MLSsoccer.com polled 22 of our editors, writers, videographers, statistics specialists and social media masters to bring you the Stories of the Year, our annual look at the biggest storylines from the outgoing year in Major League Soccer. Before we get to the big stories, here are four smaller ones that got our attention.
DeAndre Yedlin Breaks Out
Few players in Major League Soccer had a better 2014 than DeAndre Yedlin, the 21-year-old Seattle Sounders’ right back. After breaking through as a rookie in 2013, he went global this year by earning a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup roster and then earning his keep in Brazil as the first American Homegrown player to play in the World Cup. He appeared in three of the United States’ games on the biggest stage – including an 88-minute shift against Belgium that saw him match up well against Eden Hazard – and proved he can play at right back or in the midfield when needed.
Shortly thereafter the Sounders completed a transfer deal with Tottenham Hotspur that should see Yedlin play in England sometime in 2015 and created a rallying cry for the kids in Seattle: Who’s going to be the next DeAndre Yedlin?
MLS Clubs Launch USL PRO Teams
When the LA Galaxy announced in January that they would field their own USL PRO team, they were pioneers. Next year they’ll be just one of seven. After the Galaxy tested the waters, six additional MLS clubs announcing they’ll fund their USL PRO sides to help bridge the gap between their academy systems and the senior team. Portland, Seattle, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Salt Lake will all field USL PRO teams in 2015, and more are sure to follow in the years to come.
As for LA2 (Los Dos, as they’re affectionately called in Los Angeles) they made a splash in their first year, reaching the semifinals of the USL PRO postseason tournament.
BWP Makes It BIG
Raise your hand if you predicted Bradley Wright-Phillips would not only lead the New York Red Bulls in goals in 2014, but also enjoy one of the best statistical seasons of any player in MLS history. BWP tied the league’s regular-season scoring record with 27 goals this year and added another four in the playoffs – that’s 31 goals in 36 games this year, for those keeping track – as the Red Bulls reached the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time in six years.
Although his season ended with an unfortunate yellow-card suspension for the second leg of the conference championship, BWP’s big year didn’t go unnoticed. He signed a new Designated Player contract in early December, so the storyline to watch in 2015 is how Wright-Phillips will perform under the DP pressure and without wingman extraordinaire Thierry Henry.
Garber and Klinsmann
MLS Commissioner Don Garber didn’t hold back during a teleconference with national reporters in mid-October in which he addressed growing concerns about United States national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The issue at hand, according to Garber and later at least two MLS club owners, was the increasingly critical comments from Klinsmann about USMNT players in MLS and young stars in MLS academies. Garber called Klinsmann’s comments about players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley “very, very detrimental” to the league.
The Commissioner’s comments drew a quick response from Klinsmann – “I never meant to put anyone down in the MLS,” he said – and it appears tempers have cooled in the months since. But for a few days in October, the back-and-forth between these two of the leaders of American soccer dominated the scene.