On Wednesday, we took a look at 10 of the most exciting young players in MLS. Today, we’ll look at the other group that, year after year, does a ton to help drive the league forward: Newcomers.
Here are 10 offseason arrivals that should have a huge effect on MLS in 2016:
Shkelzen Gashi – Forward, Colorado Rapids
It flew under the radar, but the Rapids may have made one of the moves of the offseason in signing Gashi. The 27-year-old Albanian international led the Swiss Super League in scoring in each of the last two years, scoring 19 times for Grasshopper Club Zurich in 2013-14 before helping Basel to the Swiss title with 22 goals in 2014-15.
Yura Movsisyan – Forward, Real Salt Lake
He didn’t get the job done in CONCACAF Champions League, but don’t let that get you down on Movsisyan, who returned to RSL this winter after six years in Europe. The 28-year-old forward, acquired on loan from Spartak Moscow, adds creativity and mobility to RSL’s forward corps and should be good for plenty of goals – he scored 60 in 142 league contests in Europe.
Nigel de Jong – Midfielder, LA Galaxy
Best known for that tackle on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final, de Jong will be tasked with providing cover for LA’s attacking horses in 2016. It’s a big job, and whether or not the longtime Dutch international is up for it will go a long way toward determining if LA can bounce back after a disappointing (for them, anyway) 2015.
Carlos Gruezo – Midfielder, FC Dallas
FC Dallas may have unearthed yet another young South American gem in Gruezo, a 20-year-old Ecuadorian international who spent the last two years with Germany club Stuttgart. A member of Ecuador’s 2014 World Cup team, Gruezo offers plenty of versatility in the midfield – expect FCD head coach Oscar Pareja to use him in a variety of roles in 2016.
Jordan Morris – Forward, Seattle Sounders
Yeah, he was on the list of impact young players too, but we don’t mind writing a few extra words on one of the most talked about American prospects in years. The US international turned down German club Werder Bremen to sign with Seattle this winter, and has already started both of the Sounders’ Champions League contests. Expect plenty more starts – and quite a few goals – for the Homegrown signing this MLS season.
Antonio Nocerino – Midfielder, Orlando City SC
A one-time teammate of Kaká with AC Milan, Nocerino reunited with his Brazilian buddy this winter when he moved from the Rossoneri to Orlando. The former Italian international, who was also pursued by D.C. United, will have some serious competition for time in Orlando’s crowded midfield, but he should help the second-year Lions as they look for their first playoff berth.
Gideon Baah – Defender, New York Red Bulls
Baah was brought in from Finnish club HJK Helsinki to replace Homegrown center back Matt Miazga, who was sold to Chelsea this winter. The 24-year-old defender, who was brought on the Red Bulls’ radar after hitting it off with winger Lloyd Sam at a Ghanaian national team camp last fall, brings UEFA Champions League and Europa League experience with him to New York, and should be a Day 1 starter.
Christian Bolaños – Midfielder, Vancouver Whitecaps
A longtime Costa Rican international, Bolaños is a skilled, speedy winger. The 31-year-old, who spent four successful years from 2010-2014 with FC Copenhagen in Denmark, should be a key contributor for a strong Whitecaps side, and will add a dash of experience to their young, already-potent attack.
Ilsinho – Midfielder, Philadelphia Union
After shipping out Cristian Maidana this winter, Philadelphia needed to add some creativity to their attack. They got it by signing Ilsinho, a 31-year-old Brazilian midfielder with loads of experience in Brazil and with Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. He got his Union career off to an inauspicious start (he was ejected in the first half of his first preseason game after signing), but he should get plenty of opportunities to shine for Jim Curtin in 2016.
Luciano Acosta – Midfielder, D.C. United
Like Morris, Acosta was also featured on our list of young players to watch. Like Morris, the 21-year-old has prodigious talent. The Argentine midfielder stands just 5-foot-3, but what he lacks in size he makes up in creativity. Whether Acosta, on loan to D.C. from Boca Juniors, can turn that creativity into goals and assists will play a huge role in shaping United’s 2016 season.