A new NASL season has brought in a new crop of stars expected to elevate the league ahead of the 2016 campaign.
It proved to be a busy offseason for NASL teams, including the New York Cosmos, who were forced to replace the retiring Raul and Marcos Senna. The reigning NASL champions appeared to just that by bringing in Venezuelan legend Juan Arango and former Premier League midfielder Niko Kranjcar.
Unlike the Cosmos, Rayo OKC constructed a roster from scratch by bringing in pieces for a variety of places. One of those pieces proved to be Greek star Georgios Samaras, who joins former U.S. Men’s National Team speedster Robbie Findley in the club’s attack.
All in all, it was a busy NASL offseason, as teams brought in everything from Champions League veterans to promising youngsters looking to take the next step in their professional careers.
Here’s a look at the top newcomers joining the NASL this season:
NIKO KRANJCAR, NEW YORK COSMOS
The Croatian star provides instant offense to the Cosmos, at least for the Spring Season. Signed on a short-term deal, the former Tottenham and Portsmouth playmaker can slot in as a No. 10 or out on the left while providing the killer passes that defined his time in England.
GEORGIOS SAMARAS, RAYO OKC
Following a battle with injuries, the two-time World Cup veteran brings leadership and plenty of goals to an expansion lineup. Samaras insists he’s nearing full fitness and if he is, expect the Greek star to be near the top of the NASL scoring charts in 2016.
JUAN ARANGO, NEW YORK COSMOS
The loss of Marcos Senna left a major gap in the Cosmos midfield, and Arango is an ideal replacement. A master of set pieces with the ability to smash in long shots with the best of them, the Venezuelan legend will give the Cosmos a real presence from a deeper midfield position.
DARIO CVITANICH, MIAMI FC
Following a stint with Pachuca, the former Ajax and Boca Juniors striker will lead the line for Miami FC. Cvitanich has scored at every stop of his 13-year-career, and the Argentinian striker will be relied upon heavily by a Miami FC team that lacks depth.
MATHEUS CARVALHO, FORT LAUDERDALE STRIKERS
At just 24-years-old, Carvalho has represented Monaco in the UEFA Champions League after spending several years in the Brazilian leagues. The Strikers can use Carvalho’s unique mix of experience and untapped skill to create on the attacking end following the departure of Stefano Pinho.
MATT FONDY, JACKSONVILE ARMADA
The 2015 USL MVP joins the Armada after scoring 22 times for Louisville City last season. Fondy will be expected to energize an Armada team that finished in last place last year after leading the way in goals scored in the U.S. last year.
ROBBIE FINDLEY, RAYO OKC
The former USMNT striker has joined Rayo OKC after a difficult year with Toronto FC. Expected to play alongside Georgios Samaras, Findley provides the speed to match Samaras’ technique in what could be a very potent Rayo OKC attack.
MICHAEL LAHOUD, NEW YORK COSMOS
On loan from the Philadelphia Union, Lahoud gives the Cosmos a pure defensive stopper alongside Arango, Kranjcar and Danny Szetela. The MLS veteran could prove to be a valuable piece for a Cosmos team looking to make a real run at the U.S. Open Cup.
WILSON PALACIOS, MIAMI FC
The Honduran international joins Miami FC as one of the club’s marquee signings after years with Tottenham and Stoke City. With experience battling in Premier League midfields, Palacios will serve as an anchor for the Miami FC midfield in his first season away from England since 2007.
DEREK BOATENG, RAYO OKC
The Ghanian star has been a part of two World Cup teams throughout his lengthy career. Boateng brings a real presence to the Rayo OKC midfield following stops with Getafe, Fulham and Eibar.
Which newcomer are you most excited to see? Any snubs that you’re looking forward to watching?
Share your thoughts below.