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Albert Rusnák officially signs with Sounders

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This was supposed to be a relatively quiet offseason. That didn’t stop the Seattle Sounders from making one of their biggest winter signings in club history — and probably the most notable free-agent signing in league history.

A little less than two weeks after rumors first surfaced, free agent Albert Rusnák has signed with the Sounders, the team announced on Thursday. Rusnák will occupy a “full” Designated Player spot on the roster, meaning the team will not be able to add any additional U22 Initiative signings without opening one of the other two spots that are currently filled by Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro. He’s signed for the 2022-23 seasons with a team option for 2024.

“We are very excited to welcome such a quality player like Albert to Seattle,” Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a team release. “At 27, he is in the prime of his career and already knows our league very well. We’re confident his addition puts our roster in a very good position to succeed in 2022.”

The Sounders did not go into this offseason needing to fill any glaring holes in the roster following last season’s 60-point campaign, but Rusnák’s addition is still potentially massive. The 27-year-old has been one of the league’s most reliable goal-creators over the past five seasons, with 41 goals and 39 assists for an average of .60 goals+assists per 90 minutes. His underlying numbers are nearly as good, as he’s averaged .38 non-penalty goals+assists per 90 over the past four seasons.

Despite a slow start last season, he still managed 11 goals and 11 assists while starting all 34 regular-season games. Only eight players in MLS had more combined goals and assists than Rusnák last year.

He’s also a semi-regular with the Slovakia national team, where he has 30 caps and 20 starts with 7 goals and 4 assists at the international level. Slovakia was eliminated from World Cup qualifying in November after finishing third in their group, behind Croatia and Russia.

In addition to being highly productive, Rusnák is also versatile. He can play anywhere in the attacking band in a variety of formations and is a tireless worker, covering a comparable amount of ground as Nicolás Lodeiro, albeit with far fewer touches and defensive actions. Most of Rusnák’s appearances have come as a No. 10, but he does have more than 100 combined appearances on either wing. If Lodeiro is healthy, it’s easy to imagine the Sounders going back to a 4-2-3-1 with Rusnák likely starting on the right wing and Cristian Roldan dropping into the defensive midfield.

“Albert is a dynamic playmaker with a proven track record of success, both here and abroad,” Sounders FC Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations & Sporting Director Craig Waibel said in a team release. “After bringing him to MLS in 2017 and observing his play over the past five years in Utah, we’re confident that his leadership and consistency will be valuable assets to our team going forward.”

Historically, players like Rusnák simply haven’t been available for intra-league transfers like this, but a change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement went into effect this offseason that allows free agent DPs to switch teams without having to take a pay cut. Once it became clear that RSL and Rusnák didn’t quite see eye-to-eye on what a contract extension would look like, the Sounders were able to effectively jump to the head of the line of suitors, at least within MLS.

Not only is Sounders Sporting Director Craig Waibel the executive who first brought Rusnák to MLS back in 2017, but assistant coach Freddy Juarez also coached him during most of his RSL tenure. That familiarity, combined with Rusnák’s apparent desire to remain in MLS, made the Sounders a relatively obvious fit.

The question then became could the two sides make the numbers work?

Although all three of the Sounders’ 2021 DPs are expected to be back this year, they were able to make room for Rusnák by buying down João Paulo’s cap hit with Targeted Allocation Money. In each of the past two years, that was impossible due to a reported transfer fee of about $2.5 million which was spread out over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. That transfer fee no longer counts toward his salary charge, making João Paulo eligible to be bought down with TAM.

The Sounders had initially hoped to get Rusnák on a salary that would have also left him eligible to be bought down with TAM, but that would have required him to take a pay cut of about $700,000 from what he made last year. Once it became clear that he had other offers overseas — most notably in Saudi Arabia — the Sounders’ only real options were letting him walk or raising their offer.

