MLS bringing more star power and excitement

Posted on May 29, 2015 by Jeff McIntyre | 1 Comment

There’s no doubt about it, the MLS is growing in popularity, talent, and excitement.  What’s behind this surging movement?  Star power.  Ever since David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2007, the MLS has become a destination for superstars seeking a new challenge and American internationals seeking a quality home within their nation.  At this point, the sheer number of great soccer players has raised the MLS bar to new heights, and has provided a growing number of fans with more excitement from the talent on the pitch.  Looking ahead, the new arrivals look set to merely add to this wonderful aura about the league. 

Guys like Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins have brought sheer talent to the MLS, scoring goals galore and making a strong impact to their respective clubs.  But last year, the move by several key members of the USA Men’s National Team to MLS clubs brought prestige and awareness to a league that has so often struggled for legitimate recognition. 

American soccer fans have grown used to the likes of Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley wearing their national jerseys, playing at World Cups, and succeeding for their country.  But each fall they’d return to Europe and largely disappear.  They’d play at a club that was rarely televised, or they’d spend months on the bench.  Dempsey was the most successful at Fulham for 5 glorious seasons, but even his status faded after an ill-advised move to Tottenham. 

Back in the MLS, these players have found new life.  They have become key components to their respective clubs and have made an impact.  These players delight the fans, giving them recognizable names to cheer, and providing a far better show on the pitch.

Internationally, the caliber of foreign star players moving to the MLS has increased too.  Kaka has already shown his class with debutant club Orlando City SC, while Sebastian Giovinco has brought Italian flair and tantalizing speed to Toronto FC.  Another famed name to arrive is David Villa, though he certainly has yet to make his mark, having been injured recently. 

But two fabled names on the cusp of joining MLS may push the league over the top.  Liverpool and Chelsea legends Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will be welcomed with open arms, and will certainly be destined for success.  Two players whose games are based around hard work and stunning strikes will be certain to light up the MLS.  Their arrival in July is heavily anticipated.

Meanwhile, household stars that have made careers in the MLS like Kyle Beckerman Omar Gonzalez speak to how far the league has come, and what a special home it can be for great players. 

Perhaps one of the league’s main attributes is the fact that these stars are spread out through the entire MLS and not just reserved for one or two super clubs.  This means that there is a true competition afoot, where perhaps a dozen clubs have a very real shot at winning the MLS Cup.  With great players involved in nearly every MLS game, the excitement levels are rising, making American soccer a place where soccer’s stars are finding a perfect home.

 

Posted in designated player, la galaxy, mls, steven gerrard

Which MLS Newcomers will have the Most Success in 2015?

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Jeff McIntyre | 0 Comments

The MLS has been a constantly morphing league since its early days over a full decade ago, and 2015 is no different.  Along with 2 new teams, and 1 disbanded (so long, Chivas USA), Major League Soccer is bringing over several superstar names, as well as a few familiar faces in American soccer.  These newcomers will be hungry to re-awaken their careers and cement their names in soccer lore.  However, as past players have found coming to America, the play is not as easy as it looks, and the hot summer conditions makes competing physically a tough task.  Here is how I expect this season’s MLS arrivals to fare:

  1. Kaka – Once the most feared attacker of AC Milan and Brazil, Kaka’s career has certainly long since peaked. Nevertheless, he now brings a presence of leadership to the inaugural Orlando City SC season.  I foresee this going one of two ways.  He either finds a new zest for soccer and this league, or he crumbles under the weight of his impending retirement.  While he is a big name and can certainly work the Brazilian magic with a soccer ball, I think Kaka won’t be here too long. 
  2. Brek Shea – Kaka’s success in the MLS will likely go alongside that of Shea’s. The lanky American winger was a budding star with FC Dallas and impressed at the 2013 Gold Cup for America, scoring two goals.  However, an ill-timed move to Stoke City halted his career, and he’s failed to make much noise ever since.  While not succeeding in Europe often befalls an American soccer player, resurrecting a career in the MLS is certainly well within Shea’s grasp.  At just 24 he could have a bright future ahead of him with Orlando SC and could well make a return to the American Men’s National Team.
  3. Steven Gerrard – UEFA Champions League hero with Liverpool, and England captain for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Gerrard brings as much star power as anyone to the MLS. He’s also headed to the best situation of any new arrival.  At the Los Angeles Galaxy, Stevie-G will immediately join forces with Irish legend Robbie Keane and USA internationals Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes.  Though there’ll certainly be pressure to replace the retired Landon Donovan and continue their championship-winning ways, Gerrard will be up to the task.  His ferocity and steely determination have made him a superstar, and he’ll continue to help the Galaxy in this manner. 
  4. Jozy Altidore – Another player who made an ill advised move to the English Premier League in 2013 (with Sunderland), Altidore is seeking new surroundings with Toronto FC. Once a fearsome star striker at AZ Alkmaar of Holland (where he scored 51 goals in 93 appearances), Altidore is also the main striker for USA’s National Team.  People throughout America will be rooting for him, and linking up with his international teammate Michael Bradley will help develop their relationship on the field.  This move has success written all over it.
  5. Frank Lampard – Another English star, Lampard made his success at Chelsea, where he earned 3 Premier League titles and a Champions League medal too. A dream of a midfielder, he scores goals and does all the necessary work required of his position.  However, my worries here are two-fold.  He is old at 36 and is joining a new upstart project with New York City FC.  Starting a team is always tough, and with the New York media quick to pounce on any struggles, Lampard’s relaxing MLS switch could turn into a nightmare mighty quickly.
  6. David Villa – Like Lampard, Villa heads to NYC FC and brings along serious expectations. A World Cup winner with Spain in 2010 and a former Barcelona star, people will expect the world from him.  At 33, he is well beyond his peak too, and probably benefitted from his immensely talented Spain co-stars.  He’ll make a couple of highlight goals this season, but who knows how long this experiment will last.

 And so in conclusion, I anticipate more success for the Americans headed to the MLS than for any of the foreigners.  Still young and hungry for success (and humbled by the EPL), both Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore need to get their careers back on track.  With definite talent, I expect both players to succeed admirably, especially Altidore.  I think that Steven Gerrard will certainly be a hit with LA and the strong supporting cast there, but I do predict struggles for Kaka, David Villa, and Frank Lampard.  They are headed to fledgling clubs with high hopes as international superstars, but their teams collectively are makeshift projects that have yet to play with one another.  Growing pains will be apparent, and the high expectations of their big names will be put to the test straight away in the MLS.  It might get rough in New York…  But however the season pans out for all these newcomers, it will surely be a joy to behold!  The MLS season gets underway soon

Posted in Brek Shea, David Villa, Frank Lampard, Jozy Altidore, MLS, Steven Gerrard

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