Brazilian flair, striking precision: 5 biggest surprises of MLS' season, so far
Through 10 weeks of this MLS season, bringing us close to the one-third mark of the season, there are a few teams and players who have brought unexpected results.
On the team side, you can point to the Houston Dynamo or Minnesota United for exceeding expectations. Teams like the Colorado Rapids and Philadelphia Union, meanwhile, have dropped off precipitously and surprised some with a failure to live up to expectations within their respective markets.
While plenty of attention will be paid to MLS newcomers who have lived up to expectations, including names like Romell Quioto, Jonathan Spector and Miguel Almirón, there are a few players who stand out for exceeding their early prospects. We will leave out rookies that have impressed in their first seasons – sorry Nick Lima and Marco Farfan.
Here is a look at five players who are the biggest surprises – so far – in the 2017 MLS season.
Erick “Cubo” Torres – Houston Dynamo
The forward was once seen as one of the very best young players in Major League Soccer. The 24-year-old Mexican scored 15 goals in 2014 with Chivas USA, but after moving to Houston when Chivas was dissolved, he has failed to live up to his Designated Player billing. In fact, Torres had not scored a goal in Houston orange entering the 2017 season.
That’s all changed under his former Chivas coach, Wilmer Cabrera, who has earned the nickname “Cubo Whisperer.” Torres has seven goals and one assist in eight games this season, putting him on pace for MLS Comeback Player of the Year honors. Torres leads a line with Honduran wingers Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis that has helped the Dynamo take 16 points in its first nine games, good for fourth place in a very competitive Western Conference.
Artur – Columbus Crew
Plenty of attention was paid to some of the higher-profile signings for the Crew this offseason, including defensive midfielder Mohamed Abu, who came as a special discovery player and with a background that included the Ghanaian national team and Manchester City. But Abu hasn’t been the game-changer in Columbus’s midfield. Instead, it’s the 21-year-old Artur that has been a revelation as an absolute motor for the Crew.
The young Brazilian, acquired on loan from Sao Paulo, has played 70 or more minutes five times this season for Columbus. The Crew is 4-1 in those games, with the lone setback a 1-0 loss at Chicago. Since losing Artur to injury, Columbus has lost two of its last three games, a nod to the influence of the energetic young Brazilian.