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Top 10 breakout players in MLS in 2018

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The 2018 MLS season is just around the corner, and with a new season comes a new crop of breakout stars.

The most-hyped name from the 2017-2018 offseason was unquestionably Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco, but there are plenty of others who have a chance to have breakout debut seasons after joining MLS clubs.

[MORE: MLS Eastern Conference Preview]

Here’s a look at what we project are the top 10 breakout players for the upcoming 2018 season:


 

 

 

Honorable Mention: Yohan Croizet – Sporting KC, Anthony Blondell – Vancouver Whitecaps, Cristhian Paredes – Portland Timbers, Cristian Penilla – New England Revolution, Diego Rossi – LAFC, Junior Moreno – D.C. United

10. Joao Moutinho – LA FC

The No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Moutinho has a chance to win a starting place in the LAFC backline and make his professional debut this Sunday against the Seattle Sounders.

Moutinho came up from his defensive spot and scored for LAFC in its preseason finale against Sacramento Republic, and he could be a mainstay for years to come.

9. Alejandro Fuenmayor – Houston Dynamo

The Venezuelan First Division isn’t exactly the highest standard, even in South America, but Fuenmayor is a seasoned professional even at the age of 21. Fuenmayor played 72 times for Carabobo FC, including leading the team to a Copa Libertadores place and making the Venezuela Primera Division Best XI.

The young centerback joined the Dynamo this offseason and looks to slot in the backline alongside either Philippe Senderos, Adolfo Machado, or Leonardo, as the team looks to improve upon the 45 goals allowed last season.

8. Mason Toye – Minnesota United

Coming off an electric freshman season at Indiana University, Mason Toye went pro, signed a Generation Adidas contract and became the 11th overall selection in the draft.

Toye scored 10 goals and assisted on two others in his first season in college and he’s already impressed on the field for Minnesota during preseason. He probably won’t start at the beginning of the season, but Toye could break into the lineup in midseason and have a big impact.

7. Saphir Taïder – Montreal Impact

One of the few players joining MLS that isn’t from South America, Taider is looking for a fresh start in his career.

After failed stints at Inter Milan and Southampton, he’s looking for a chance to shine with the Impact, which is owned by the same co-owner of Bologna, Joey Saputo. Taider joined the Impact this offseason from Bologna and has been impressing both in terms of goals scored and the little things he does in midfield.

6. Milton Valenzuela – Columbus Crew

With the loss of Jukka Raitala, the Crew needed a new left back, and the club found one of South America’s brightest prospects in that position.

In comes Milton Valenzuela on a Young Designated Player contract, bringing another Argentine to join Federico Higuain, Gaston Sauro and co. Valenzuela is a former Argentine U-20 international and made his debut for Newell’s Old Boys as a 17-year-old. Now 19, he’ll step into the starting lineup for the Crew and has a chance to make his mark in MLS.

5. Josue Colman – Orlando City SC

Joining a talented and experienced group of attackers, Josue Colman has a chance to burst onto the scene in MLS with a bit less pressure than if he was expected to produce a ton out of the gate. But Orlando City’s new No. 10 has big shoes to fill – Kaka formerly wore that – and the club is looking to make the playoffs for the first time.

Colman has been sidelined most of preseason with injuries and is expected to miss the opening weekend. But once he’s on the field, the Paraguayan 19-year-old has a chance to show why Orlando City spent big to sign him.

4. Santiago Mosquera – FC Dallas

Josue Colman’s countryman Christian Colman had a tough first season at FC Dallas, and it appears Oscar Pareja may have already found a replacement in the speedy Colombian, Santiago Mosquera. The 23-year-old winger has pace to burn and has already made a strong impression in preseason, and could potentially become a lethal combination up top with Michael Barrios on the right and Maxi Urruti in the middle.

Honorable mention at this spot goes to Reggie Cannon, the FC Dallas Homegrown player, who is expected to play regular minutes this season and could become a serious U.S. Men’s National Team prospect at fullback.

3. Jesus Medina – NYCFC

If FC Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken is to be believed, the Paraguayan attacker was all set to join Copenhagen before NYCFC and the City Football Group stepped in. New York City FC is the ultimate beneficiary, as Patrick Vieira adds one of the most promising South American attacking midfielders to his squad.

Medina comes in just as Jack Harrison departs for Middlesborough via Manchester City, and he could help alleviate any issues in midfield with Harrison’s absence.

2. Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra – New York Red Bulls

The on-again, off-again, back on-again saga of Kaku was finally completed on February 16 and Kaku became a Red Bulls player.

Because of the long saga, there are huge expectations on Kaku’s shoulders, perhaps too high for a Young Designated Player who will have to replace the production of Sacha Kljestan, which is nearly impossible. Either way, barring injuries, Kaku should start plenty of games, and will have a chance to become the latest young South American star in MLS.

