time at attacking mid and second striker as well.

Highlights of goals.



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Report: DC United signing Greek forward Taxiarchis Fountas as Designated Player

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Fountas has a track record as a leading goalscorer in Austria’s top flight, netting 35 times in 68 league appearances. He broke onto the professional ranks in Greece with AEK Athens from 2011-13 before heading to Red Bull Salzburg.

The club’s forward group is currently headlined by Ola Kamara, who finished second in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race last season with 19 goals in 28 games, ceding the top honors to NYCFC‘s Valentin Castellanos via the assists tiebreaker.

D.C., heading into their second year under head coach Hernan Losada, missed an Eastern Conference spot in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs by one point.





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Not another Freddy Adu: RSL’s Axel Kei ready for challenge as youngest-ever MLS signing

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You can draw the comparison if you must. He’s ready for that. In fact, this month’s milestone is actually the second time he’s broken one of Adu’s marks, having already made his pro debut back in October, when he appeared for Real Monarchs in USL Championship action on an academy contract. Kei was 13 years, 8 months and 9 days for the first record; he was 14 years and 15 days for the second.

“The whole pressure of Freddy Adu and all that stuff. I saw all that, I read all the articles, I watched all the YouTube videos,” noted Kei. “Of course there’s going to be people that want to see – ‘oh, this kid, we heard this kid is good, he’s out here breaking records, whatever, I want to see what he has, see what he got.’

“I’m not letting that get into my head. This is just like, I’m still gonna be me. I’m still gonna train. Not because people are saying they want to see this, they want to see that, that I’m gonna change my playing style. It’s just the way I am, I’m not going to change this. I’m still going to be the same Axel Kei, I’m still gonna play how I play. It’s just focusing on what I like to do – soccer.”

If you’re struggling to set a fair barometer for Kei, consider that Beltran and his colleagues at Zions Bank Training Center know all about Adu’s story. How burdensome a record like that and the comparisons it generates can be. And yet Kei’s abilities are so striking, his upward trajectory already so steep, that they could not avoid the conclusion that Salt Lake should sign him now anyway.





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