The 2021 MLS regular season is set to get underway this weekend and several American players will be eager to make their league debuts for their respective clubs.
While many European and South American talents made the move across the Atlantic Ocean, many American players, both young and old also embarked to North America. Bobby Wood, Chris Gloster, and Rubio Rubin are just a few new faces in MLS this season and will be keen on grabbing starting roles for their clubs.
Here is a closer look at the Americans Abroad contingent of MLS newcomers in 2021:
Bobby Wood heads to Real Salt Lake with a big chip on his shoulder after seeing his stock fall at both club and international level.
The former Hamburg and Hannover man comes into the fold in Utah, looking to spark his career upward after several seasons of watching from the sidelines. Real Salt Lake is coming off a dismal 2020 season which saw them finishing well in the bottom of the Western Conference.
Wood, 28, has plenty of attacking talent with him at RSL including international teammate Rubio Rubin, star playmaker Albert Rusnak, and determined goalscorer Damir Kreilach.
Chris Gloster fell out of the plans with Dutch giants PSV and will now look to make an early positive impression in the Bronx.
Gloster, 20, signed a lengthy contract with NYCFC this winter and now will fight for minutes in the Eastern Conference club’s backline. A left back by trade, Gloster should benefit from Ronald Matarrita’s move to FC Cincinnati, but will face competition from Gudmundur Thorarinsson and Malte Amundsen for the starting left back spot.
NYCFC has continued to develop some top, young American talents and Gloster will hope to grow as a player from this move back home.
Rubio Rubin isn’t technically arriving in MLS from abroad, having spent the 2020 season in the USL Championship, but after six years spent both in Europe and Mexico, Rubin still merits a place on this list.
Rubin joins Bobby Wood at RSL this season, coming off a strong 2020 season in the USL Championship. He scored seven goals in five appearances with the San Diego Loyal, his best run of form in a while. A U.S., Men’s National Team call-up as recently as three years ago, Rubin will be hoping to grab first-team minutes in Utah on a regular basis.
Alex Ring’s departure from NYCFC left a major hole in Ronny Deila’s midfielder, but Alfredo Morales should fit right into the void left by the Finnish midfielder.
A long time player in Germany, the 30-year-old Morales also switched Europe for MLS, and should be a key player for NYCFC this season. Morales has a slew of experience under his belt in the top two German divisions and can also bring physicality to the club’s midfield.
Leon Flach didn’t have to wait long to make his competitive debut for the Philadelphia Union and now aims to follow that up with the start of the MLS season.
Flach comes into Jim Curtin’s side, knowing how the Union want to play and with a strong debut already under his belt. The former St. Pauli man played in a similar set up in Germany this past season and has already impressed in the Union’s 4-4-2 diamond system.
The 20-year-old midfielder brings versatility and aggressiveness to the mix, which should easily make him a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
Cameron Harper is the youngest player out of this bunch, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a shot early with the New York Red Bulls.
Harper made the move to MLS from Celtic after mainly featuring for the club’s reserve team. The 19-year-old forward did make his senior Premiership debut in Glasgow this past season, but wasn’t expected to be a part of the rebuilding plans at Celtic Park going forward.
A former U.S. Youth National Team player, Harper now comes into a Red Bulls squad looking for consistency in Gerhard Struber’s first season as head coach.
One-time Chivas USA youth player Brendan Hines-Ike had spent his entire career in Europe before securing a loan to D.C. United. The versatile defender can play as a central defender or a right back, and projects to feature in central defense in Hernan Losada’s three-centerback setup.
Hines-Ike spent two seasons with Swedish side Orebro, then he completed a transfer to Belgian club K.V. Kortrijk, where he spent parts of three seasons. The 26-year-old will be called upon to provide some leadership in a defense that will be without long-time D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum, who is sidelined by ankle surgery.