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A look at the top 10 newcomers to watch in MLS

Major League Soccer’s 23 clubs added a wide variety of players to their respective rosters in the offseason.

The sexy trend for some was to pick players out of Scandinavia and untapped South American nations like Venezuela.Argentina and some big European leagues were once again mined by MLS in an attempt to improve the quality of each squad.

Some of the new faces came to the league on big-money Designated Players, while others were brought with Targeted Allocation Money or on loan.

Regardless of how their presence on an MLS roster came to be, each of the 10 new faces to watch we selected should make an impact in 2018.

Here’s a look at the top 10 newcomers to watch this season:

Ezequiel Barco, Atlanta United

The most coveted offseason acquisition in MLS has to wait a month or so to take the field due to a quad injury, but once Ezequiel Barco suits up for Atlanta United, it will be must-watch television.

The 19-year-old Argentinian should have the same impact on the Five Stripes that Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez had a year ago, which means Atlanta possesses one of the most potent attacks in MLS.

With Barco in the fold, Tata Martino’s side should pose a significant challenge to Toronto FC at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Anton Tinnerholm, New York City FC

New York City FC didn’t make any sexy signings, but you’ll notice the impact of their new players right away.

Swedish midfielder Anton Tinnerholm is one of many Scandinavian imports into MLS, and he comes with championship experience from his time with Malmo.

The three-time Allsvenskan champion should provide NYCFC with quality on the right side of defense, and he has the potential to be a best XI player, like Alex Ring was a year ago.

Gregory van der Wiel, Toronto FC

Any time a Dutch World Cup veteran comes to MLS, it provides intrigue.

The addition of Gregory van der Wiel to the Toronto FC back line should reinforce a defense that thrived at the back end of 2017.

Van der Wiel replaces Steven Beitashour in the right wing back role, and he should form one of the league’s best full back pairings with left back and U.S. Men’s National Team player Justin Morrow.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, New York Bulls

After spending the offseason drooling over the potential of “Kaku” in the New York Red Bulls lineup, the club’s fans get a chance to see what kind of impact he can make.

Kaku comes to the Red Bulls with big shoes to fill, as the club shipped Sacha Kljestan off to Orlando in the offseason for Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding.

Although the young Designated Player might not be able to match Kljestan’s incredible production from the past few years, his first year in MLS will be deemed a success if he settles into the side and creates scoring opportunities on a regular basis.

Saphir Taider, Montreal Impact

With Blerim Dzemaili opting to go back to Europe, the Montreal Impact benefited from their connection with Bologna to bring in another World Cup veteran to complement Ignacio Piatti.

Saphir Taider carries 38 international appearances for Algeria on his resume that includes stops at Bologna, Inter Milan and Sassuolo.

Taider will be tasked with providing needed experience in midfield alongside Piatti with new manager Remi Garde expected to field a young squad.

Carlos Vela, LAFC

The big-name signing of LAFC’s inaugural roster carries a good amount of pressure into 2018, as Carlos Vela looks to live up to the expectations at the club level while preparing for the 2018 World Cup.

The 28-year-old Mexican is expected to feature in a variety of places on the field, as manager Bob Bradley works out the kinks in his roster selection.

Vela should be a focal point of the attack, just like he was at Real Sociedad, where he scored 66 goals over seven seasons.

Magnus Eriksson, San Jose Earthquakes

Magnus Eriksson’s impact on the San Jose Earthquakes could be similar to the one Nemanja Nikolic provided in Chicago a year ago.

Like Nikolic, Eriksson comes to MLS after a double-digit goal season in a middle-tier European league, as he found the back of the net on 14 occasions for Djurgardens in the Allsvenskan in 2017.

Unlike Nikolic, Eriksson isn’t expected to be the go-to guy in the San Jose attack, with Chris Wondolowski still residing up top.

Andy Polo, Portland Timbers

After spending a season with Morelia in Liga MX, Peruvian midfielder Andy Polo is ready to make his mark on MLS with the Portland Timbers.

The Timbers are expected to be one of the most electric teams in the Western Conference under new manager Giovanni Savarese, and with Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi expected to continue their high level of production, opposing defenses should have all sorts of issues with the multi-faceted Timbers attack.

Felipe Gutierrez, Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City’s usage of the massive amount of allocation money gained from the Dom Dwyer trade has been interesting to follow.

Peter Vermes’ side brought in a bevy of attacking midfielders, including Chilean World Cup veteran Felipe Gutierrez.

The 27-year-old comes to MLS with plenty to prove after receiving sparse playing time at Real Betis and Internacional in the last two seasons.

Edgar Castillo, Colorado Rapids

One of the few Americans to join MLS in the offseason brings needed experience in defense to the Colorado Rapids.

Edgar Castillo came to the Rapids after over a decade spent in Liga MX at the suggestion of former USMNT teammate Tim Howard.

The 31-year-old is one of many veteran players new Rapids boss Anthony Hudson will call on to turn things around in Commerce City.


  1. The Sounders signing of Eikrem has been completely off people’s radars outside of Seattle. Not sure why, but I suspect that will change.

  2. Prediction – Red Bull’s are going to surprise. Kaku will be the goods, Robles, Felipe and BWP provide the ‘veteran spine’ and Adams, et al exude confidence as they push for top spot in the East. BWP flirts with 20+ goals again.

  3. Only 1 USA national team eligible player, no wonder we didn’t qualify for the WC. And my Rapids need a finisher more than a defender!

    • Kitchen probably makes the list if his announcement is made earlier (although probably would have knocked Edgar out). Might see a couple of American players make the move back from Europe in the Summer window.


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