Legion announces initial roster moves

Not too many surprises

Along with most of League One and a few other Championship clubs, the Legion today announced the first batch of roster changes for the offseason. Overall, the news is pretty good.

The good news

The Three Sparks are bringing back 10 players on existing contracts and it’s a great veteran bunch: Enzo Martinez, Matt VanOekel, Tyler Pasher, Prosper Kasim, Diba Nwegbo, Alex Crognale, Phanuel Kavita, Matthew Corcoran, Trevor Spangenberg and Mikey Lopez. OK, so Diba and Matthew are technically veterans, but they do rather stand out among an otherwise mature crowd, including 4 members of the Legion’s OG. Keeping players around that long is quite a rarity in this league. Add to that new contracts for Preston Tabort Etaka and Moses Mensah for a round dozen returnees. That is a hell of a core to build next year’s team around.

The not quite so good news

Jake Rufe, Juan Agudelo and Neco Brett are all in negotiations for new contracts. These guys were all significant contributors in 2023, especially Juan and Neco. Neco is a very reliable scorer and Juan developed into a great distributor this year. If Jake doesn’t renew, that leaves a fairly big hole at the back that will definitely need filling; this team is not built to survive on two center backs. It really needs at least 4 in my opinion in order to play with a 3-man line (which the team was kinda sorta doing late in the season).

The bad news

7 players are probably not returning.

Grayson Dupont, Seth Torman and Anderson Asiedu are out of contract. The departure of Ando is not really surprising any more to anyone who has been paying attention, although as a fan favorite he will be missed. Local product Grayson didn’t get a lot of minutes so his absence will not be felt much. Fellow local boy and goalkeeper Seth Torman didn’t play at all behind Matt and Trevor.

Tyler Freeman’s loan is over. Again, he didn’t see the pitch much and is not really a loss. Collin Smith’s loan is also ended. However, his contract was declined by FC Dallas, so he is a free agent. He could come back if the Legion wants him although the announcement suggests that is not the case. He was a good right back and did shine in some relatively limited wingback play as well. And before you ask, Jonny Dean’s contract option with the Chicago Fire was picked up so Hotlinks isn’t coming back.

Gabriel Alves was not renewed. If you follow any of the players on Instagram, he rather indicated that would be the case about a month or so ago. Gabi started the season strong, but was steadily overtaken by Moses. He just got engaged as well, so a return to Brazil was always likely. Lastly, Mataeo Bunbury’s contract option was declined. This one came as a bit of a surprise to yours truly although many may have forgotten he was on the Legion roster. Mataeo was on loan to Columbus Crew 2 of MLS Next Pro this season and performed pretty well (4 goals and 3 assists in 22 games). He’s still only 18 and has a ton of potential. Letting him go seems a tad wasteful.

What this all means

So the Legion has anywhere from 12 to 15 players coming back in 2024. That also assumes the team does not cash in on Matthew Corcoran or Diba Nwegbo, both of whom are seeing their market value rising fast. Even with all of that, there are some yawning gaps all over the pitch. The team will need to bolster the back line with at least a center back and a right back. The double pivot seems to be out of style in the Magic City, so replacing Ando may not be a top priority. A central attacking midfielder may need to be found and also a striker.

So the Legion will look a good bit different next season, and there’s going to be a fair amount of activity yet before play starts in the spring. Quite a few new faces and, chances are, a few new flags for the Magic City Brigade to buy.

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