MLS Ticker: Pepi named Young Player of the Year, Fire closing in on new head coach, and more

MLS Ticker: Pepi named Young Player of the Year, Fire closing in on new head coach, and more

After a breakout season with FC Dallas to the tune of 13 goals and three assists in 31 matches, 18 year-old Ricardo Pepi was voted MLS Young Player of the Year on Thursday.

The El Paso, Texas-born striker set the record for most goals scored in a season by a teenager and at 18 years and 196 days he became the youngest player an MLS hat trick in a 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy on July 24. Pepi’s impressive rise with FC Dallas has reportedly seen several European clubs target his services this winter.

Pepi’s strong play in MLS has also led to six caps for the U.S. men’s national team, where he continued to solidify himself as a premier talent. He’s contributed three goals during his time with Gregg Berhalter’s side and recently started in the November window against Mexico and Jamaica.

FC Dallas missed out on the postseason in 2021, but Pepi’s stock continued to rise after a strong campaign overall.

Report: Ezra Hendrickson closing in to be new Fire head coach

After firing Raphael Wicky in September, the Chicago Fire are reportedly closing in on finalizing a deal with Ezra Hendrickson to be the club’s next head coach.

No official deal has been made yet, but Hendrickson is moving closer to being announced, SB Nation site Hot Time In Old Town reported Wednesday.

The 49-year-old would bring a wealth of MLS experience to the Fire, having previously been an assistant coach with the Columbus Crew, L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders. As a player Hendrickson spent time with the MetroStars, L.A. Galaxy, Dallas Burn, D.C. United, Chivas USA, and the Columbus Crew.

The Fire struggled for most of the 2021 MLS season, finishing 14 points out from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference with 36 and also were tied for third in conceding the most goals.

Charlotte FC announce home opener against the L.A. Galaxy

Charlotte FC will officially join MLS as the 27th franchise for the upcoming 2022 season, and their first home match will be against one of the league’s most historic clubs.

Greg Vanney and the L.A. Galaxy will oppose Charlotte FC at Bank of Carolina Stadium on March 5, the club announced Thursday. Charlotte FC will hope to replicate the success of teams like LAFC and Nashville SC, who made the playoffs in their inaugural season.

The club currently has eight players under contract prior to their first offseason and will be led by head coach Miguel Angel Ramirez. Former Leicester City defender Christian Fuchs headlines the roster, but many more experienced players are expected to come through the doors via free agency on the expansion draft.


Report: Union’s Findlay on the radar of Hibernian

Stuart Findlay made the move to MLS with hopes of grabbing a starting role with the Philadelphia Union, but is now reportedly linked with a move away from the club.

Scottish club Hibernian is reportedly interested in acquiring the centerback this winter, after manager Jack Ross is intrigued by the defender’s talents, the Daily Record reported Thursday. Findlay joined the Union on a free transfer from Kilmarnock in February, but has struggled for consistent playing time in Jim Curtin’s backline.

The 26-year-old has made only eight appearances between MLS and Concacaf Champions League play, totaling 396 minutes of action. Findlay has been forced to watch Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes lead the backline this season, as the Union prepare for the upcoming MLS Cup Playoffs.

Findlay has spent most of his career in his native Scotland, totaling 173 appearances between Kilmarnock, Livingston, and Greenock Morton. He made his Scottish national team debut in March 2019, but since has fallen out of favor in Steve Clarke’s plans.

Findlay’s signed a two-year contract with the club in March, which also comes with an option for an additional season.