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A look at new Designated Players in MLS ahead of 2017 season

photo courtesy of Atlanta United
photo courtesy of Atlanta United

Eleven teams signed a total of 13 Designated Players during the MLS offseason. Unlike the past few seasons, these signings are either in their prime, or have yet to hit it.

The average age of the new acquisitions is 25.3 years. The oldest player is New York City FC’s Maximiliano Moralez at 30, but he just recently celebrated his birthday. The youngest of the group is Alberth Elis of the Houston Dynamo at 21.

With several exciting players set to make their MLS debuts, here is a closer look at each new DP:

Miguel Almiron

Team: Atlanta United
Age: 23
Position: Midfielder

Almiron was a reported Arsenal target while he was in Argentina, which is why this signing was a major coup for Atlanta. The Paraguay international will likely slot in behind the forward and provide quality service in to Josef Martinez, who is a favorite to start up top.

Hector Villalba

Team: Atlanta United
Age: 22
Position: Winger

Villalba was one of Atlanta’s first signings and flew under the radar after a busy offseason for the club. The Argentine is projected to start on the right side of midfield and could very well become one of the top right-wingers in MLS.

Josef Martinez

Team: Atlanta United
Age: 23
Position: Forward

After a frustrating year with Torino, Martinez will become the main man again in Gerardo Martino’s side. He’s primarily been deployed as a winger or second striker in Serie A, but the Venezuelan will likely start up front in this system.

Nemanja Nikolic

Team: Chicago Fire
Age: 29
Position: Forward

The Hungarian was targeted by Hull City before joining the Fire, and for good reason. Nikolic has been scoring in preseason and is a sure-fire starter for Veljko Paunovic this season.

Jonathan Mensah

Team: Columbus Crew
Age: 26
Position: Defender

The only defender on the list, Mensah will try to provide stability to a backline that lost Michael Parkhurst to Atlanta and Gaston Sauro to injury. The Ghanaian has a strong disciplinary record with his past clubs, but has seldom played since leaving Evian.

Cristian Colman

Team: FC Dallas
Age: 22
Position: Forward

FC Dallas finally has its No. 9. Colman made his competitive debut in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Arabe Unido and scored. If that is a sign of things to come, Dallas is going to be a lethal team in the final third.

Alberth Elis

Team: Houston Dynamo
Age: 21
Position: Forward

The young Honduran made a name for himself at the 2016 Olympic Games, and was one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. Elis could play on the wing with Erick Torres and countryman Romell Quioto in a front three.

Romain Alessandrini

Team: LA Galaxy
Age: 27
Position: Winger

The former Marseille man was an astute signing by the Galaxy and figures to slot into the left wing to form a tremendous duo with Giovani dos Santos on the opposite flank.

Maximiliano Moralez

Team: New York City FC
Age: 30
Position: Midfielder

Moralez is the oldest member on the list, but he is probably one of the shiftiest and most technical players in the group. The Argentine will slot in behind David Villa and link up with the Spaniard and help carry the attacking load for NYCFC.

Sebastian Blanco

Team: Portland Timbers
Age: 28
Position: Forward/Winger

The Timbers chased Blanco for most of the offseason, and the seemingly never-ending pursuit will be worth it. The 28-year-old can play on either flank, but with Darlington Nagbe occupying the left side, the Argentine will probably start on the right.

Albert Rusnak

Team: Real Salt Lake
Age: 22
Position: Forward

Real Salt Lake may have found its long-term Javier Morales replacement. Rusnak will partner Yura Movsisyan as a No. 10 or second striker, which could lead to a significantly stronger attack in 2017.

Gerso Fernandes

Team: Sporting Kansas City
Age: 26
Position: Winger

Sporting KC hasn’t been able to fill the void of Krisztian Nemeth. That was, until it signed Gerso Fernandes. The dynamic winger will provide an extra spark in the final third, which SKC lacked at times last season.

Fredy Montero

Team: Vancouver Whitecaps
Age: 29
Position: Forward

The Whitecaps will be hoping that the on-loan forward is the answer to their scoring woes at the No. 9 position. Montero scored at least 10 goals per season with the Seattle Sounders. The question is whether he can replicate that form after a four-year hiatus.

Which DP signing are you most excited about? Who will make the biggest impact?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’m certainly not the most well-versed on all these guys, but on first glance it seems really exciting how young the new crop of DPs is. But then again, perhaps it’s just “oh let’s throw a bunch of money at this guy because he’s from Argentina!”

    • They may not have the pedigree of a some of the past DP’s (Lampard, Gerard, Marquez, etc….) but I’m happy to see that for the most part the league is moving away from the “Retirement Home” mentality. Additionally I’m guessing that they probably aren’t carrying the same kind of price tag that most of the previous generation’s DP’s were demanding.

  2. Would be rad if you could tell us the clubs each of these players played for last and which countries they were all from.


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