Columnist: Jonathan Sigal

10 MLS players who will feel like new signings in 2024


Let's parrot what the 2023 edition of this column said:

The cliché bears truth, doesn’t it? When managers get players back from a long-term injury, they often remark how it feels like the club is getting boosted by a new signing.

Of course, that label isn’t technically accurate. Said players have already proven their MLS chops, to various degrees, and fans largely know what to expect. But there's excitement nonetheless as they return to the fold.

Some honorable mentions as the 2024 season begins: Franco Negri (Inter Miami CF), Martín Rodríguez (D.C. United), David Ayala (Portland Timbers) and Martin Cáceres (LA Galaxy).

Last year, Borrero was looking like a more-than-capable Tajon Buchanan replacement for the Revolution – one who could potentially follow the now-Inter Milan wingback's path to Europe. Then the Colombian international suffered a torn ACL in late April, derailing a breakout season.

FWIW, Borrero still placed No. 13 overall on last year's 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list. The winger has 5g/3a in 20 matches for New England, too.

The injuries came fast and heavy for LA last season. And in Brugman's case, that meant a season-ending meniscus (knee) injury in late July.

But the Uruguayan veteran is back healthy, providing the perfect yin to Riqui Puig's yang in the Galaxy's midfield alongside Mark Delgado. Brugman is one of the best passers in MLS and has 5g/3a in 36 matches.

Johnson got somewhat lost in the abyss of Toronto's grim 2023 season after signing with the club in free agency. But the former New York City FC captain and MLS Cup 2021 MVP is still in the US men's national team pool, making his case as an upper-tier goalkeeper in the league.

Last year's setback? Johnson suffered a hand fracture in mid-August, leaving him with just 20 league games played.

Kolmanič went down last April with an ACL tear, compounding Austin FC's injuries along the backline. The Slovenian international has looked solid in preseason, though, and faces left-back competition in the form of newcomer Guilherme Biro.

A U22 Initiative player, Kolmanič has 0g/6a in 57 career games for the Verde & Black.

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We might see the reverse of the link-up a ton this season, meaning Robin Lod setting up his buddy Teemu Pukki for goals. Lod missed most of Minnesota's 2023 season due to a right meniscus (knee) injury, in hindsight a serious setback.

Highly versatile, he has 22g/14a in 93 career matches for MNUFC.

When healthy, we know Morgan can be an impactful winger/attacker for the Red Bulls. He, after all, was their leading scorer in 2022 with 14g/4a.

But injuries limited the Scotsman to around 300 minutes played last year, a frustrating period to say the least. Now, he could form a fruitful relationship with DPs Emil Forsberg and Dante Vanzeir (maybe one more DP too?).

Mueller, who underwent season-ending hip surgery last April, has always been a productive attacker in MLS. Look no further than his 27g/31a in 146 career matches, helping spark a transfer from Orlando City to Hibernian (Scotland) before returning home to Chicago.

Back healthy, Mueller projects as a complementary piece in the Fire's attack alongside DPs Hugo Cuypers and Xherdan Shaqiri.

RSL's season wasn't entirely derailed in mid-August when Ruiz suffered a long-term knee injury. But it certainly took a tumble, and the Argentine midfielder's presence was sorely missed.

It turns out the 25-year-old is a wildly important piece (i.e. long switches and ball-winning) for head coach Pablo Mastroeni's preferred style. He also has a penchant for golazos:

Sands was awesome out of the gates last season, emerging as Columbus' starting left wingback and posting 0g/2a through seven games. But he tore his ACL in April and things came to a screeching halt.

Now, Sands is jostling for the starting role alongside Yaw Yeboah. At the very least, the defending MLS Cup champions need depth as they navigate multiple competitions.

Last April, when Williamson suffered a second ACL tear in roughly 20 months, it was hard not to feel gutted for him. He was a written-in-pen starter looking to further establish his USMNT place and his absence – combined with David Ayala's own ACL injury – forced some creative midfield solutions in the Rose City.

But Williamson is on the path to recovery and could be a big part of Portland's potential bounceback under manager Phil Neville. He's all smiles to be back out there: