We all know plenty about the 10 current MLS players on the US national team’s Copa America Centenario roster. We’ve heard their stories, know their stature under Jurgen Klinsmann and, for the most part, understand the likelihood of any of them breaking out at this summer’s tournament.
But what about the 18 other MLS players participating in the tournament? They run the gamut from world-renowned to seriously underrated, and a few of them might just be set for an international breakout at this summer’s tournament.
Here are three non-USMNT MLS players who could be set for a big Copa America:
Goalkeeper, Jamaica/Philadelphia Union
The 25-year-old has been largely excellent for Philadelphia this year, allowing just 14 goals in 13 matches and posting three shutouts to help the Eastern Conference-leading Union to a 5-3-5 start. Among ‘keepers with at least 10 starts in 2016, Blake is tied for second in the league with a 73.6 save percentage and stands in third in MLS with a 1.08 goals against average.
Blake missed Jamaica’s 2-1 upset win at Chile last week to remain with the Union for their 1-1 draw at Colorado on Saturday, but joined the team in Miami earlier this week and was in net for their 2-0 scrimmage win against Boca Raton FC on Tuesday.
The starter in five of Jamaica’s six World Cup qualifiers, Blake should have plenty of opportunities to shine in the Copa America. The Reggae Boyz are paired with powerhouses Uruguay and Mexico as well as Venezuela in Group C, and the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick will need to stand tall if they want to repeat their successful run at last year’s Gold Cup.
Midfielder, Haiti/Sporting Kansas City
Mustivar doesn’t get the same publicity as club teammates Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Benny Feilhaber or Graham Zusi, but he’s just as important as any of them to Sporting’s success. The 26-year-old defensive midfielder is critically important to SKC’s game, and the disparity in their results when he plays compared to when he sits is pretty drastic.
Since he made his debut for the club on March 21, 2015, Sporting are 17-9-7 in the 33 regular season matches Mustivar has played and 2-9-3 in the 14 he’s missed. That’s a 1.75 points-per-game average when he’s in the lineup (less than one-hundredth of a point behind the PPG mark the Supporters’ Shield-winning New York Red Bulls hit last year) compared to a 0.64 mark when he’s out. It’s not a huge sample, but that difference is significant.
No one will pick Mustivar and Haiti to finish ahead of Brazil or Ecuador and advance out of Group B, but that doesn’t mean the SKC man can’t show well for himself. Assuming he starts (he came off the bench for the final 42 minutes of the Caribbean nation’s 3-1 loss to Colombia on Sunday night), he’ll have every opportunity to do well against some seriously talented attackers.
Defender, Costa Rica/Vancouver Whitecaps
Waston is already widely known as one of the most fearsome center backs in all of MLS. But – much like ex-Columbus defender and Costa Rican international Giancarlo Gonzalez did at the 2014 World Cup – he could conceivably use a good showing at this summer’s Copa America to give his career a further boost.
The 28-year-old has established himself as a regular starter for Costa Rica this year, going the full 90 in their last three World Cup qualifiers and in their pre-Copa tune-up win against Venezuela last week. He’ll be challenged against the USMNT, Colombia and Paraguay in Group A, but those tough tests will be a big opportunity. If he passes, Costa Rica will have a chance at another Cinderella run in a huge tournament.