MLS’s return to play is approaching. Some teams are already in Orlando for the restart tournament, and more will arrive as the tournament looms, scheduled to start on July 8.
It’s preseason again! Here’s a look at some newcomers to the league (some of whom played in March for their new teams, others didn’t) who should have a big impact on the tournament.
Robert Beric and Alvaro Medran, Chicago Fire
I could have picked any number of Fire newcomers. Chicago essentially did a complete 180 in the offseason, accompanying their stadium switch (from Toyota Stadium to Soldier Field) with numerous player acquisitions and the arrival of manager Raphael Wicky.
Among their most notable new guys: Beric and Medran, attacking pieces who will accompany a handful of other significant acquisitions. Beric, a 29-year-old Slovenenian international, is a Designated Player target forward. He scored in March and will be expected to replace the production of Nemanja Nikolic, who was a best XI-caliber poacher before going ice cold in front of the net
Medran was signed with Targeted Allocation Money to make good passes and clever runs in midfield. He was a Real Madrid academy product (and scored a goal for the first team in the Champions League). So far, his early returns have been promising. The Fire will hope to hit on at least a few of their new players.
Jurgen Locadia, FC Cincinnati
During quarantine, Cincinnati confirmed Locadia’s services through June 2021. For a club that has not enjoyed great success at the forward position (or most positions, really), Locadia is a fairly major get. Once upon a time he played well enough at PSV to earn a big-money transfer to Brighton in the Premier League, and he even danced around the fringes of the Dutch national team for a time. Brighton have now sent him on loan a couple of times, but he should be entering his prime.
FCC is trying to stabilize itself with new manager Jaap Stam. Locadia will be a big part of their immediate future.
Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC
Expansion club Nashville SC designed itself with the goal of not getting blown out of the water the way other first-year teams have in the past (looking at you, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Orlando). They traded for LAFC center back Walker Zimmerman and assembled a respectable defense with a coach who can put a competent team together.
That means they have to sacrifice some attacking firepower, at least to start. Mukhtar, an attacking midfielder playing in between Randall Leal and David Accam, showed in March that he might be able to make up some of that trade-off. He was clever on the ball and proved himself to be one of Nashville’s best players.
Jakob Glesnes, Philadelphia Union
The Union have three good center backs — Glesnes, Mark McKenzie, and Jack Elliott — and only two available spots in the lineup. Glesnes appeared to beat out Elliott in the regular season and contributed a ridiculous laser of a free-kick in Week 2 against LAFC.
A TAM acquisition from Norway, Glesnes will have to fight to keep an everyday spot.
Joao Paulo, Seattle Sounders
With Lodeiro missing their first games of 2020, we haven’t seen everything from the defending champs yet. But Paulo has high expectations, as he arrives from the Brazilian league as a DP central midfielder. Next to the trusty d-mid Gustav Svensson, Paulo can roam and fill space with Lodeiro, who goes everywhere on the field.
At full strength, the Sounders should be a fun team to watch. Note also that new center back Gomez Andrade will be trusted to partner Xavier Arreaga in central defense.