Ranked! The 8 best newcomers of the 2017 MLS season
4. Romain Alessandrini, LA Galaxy
The Galaxy has been looking for consistency since the season kicked off, and the one place it's been found, gloriously, is with the 28-year-old French winger. Alessandrini, signed from Olympique Marseille, has been dynamite for an LA side that is 1-5-3 at home, creating a huge percentage of its opportunities and putting them away, too.
He has eight goals and seven assists in 17 outings, but these numbers are more telling: He's played a direct role in 19 of the 24 goals the Galaxy has scored while he's been on the field. The left-footer is fast and clever, superb on the dribble against multiple defenders, a classy provider and finisher with exceptional dead-ball skills.
He's shined on the right flank and in the No. 10 spot, and his growing relationship with Giovani dos Santos is producing ample fruit.
3. Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United FC
There is not a more electric player in MLS than the Paraguayan playmaker, who has exceeded the lofty expectations that accompanied his $8 million price tag while sewing together Atlanta's explosive, swarming attack.
The baby-faced 23-year-old emerged among South America's best young talent at Lanus in Argentina under the tutelage of 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Almiron’s decision to join Tata Martino at the first-year club might be the most potent statement about what MLS has become since Sebastian Giovinco's arrival.
His ability to sprint with the ball at his feet is unmatched in the American game; he's got a fifth gear that rips apart defenses. It has added up to eight goals and eight assists in 19 league appearances, a good number of them spectacular, and Atlanta United (9-7-3) is 8-1-1 when he's involved in the scoring.
Almiron is not a pure No. 10 -- he is arguably better on the left flank than in the middle -- but he's a perfect fit to run this attack. Atlanta is capable of nearly anything with him holding the reins.
2. Nemanja Nikolic, Chicago Fire
There is no purer finisher in MLS than Nikolic, who has netted a league-best 16 goals in 19 games and is on target to break the MLS record of 27 set by Roy Lassiter and matched by Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Nikolic, who plays for Hungary's national team, has been a prolific scorer everywhere he's played, and after a month's adjustment to MLS, he's been unstoppable. He has tallied 15 times in his last 15 games, and if he keeps on this pace, he'll finish with 31.
He has the full array of weaponry, as adept at finishing tidily from the counter as he is cleaning up residue in the box or finding space to nod home a cross, and has masterfully converted opportunities. Nikolic has been the touchstone in Chicago's rise from worst to first, and consider this a warning: He swears he's not yet found his groove.
1. Josef Martinez, Atlanta United FC
The expansion team's deadly striker has been on fire all season -- nearly literally so on one occasion, when he jumped atop Atlanta's flame-shooting box after scoring the lone goal to beat Colorado a couple of weeks ago. There’s no telling where Atlanta would be in the Eastern Conference standings had he not missed 10 games with a hip injury sustained with Venezuela's national team.
Martinez blossomed with Young Boys and came to MLS from Torino. The 24-year-old striker is a precise finisher with a winning combination of savvy, skill, speed and off-the-charts athleticism. Few forwards move better with or without the ball. He also has a good eye for the pass, and he's terrific in aerial battles.
It has all led to nine goals in just nine appearances for Atlanta (9-7-3), with a hat trick and two braces. Extrapolate his numbers over a full season, and you've got 46 goals. Nobody's ever going to net that many, of course, but with Atlanta's high-press, quick-strike attack and support from Almiron and Hector Villalba, Martinez might change our minds on that front.