Welcome to the first edition of our new weekly series, "Discuss." We'll be turning out sights on the talking points, debates, hot takes or whatever we feel like talking about around MLS, the US and Canadian national teams, and soccer around the world. Sometimes we'll mostly agree, and other times ... not so much.
And now time for Matthew Doyle, Sam Stejskal and Andrew Wiebe to introduce you to three players who aren't in the spotlight but deserve your attention ...
Who do you think is the most underrated player in MLS? Give your take and discuss in the comment section!
DOYLE: This international vet is chronically overlooked
First, I think we need to rename this the "Ned Grabavoy memorial Most Underrated Player in MLS award," because for about 13 years people haven't properly appreciated Ned. And second... I'm going to give the inaugural award to Steven Beitashour (sorry Ned).
Even though fullbacks are essential to a modern, attacking back four, they remain the most overlooked players on the pitch. And even among their ranks Beitashour is overlooked because he doesn't have blinding speed or desire to push forward as relentlessly as many other guys at his spot in the league.
Instead he repeatedly takes up smart positions in defense and attack, and is expert at pinching in to support in possession. He does the little things right, and when you have a team of guys that do the little things right you tend to get the biggest thing (points) right as well.
It's not about being flashy, it's about being effective, and for the past seven years I think Beitashour's been one of the most effective fullbacks in the league. Too bad Iran noticed before the US did.
Toronto FC defender Steven Beitashour (33) passes the ball past Graham Zusi (8) | USA Today Sports Images
STEJSKAL: The Homegrown who allows his teammates to thrive
The New England Revolution holding midfielder isn't going to blow anyone away with his speed, skill or athleticism, but he excels at doing the simple things right, time after time after time. There's a reason his New England teammates voted him the Revolution Player of the Year in 2015. The 25-year-old Homegrown is clean on the ball, disciplined tactically, a solid defender and rarely makes a mistake.
Most importantly, Caldwell gives New England's most skilled players the freedom to do their thing. It was his positional awareness made the Jermaine Jones experiment such a success in 2014. It's his ability to snuff out opponents' attacks and transition forward that allows Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez to wreak havoc.
Those skills might not get Caldwell a ton of attention, but they do make him incredibly important to New England's success. We'd all do better to give him a little more love.
New England Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell (6) falls over Rafael Ramos (27) | USA Today Sports Images
WIEBE: An All-Star in the making in Orlando
Let's play a guessing game. Last season, among MLS midfielders, Player X ranked first in duels won, second in tackles won and was in the top 15 in successful passes and recoveries. At the time, he was 21 years old.
Impressive, right? So who is Player X?
Congratulations if you guessed Orlando City destroyer Cristian Higuita, who managed to do all that in just 25 starts for the Lions in 2015, his first season away from the comforts of home in Colombia.
If you watched Orlando's demolition of the Portland Timbers last Sunday, you probably walked away thinking, "Thank God Kaká is healthy and productive. He's a joy to watch." My takeaway? Higuita is MLS' next Osvaldo Alonso, a relentless destroyer who combines a knack for winning the ball back with the ability to play it forward into dangerous positions.
Below, in the 23rd minute, the Colombian muscles US national teamer Darlington Nagbe off the ball then bursts forward to set up a chance that Kaká normally finishes.
Not bad, huh? You heard it here first: 2016 is going to be Higuita's coming out party in MLS.