Three for Thursday: Brand new forward partnerships
Over the years, MLS has seen many prolific and powerful partnerships up front. With the 2012 season just around the corner, there are a plethora of attackers aiming to team up and create havoc for opposition defenses.
The likes of Kris Boyd and Jorge Perlaza at Portland, Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper of New York and Sébastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli at Vancouver will all argue they can combine expertly to set MLS alight in the upcoming campaign.
The quality of attacking combos MLS fans can look forward to seeing in 2012 is extremely high. Here is a look at three of the top strike partnerships in MLS right now.
Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle
In Southern California, the possibility of these two lining up together for the Galaxy is one that will send shudders down the spines of opposing coaches and defenders. Keane and Buddle could be a dream pairing. Little and large duos across world soccer have proven hard to handle, as they leave defenders' heads in a spin with drastically different styles.
One bullish target man and a smaller, speedy, clinical finisher is exactly what Buddle and Keane are, respectively. A comparison that springs to mind is the supreme partnership Emile Heskey and Michael Owen struck up for England and Liverpool over the years. Buddle’s flick-ons and hold-up play will allow Keane to make intelligent runs behind the defense, in his trademark predatory fashion.
The Republic of Ireland captain showed his worth towards the end of last season’s triumphant run to MLS Cup glory, scoring three goals in seven appearances to help LA lift the trophy. Buddle banged in nine goals in the German second division last term for FC Ingolstadt, helping to reignite his US national team career. The powerful striker will certainly be used to hitting the back of the net at the Home Depot Center, having scored 47 times in 82 appearances from 2007 to 2010 with LA.
Both strikers have bags of international experience and the Galaxy will hope they hit the ground running once early March rolls around.
Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero
One duo vying to link up and prove potent in 2012 is this newly assembled Seattle frontline. With Johnson’s arrival from Europe, Seattle are hoping they have found the perfect foil for Colombian playmaker Montero.
After four years with Fulham (and spells on loan with Cardiff, Aris and Preston), “EJ” has returned to the US after lighting up the league with Dallas and Kansas City as a youngster. Many Sounders fans are left licking their lips in anticipation at seeing Johnson and Montero team up together at CenturyLink Field.
Johnson’s trademark electric pace could dovetail well with Montero's creative touch. If EJ regains the same confidence that saw him score 41 MLS goals in his youth, you could well see him latching onto plenty of delicately placed through balls from Montero.
The young Colombian has excelled on his own over the last 3 seasons with Seattle, scoring 53 goals and adding 30 assists in 115 appearances in all competitions. However for the most part he has not had much help leading the line, as strike partners Nate Jaqua, Le Toux, Mike Fucito, Blaise N'Kufo and Lamar Neagle have come and gone with varying degrees of success.
As to whether Johnson and Montero can strike up an immediate telepathic understanding, only time will tell. But the pieces seem to complement each other nicely.
Dwayne De Rosario and Hamdi Salihi
D.C. United also have a brand new strike pairing which could help propel them up the standings after a topsy-turvy 2011 campaign.
Reigning league MVP De Rosario has Albanian hotshot Salihi alongside him in the nation's capital, as D.C. plot their route back into playoff contention. Canadian international DeRo was a one-man band for large swaths of last season, scoring 13 times in 18 appearances for D.C. The creative forward also added seven assists along the way for United.
In Salihi, head coach Ben Olsen may have found a player who can ease the burden on DeRo. The Albanian international certainly knows how to knock the ball in the back of the onion bag, scoring 57 times for Austrian side Rapid Vienna in just 95 appearances. Also United's newest Deisgnated Player boasts impressive career stats of 184 goals in 331 games. Whatever country or level the goals have been scored at, D.C. have acquired a lethal marksman who scores more than a goal every other game to partner De Rosario up top.
DeRo has shown time and time again how potent he can be in front of goal in MLS. Yet coupled with his ability to carve out chances for others, United fans could get use to seeing the mercurial attacker feeding the predatory Salihi to score time and time again this season.