The 10 most intriguing signings of the MLS offseason
The MLS season is just more than a month away. With teams now gathered for preseason, fans will get their first look at some of the league’s newest additions.
Some teams underwent drastic changes, and a pair of expansion teams had to build a roster from scratch, but most teams added some intriguing names that have the potential to shape the 2017 season.
Here is a look at 10 of the most intriguing signings around MLS:
Miguel Almirón, MF, Atlanta United
At just 22 years old, the winger represents one of the most exciting Designated Player signings in the history of the league. With an $8.5 million price tag, expectations are sky high for the Paraguayan, who spent three seasons with Lanús in Argentina. His pace and skill on the ball will be exciting to watch. Almirón was on the radar of several top teams in Europe, including Arsenal, but now becomes the centerpiece of Atlanta’s expansion team. If he hits, he’s a megastar with the potential to be sold for a profit. If he misses, it’s a massive (and costly) letdown.
Nemanja Nikolić, F, Chicago Fire
It’s really this simple: If Nikolić can replicate his goal-scoring rate in MLS, he will be a star. The Hungarian striker tore up the Hungarian and Polish leagues with Videoton and Legia Warsaw, respectively. Over the past five and a half seasons, Nikolić has scored 112 goals in just under 12,000 league minutes, or 0.85 goals per 90 minutes. He added another 44 goals in cup competitions (0.72 g/90). That’s an unbelievable rate across so many games. Nikolić’s rate over the past six seasons across all competitions: 0.81 goals per 90 across 17,251 minutes. By comparison, the only two players in the MLS top 10 in career goals per 90 with more than 10,000 minutes played are Taylor Twellman (0.60 g/90 in 15,046 mins) and Robbie Keane (0.69 g/90 in 10,808 mins).
Jonathan Mensah, D, Columbus Crew
The biggest issue in Columbus, and this includes its MLS Cup run in 2015, has been defense. The Crew have given up 111 goals across the past two seasons, including 58 last year – second-worst in MLS. Columbus sporting director and coach Gregg Berhalter looked to fix that this year, and Mensah is the centerpiece. The Ghanaian center back spent the past two seasons playing in the Russian Premier League and previously played in Spain and France. If the 6-foot-2 center back can solidify the Crew’s back line, Columbus could quickly vault back into contention in the East.
Alberth Elis, F, Houston Dynamo
There were few teams that drew as much as excitement during the recent Olympic Games as Honduras, and the most exciting player on that squad was the 20-year-old striker. Elis netted twice on the U.S. under-23s in the Olympic qualifying tournament, and that production already started to translate to the senior national team. Elis scored 19 goals for Olimpia in the 2015-16 season, and the Dynamo hope he can bring that game-breaking ability to MLS and open up space with runs in behind the back line. As a young DP, it’s as much about development as immediate production, but Elis’ potential has plenty of people excited.