The LA Galaxy announced on Wednesday they have filled their last Designated Player roster slot...with midfielder Riqui Puig.
The 23-year-old, of course, was already on the Galaxy’s roster, originally signing a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) deal with the club last summer after transferring on a free from FC Barcelona. While at the time some outside the club wondered how LA managed to squeeze Puig into a TAM slot at all, the league apparently approved it all and for now we can only assume everything was on the up-and-up.
But with Puig dominating after his arrival from Spain last season, making him a DP makes sense on two levels. He’s one of the biggest names on the team, yes, but he’s also one of the best players in the league, potentially an MLS MVP candidate this season and he will be counted on to be a key player for the Galaxy this season, perhaps the key player.
“We are excited to announce Riqui Puig as our newest Designated Player,” said LA Galaxy head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney in a team statement. “Riqui is an exceptional talent that has the capacity to impact games in many different ways. He is a tireless competitor with a combination of awareness and precision at high speed that is truly unique. We look forward to his continued contributions to the club for years to come.”
There’s another reason why making Puig a DP makes a lot of sense: He qualifies to be a Young Designated Player this year, and so that allows the Galaxy to make use of three U-22 Initiative spots, which is basically another roster designation that allows teams to sign and pay more promising young talents a little more and not have it count as much on the salary charge. This is important because LA have all three allowed U-22 Initiative slots spoken for, as they themselves explained in the release. In addition to returning players Dejan Jovelić and Efrain Alvarez as U-22 Initiative players, new right back Lucas Calegari joins them. If the Galaxy had not used the Young DP slot, they would have only been allowed one U-22 Initiative player.
So while I’m sure some Galaxy fans won’t be happy that the team won’t be adding another DP imminently and keeping Puig in a TAM slot, I think his quality of play, the U-22 Initiative situation and the looming transfer ban this summer and time relatively running out for the team to get a deal done means making Puig the DP makes the most sense. We’ll see if LA make any more additions before the transfer ban in the coming weeks.
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