Even with crowd-pleasers such as Luciano Acosta, Nico Gaitan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ignacio Piatti, Jefferson Savarino and Wayne Rooney departing for other shores this past offseason, Major League Soccer remains littered with players who routinely drop jaws with their displays of skill.
To illustrate this fact, we've decided to acknowledge and salute a dozen of the filthiest on-ball showmen that the league has to offer.
The New England Revolution forward is basically the Burger King of MLS goalscorers, because you can have it your way. Hungry for toasty crackers? A spicy volley? Perhaps some tasty chips from distance? None of it would be complete without some delicious combination work to set it all up. Order whatever you like, because Bou's got it in his bag.
Jonathan dos Santos
I'll bet you thought this story was only going to feature silky attackers. Not so, as there's always room for a supremely-talented central park ranger. We could easily go with the likes of Eduard Atuesta, Haris Medunjanin, Jamiro Monteiro, Darlington Nagbe or Saphir Taider, but instead let's lend the spotlight to someone who’s typically been overshadowed during his time in Los Angeles. Dos Santos, the Mexican maestro, has the prowess to control midfield, consistently offers stellar service and can hit a world-class strike when in the mood.
We all know about Gressel’s unmatched crossing ability, but "hit it where they ain't" isn't the limit to his services. I've said it before, but perhaps the best part about Gressel’s crosses are how he weights and places them so they're easier for teammates to strike. If that’s not enough, the D.C. United man can also run combo play through a crowd and apply a proper finishing touch around the box.
In his fifth season with Philadelphia, the Brazilian is now widely considered the deadliest bench weapon in MLS. There's no mystery to why that is. Just as defenders are starting to feel leg-weary, Ilsinho enters with a hypnotic array of wizardly skills. It generally goes about how one would expect, with 11 goals and 10 assists combined across the last two campaigns.
Nicolas Lodeiro & Maxi Moralez
Listing the Seattle ace and his NYCFC counterpart together isn’t a suggestion that they're identical players. However, there are several striking similarities. Each is a final-third technician who can unlock defenses and make late runs for clever finishes, but they're much more than that. Both Lodeiro and Moralez like to drop deep to initiate build-ups, often accepting the ball in tight quarters before skittering out of trouble and making opponents look foolish. It's quite possible that no other MLS players spread their magic over more acreage than these two sorcerers.
The Orlando City winger has long been known as one of the world's fanciest technical players. From his beginnings at Sporting CP and Manchester United to later days in MLS, Nani has constantly dazzled with his dribbling, crossing and shooting skills. Then, the veteran put an exclamation point on his reputation with a buzzer-beating crossbar ding from midfield to win last year's All-Star Game Skills Challenge.
When discussing Toronto FC's string puller, it's not just about his mind-blowing skills. The thing that makes Pozuelo so unique is how easy he makes it look, starting with how he left NYCFC utterly bamboozled on his debut. After starting with a no-look assist, Pozuelo then bagged a nifty panenka and wonder-scoop to quickly demonstrate his special skill set.
Here's something you may not have realized: Last season, the slippery San Jose attacker led the league in successful dribbles despite playing over 800 minutes less than second place Carlos Vela. Even with that factoid and Vako's penchant for sharp-shooting, the Georgia international often gets overlooked when folks talk about the league's top skill players.
Since arriving at Real Salt Lake in 2017, Rusnak has established himself among the league's best at stinging volleys and long-range drives. He often uses separation skills to gain the proverbial yard of space for the latter. Add in his knack for picking out the open man in the box and you have a technical master in his prime.
One barely needs to make an argument to include the Portland skipper here. If this article was a swanky VIP-only club, the bouncer would immediately lift the velvet rope with a nod as soon as Valeri entered his eye line. Believe it or not, the below highlight reel was put together before his magical MVP season in 2017.
Well, obviously the LAFC star has to be on the list. From sublime touches and slalom dribbles to nifty feeds and his patented left-footed curlers, Vela has become the league's human highlight reel. His video game-esque dominance last season made for one of the easier MVP votes in MLS history.