Ultimately, they decided that the opportunity cost of adding a “full” DP was worth gambling on someone like Rusnák, especially while their scouting apparatus is somewhat limited by Covid-19. Although they can still add TAM-level or “special discovery” signings, they now have fewer tools at their disposal to add additional talent. But Rusnák also puts them in the strongest possible position to make a run at Concacaf Champions League, the one trophy that has long eluded them.



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Official: FC Dallas acquire Paul Arriola in MLS-record trade from DC United

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The deal is worth $2 million in General Allocation Money up front, as well as a potential additional $300,000 GAM in performance-based incentives. DCU retain a 30% sell-on clause if Arriola is transferred outside of MLS.

Arriola, 26, made 89 MLS appearances with D.C. United as a Designated Player after being acquired from Liga MX’s Club Tijuana in 2017. He had 20 goals and 16 assists with the Black-and-Red while becoming a USMNT mainstay, making 42 appearances to date. Arriola is currently with the USMNT preparing for three Concacaf World Cup qualifiers over the next week.

“To have a player like Paul Arriola come to FC Dallas is really an amazing thing,” FCD president Dan Hunt said in a release. “Very few players have a resume like he does at the age of 26. He’s also an incredible locker room guy. You don’t get to captain the US national team if you’re not of the highest caliber and a great professional who works hard and has the admiration of his teammates and the coaching staff. We’re thrilled to welcome Paul to Dallas.”

“We want to thank Paul for his commitment and service to the club since he arrived in 2017,” D.C. United general manager Lucy Rushton said in a release. “He has been an integral player for our team and has been a model professional both on and off the field. We wish him luck in the next chapter of his career in Dallas.”





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DeAndre Yedlin is officially available

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DeAndre Yedlin is officially back on the market after Galatasaray announced that the Seattle native was no longer with the team. It had been previously reported that Yedlin was going to accept a buyout.

Yedlin ended up spending less than a year in Turkey, making 27 appearances and 24 starts in league play for one of the country’s biggest clubs. After helping nearly win the Turkish Süper Lig in his first season and falling just short of Champions League qualification, Galatasaray has slumped to 14th about midway through this season. Yedlin had started 15 of 23 games so far.

It’s not entirely clear what’s next for Yedlin. Last week, there was reporting that he was close to returning to MLS, with Inter Miami being the most likely destination. Not only does Miami have a personal connection with Yedlin through Chris Henderson, but they also hold the top spot in the Allocation Order and are in need of a right back. But Yedlin’s agent publicly disputed reports that a signing was imminent.

Around the same time, reports surfaced that Yedlin was in talks with Hull City about potentially returning to England. Hull are currently 19th in the EFL Championship, nine points clear of the relegation zone. Hull are also run by Tan Kesler, who helped bring Yedlin to Galatasaray last summer while working as an agent.

In the meantime, Yedlin remains with the United States men’s national team for a trio of World Cup qualifiers.



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Amber Brooks waived by OL Reign

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OL Reign bid farewell to Amber Brooks on Tuesday, announcing that the defender has been waived to allow her to pursue opportunities for more playing time with another club. Brooks was in her second stint with the Reign, having returned to the club ahead of the 2020 season.

“As our squad for the upcoming season evolved it became apparent that opportunities for Amber would be limited this year. After sharing these expectations with Amber, she and I agreed that her best option was a move to another team in the NWSL,” said OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey in a team release. “We are hopeful that by making this move before preseason it provides Amber a well-deserved chance with another NWSL team. Amber has been an incredible professional during her time with the club and we wish her nothing but the best.”

Brooks previously played for the then-named Seattle Reign FC in 2015, making 12 appearances and scoring one goal for the NWSL Shield-winning side. In the following off-season she was traded to the Houston Dash, where she spent the next four years before returning to the Reign.

In 2020 she helped anchor the Reign backline during the Challenge Cup and Fall Series, making 8 appearances and scoring a goal against Portland. In 2021 she played in three of the team’s four Challenge Cup matches as well as making 11 appearances for 321 minutes in the regular season, but saw her playing time decrease as the season progressed and newly returned head coach Laura Harvey settled on a consistent backline which did not include her.



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