Both of these pieces of news got us thinking – what are the top 10 Designated Player signings in MLS history?
In order to be eligible for the list, a player had to enter the league as a DP. Sadly, that eliminates a slew of worthy players who entered MLS on regular contracts and were later elevated to DP status, a group that includes Landon Donovan, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and many, many others.
We’ll start with our top DP signing, King Keano himself:
Before Sebastian Giovinco came along, Keane was a pretty solid consensus pick for the best signing in MLS history. Unlike other midsummer DP signings, Keane made an immediate impact after he joined LA in 2011, helping the Galaxy to MLS Cup in his first year in MLS. He followed that accomplishment with a 16-goal, nine-assist year and a second-straight MLS Cup in 2012, the league MVP award and another MLS Cup in 2014 and four total Best XI selections. Keane ended his Galaxy career with 83 goals and 45 assists in just 125 regular season games and nine goals and six assists in 21 postseason appearances.
One of the most talented players to ever come to MLS, Giovinco has been absolutely lights out since leaving Juventus to sign with Toronto FC ahead of the 2015 season. The occasional Italian international led TFC to their first playoff appearance and cruised to the MVP award in 2015, scoring 22 goals and adding 16 assists in 33 regular season games. He’s followed that astounding campaign up nicely in 2016, tallying 17 more goals and 15 more assists in just 28 appearances. Better yet, he helped drive TFC to the brink of their first MLS Cup, though the effort ultimately proved futile.
The original Designated Player, David Beckham makes the list more for what he meant to MLS than for anything he did on the field. The Englishman added legitimacy to the league when he moved to the LA Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007, blazing the trail that Keane, Giovinco, Henry and others would later follow. He wasn’t a slouch in a Galaxy jersey, either, tallying 18 goals and 48 assists in 115 combined regular season and playoff appearances. He went out a champ, too, winning MLS Cups in both of his final two seasons with LA.
The Frenchman never brought an MLS Cup to Red Bull Arena, but Thierry Henry did help the club land their first Supporters’ Shield in 2013 and played a huge role in helping the Red Bulls claim their current place among the MLS elite. The numbers weren’t bad, either: Titi generated 51 goals and 42 assists in 122 regular season games in 4 1/2 MLS seasons and made the playoffs every year of his Red Bulls’ tenure.
David Villa hasn’t been in MLS all that long, but there’s no arguing with the Spanish legend’s impact since he came to the league. The first signing in New York City FC history, Villa has been outstanding in MLS, recording 18 goals and eight assists in his first season in the league before tallying 23 strikes and four helpers and captaining NYCFC to the playoffs this year. The 34-year-old earned recognition in the form of this year's Landon Donovan MLS MVP.
His departure was a surprise and his time in the league far too short for Seattle fans, but there have been few players in MLS history to take the league by storm like Obafemi Martins. The Nigerian striker spent nearly three full seasons in Seattle, playing a huge role in their run to the 2014 Supporters’ Shield and ended his Sounders career with 40 goals and 23 assists in just 72 regular-season games.
Juan Pablo Angel
One of the first DPs in league history, Juan Pablo Angel was excellent throughout his long, distinguished stint in MLS. Best remembered for his four years with the New York Red Bulls, the Colombian tallied 72 goals and 15 assists in six seasons with New York, LA and Chivas USA and played a huge role in the Red Bulls’ run to their only appearance in MLS Cup in 2008.
One of the most important figures in Timbers history, Diego Valeri played a key role in turning Portland around immediately following his arrival ahead of the 2013 after the club’s moribund first two seasons in MLS. The Argentine attacker has been one of the best No. 10s in the league since his arrival, tallying 37 goals and 42 assists in regular-season play and leading Portland to their 2015 MLS Cup title with one goal and four assists in last year’s playoffs.
Ignacio Piatti has been dynamite since signing with the Impact in the summer of 2014, leading the club on their magical run to the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League final, guiding them to the playoffs in 2015 and nearly to an MLS Cup appearance this season. One of the most talented players currently in the league, the Argentine has 30 goals and 15 assists – including 17 and six this year – in 64 regular-season appearances with Montreal. He’s been even better in the playoffs, tallying five goals and three assists in eight career postseason matches.
A Mexican national team legend, Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s run with the Chicago Fire wasn’t all that long – he played less than three full seasons with the club – but it was plenty successful. He scored 16 goals and tallied 26 assists in 62 regular season appearances with the Fire, who he led to three-straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Championship. He was never able to get Chicago into an MLS Cup, but I’m guessing Fire fans would gladly go back to their Blanco-era squads.
I know, I know. Nico Lodeiro hasn’t even been in the league for six months. But a player of his caliber and the huge difference he’s already made for Seattle merit his inclusion as the last name on this list. He not only led Seattle to their first appearance in MLS Cup, but also buried his PK to help seal the Sounders' victory. How high will he continue to climb?