Despite working on a tight time schedule, the Houston Dynamo were able to beat the clock and make a last-minute splash in the MLS spring transfer window. The Dynamo announced two transfer deadline-day deals on Friday for Spanish forward Sergio Koke and Jamaican international midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson.
“We’re excited,” said Dynamo president of business operations Chris Canetti. "We knew we needed to make some moves, and that was our desire to get it done before the transfer window."
Heading into last weekend with the transfer deadline looming, the Dynamo decided to pursue Koke from a list of 8-10 potential targets.
“One of the challenges is getting to know the player," said Canetti. "It was a whole team effort by the coaches to watch as many Aris games as possible and get a lot of references. [Koke] was on the top of our list, and the coaches felt he’s the type of player that would fit the team and be a real factor in MLS.”
Koke – who will not be counted as a Designated Player, according to Canetti – comes to Houston from Greek side Aris Thessaloniki to bolster the team’s forward corps. In his four-plus years in Greece, the 27-year-old Spanish forward notched two 10-goal seasons and earned the captain’s armband last year playing both as a traditional forward and playmaker.
“It’s was a case where we have some health concerns about our forwards, so it’s good to have depth and competition up there,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear of the Spaniard's role. “Attitude-wise, he’s very eager to come here and to leave Greece, and it shows. I think he’s a player that, after watching him, can make us better.”
In addition to adding to the forward corps, the Dynamo added much-needed depth in central midfield with the signing of Watson. After impressing while on trial with the Dynamo in the preseason, the two sides entered a two-month negotiation process culminating with Friday’s signing. With the deal done, Watson is finally ready to begin his career in Orange.
“Yeah, I’m very happy I’m here," Waton said. "There was a little bit of an issue between the agent and the club, but everything worked out, so it’s better late than never."
In Houston since last Sunday, the Jamaican midfielder impressed in the team’s reserve league win over Sporting Kansas City on Monday. Watson will join Geoff Cameron, fellow Jamaican international Lovel Palmer and Alex Dixon as options in central midfield and has shown the versatility to play both a holding and attacking role.
“Je-Vaughn played central midfield for us in preseason and impressed at two positions, holding midfielder and attacking midfielder,” Kinnear said in a team press release. “He’s shown eagerness to get forward and eagerness to defend, so I think it’s an area we needed some depth.”
The details of both deals were not disclosed and are pending approval of a P-1 visa for Watson and International Transfer Certificate for Koke. Dependent on the time involved in the approval process, both players could be ready to make their Dynamo debuts April 23 at Chicago, with their home debuts likely coming the following Friday against D.C. United.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.