Just over 12 hours before the close of the 2018 Primary Transfer Window on Tuesday night, MLSsoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio posted this in their deadline-day tracker:
Conversations with multiple general managers around the league yesterday revealed a widespread belief that Tuesday will be a slow end to the Primary Transfer Window.
And so, the close of the transfer window came and went seemingly as expected. Until a little under an hour before the close of the window, Stejskal and Tenorio had this bombshell to report:
The Lee Nguyen saga is over: The New England Revolution traded the playmaker to LAFC in a deadline deal that could potentially land the Revolution up to $950,000.
Only, it wasn’t exactly the last-minute blockbuster deal it played out to be.
“Because things happen towards the close of the window, people wrongly assume it’s a quick decision and process. It’s not,” LAFC EVP and GM John Thorrington said the day after the deal was announced. “Things might change last minute, but our targeting of players is very disciplined and much longer process.”
In some respects, the capture of Nguyen goes back years, not months, for Thorrington. Back to when the current LAFC GM was still a player.
“We crossed paths in Vancouver, when he first came back to MLS. I was playing there. I always thought he was a very good player. I played against him a lot over the years in the League,” Thorrington said. “He’s creative. He’s dynamic. He’s got great feet. He can score. He fits very well with how we want to play, and when the opportunity came, at what we thought was great value, we moved quickly and negotiated a deal with New England.”
In Nguyen, LAFC is receiving a midfielder with the fifth most combined goals and assists, 82, since 2014 in MLS. He is one of two players with at least 40 goals and 40 assists in the Revolution’s 22-year history.
“He’s comfortable on the ball. He’s got an eye for key passes. He can still go by a player, and when he gets chances, he finishes,” Bob Bradley said of Nguyen. “I’m not saying Lee’s exactly the same as [Andrés] Iniesta, but they are players that on the ball, can hold it under pressure, release it at the right time, still go by people, find spaces to receive and know where the next play should go. Those kinds of players make a big difference in any team.”
Seven matches into the season, LAFC’s 17 goals for are second to only Sporting KC in the Western Conference. The addition of Nguyen, 11 goals and 15 assists last season, to a squad boasting Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Benny Feilhaber adds to an lethal attack. But Thorrington and co. weren’t through with the deadline day acquisitions, scooping up Hull City forward Adama Diomandé as well.
“Dio is a fast, powerful goalscorer,” Thorrington said of the Norwegian. “He has some versatility in that he’s played upfront, he’s played on the left for Hull … he’ll add to our already dangerous attack.”
With LAFC recently announcing the loss of center forward Marco Ureña to injury, the temptation might be there once again to consider Diomandé’s arrival a snap decision in light of deadline-day circumstances. But like the Nguyen acquisition, Thorrington said the pursuit of Diomandé was a process.
Diomandé was on Thorrington and Bradley’s radar since the summer, with Bradley having worked well with the forward at Stæbeck in 2015. The player’s contract with Hull provided a stumbling block to negotiations then, but an opportunity presented itself leading up to the close of the 2018 Primary Transfer Window.
It’s a reverse of fortunes Bradley was excited the Club capitalized on.
“He’s similar to Marco. Works for the team, strong, personality, and good guy. That year in Stæbeck he was a really good leader in the group,” Bradley said of working with Diomandé. “He had experience, he was motivated. When you have a striker that closes down defenders, fights for balls, and the year at Stæbeck, his goalscoring was incredible. He scored 17 goals in 22 games. Highlight-reel goals.”
One player that won’t be arriving during this window is Designated Player André Horta.
Signed by LAFC from Benfica in late March, the Portuguese midfielder is currently on season-long loan with fellow Portuguese side Braga. Despite negotiations going until the 11th hour, Horta could not be pried away as Braga maintain hopes of reaching a Champions League place before the end of the Primeira Liga season on May 13.
The soonest Horta can now join LAFC is July 11. Coupled with the likely losses of Vela and Ureña for a month or more at the beginning of June for the World Cup, some could speculate the latest transactions are stop-gap measures. An assumption Thorrington said would be shortsighted.
“Neither of these are World Cup fixes,” Thorrington said of the Nguyen and Diomandé acquisitions. “These are both very, very high-quality players that we think will be great contributors short, medium and long term for LAFC.”
The first-year GM is clearly in this for the long haul.