Welcome to the Rumor Radar, a weekly column by Philly Football Daily MLS contributor, Noah Barnes. Each week, Barnes breaks down the top MLS transfer rumors of the week.
Its official! The MLS primary transfer window has been open for a week now, and that means the time for transfer rumors is upon us. It also means the return of The Rumor Radar, where we will break down the top five transfer rumors of the week, and assess their likelihood! So without further ado, here are the most compelling rumors to come out of this week leading up to Opening Day.
Steven Naismith – Sporting KC
It seems as though every transfer window, Peter Vermes’ side are linked with at least two or three centre forwards to add depth to an already excellent attack. It also seems as though that trend will continue into the current transfer window, as Sporting KC are being linked with 32-year-old attacker Steven Naismith, as per reports in the BBC and the Scottish Sun.
Naismith is currently on loan at Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish Premiership, where he has scored 10 times in just 17 league appearances for the club. This mark is good enough for the third highest tally in the league, and is incredibly efficient for a player his age. However while this form has potentially caught the eye of MLS clubs, including SKC, it has also made current Hearts boss Craig Levian keen on keeping the player once his contract with parent club Norwich City ends this summer.
Naismith’s current form could make him an ideal signing for a Kansas City side lacking in attacking depth, and his experience in the English Premier League would only bolster that notion. Naismith amassed 73 appearances for Everton in four seasons with the club, scoring 18 times as a withdrawn centre forward. This experience, combined with the fact he would leave his home country of Scotland on a free transfer, could be mouthwatering.
Yet while the prospect of playing alongside his fellow countryman Johnny Russell could be intriguing for Naismith, it seems unlikely that he would leave his home country at this time in his career. At 32, he is only a year or so away from retirement, and this is something he would likely want to to in Scotland where he began his career.
Transfer Probability: 2.2 / 5
Quentin Westberg – Toronto FC
After a 4-0 drubbing by Panamanian side Independiente in the Concacaf Champions League on Tuesday, Toronto FC could well be looking to bolster their defense before the start of the season. According to The Athletic’s Kristian Dyer, this could mean dipping into their transfer budget to sign a new goalkeeper to challenge current shot stopper Alex Bono. This new keeper is rumored to be former United States youth international Quentin Westberg.
Westberg, who currently plays in the second tier of French football for AJ Auxerre, has spent most of his career as a backup goalkeeper, and would likely fulfil that same role in Toronto, at least to start. At 32 years of age, he could well be a reliable second option to Bono, especially considering he has racked up more appearances this season (13) than in any prior season.
Westberg, a dual-national player, would not fill a designated player spot for TFC, a prospect that could make this transfer more likely to happen. His limited appearances in a top flight league, combined with his age, would also likely make him a cheap option for the club to pursue. Westberg, due to his experience at the US youth international level, could also be beneficial to the young US based players in the side hoping to crack the international squad.
Transfer Probability: 3.4 / 5
Darlington Nagbe – Columbus Crew
In all fairness, this transfer rumor is not exactly new. Rumors have been swirling for weeks now surrounding the future of US international Darlington Nagbe, with reports linking him with a move out of Atlanta. The most prominent reports have linked Nagbe with the Columbus Crew and a reunion with former head coach Caleb Porter. These speculations have only continued to grow since last week, when Dirty South Soccer reported that the attacker had requested to be traded to the Columbus club.
While the same publication is now reporting that Nagbe is “happy in Atlanta,” suggesting that the transfer saga may be approaching a positive end for ATL fans, it is not difficult to imagine how a player of Nagbe’s ability would fit into a Columbus side under a new head coach. Nagbe has shown flashes of his potential over the course of his time in both the MLS and for the US and the international level, netting 20 times in 163 appearances over a five year tenure with the Portland Timbers.
Nagbe, a player skilled on the dribble, would certainly add some creativity to Porter’s side, as he has contributed 21 assists over his career. Add in an average of 1.5 key passes per game, and Nagbe does not have bad numbers for a center mid. Though these number might seem low to some, especially considering Nagbe is 28 and yet to realize his full potential, Columbus fans might hope that a reunion with Porter could bring out some of the spark many have tipped Nagbe to possess.
However, it appears that the player is increasingly likely to stay in Atlanta under new coach Frank De Boer. After a reported rift with the team and management, Nagbe is back in training, which is a fact sure to disappoint some in Ohio.
Transfer Probability: 1.7 / 5
Pablo Aranguiz – Back to Chile?
While FC Dallas are not currently being linked with any potential reinforcements to their squad, rumors are certainly flying considering the future of young midfielder Pablo Aranguiz and a potential departure from the club he signed for less than a year ago. According to Dallas soccer site Big D Soccer, the club are reportedly looking to send the out of sorts youngster back to his home country of Chile.
Aranguiz, who the club bought last season to help sort out midfield depth issues, has yet to settle in Dallas, and has made only nine appearances since arriving. Given that the 21-year-old has shown flashes of his potential, it seems reasonable that any potential loan move will strictly be for future development, and not a signal of a lack of future with the club.
Reportedly, Aranguiz is being shopped to Universidad de Chile in the Chilean first division. Aranguiz’s ability as a creative midfielder would serve the club perfectly, as they have been in desperate need of such a player since the loss of Yeferson Soteldo to Brazilian club Santos. And while FC Dallas fans might be upset about the potential loss of a player for the upcoming season, manager Luchi Gonzalez seems confident that a move back to Chile may be the perfect way to jumpstart Aranguiz’s development.
Transfer Probability: 3.7 / 5