The 2016 MLS season is starting in a few weeks, and the usual cycle of transfers and signings are starting to slow down. There was the usual smattering of older international stars making their way to the States, but more than ever young US or international prospects are choosing the MLS over other leagues. Almost every club brought in a bunch of new faces, but some did a bit better than others. Here we look at the best MLS signings of 2016.
10. Gideeon Baah to NY Red Bulls from Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi (seriously)
There’s two main reasons this move made it onto this list. One, look at that club name this guy came from. Look at it, and say it out loud. In a Finnish accent. They call themselves HJK Helsinki, but that up there is the actual club name and it’s just fantastic. Secondly, this guy was the rush replacement for major OUT-going transfer Matt Miazga. Miazga is the young US prospect who just signed a deal with Chelsea. Gideeon, 24, is a good player in his own right with international experience, so we’ll see how this works out for NYRB.
9. Lucas Ontivero to Montreal Impact from Galatasaray (Turkey) on loan
Lucas is only 21 and has gotten a ton of first team experience already, although barely any of it with his actual club Galatasaray. The young midfielder has been on loan several times already, but at his age, that’s not a bad or unusual thing. The Impact are looking for him to make an, wait for it, impact, right away. I’m sorry.
8. Mike Magee to LA Galaxy from Chicago Fire – Free Agent
Mike Magee sewed the seeds of his illustrious MLS career in NY and then LA. He was a pretty good player in those spots, scoring 42 goals in 235 appearances. Then he went to Chicago in 2013 and scored 22 goals in only 51 appearances, winning an MVP award. That’s just an absurdly better ratio of goals to games. LA Galaxy needed him back, bad. Mike Magee is the Galaxy’s ex-girlfriend who got way hotter after they broke up and then the Galaxy was like, oh sh*t, meet for coffee?
7. Maximiliano Urruti to FC Dallas from Portland Timbers on re-draft
Urruti has shown some flashes of the type of player he could grown into while on the Timbers, but FC Dallas is taking a bit of a risk on picking up him and his contract after Portland dropped him this offseason. Portland only dropped him due to salary cap reasons, and he was primarily being used as a sub there when they parted ways. He’s definitely a player worth keeping an eye on as he’s 24, talented, and has shown what he’s capable of when he’s on form with 10 goals in 2014.
6. Nigel de Jong to LA Galaxy from AC Milan (Italy) on a free transfer
Personally I don’t love this transfer but I understand where it comes from. de Jong has an absurd amount of top level experience and is a fierce competitor. Kickington McBreaklegs will bring some bite to the Galaxy. I think they could have done it without sacrificing the dignity of the sport and perhaps gone with someone younger and less violent, but hey what can you do. The partnership with Ashley Cole will be interesting at the very least.
Xavier Kouassi Gershon Koffie to New England Revolution from Vancouver Whitecaps on a trade for allocation money
Poor New England Revolution. Well, not really, because Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots, also owns them, but either way you gotta feel for Xavier Kouassi. Guy is getting his break in the MLS and tears his ACL over in Switzerland before he gets the chance to come over. Terrible luck. Fortunately for the NER, Gershon Koffie was on the chopping block for Vancouver. Koffie is only 24 and has a ton of first team MLS experience. It’s a no-brainer for the Revs to pick up him instead of trying to force Jermaine Jones back into the equation. Kouassi will be back in by next season at the latest and then Koffie and Kouassi can get together and try to say each-other’s name so fast and everyone will just laugh and laugh.
4. Frederic Brillant to NYCFC from KV Oostende (Belgium) on a free transfer
This one is a bit under the radar but could have a major impact for NYCFC right away. He’s a fairly big center back with top flight first team experience in Belgium. He’s 30, which is right towards the end of a lot of player’s prime, but for the position he plays it’s not a terrible thing to have more experience. He’ll be partnering with Ethan White, traded from Philly Union, and that partnership will be crucial. This is a big move for NYCFC who really need to shore up a soft defense which cost them last year.
3. Ashley Cole to LA Galaxy from Roma (Italy) on a free transfer
This guy was once an absolute stud in England. He was part of some epic Arsenal teams, including the infamous “Invincibles,” before moving to Chelsea where he was also a champion several times over. He had a brief stint in Roma before heading to the Galaxy this January. He brings some serious championship pedigree to the club and at 35 his career isn’t necessarily done. There’s another “Invincibles” alumn that did some pretty good things in the MLS at his age: Thierry Henry. Also, I might have mentioned in another post a little fun tidbit about Cole. He definitely shot a guy at the training grounds by accident a few years back. He didn’t kill him, so that’s good. Oh and he apologized, so no big deal.
“Bro! No Way, Bro!” – Ashley trying to adapt to life in LA unsuccessfully
2. Shkëlzen Gashi to Colorado Rapids from FC Basel (Switzerland)
It’s not often a team of FC Basel’s quality sends a U28 player to the MLS. Let alone a guy that just lead his league in scoring for the previous two years. Stank Kroenke, who literally owns six professional teams, one of which is Arsenal, must have spent a bit of cash on this one. Gashi’s got real Champions League experience, a ton of goals to his name, and a ton of name to his name. I’m calling this as the potential deal of the year. It all hinges on whether the recently terrible Rapids can do anything with him.
1. Jordan Morris to Seattle Sounders – homegrown
Is this 21 year-old the next great USA hope? Leading his Stanford squad to the national title in 2015, he scored two goals in the opening 2 minutes of the finals and was named NCAA player of the year. He’s got huge expectations of him coming into his rookie year, and he’s already starting to show promise at the international level for the USMNT. Interest in Morris is piquing. He already turned down an offer from struggling German club Werder Bremen which USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann set up. Lucky for Seattle, he’s got serious ties to the Sounders. He grew up in the area rooting for the Sounders, played in their youth development league, and his dad is their medical director. There’s argument to be made that he shouldn’t be on this list because technically he is a homegrown player, but there was a real fear in the Sounders/MLS camp that he wouldn’t sign on US soil. Getting Morris to sign for the Sounders was a big deal and is a step in the right direction for the Sounders and the league.