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Sounders acquire Jackson Ragen’s rights, trade Chris Hegardt

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The Seattle Sounders recently made a couple of trades involving former academy players, one incoming and the other outgoing.

The first involved the formal acquisition of centerback Jackson Ragen’s MLS rights. Ragen was selected by the Chicago Fire in last year’s SuperDraft but played for the Tacoma Defiance. Although the trade has not been officially announced, Sounder at Heart did confirm that the Sounders gave up a third-round pick in the 2023 SuperDraft.

Ragen, 22, is expected to compete for a first-team roster spot in training camp, but will not be eligible for a Homegrown Player contract. Despite growing up in Seattle and playing for the Sounders Academy, Ragen’s HGP rights were apparently lost once he went through the SuperDraft. Still, he offers some good potential upside. The 6-foot-3 centerback was among Wade Webber’s most consistent defenders last year, starting all 16 of his appearances and going the full 90 in each of them. He was particularly good in the air both on defense and offense, while still being solid with the ball at his feet.

The other trade involved the Sounders sending Chris Hegardt’s HGP rights to Charlotte FC in exchange for $50,000 in General Allocation Money plus another $50,000 if certain performance-based incentives are met. The midfielder spent two seasons at Georgetown where he had 3 goals and 6 assists. Hegardt was part of the Sounders Academy team that won the GA Cup in 2019, made 17 appearances for the Defiance and spent much of the 2020 preseason with the first team before going off to college, but was apparently not being seriously considered for a first-team contract. He’ll be reunited with Marc Nicholls, who ran the Sounders Academy prior to becoming Charlotte’s technical director last year. He signed a two-year contract with two additional option years.

“Chris was a midfielder we really liked as we evaluated college players across the country in advance of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, and we’re delighted to have signed him to an MLS contract,” Charlotte Sporting Director Zoran Krneta said in a team release.



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Canada vs. USA: How to watch and stream, preview of World Cup qualifier

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Both Canada and the US earned victories this past Thursday to keep pace in their bids to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Canada sit atop the eight-team Octagonal standings with 19 points, with the USMNT one point behind (18) and in second place in the race for three automatic World Cup berths.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s game.





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VfL Wolfsburg swoops for D.C. United homegrown star Kevin Paredes

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D.C. United homegrown Kevin Paredes is making the big move, with VfL Wolfsburg swooping in to bring the Virginia native to the Bundesliga. Terms were not reported by either club, but The Athletic’s Pablo Maurer has reported the German side is putting up $7.35 million in their initial transfer fee, with United getting an additional $500,000 if Paredes meets certain benchmarks relating to appearance totals. The Black-and-Red would also be due 10% of any transfer fee Wolfsburg brings in by selling Paredes’ rights in the future.

“We couldn’t be prouder and happier for Kevin to follow his dreams to compete in a great league like the German Bundesliga,” said Dave Kasper, United’s President of Soccer Operations, in a team press release. “Kevin’s rapid rise from our Academy to a first team starter is a testament to his desire, talent, and commitment, as well as a lot of hard work and support from our great coaches and staff at the club. All of us at the club wish Kevin a very long and successful professional career.”

“We are extremely proud of Kevin and the work that he has done to earn his opportunity to play at the highest level in Europe,” said United GM Lucy Rushton. “As a Homegrown, this transfer reflects the commitment and investment our ownership have made in our Academy infrastructure to prepare Kevin to fulfill his lifelong dream. We want to thank him for representing the club with so much pride and wish him the best of luck in his next chapter in the top flight of European soccer.”

Paredes, 18, made his debut in professional soccer with Loudoun United late in the 2019 USL Championship season, and his rise since then has been remarkable. D.C. United offered him a homegrown contract that winter, and while the MLS season was disrupted by Covid-19, a series of injuries and struggles as a club opened the door for Paredes to show what he could do. After making his debut in the MLS is Back Tournament that summer, Paredes used the next couple of months to assert himself as not just a promising youngster, but a player who was going to be a factor every week.

In 2021, under Hernán Losada, Paredes was first-choice whenever healthy, thriving as the team’s left wingback and quickly becoming a fan favorite thanks to his dribbling ability and high-energy style of play. In the end, Paredes made 41 appearances (28 starts) in his two seasons with United.

United will be able to convert $1.05 million of the fee into General Allocation Money (GAM), which they have stockpiled of late. Paredes’ departure comes two days after United made an MLS-record GAM trade, sending Paul Arriola to FC Dallas in a deal possibly worth up to $2.3 million. However, the club has also moved plenty of GAM in the meantime, sending $750,000 to the Seattle Sounders to acquire Brad Smith — very likely the player who will step into Paredes’ shoes on the left — just yesterday.

It’s been a furious remodel for United lately, who have also announced that they’ve signed Designated Player Taxiarchis Fountas on a pre-contract from Rapid Vienna, and have been strongly linked to a loan move for Toluca and Ecuador striker Michael Estrada.

The news of Paredes moving to Wolfsburg serves on one hand as an example to promising young players that United is capable of bringing a talent along quickly. Paredes went from academy program, to Loudoun, to starting at Audi Field, to the Bundesliga in very little time. Despite a record of giving more minutes to homegrown players than the majority of MLS clubs, United has to some extent had a reputation in youth soccer circles that was not favorable.

The club’s Pathway to Pro program was enacted to help change that, and between teenagers like Paredes, Moses Nyeman, and Griffin Yow getting first-team minutes, and Ryan Martin fielding one of the younger teams in the USL Championship over the last two seasons, there is a clear emphasis on shifting that perception. Paredes moving to the Bundesliga at 18 years old will go a long way on that front.

On the other hand, United’s hopes on the field take a hit with the move. Paredes, along with Andy Najar and Julian Gressel, were the players in 2022 that had to be at their best for United to hit top gear. Losing Paredes’ dribbling ability on the left, even with an experienced and respected replacement already in place, will be an obstacle for Losada and co. on the field this season.





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Report: Toronto FC sign Carlos Salcedo from Tigres UANL as Yeferson Soteldo departs

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The move would give Toronto a backline anchor, with Salcedo’s résumé also including stints in Europe at Fiorentina (Italian Serie A) and Eintracht Frankfurt (German Bundesliga). He originally turned pro in 2013 with Real Salt Lake and has been capped 48 times by Mexico.

Last year, Soteldo had three goals and 10 assists in 24 games (19 starts) for Toronto. He’s been rumored to exit after the Reds finished second-from-bottom in the Eastern Conference last year.

It’s the latest development in Toronto’s DP situation, with striker Jozy Altidore also suspected to depart, possibly via a contract buyout. Alejandro Pozuelo, the 2020 Landon Donovan MLS MVP, projects as a key playmaker under Bradley.

Should the Salcedo/Soteldo swap be completed, Toronto would still need to shed another DP before Insigne arrives in the summer from Napoli. Club president Bill Manning, speaking after signing the Italian national team forward to a long-term deal, has assured that won’t be an issue.





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