With an ever-increasing global profile, Major League Soccer has seen an influx of international talent. More and more quality players from all parts of the planet have developed an interest in coming to play the world’s game right here in North America, making this summer one of the busiest in recent memory for the league.
As the international transfer window closes Sunday, we take a look at some of the new faces in MLS.
Keane to win the Cup?
With the clock ticking, LA Galaxy added Republic of Ireland international captain Robbie Keane before the deadline. This is the biggest move of this MLS season. Arriving on transfer from Tottenham Hotspur FC, the striker is another marquee name who has made a big impact on the global soccer scene – having scored over 50 times for his country, while also having played for world-renowned clubs such as Liverpool FC and Internazionale. Indeed, Keane is another major coup for the growth and reputation of MLS.
For the Galaxy – already at the top of the MLS standings – this adds a great deal more firepower to their line-up, as they look to get over the hump and win a third MLS Cup title.
A new mould of Designated Player
Aside from the Keane signing, many other teams have already inked key players this summer.
Keane would very much be what you'd call an "old school" Designated Player signing. The DP rule has been in place in MLS since 2007, with David Beckham of course being the first signee. In fact, the DP rule originally came to be known by many as “the Beckham rule”. That led to an assumption that DP signings had to be high-profile names like Beckham, Thierry Henry, Cuauhtémoc Blanco or Freddie Ljungberg. That has been fine and dandy, as those players have proved valuable – especially in terms of marketing – but these have also been older players who’ve been headed towards the tail-end of their careers.
More recently, however, MLS squads have been looking to use their DP dollars on players who still have room to grow. Here in Vancouver, our Whitecaps FC squad acquired Gambian striker Mustapha Jarju. At only 25-years-old, the ‘Caps hope that the marksman’s best days are still ahead of him. While it’s impossible to know what the future holds, his age leaves the potential of him having a lengthy stay in Vancouver – all throughout the prime years of his career.
Sporting Kansas City made a similar decision as they signed Brazilian playmaker Jéferson. At 27-years-old, he too is in line to play the game as best as he ever will. New England Revolution have taken a further step in the direction of youth with their summer DP signing, as they’ve brought in a 22-year-old striker from Argentina by the name of Milton Caraglio. While it’s certainly a risk to spend so much to bring in an unproven player, the reward could well be worth it in the end – especially if he reaches his potential and they’re able to sell him to a bigger club for a substantial fee.
Kick’n it old school
Though it’s been nice to see teams bringing in younger DPs – as some critics were beginning to peg MLS as a retirement home – the older DP’s in the league have in fact been excelling of late. Beckham and Henry have both had monstrous seasons so far, very much living up to their hype. Keeping that in mind, not all of this summer’s DP signings were young guns either.
In New York, they used their final DP slot in a manner that hadn’t previously been seen, as they signed a goalkeeper in German Frank Rost. Few goalkeepers in the world have the type of cache that will get the casual fan’s attention – and Rost is not one of them. However, New York had been in need of a goalie if they hoped to contend for an MLS Cup, and the 38-year-old Rost had a great number of successful years in the German Bundesliga.
In Toronto, they’re optimistic that the original DP strategy will pay off. The Reds brought in two experienced players to help build their squad under head coach Aron Winter. 34-year-old former German international midfielder Torsten Frings and 32-year-old Dutch striker Danny Koevermans were both signed in the hopes of finally bringing some satisfaction to Toronto FC’s long-suffering fans.
No designation needed
Outside of the DP signings, several more quality players have joined the MLS ranks. Chicago Fire added two experienced midfielders to their team in Argentine Sebastián Grazzini and distinguished Mexican international Pável Pardo. Grazzini was brought in more for his attacking ability while Pardo was picked up to hold the fort as a defensive midfielder, but ironically, it was Pardo who scored on his debut.
Houston Dynamo have also increased their chances of success with the acquisition of deadly Honduran striker Carlo Costly. The 6-foot-3 attacker is always a threat to find the back of the net and played a key role in helping the Hondurans qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In addition to Costly, the Dynamo also reinforced their midfield with the signing of Brazilian Luiz Camargo.
In Philadelphia, the Union shocked the league when they announced that Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz was leaving the club. However, good news has come again, as 22-year-old attacker Freddy Adu has returned stateside to again play for Peter Nowak – who originally coached him during the start of his career at D.C. United. Once dubbed the future of soccer when he first played in MLS – not only in the United States, but all around the world – Adu has essentially fallen off the map, never able to reach his full potential. His long odyssey from wonder-kid to bust makes it all the more incredible that he’s still only 22-years-old. That’s because Adu started his career at the astonishing age of 14. Now, the Union hope that they can bring out the best of the once promising star.
These are only a few of the new names to come to MLS, but with interest from players at an all-time high, the future of MLS promises to be as entertaining as ever.