Voices: Joseph Lowery

10 players MLS teams should scout from the World Cup


I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s this big global soccer tournament happening right now. It’s called the World Cup, even though they don’t actually hand out any sort of cup to the winners. Confusing, right?

The World Cup itself is almost over, but many players who featured in the tournament will undoubtedly move within the next couple of transfer windows. Teams from across MLS and other leagues around the world have already done their homework on many of those players. They know the names. They know a little bit about how they play. They might have a few stats on hand. Still, the World Cup can raise a player’s profile in a way that few other events in this sport can.

With that in mind, today we’re looking at 10 players MLS teams should scout – and potentially even sign – from World Cup rosters.

Josip Juranović
RB, Croatia (Celtic)

One fullback leaving MLS for Celtic, one fullback leaving Celtic for MLS? Okay, fine, Alistair Johnston’s move from CF Montréal to Scotland may not trigger a move for Juranović, but the right back has left his mark at the World Cup.

Juranović, 27, was an impactful player for Croatia, starting all six of their World Cup games and showing some impressive speed to get forward down the wing. With his pace, ability to get in behind the backline, and strong right foot, Juranović would be a quality acquisition for any MLS team looking for an upgrade on the right side of their backline.

Dominik Livaković
GK, Croatia (Dinamo Zagreb)

Let’s look at one more Croatian player before we start dancing around the world. Livaković was the hero for Croatia on their run to the semifinals. He stopped shots left and right, save penalties and generally held things down in the back.

According to FBref, Livaković saved over three goals more than his expected total, which is more than any other goalkeeper at the World Cup. He’s third in that same metric when you average those figures out per 90 minutes. He was fantastic for Croatia – maybe too good for an MLS team to pay Dinamo Zagreb what they might want to charge.

But hey, you have to ask, right?

Luis Chávez
CM, Mexico (Pachuca)

Mexico struggled in Qatar (didn't advance from Group C), but a few of their players still had the chance to announce themselves on the big stage. Chávez, who only made his El Tri debut back in April, was one of those players.

At 26, he’s a dangerous, left-footed central midfielder. He's also technical, can crash the box, or sit deeper and act as a screen in front of the backline. Chavez can hit a free kick, too.

As a well-rounded central midfielder in his prime, Chávez likely wouldn’t come cheap. But if you’re an MLS team looking for a high-floor midfielder, it just might be worth splashing some cash on the Liga MX talent.

Ángelo Preciado
RB, Ecuador (Genk)

In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of MLS teams sign players from Ecuador before they move to Europe. Preciado already made his move from Independiente del Valle in Ecuador to Genk in Belgium, but that doesn’t mean they should look past the 24-year-old.

Preciado has great energy on the right side of the backline, getting forward and providing an aggressive outlet on that side of the field. Ecuador don’t play free-flowing soccer, but Preciado had some nice moments during the group stage when serving crosses into the box with his right foot. He’s also adept and engaged defensively. He’s a player to watch.

Boulaye Dia
FW, Senegal, Salernitana (on loan from Villarreal)

This would be a fun one.

Dia, 26, started all four of Senegal’s World Cup games and scored a goal against Qatar in the group stage. He’s on loan at Villarreal from Italian club Salernitana, who reportedly have an option to buy for €12 million.

He doesn’t get involved all that much in possession, but Dia is dangerous on the break. He sees – and exploits – space at a high level and attacks loose balls in the box.

We’ve seen MLS teams secure attackers from big-five European leagues in the past. Why couldn’t Dia be the next player in that line?

Aïssa Laidouni
CM, Tunisia (Ferencváros)

Laidouni is an incredibly entertaining player. Not just because of his passionate celebrations, although the celebrations are chef’s kiss.

No, Laidouni is an all-action central midfielder playing in Hungary for Ferencváros. He can break up plays in central midfield, drive the ball forward on the dribble and is a capable passer.

With the right offer, an MLS team could make a play for Laidouni.

Giorgian de Arrascaeta
AM, Uruguay (Flamengo)

MLS teams have reportedly been after Giorgian de Arrascaeta for years… and for good reason. With a ridiculous (and I do mean ridiculous) right foot and an impressive comfort in pretty much any spot across the attacking line, de Arrascaeta pops when you watch him play. He finds pockets of space behind a No. 9, is creative on the ball, and crashes the box off the ball.

He’s more than qualified to pull the strings for an MLS team near you, as currently one of the top playmakers in Brazil’s top flight.

Wataru Endo
DM, Japan (Stuttgart)

Endo doesn’t have de Arrascaeta’s flair or Laidouni’s passion for celebrating slide tackles, but he might just be my favorite player on this entire list.

The 29-year-old controls games like few others do at the international level, and he’s silky-smooth on the ball. He sits at the base of midfield, can distribute and carves through opposing defensive shapes. Endo also doesn’t make many mistakes on the ball and can read the game at an elite level.

Playing for Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, he’s already at a high level. However, with his club in the relegation zone, there might be an opening for an ambitious MLS team to snag Endo, who profiles as a younger version of Spain legend Sergio Busquets.

Sam Adekugbe
LB, Canada (Hatayspor)

Adekugbe isn’t an especially flashy player, but he can be an effective vertical threat on the left side of the backline.

Because he’s already spent time in MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps FC several years ago (homegrown player) – and because he played for Canada against the United States in World Cup qualifying – MLS teams will be very familiar with Adekugbe.

For a team like the Columbus Crew, who might place a greater emphasis on wingbacks under new manager Wilfried Nancy, it could be worth looking into signing Adekugbe from Turkey's Süper Lig.

Abdelhamid Sabiri
CM, Morocco (Sampdoria)

Sabiri hasn’t been one of the major stars for Morocco on their incredible World Cup semifinal run, but he’s featured in every match and has been a key player for them.

Profile-wise, Sabiri is a mobile central midfielder who likes to play on the front foot. He’s a capable, if not mind-blowingly dangerous, passer and he can progress the ball on the dribble.

With his combination of energy and forward-thinking play, Sabiri could be a useful acquisition for one of MLS’s press-heavy teams.