It’s that time of year again, the weather is warming up, flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, various MLS analysts are discussing how MLS teams have tricky fixtures against teams from El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica without really knowing much about the teams they’re playing against... Major League Soccer is back. This week kicks off the Concacaf Champions League and we will once again learn if MLS is better than LigaMX. Or at lease we’ll learn that MLS has won the tournament and is as good or better than LigaMX.... OR that MLS did not win the tournament, but is as good or better than LigaMX ——- IF ——- you exclude the top four or five teams from Mexico.... OR that MLS is not as good as LigaMX. Enthralling.
Here’s a quick list of players who are worth watching in the tourney:
George Bello: The left back was the best player for Atlanta United week in and week out last year and if he thrives under Gabriel Hienze
Miles Robinson: Atlanta’s centerback is said to be the best one-on-one defender in MLS and thus possibly the entire USMNT pool. The team has a lot of expectations to be decent again this year and the defender will be key to that effort.
Jeremy Ebobisse: The striker was conspicuously absent on the Olympic qualifying roster. He’s take a step forward every year he’s been in the league and will really need to be impressive in 2021 to get a good look on the USMNT at this point. He’ll want to get started as Portland takes on Marathon. Still, he’ll have to fight to even start games in Oregon this year.
Eryk Williamson: A young central midfielder, Williamson showed that he could be steady on the ball and act as a no. 8 playing alongside Diego Chara in 2020. He’ll need to keep up his solid showing last year to get a look with the USMNT.
Jozy Altidore: Going into 2021 the main question around Jozy will be around his health. Yeah, we’ve heard that before. Honestly, 20 starts would be a good showing for the striker and if he manages 10-12 goals that’d be a solid year for him. Will it be enough to keep him on the USMNT?
Ayo Akinola: Ok, he’s probably going to be Canada’s Ayo Akinola not America’s Ayo Akinola. Still, until he makes his decision we’ll keep an eye on him. Akinola will play a lot for TFC this year either as a right winger or striker depending on Jozy’s health.
Anthony Fontana: Before Brenden Aaronson became the no. 10 in Philly, Fontana looked to be poised to start in the role. Now is his chance. At 22 years-old he’s got some time to make a step forward to a higher level in his career but needs to prove he can be effective for a full season in MLS first.
Paxten Aaronson: Is this a mix of Paxton Pomykal and Brenden Aaronson. Yes. We’ll see if he can match his brother in terms of... well, being pretty awesome.
Gyasi Zardes: He scores goals, he has good movement in the box, he’s incredibly lucky, we’re going to be watching Zardes in 2020.
Aidan Morris: After a surprisingly stalwart performance in MLS Cup, Morris will be a player to watch in 2021. He may have to dislodge Artur in defensive midfield before getting serious minutes, but Morris should get plenty of play this year.
What do you want?
As the headline hinted at I’m curious about who we should talk about. Specific players? Do you prefer the kind of article’s I’ve been doing highlighting a few of the big performances in the league or should the focus be on just a big list of possibly relevant Americans to the USMNT that played minutes every week? Should I identify players who don’t have to try to keep their roster spots but keep getting minutes because MLS promotes mediocrity?
Thanks and enjoy.