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Copa America 2021 Preview: MLS players in the tournament


After relocating the tournament amid coronavirus concerns, the Copa America will go on in Brazil beginning on Sunday.

Brazil and Argentina are the headline nations, but there is a healthy MLS contingent taking part for several of the other participating countries in the tournament that has 17 players from 13 different Major League Soccer clubs.

Hereis a look at the MLS players taking part at Copa America 2021:

Josef Martínez, Venezuela (Atlanta United)

The 2018 MLS MVP is still shaking off the rust after tearing his ACL last season, but Martinez will be asked to lead a Venezuela team consisting of a tournament high five MLS players.

Martinez has yet to hit his stride this season, but the Copa America is a prime opportunity for the Atlanta United star to reach peak form and lead Venezuela on surprise run out of the group stage. Their first test comes quick with a match up against Brazil to open group play.

Yeferson Soteldo, Venezuela (Toronto FC)

Soltero was signed in May as a designated player for Toronto FC and has only played in four matches to this point but his talent is undeniable.

The pacey left winger has been capped 17 times by Venezuela and is a key part of their attack.

Cristian Casseres Jr. , Venezuela (New York Red Bulls)

Casseres Jr. has enjoyed a strong start to the MLS season with the Red Bulls, scoring 3 goals and becoming an important starter in the midfield.

Internationally he has 6 caps and is expected to play rotational minutes in the midfield. In the last two World Cup Qualifiers for Venezuela, Casseres Jr. started in a loss against Bolivia and played 15 minutes in a 0-0 draw against Uruguay.

Ronald Hernandez, Venezuela (Atlanta United)

Hernandez is on loan with Atlanta until December from Aberdeen, but has not featured for the five stripes this season.

The 23-year-old is one of three right backs on the Venezuela roster, but has not featured in the last four World Cup Qualifiers. Hernandez does have 18 caps to his name, so reserve minutes are a possibility.

Pedro Gallese, Peru (Orlando City)

Gallese has been a solid back stop for Orlando City since arriving from Mexico in 2020.

Internationally Gallese is the starting goalie for Peru with 62 caps to his name. If Peru is hoping to make a run in the tournament, Gallese will play a large part.

Alexander Callens, Peru (New York City FC)

Callens has been a solid defender for NYCFC since arriving in 2017, starting 6 matches this season.

For Peru, Callens has 13 caps but has not appeared in a match since 2019. In the last four World Cup Qualifiers Callens has been on the bench and is far from the fist option for manager Ricardo Gareca.

Marcos López, Peru (San Jose Earthquakes)

Lopez has been a part-time starter for San Jose at left back, starting three of seven matches this season.

He only has 6 caps to his name, but Lopez has quickly become an important member of the Peruvian squad. Lopez started their recent World Cup Qualifier win over Ecuador and has featured in 4 of the last 6 qualifiers at left back and left midfield.

Jose Martinez, Venezuela (Philadelphia Union)

Martinez is a gritty and tenacious defensive midfielder for the Union, but he has enough versatility that he can also step in at right back.

For Venezuela, he received his first national team call up on June 3 so he will be thrown into the fire at Copa America. What role he plays is still unknown, but his aforementioned flexibility and Venezuela dealing with positive cases of COVID-19 in camp may open up the possibility of minutes for Martinez.

Felipe Mora, Chile (Portland Timbers)

A rotational starter for the Timbers, Mora is part of a Chile squad that is in dire need of goal scorers.

Mora has been in and out of the Chile squad in the last year, but playing four minutes in the last two World Cup Qualifiers suggests he will be a backup option behind Alexis Sanchez.

Gaston Jimenez, Paraguay (Chicago Fire)

Jimenez joined MLS last offseason as a Designated Player signing from Velez Sarfield in Argentina. Since arriving at the Chicago Fire, the 29 year-old midfielder has established himself as a regular figure in the starting lineup.

Jimenez comes into Copa America as one of the older players on the Paraguay roster, but is a recent addition for the White and Red. He appeared in one friendly for Argentina in 2018 before switching allegiances to represent Paraguay.

Xavier Arreaga, Ecuador (Seattle Sounders)

Arreaga is a key member of the Sounders back-line and was part of their 2018 MLS Cup winning squad.

For Ecuador, Arreaga seems to have locked down a starting center back spot alongside Robert Arboleda. Arreaga and Ecuador will be tested from the onset with a match up against Colombia to begin group play.

Jehgson Mendez, Ecuador (Orlando City SC)

Mendez 24, is the starting defensive midfielder for Orlando City and has not missed a game this season.

The tenacious midfielder has represented Ecuador at the U-17 and U-20 levels and has 18 senior caps coming into the tournament. He is not the first choice defensive midfielder for manager Gustavo Alfaro, but depending on the formation Mendez may be in line for a few starts in the midfield or he will be involved as a bench option.

Diego Palacios, Ecuador (LAFC)

Palacios has locked down the starting left back position for LAFC since arriving from SD Aucas in 2019 and one of the best at his position in all of MLS.

His play in MLS is deserving of more than the 6 caps he has received to this point, but for whatever reason Palacios has failed to make the bench for the last two World Cup Qualifiers.

Junior Moreno, Venezuela (D.C. United)

Moreno is a veteran midfielder who has been with D.C. United since 2018, serving as an every-game starter for much of his time with the team.

Internationally, Morena brings a wealth of experience to Venezuela with 26 caps and one goal spread over four years. In terms of his role, he may serve as the first-choice defensive midfielder after having gotten the nod in the nation’s last four World Cup Qualifiers.

Jhonder Cadiz, Venezuela (Nashville SC)

Cadiz, 25 joined Nashville SC on loan in its inaugural season in 2020 from Benfica, and has yet to hit his stride in MLS.

At the national team level, he has been capped five times but came off the bench to close out the last two World Cup Qualifiers. Cadiz will likely be one of the first options off the bench for a Venezuelan side that will be heavily reliant on Josef Martinez.

Brian Rodriguez, Uruguay (LAFC)

Rodriguez is currently a contracted designated player for LAFC, but his time in the Black and Gold has not gone according to plan so he was sent on loan with an option to buy before the start of the MLS season at CD Almeria.

Rodriguez was surprisingly the only LAFC player included on the Uruguayan roster with 2020 Golden Boot Winner Diego Rossi not being called in by manager Oscar Tabarez. In the attack Uruguay boasts a trio of strikers with established European pedigree, but there is an open spot on the right wing for Rodriguez to make his own and showcase the talent that earned him the 7.8 million dollar move to LAFC in 2019

Yimmy Chara, Colombia (Portland Timbers)

Chara is one of the most important members of the Portland Timbers since being signed as a designated player in 2020.

For Colombia, Chara earned his first call up in 2014 and has 10 call ups to his name. The Colombia squad called in for Copa America is a veteran group and Chara will contend for minutes off the bench for a team that is without star midfielder James Rodriguez.

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