Ranked: Five Premier League Players Who Have Rocked The MLS

Posted: May 16, 2019 in Arsenal, Chelsea, Football, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, MLS, Opinion, Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur
Tags: , , ,

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Major League Soccer is fast becoming a top incubator for talent all over the globe and the vast array of gifted players making the trip over the Atlantic to reignite their careers is increasing every season.

Since its formation in 1996, the MLS has made itself more of an attractive destination with every passing year and much of this is down to expansion, with new teams being elected from the minor league, rather than promoted.

The arrival of designated players on boosted wages (of which the likes of David Beckham and Wayne Rooney have been beneficiaries) has also made the States a desirable destination for Premier League masters.

Leading Lights Going Stateside

Of those there are several standout examples who have shown that the careers of the very best players do not stop short in Europe. Ranked in order of their effectiveness, here are our top five.

#5 BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER

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A true maverick in the heart of Bayern Munich’s midfield for many years, he was seen as a potential midfield visionary by Manchester United’s then-manager Louis van Gaal.

The season of 2015/16 proved to be a disappointing affair for all at Old Trafford, starting a process of decline that has seen United’s stock fall amongst the fanbase and in match previews seen on the Sporting Index spread betting blog. The German pass-master appeared only sporadically that term prompting sweeping changes to be made by the incoming Jose Mourinho.

Schweinsteiger was surplus to requirements and duly joined Chicago Fire in March 2017. He debuted on 1 April, scoring in a 2–2 home draw against Montreal Impact and doing much to get Chicago Fire to the top of the MLS standings, becoming a part of the “MLS All-Star Fan XI” that faced Real Madrid at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game.

He has kept up the pace ever since, injecting some hope into a franchise that once appeared broken beyond repair.

#4 WAYNE ROONEY

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Rooney joined D.C. United in July 2018 and debuted within four days of arrival in a 3-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps. He provided Paul Arriola with an assist and his first goal came exactly two weeks later against none other than Colorado Rapids goalkeeper and former Manchester United ally Tim Howard.

In November Rooney scooped the ‘MLS Player of the Month’ for October but he was unable to channel that joy as his side were eliminated from the 2018 MLS Cup on penalties by Columbus Crew SC. Rooney was amongst the players who missed for D.C. United.

He remains one of the most feared players in the MLS today and, in March 2019, Rooney plundered his first hat-trick for D.C. United in a 5-0 home win over Real Salt Lake.

#3 ZLATAN ‘IBRA’ IBRAHIMOVIČ

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The legendary Swede left Manchester United in 2018, having proven to be a great dressing room influence in the Red Devils’ run to the previous year’s Europa League trophy and EFL Cup wins.

In true ‘Zlatan’ fashion, Ibra debuted for Galaxy on 31 March 2018, scoring twice against debuting franchise and derby rivals Los Angeles FC, instantly endearing himself to the masses of white.

Playing like a stallion in his prime, his first hat-trick was not long coming and come it did on 29 July, with all of his goals arriving in the second half in a testament to his undying stamina. His exploits have earned him the captain’s armband this year and there has been no ‘sophomore slump’ for Ibra, who has since surpassed Gunnar Nordahl as the highest-scoring Swedish player in history.

#2 BRADLEY WRIGHT-PHILLIPS

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Unlike his older brother Sean, Bradley Wright-Phillips made absolutely nothing of his time as a Manchester City senior. After spells at Southampton, Plymouth and Charlton, he moved to New York Red Bulls in July 2013.

Wright-Phillips’ impact was almost immediate and he did much to help NYRB capture its maiden honours in the form of the MLS Supporters’ Shield. The MLS Cup was not forthcoming, but he scored in the Eastern Conference semi-final, taking his team to extra-time – albeit to no avail.

His time with NYRB began in earnest in April 2014 when he netted a hat-trick against Houston Dynamo and became the first English player to do so in an MLS game. Less than a month later he did it again and went on to gain inclusion into the 2014 MLS All-Star game – and score.

Flash forward three years and NYRB are in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), thanks much to Wright-Phillips’ golden boot-winning performances in preceding years. He scored his maiden CCL goal for NYRB in February 2017 and, in September,  became one of only two players in MLS history to score fifteen goals or more in four straight seasons.

The year of 2018 brought even better fortunes for Wright-Phillips in the CCL, with three assists against Club Tijuana seeing NYRB reach the competition’s semi-finals for the first time ever. Last July he also surpassed Taylor Twellman as the fastest scorer of a century in MLS history.

#1 DAVID BECKHAM

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From his infamous sending off against Argentina in 1998 to the alleged ‘dressing room incident’ with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2003, Beckham’s lows – and his spirited recovery from them – define him just as much as his numerous successes.

His first stint at LA Galaxy began in January 2007, although it would not be until a losing debut in August that he ran out for the Californian outfit. They failed to reach the playoffs in 2007 and also fell short in 2008, prompting Beckham to take time out at AC Milan and collect his thoughts.

He returned in 2009 amidst a backdrop of contempt from the Galaxy fanbase, but he soon quietened the naysayers, helping Galaxy win successive Western Conference titles. The following two years (2011 and 2012) would represent the pinnacle of Beckham’s time in the States as he finally became an MLS Cup champion with Galaxy.

Much of this success was down to his move into the centre of the park as a means to maximising on his excellent vision and compensating for his failing pace and the effects of injuries sustained in his first stint with Galaxy.

In 2012 Galaxy finished fourth in the Western Conference with Beckham’s seven goals making a very real difference. He was influential in the run to Galaxy’s successful defence of the MLS Cup and departed to a standing ovation.

Traffic not one-way Across Atlantic

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There can be no doubt that the presence of former Premier League players will get young prospects up to the required standard and lead to a gradual increase in the number of young MLS starlets making the opposite journey across the Atlantic.

Most topically, the January transfer window saw Paraguayan forward Miguel Almiron join Newcastle and make an instant impact. While he has spent recent weeks on the treatment table, nobody following Newcastle with a passion doubts his ability to continue making the difference and prove that the MLS is a league that truly can nurture Premier League-quality players.

Canadian international winger Alphonso Davies is also making an impression for Bayern Munich over in the Bundesliga and there will almost certainly be links between Davies and Premier League clubs throughout the transfer window.

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