Betfred Sport

Five MLS players you probably already know

This week marks the start of the new MLS season, and to help you prepare for it, here are five MLS players that you (probably) already have heard of, and what they are up to here on this side of the Atlantic.

Juan Pablo Angel (Chivas USA)

In his four seasons with New York from 2007-10, Angel scored more goals than anyone else in the MLS, prompting L.A. Galaxy to sign him in the 2011 close season.

But an atrocious start - just three goals in 22 games played - forced Los Angeles to trade him to rivals Chivas USA in mid-season.

Despite not changing scenery (Galaxy and Chivas share their stadium), Angel captured his old form, scoring seven goals in nine games.

However, Chivas USA won just one of those nine games, losing five others. Beyond scoring goals, Angel will be asked to provide a level of leadership and maturity - a departure from his reputation.

David Beckham (LA Galaxy)

Becks has been with L.A. Galaxy for five years now, and the last year was by far his best.

He became one of the few players in history to win league titles in three different countries, when Galaxy won the MLS Cup in November. Los Angeles also made a strong run in the still-ongoing CONCACAF Champions League.

Beckham himself turned in a strong performance, finishing fifth in the league in assists and scoring directly from a corner against Chicago Fire in July.

All of this motivated Becks to turn down overtures from Ligue 1’s Paris-St. Germain to remain with Galaxy for another two years - a nice feather in MLS’ cap.

Unlike close-seasons past, the 36-year-old remained in Los Angeles for most of the winter, and is healthy and happy. Galaxy will continue to rely on him to be the field general of the offence.

Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)

After a successful 2011 MLS campaign in which he netted 12 goals and lead Los Angeles to win the MLS Cup, Donovan spent a successful seven weeks with Everton this off-season.

The Galaxy captain returns healthy, barring a flu virus, and in top match form for the start of the MLS season.

The 30-year-old American international combats Father Time with a fanatical commitment to fitness and training, in the mould of Ryan Giggs.

Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls)

Henry’s first full season in New York was disappointing. Though the Frenchman scored 14 goals himself, his team was expected to do much more than finished 10th in the league, winning just two games in the last four months of the season.

While on paper, New York should have the most potent attack in the MLS, on the pitch a lack of chemistry meant that Red Bulls were way too easy to defend.

Henry needs to set the pace and tone for the attack and be more engaged with Juan Agudelo, Dax McCarty, and Rafa Marquez.

Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)

Keane only played eight games for Los Angeles last season but made an instant impact, scoring three goals and threatening many more en route to an MLS Cup championship in November.

In the close season, Keane completed a successful six-week loan spell with Aston Villa to tune up for both the MLS season and the European Championships for Republic of Ireland.

Keane’s success this season will be predicated by the ability to create chemistry with Galaxy stars Beckham and Donovan. One of the biggest worries for Galaxy will be Keane’s ability to avoid the off-the-pitch distractions that come with being a high-profile professional athlete in Los Angeles.

And one a little less well know, but who might ring a bell... 

Rafa Marquez (New York Red Bulls)

Marquez’s 2011 season ended miserably. The former Barcelona star was handed a two-game suspension for his part in a post-match melee in New York’s final game of the season, a playoff loss to L.A. Galaxy. He’ll serve the suspension at the start of the 2012 season.

Not that the rest of 2011 was all that much better for the Mexican international. On a talented team with ambitious goals that clearly lacked chemistry, Marquez needed to be a veteran leader rallying his teammates.

Instead, too often, Marquez’s performances could be described as largely uninspired. As a result, New York limped to just two wins in four months en route to a 10th place finish.

This season, Marquez will be counted on to shore up New York’s central midfield and provide better service to Red Bulls strikers Thierry Henry, Juan Agudelo, and Kenny Cooper.

By Sreesha Vaman

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