The MLS has established itself as one of the best development leagues in the world. I’ve talked about this extensively over the years, but it’s easiest to see right now.
The latest season saw the MLS sell a whopping nine U23 players overseas, with the clubs ranging from Barcelona to Rosenborg. Even the Chicago Fire — one of the worst clubs in the league last year — sold two U23 players to Premier League clubs for a combined fee of nearly $30 million.
Part of the reason the MLS has done this is by making smart transfers: buying low and selling high. While some clubs (cough, Atlanta, cough) have been able to splash millions on South America’s top prospects, others have looked for cheaper, bargain deals that they’ve flipped for more money.
With the MLS season rapidly approaching, most clubs have already done their main business this year. However, there’s still time for more moves — and there are some available young free agents who could be real assets to some clubs.
Miguel Silveira dos Santos, 19, CAM
Miguel Silveira dos Santos, known as Miguel, burst onto the scene with Brazilian club Fluminense in 2019. The then-16-year-old made his debut against Cruzeiro, and soon after made his Brazilian Serie A debut. However, a year later Miguel took the club to court, asking them to terminate his contract because he had not been paid. He won the case and left the club for free, joining Red Bull Bragantino.
Miguel started well enough, scoring his first senior goal and earning more minutes in the league. Eventually, he started to lose his role in the team, and by the end of the season, he had started just seven matches. Bragantino announced he wouldn’t have his contract renewed, and he became a free agent in January.
Miguel is an elusive dribbler with good finishing capabilities and can play on the wings in addition to his preferred central role. He would be a good fit for clubs looking for an offensive boost, such as Inter Miami (who recently lost Alejandro Pozuelo) or DC United.
Albert Lottin, 21, CDM
Albert Lottin was 17 when he made his debut in 2019, coming on as a substitute for Bordeaux in a Ligue 1 match versus Marseille. Expectations were high for the midfielder, who even started the season opener in the following season. However, after 45 minutes he was subbed off, and he never made another appearance for the club.
Lottin moved to Dutch side Utrecht in 2020, joining for free. He spent his first two seasons with the club’s reserves, making 45 appearances. This season it looked like he finally broke through to the first team — making his debut in the second match of the season — but then he once again was frozen out of the side. At the beginning of February, Lottin’s contract was terminated.
Lottin is a physical yet technically gifted midfielder, and he adds a lot of quality to the center of the field. He would be a good depth option for a club lacking midfielders, like Toronto or NYCFC.
Andre Reynolds II, 21, LB
Andre Reynolds II is no stranger to the MLS. Reynolds came through the academy of the Chicago Fire, making his debut in 2019. At the time, he was the club’s third-youngest player ever, behind another American left-back: DaMarcus Beasley.
After spending a season on loan in the USL Championship with Memphis, Reynolds returned to Chicago attempting to earn a role with the club. He played a minor role with the struggling club, making 12 appearances in the league with four starts, but Chicago declined his contract option in October.
Reynolds is a solid defensive fullback who can push forwards in attack and challenge opponents. He would be a strong option for anyone lacking depth at left-back, such as the San Jose Earthquakes or the Seattle Sounders.
Jay Tee Kamara, 20, CAM
Jay Tee Kamara is the only player on this list with a senior international call-up, as Sierra Leone did so last year. The call-up was justified: while he has yet to make an appearance in the MLS, Kamara has been solid in the US for several years now.
In 2021, Kamara signed with USL Championship club Louisville City, who promptly loaned him out to USL League One side North Carolina FC. While North Carolina had a miserable year, finishing last (as they would the following season), the Sierra Leone star stuck out with his four goals and five assists. A move to MLS side Columbus Crew’s reserves followed, but Kamara played a limited role in the inaugural MLS Next Pro season, which the Crew won.
Kamara’s contract did not get renewed, but nonetheless, he showed flashes of the potential which led his agent to call him the “Sierra Leone Messi” in 2021. While he likely won’t go directly into an MLS side, he could be an MLS Next player capable of playing for the senior team later in the season.
Malik Talabidi, 21, CB
Malik Talabidi was one of the stars on RB Leipzig’s side that won the U17 Bundesliga in 2018, featuring along with the likes of current Brentford midfielder Mads Bidstrup and Schalke’s Tom Krauß. Talabidi then moved to the U19 team, where he stayed for two seasons, before making a risky move to Switzerland’s second tier with FC Wil in 2020.
Talabidi’s Swiss adventure did not go to plan, with the defender making just 22 starts in his two seasons with the club. In addition, many of those starts were in different positions, as FC Wil attempted to fit him into their squad — possibly why they fought relegation in both years. In the summer, Talabidi’s contract expired, and he hasn’t been able to find a club — while FC Wil are flying high at first in the league.
Talabidi would be a low-risk, high-reward signing. He’s over six feet tall and physically imposing, and he is an intelligent player on the field. Depth is key in the MLS, and Talabidi is certainly someone who could provide it — even for contenders like NYRB or the Philadelphia Union.
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