Major League Soccer is welcoming plenty of new faces to its teams in 2015, and while all eyes will be on the likes of David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Kaká, there are a number of new players who are also looking to make a good impression this season. Here are 10 other players joining MLS this season that might be worth watching in 2015:
Everyone knows of Orlando City’s first Designated Player signing, Kaká, but the Brazilian legend isn’t the only star signing for this new franchise: Honduran international Bryan Rochez is only 20 years old but joins Orlando with plenty of promise. Here’s the thing about Rochez – he didn’t have to come to Orlando. So, if Orlando sticks with him over the long term, the team might have something special in its hands.
At the same time, Rochez is also under a tremendous amount of pressure as a DP up top for an expansion franchise. If he can get comfortable and start scoring, Rochez can be one of the best young players in the league. Having Kaká playing in support behind him certainly won’t hurt, though!
The Montreal Impact brass addressed their club’s most pressing need with a big pick up, adding Belgian international central defender Laurent Ciman from Standard Liege. This 29-year-old defender adds class and quality to Montreal’s ailing back line for the considerable future; Ciman signed a three-year deal and will be the player Montreal builds its defensive line around for the next few seasons.
Ciman left Standard Liege with a bang, though, scoring a crucial last-second goal against the club’s bitter rivals, Anderlecht, in the Belgian league. That was his final bow, before he departed for Montreal.
Like Montreal, the Vancouver Whitecaps had one pressing need in the offseason, an area that head coach Carl Robinson addressed with the signing of 23-year-old Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero. The Whitecaps have a number of midfielders; too many, in fact, leaving several strong players like Russell Teibert and Erik Hurtado on the bench. But, beyond Darren Mattocks, the club found itself shorthanded on strikers to aim for up top. In Rivero, Robinson hopes to have found his man.
Rivero should be an interesting player to watch because he is such an unknown quantity; he came into MLS out of O’Higgins, a club in Chile. His goalscoring record is fair, but not substantial, scoring 10 goals in 16 games. Frankly, the question everyone is asking is, where did Robinson even find Rivero? Perhaps the Whitecaps have scouted the next big thing in MLS – as of now, we can only watch and find out.
The Chicago Fire also had a need for more attacking options up top, but unlike Vancouver, head coach Frank Yallop went for a known quantity in Premier League regular Shaun Maloney. The Premier League has been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to exporting players to MLS: guys like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Robbie Keane have absolutely thrived where others like Jermain Defoe and Nigel Reo-Coker haven’t.
In Maloney, the Fire is hoping to have found something in the shape of the former. As such, this 32-year-old Scottish attacking midfielder/winger comes to MLS with high expectations and while he has experience at Wigan Athletic and Celtic, MLS is a different beast entirely.
As the first overall draft pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Cyle Larin comes to Orlando with a big reputation and even bigger expectations to fill. Larin is an interesting pick, since he takes up an international roster spot for Orlando. See, Larin is already a Canadian international, getting called up to the national team before he had even played his first professional game.
This 19-year-old striker was the undisputed first choice at the draft, though, and comes into MLS with a Generation Adidas contract to his name, so his salary won’t count against Orlando’s cap. He’s a pure goal scorer, mobile, strong and smart; the perfect package for Orlando City. Canadians will have an eye on Larin this year, but perhaps the rest of the league will be watching, too.
Unlike Larin, Leo Stolz was drafted rather late in the MLS SuperDraft, getting picked up by the New York Red Bulls at 18 overall, despite being one of the top talents in the entire draft. See, Stolz’s journey to MLS is a little different. This 24-year-old midfielder was born in Munich, Germany and came up through the youth ranks at 1860 Munich, before coming to college in the United States. Before the draft, Stolz’s camp had expressed a desire to play in New York or Los Angeles. If not, a return to Germany would be on the cards.
As such, other teams didn’t pick Stolz until the New York Red Bulls picked him at 18. Still, no one knew whether he would stick around, but soon after, news came out that Stolz had signed for the Red Bulls. Soon enough, MLS fans will have a chance to see what the fuss was all about.
The U.S. Four
We’ll wrap up our list with four more players who join various clubs in MLS: Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore, Brek Shea and Sacha Kljestan all make their return to the league with New York City FC, Toronto FC, Orlando City SC and the New York Red Bulls respectively. These four players are familiar faces to fans of soccer in the United States – they are all U.S. men’s national team players, with Altidore and Diskerud playing big roles in the 2014 FIFA World Cup side that made it out of the Group of Death.
These four players continue the recent trend of U.S. internationals returning from Europe and taking up Designated Player contracts in MLS. They’ll certainly have the attention of fans across the league, too.