The summer of 2017 will likely go down as one of the busiest transfer windows in MLS history, with practically every club wheeling and dealing ahead of the playoff stretch run.
The league saw a pretty impressive, perhaps even unprecedented, talent injection during the transfer window which closed on August 9. We saw a record MLS blockbuster trade and a host of international acquisitions featuring players in their prime, hailing from a wide variety of top-flight leagues.
Below is my list of the top 10 acquisitions – and the pool of players is so strong that there was no room for several exceptional signings: There's D.C. United's Hungarian attacker Zoltán Stieber, a high-volume, left-sided midfielder who has spent most of his career in Germany.
The Colorado Rapids acquired another interesting wide player out of Germany in Stefan Aigner. Houston bolstered their defensive corps with European veteran Philippe Senderos and based on his first two MLS appearances, we might be looking at the LA Galaxy's Pele Van Anholt as one of the elite right backs in the league.
But these are the 10 names I believe will wind up having the biggest impact in the league:
10. Vako Qazaishvili (San Jose Earthquakes)
With good close control, dribbling and shooting ability (mostly with his right foot), the Georgian international is at his best playing in between opposing lines, and running at defenses. He had two very good seasons at Vitesse in Holland, hitting double-digit goals in each campaign, but then he struggled to find space last season during a loan spell at Polish champions Legia Warsaw. He’s still young (24) and talented, but the question for the Quakes will be: Can he live up to expectations?
9. Yoshimar Yotún (Orlando City)
Yotún, who spent the last three seasons with Malmö, one of Sweden’s biggest clubs, should help improve Orlando’s middling midfield. Also a regular with the Peruvian national team, Yotún is an aggressive player, who possesses a good work rate, a decent range of passing and ability to beat players 1-v-1. He’s also very versatile, capable of playing at left fullback, left wing and central midfield. Orlando will be hoping that his vision will unlock goals for their star forwards.
8. Kelvin Leerdam (Seattle Sounders)
The Sounders already had Joevin Jones bombing down the left; now they have a former Dutch Under-21 international fullback who likes to get forward on the right. Speedy and comfortable on the ball, Leerdam's skillset also includes a dangerous long throw. The 27-year-old, who has spent his entire career in the Dutch Eredivisie and was a teammate of Qazaishvili at Vitesse, has made an immediate impact for Seattle since joining the club at the beginning of July.
7. François Affolter (San Jose Earthquakes)
The 26-year-old, 6-foot-2 center back already has over 200 games under his belt in the Swiss Super League – he was a teammate of Orlando starting right back Scott Sutter at Young Boys – and has represented Switzerland at just about every level internationally. Current Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic coached Affolter at Young Boys and worked with San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelli at Lazio, so safe to say the Earthquakes have done their homework on this one.
6. Dom Dwyer (Orlando City)
Depending on how he fares, the US men’s national team forward could cost Orlando City as much as $1.6 million in allocation funds. However, if Dwyer can replicate his goal-scoring record at Sporting Kansas City and average, say, 15 goals a year over the next few season, then Orlando got him at a bargain. But before that happens, and it very well could, Orlando still have some roster and tactical shuffling they need to do.
5. Paul Arriola (D.C. United)
D.C. United shelled out a club-record transfer fee that some reports claim ran north of $3 million for the US international winger, who is only 22 and still has his best years ahead of him. Although he may not have been a regular scorer at Club Tijuana, his experience in Mexico will be invaluable for a struggling D.C. side that could use his attacking instincts and speed to help Lucho Acosta, Patrick Mullins and Deshorn Brown break down opposing back lines. With the club moving into a new stadium next year, this transfer definitely amounts to a statement of intent.
4. Pedro Santos (Columbus Crew)
After Carlos Vela, who will arrive in January, Santos might be the most exciting signing of the summer window. Pacy, technical, adept at shooting with both feet, and a threat on set pieces, the Portuguese winger should prove an upgrade over Ethan Finlay on the right. He has the potential to add eight to 12 goals to Crew SC's attack and if the 29-year-old can get settled in quickly, he could turn Columbus into a dangerous proposition in the postseason.
3. Victor Rodriguez (Seattle Sounders)
The Sounders have been on fire in recent weeks and now they’re officially stacked. Now with Victor Rodriguez, they've made it clear that they feel they have enough to win it all again. A right winger who’s spent four of his last five seasons as a starter in Spain's La Liga, Rodriguez will add even more quality to the Sounders' possession phase, provide defensive tracking when they’re without the ball, and potentially some goals, too.
2. Jonathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
The Galaxy already had a lot of attacking talent; the biggest problem has been a lack of defensive team shape and balance in midfield. In the former FC Barcelona and Villarreal man, who’s one of the top players on the Mexican national team, the Galaxy are getting a high-caliber box-to-box midfielder. And he can also help support his older brother in the attack.
1. Carlos Vela (LAFC)
The 28-year-old can be hot or cold, but make no mistake about it: Vela will be one of the most exciting players to watch in MLS next year. He'll also have to pick up defensive responsibilities, but I expect to see him playing more centrally for LAFC, as a second forward or No. 10, instead of his usual wing position.