Voices: Joseph Lowery

Bogusz, Rossi & more: 10 MLS players you should be watching


Look, I’m not here to tell you how to watch your soccer. But also, that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

Today, I’m turning you onto a slew of the best players in MLS who you might not be paying super close attention to these days. We might not quite be at the “liking the next viral band before they go viral” stage, but we’re not far off. You won’t regret checking in on these 10 players as the 2024 season continues.


LAFC have two players inside the top 10 in MLS for goal contributions this year. The first? Well, that’s Denis Bouanga. Duh. He’s third in the league in goals plus primary assists (22). The second? It’s Mateusz Bogusz. The 22-year-old attacker is seventh in MLS in combined goals and primary assists with 17. He only trails Bouanga, Lucho Acosta, Chicho Arango, Evander, Andrés Gómez, and, oh yeah, Lionel Messi.

Bogusz has ascended this year. He’s sitting on just over 1,700 minutes – he’s already played a few more minutes than he did in the 2023 regular season. The Pole has transitioned from rotation guy to key cog in Steve Cherundolo’s attacking machine.

Sure, he’s vastly overperforming his expected goals, but his underlying numbers are still absurdly good for a player of his age and who’s been used in four different spots this season. Striker, right winger, left winger, No. 8 – you name it. Bogusz has applied his fluid, good-at-just-about-everything skillset to that spot.

Bogusz’s stock is skyrocketing. He’s not the biggest name in LA, but he’s one of the biggest reasons LAFC are sitting on top of the Western Conference.

To start this season, it felt like Gabriel Pec was living in Joseph Paintsil’s shadow. Paintsil has a few years on Pec. He transitioned into the lineup more quickly. And it was very clear, very early that opposing defenders couldn’t handle his speed.

It took Pec longer to adjust. Without Paintsil-like pace to fall back on, the Brazilian had to find his way into Greg Vanney’s team. Eventually, an injury to Paintsil opened up the door for Pec to start on the right side of the attack and he’s yet to look back. The left-footed winger leads the Galaxy in assists and expected assists, plus is in the 91st percentile in non-penalty xG + xA among his positional peers, according to FBref.

Pec is magic on the ball, but his off-ball movement has been even more impactful for the Galaxy.

He’s a Best XI-caliber winger, folks.

With Fidel Barajas already transferred to Chivas and Marko Mitrović inexplicably leaving Diego Luna off the US Olympic squad, we’re in for the summer of Luna here in MLS. He started the year somewhat slowly, but the 20-year-old has exploded with two goals and five primary assists in his last four matches with Real Salt Lake.

Luna understands where and when to move to make Pablo Mastroeni’s possession play tick:

RSL could well add another player in his position when the Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 18. But at this point? Matt Crooks is more likely to exit the lineup than Luna.

Diego Rossi’s MLS return didn’t spark fireworks when the Columbus Crew signed him last summer. Still, Rossi had a quietly strong end to the 2023 regular season with three goals and two primary assists in less than 800 minutes.

Even as things have changed around him both on and off the field in Columbus, Rossi has been red-hot in the last couple of weeks: he’s notched three goals and four primary assists in the Crew’s previous three games and is up to seven goals and 10 assists on the season.

When you look deeper into the tape or Rossi’s statistical profile, the Uruguay international doesn’t pop in one specific area. Instead, he’s good at… everything? With sharp vertical running, real goal threat, and above-average playmaking, good luck stopping one of the best No. 2 attackers in the league (alongside Cucho, of course).

I’ve hyped Felipe Mora for years, but the 30-year-old has rarely been healthy since arriving in Portland in 2020. Whenever he was on the field, Mora was productive for the Timbers. The issue, though, was he wasn’t on the field often enough.

Now, after missing the first several games of the year with a lower-body injury, Mora has been a regular fixture of Phil Neville’s starting lineup – and for good reason. The Chilean international has nine non-penalty goals in just over 1,100 minutes and ranks in the 92nd percentile in non-penalty xG per 90 among strikers in MLS, according to FBref.

