Major League Soccer continues to grow and with it, new stars are making their way to North America’s shores. With two new teams joining the league in 2015 – Orlando City SC and New York City FC – MLS continues to welcome these star signings. Ten days remain in the January transfer window but these are just some of the big-name players who will be competing in MLS in 2015:
Orlando City SC
This Brazilian icon made his name at A.C. Milan and Real Madrid and at 32 years old, he still has plenty in the tank to guide Orlando City in its inaugural year. Kaká is a FIFA Ballon D’Or winner and was once considered the best footballer in the world, but a string of injuries and poor performances saw him drop in form a touch. He’ll look to reinvigorate his career and will be the key player in Orlando this season.
New York City FC
David Villa is a legendary striker in the history books of Spanish football, ruling the goal scoring roost for La Furia Roja. Villa, 33, came to New York City FC out of Atletico Madrid after winning the Spanish La Liga crown. He made his name at Valencia but it is his international form that makes him a star. Villa is the most dangerous forward in MLS and will be a force to be reckoned with in New York.
The Fire picked up Nigerian forward Kennedy Igboananike and he’ll join a Chicago team desperate for a double-digit goal scorer with a speedy presence up top for smaller strikers like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa to feed off of. Igboananike fits the bill to a tee. There aren’t many Designated Players from Africa in MLS history though, so keep an eye out for this exciting young forward.
New York Red Bulls
After a league-leading 27-goal season last year, the New York Red Bulls awarded English forward Bradley Wright-Phillips with a well deserved Designated Player contract. Wright-Phillips absolutely dominated last season with Thierry Henry in support but with Henry retiring at the end of the year, there are questions about his effectiveness without all those assists. Let’s see how Wright-Phillips does in 2015.
Bryan Rochez (Honduras)
Orlando City SC
Orlando signed a second Designated Player to pair with Kaká in 20-year-old Honduran forward Bryan Rochez. This young, exciting striker gives Kaká a target to aim for with his pinpoint passes and darting runs, and while Rochez is an unproven quality in MLS, he is already a full Honduran international despite being eligible for the U20 level. Rochez will be an interesting player to keep an eye out for in 2015.
Combining with Igboananike up top, the Chicago Fire added another Designated Player from Africa in Ghanaian striker David Accam. The 24-year-old joins Chicago out of Helsingborg from the Swedish first division and the young forward also made two appearances for Ghana last year. Accam was also in the provisional World Cup squad for Ghana, but was left out of the final 23-man roster.
Another proven MLS-er, Erick “Cubo” Torres is a familiar name for followers of the league. Torres was the most exciting player at the now-defunct Chivas USA and while the rest of his teammates were dispersed throughout the league, Torres chose to join the Houston Dynamo for the 2015 season. He’s at Chivas Guadalajara until July but this Mexican international will return to MLS full-time in the summer.
The Vancouver Whitecaps needed to fill just one hole at the end of the 2014 season, and head coach Carl Robinson did just that with the signing of Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero. Standing at 6-foot-2, Rivero gives Vancouver some much-needed physicality up top and while he has bounced around a bit in the last few years, he’ll look to establish himself alongside Pedro Rosales and Matias Laba in Vancouver.
The road paved by David Beckham has now seen the footsteps of Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard, who will join the LA Galaxy in July as the club’s newest star. Gerrard is, in one word, quality; his playing style is direct, his career successes speak for themselves, and his reputation as a leader is unparalleled in England. This English international joins MLS and brings with him a wealth of experience at 35 years old.
New York City FC
Gerrard isn’t the only English international midfield icon joining MLS this season: Chelsea’s legendary midfielder Frank Lampard, now at Manchester City, will join New York City FC in the summer at the end of the Premier League season, where his efforts with Manchester might just end up ruining Chelsea’s 2015 season. With all the potential drama in England, Lampard might just enjoy life in MLS this summer.
Last season, Toronto FC picked up Jermain Defoe from Tottenham Hotspur to much fanfare but one year on, the Reds have moved on, swapping Defoe with Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore. This 25-year-old U.S. international striker has had a tough time in the Premier League and returns to MLS hungry to score and prove himself once more. Luckily, he joins his good friend, Michael Bradley, and will combine with…
Of all these star signings Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco might just be the biggest signing of them all. At only 27 years old, Giovinco is joining MLS at the prime of his career. He’s with Juventus right now, is an Italian international and a very tricky player. Toronto FC lacked an attacking midfielder but filled that role perfectly; in Giovinco, the club gets a player who can not only score goals, but set them up, too.
At the end of the 2014 season, Fabian Espindola got physical with a referee and earned himself a six-match ban at the top of the 2015 season. So, D.C. United rewarded him with a new, Designated Player contract! Though the two were not related, Espindola is a fiery figure up top for D.C. and his performances certainly merit the pay bump. He’s a proven talent, as many Argentine players end up being.