Five incoming MLS players who provide litmus tests
Even with a name like Pogba in the running, it will not make the list of most intriguing MLS transfers so far this offseason (and there may be more to come, especially with Toronto FC holding a Designated Player spot and reportedly chasing a star in the Belgian top flight).
Though Paul’s older brother Florentin is an intriguing center back addition for champions Atlanta United -- he’s a season-and-a-half removed from a very good Ligue 1 campaign for Saint-Etienne -- he’s not close to the five players leaping to the front of our minds.
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That list was made trickier to assemble this week when Philadelphia signed Mexican playmaker Marco Fabian from Eintracht Frankfurt. Where will he meet our list, if anywhere?
So we added another qualifier to our list, and that’s whether the player’s standing and form provide us any sort of litmus test for the current state of MLS.
There have been outlandish talents like Pity Martinez and rising international midfielders like Hwang In-Boem before, but the gentlemen below could help teach us some things.
Also, we’re going to cheat and include six players, on five teams. It’s our list.
Fabian, Philadelphia Union -- If there ever was a case to be made for an automatic game-changer, it’s Fabian. The Mexican 29-year-old is two seasons removed from significant playing time with Eintracht Frankfurt, but his first season was very good -- 7 goals, 4 assists -- and he’s scored against Germany and Iceland in the last two years for El Tri. If he doesn’t control games, MLS has progressed even more than we suspected.
Carles Gil, New England Revolution -- One day, La Liga players coming to MLS won’t be that big of a deal, and we’ll find out how accelerated that timeline has come in part through the play of Gil. The right winger and La Liga regular until this year has been with Deportivo de la Coruna’s second team all year. Is Brad Friedel the man to help Gil finally meet his potential head-on?
Terrence Boyd, Toronto FC -- Boyd is one of the toughest-to-digest stories for American soccer, mostly because for a time it seemed he could be the next true USMNT star striker. But his time in the Bundesliga was cut by injuries, and he’s been unable to brand himself a regular 2.Bundesliga starter. It’s a rebirth story, but how quickly will he refind his footing? And is he a 10-goal contributor, which should be the minimum expectation, or a guy who can dominate a game?
Allan Cruz and Manu Ledezma, FC Cincinnati -- The 22-year-old Cruz is one of the rising stars for Costa Rica, scoring against Peru in November after staring his first 7 appearances for Los Ticos. He’s moving from one of the biggest clubs in an inferior league to another CONCACAF testing ground.
As for Ledezma, the well-traveled 30-year-old Argentine absolutely tortured USL defenses last season, with 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 league games. The prior season, he bagged 10 goals with six assists in 19 NASL appearances with the New York Cosmos. MLS is a step-up, but not enough to deter optimism that the former Middlesbrough man cannot be a significant factor for manager Alan Koch.
Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC -- Here’s another litmus test for the league, in a different way. Mitrita left the Romanian first tier -- UEFA coefficient 26th -- got some good experience in Italy’s top two tiers with Pescara, and came home to light his domestic league on fire. The next step here is an interesting one for both the development of a player and a league. Mitrita wasn’t a star in Italy, just productive. He’s on fire in Romania. We’ll guess it’s a little bit of the former, at least to start. He’s just 24, and will continue to improve.