If the Timbers add a Designated Player this summer, it should be used on the wing, not in Mora’s striker position.

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect coach-player pairing than Chris Armas and Cole Bassett.

Coming into this season, the book was out on Bassett as a central midfielder who lived on late-arriving runs into the box. He was a useful ball progresser, but the young American was more a runner than ball mover. When Armas became the Rapids’ coach ahead of this season, he didn’t try to change Bassett’s game. Instead, he relied heavily on the midfielder to provide a twist of goal threat from deeper areas. Armas prioritizes depth over width in the attack, sending waves of runners into the box to overwhelm the opposing defense.

Bassett thrives in those situations and has a career-high seven goals to show for it.

No, Maren Haile-Selassie is not the law firm that puts up all those billboards on the side of the freeway. Although, if he’s looking for a post-soccer career, his name is purpose-built for the legal sector.

In reality, Haile-Selassie has been one of the lone bright spots for a struggling Chicago Fire team in 2024. The Swiss attacker benefited from Frank Klopas’ shift to a 3-4-1-2 shape and has thrived playing as the other half of his team’s front two next to Hugo Cuypers. Haile-Selassie has five goals on the year – four of those five have come since the coaching staff moved him inside from the wing. He also leads the team in non-penalty xG + xA per 90, with a lovely 0.57.

It’s too early to tell if Haile-Selassie’s long-term spot will come closer to goal or if he’ll move back out wide right when reinforcements arrive this summer. Regardless, the speedy attacker is a legitimate threat in the final third. The Fire need more of those.

Left wingback. Right wingback. Right winger.

Luca Orellano’s ability to thrive on either side of the field and in multiple layers of his team’s shape is a huge part of why we’ve seen Pat Noonan tinker with tactics in 2024 more than ever. Noonan even ditched his 3-4-1-2 shape in favor of a 3-4-3 over the weekend for the first time I can remember.

Lucho Acosta deserves the lion’s share of your attention when watching FC Cincinnati. But don’t let this fact escape you: Orellano has been an even more productive sidekick to his Argentine countryman than the excellent Álvaro Barreal was last season. Barreal was in a two-horse race with Kai Wagner for the best left-sided outside back in MLS last year. This year, Orellano is the runaway winner in that category. Barreal’s 2023 campaign has Orellano beat in the chance-creation category, but the newcomer’s goal output and xG are both far above what his predecessor produced last season.

You can’t skip the chance to watch Orellano. It’s that simple:

With Mounsef Bakrar’s conversion issues, the No. 9 spot was open at the top of New York City’s attacking shape. But now with eight goals in just over 700 minutes, Alonso Martínez might be the answer to Nick Cushing’s striker question.

A bunch of Martínez's goals have come in chunks against bad teams – a hat trick against San Jose and a brace against Montréal. Still, sharp movement points to him being a useful, if not downright excellent, attacking option for NYCFC moving forward.

According to American Soccer Analysis, only 11 players in MLS have added more value with their receiving than the Costa Rican international. Martínez is adept at finding the right pocket of space, waiting for the ball to meet him, and then causing problems.

The more minutes Martínez gets, the scarier New York City will become.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence the best week of Martín Ojeda's Orlando City career coincided with Oscar Pareja moving him into a central position.

There’s been a ton of chopping and changing in Orlando this year. Ojeda, and many others, have played deeper, they’ve played higher, they’ve played wider, and they’ve played narrower, all while Pareja searched for an optimal tactical setup.

Now, with a goal in each of his last two games, Ojeda looks right at home playing behind a striker. He’s not a classic, through-ball threading No. 10, but the Argentine is clean on the ball, adds playmaking value, and crashes the box better than most in this league:

It’s been time for the DP to get the keys to Orlando City’s attack for a while now. It looks like Pareja finally agrees.