Every new MLS season finds some very familiar faces turning up in new places, but 2019 may well take the proverbial cake thanks to a wild offseason of movement.
Frankly, we didn't have enough space to include every recognizable league name here. However, the 11 that made the rundown constitute a rather esteemed group that has collectively won five MLS Cups and 10 US Open Cups, while earning a total of four Best XI nods, nine All-Star appearances and three year-end individual trophies.
We'll take these in alphabetical order:
Thanks to a rare first-team loan between MLS clubs, the former US Under-20 left back will have the chance to re-ignite his career with an Orlando City side reshuffling the deck at his position. Acosta bounced in and out of the Real Salt Lake lineup for two seasons, but did start in 26 of his 29 league appearances. He still needs to win the Lions' starting job, but has all the tools needed to perform at an All-Star level.
During nine highly successful seasons guarding Seattle's back line, Alonso celebrated an MLS Cup title, a Supporters' Shield and four U.S. Open Cup triumphs. The 33 year-old was allowed to walk by the Sounders this offseason, so now he'll ply his impactful trade as part of Minnesota United's fast rebuild. The locals are expecting him to form a dynamic, field-tilting duo with fellow newcomer Jan Gregus in central midfield, and so are we.
The industrious midfielder was not offered a new deal after one solid season with LAFC, and was promptly scooped up as a free agent by the Colorado Rapids. Feilhaber moves from a team with an entirely new roster to one that has overhauled nearly half its squad since last year. Will the 34-year-old continue to play as a traffic cop with the Rapids, or will they push him up into the playmaking role that earned him titles and honors in Kansas City? We shall see.
It should come as no surprise to find a couple of FC Cincinnati's expansion year newbies on this list, and the 27-year-old left back falls into that category. Garza helped Atlanta United take MLS Cup in early December, and just a few days later was dealt to the Nippert Stadium crew. The only current US international on Cincinnati's roster, he should seize their left back job once he's done recovering from an injury picked up in January camp.
If we could only say two things about the veteran forward, they would be that:
- He is a proper Major League Soccer nomad, with Colorado set to be the seventh league team he's suited up for.
- He scores goals pretty much everywhere he goes.
Kamara, who was nabbed in the Expansion Draft by FC Cincinnati and then quickly traded to the Rapids, has hit for double figures in his last five full MLS seasons. He's also just three strikes away from joining the list of the league's top five all-time scorers.
There may not be a more important pickup on this list than the 30-year-old center back. Minnesota United made several moves designed to improve a team defense that leaked 141 times in the franchise's first two MLS seasons, but snaring Opara after six years with Sporting KC (that included MLS Cup and Open Cup crowns, as well as a Defender of the Year prize) could well be the key to reversing Loon fortunes.
Right back has been a major trouble spot for Colorado in recent years, but the acquisition of Rosenberry should change that. He's a tenacious one-v-one defender who also helps move his team forward to good effect. And who knows? Perhaps some success with his new employers could finally turn the 25-year-old from a periodic USMNT call-up still waiting on his first cap to a full international.
The most versatile (and quite arguably, the most creative) player on our list, Rowe is now set to shine for a consistently competitive Sporting KC outfit after playing the first seven years of his solid MLS career with a hot-and-cold New England side. The 27-year-old can operate as a winger and just about anywhere in midfield, and has even seen a decent amount of left back duty. Most likely, though, he'll be counted on to help drive the offense at Children's Mercy Park.
Stop me if you've heard this before: the Rapids nabbed yet another known MLS commodity in this productive 25-year-old forward. Even though Rubio notched 15 goals and 8 helpers in just 2,100 regular season minutes with Sporting KC, he was never really a locked-in starter. That should change in Colorado, where he's slated to team up with fellow hit man Kamara with the goal of lifting what was by far the weakest attack in the league last season.
Another one of 2018's worst offenses got a boost when Montreal swiped Urruti away from FC Dallas for the low, low price of a SuperDraft pick and TAM peanuts. The 28-year-old arrives having scored 34 goals during his three years in Dallas, representing a level of production sorely lacking up top at Stade Saputo last year. He's already won each of the three titles available to US-based MLS clubs and can now take aim at the Canadian Championship, which has eluded the Impact since 2014 (personal quadruple, anyone?).
The second FC Cincinnati get on this list gives the new kids on the MLS block a physically dominant center back to build their defense around. Waston came over from Vancouver on Expansion Draft day for a big sack of allocation money, and quickly became a leader for the Orange and Blue. The towering Tico will wear the captain's armband as he throws up the "Thou shalt not pass" sign for a club striving to build their first year success from the back.