1. Ezequiel Barco – Atlanta United

Ah, the man of the hour. The 18-year-old man who Atlanta United reportedly spent around $15 million to sign from Independiente, breaking the MLS transfer record for the second consecutive year.

Barco emerged in the second half of 2017 for Independiente and helped give the club a Copa Sudamericana title, scoring the decisive penalty kick in the final. Atlanta United fans will be hoping Barco can lead Atlanta farther in the MLS Cup playoffs in year two. If he lives up to the hype, there’s no doubt he’ll be a household name in MLS living rooms.

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

FIFA sees no obstacles for women to attend games in Iran

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ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body FIFA says an inspection visit to Iran has shown “no noteworthy operational obstacles” to lifting the country’s 40-year ban and letting women attend a World Cup qualifying game next month.

After meeting government and soccer officials in Tehran this week, FIFA says it will work with Iran’s soccer body to also open domestic league games to female fans.

FIFA wants Iran to end its ban on women entering stadiums which breaches international soccer statutes prohibiting discrimination.

Global attention on the ban followed the death this month of a 29-year-old activist, Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire outside a courthouse. She had been detained for dressing as a man to enter a soccer stadium in Tehran and faced six months in prison.

Ahead of Iran hosting Cambodia at the 78,000-capacity Azadi Stadium on Oct. 10, FIFA says the visit on Thursday focused on “international relations, security and ticketing matters.”

Iranian officials were told of FIFA’s “firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely” with tickets sold to as many who wanted to attend.

FOLLOW LIVE: Atlanta v. Quakes, Galaxy v. Impact on a busy MLS Saturday

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Eight games in seven hours, now that’s a jam-packed MLS Saturday.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7 hours ]

Things kickoff with Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes visiting red-hot Josef Martinez’s Atlanta United, and comes to a close in Los Angeles, where league leaders LAFC host Toronto FC and LA Galaxy, who look to continue moving up in the Western Conference standings, host Montreal Impact.

In between, the New England Revolution look to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they welcome Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake, while the Chicago Fire hope to jump level with the Revs in the standings as they take on FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. San Jose Earthquakes — 3:30 p.m. ET

Vancouver Whitecaps v. Columbus Crew — 5 p.m. ET

New England Revolution v. Real Salt Lake — 7:30 p.m. ET

FC Cincinnati v. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City v. Colorado Rapids — 8:30 p.m. ET

Houston Dynamo v. Orlando City — 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC v. Toronto FC — 10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Montreal Impact — 10:30 p.m. ET

Bundesliga wrap: Lewandowski’s Bayern keeps rolling, Leipzig stays top

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Week 5 of the Bundesliga season looked a lot like so many others since Robert Lewandowski arrived in the country from Lech Poznan in 2010.

He scored, and his team won.

[ MORE: Man City hangs 8 on Watford ]

It wasn’t enough to put Bayern Munich atop the league, as the Bavarian side also saw RB Leipzig get a win and could sit third once Lewandowski’s first German team, Borussia Dortmund, plays on Sunday.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Koln

Robert Lewandowski is humming along, scoring two more goals to give him nine in Bayern’s first five matches of the Bundesliga season. The 31-year-old Polish superstar scored at midweek in the Champions League, and has scored in all seven matches he’s played since being skunked in the DFL SuperCup loss to Borussia Dortmund.

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic also scored for Bayern, who will finish the weekend no lower than third on the table. A 59th minute red card to Koln’s Kingsley Ehizibue came with Bayern already leading 2-0, so it was a bit snoozy in terms of drama at the Allianz Arena.

Werder Bremen 0-3 RB Leipzig

A 64th minute red card to Konrad Laimer couldn’t slow down the table leaders, as Leipzig added a goal after going down to 10-men in the win.

Willi Orban and Marcelo Saracchi scored for the visitors, and Marcel Sabitzer scored a terrific free kick in the win.

American teenager Josh Sargent started and played 80 minutes for the hosts, covering 9.63 kilometers and getting a lone shot on goal.

Elsewhere
Schalke 2-1 Mainz — Friday
Freiburg 1-1 Augsburg
Hertha Berlin 2-1 Paderborn
Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Union Berlin
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Fortuna Dusseldorf — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Borussia Dortmund — Noon ET Sunday

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 RB Leipzig 5 4 1 0 13 3 10 1-1-0 3-0-0 13
 Bayern Munich 5 3 2 0 16 4 12 2-1-0 1-1-0 11
 SC Freiburg 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 1-1-1 2-0-0 10
 FC Schalke 04 5 3 1 1 10 5 5 2-0-1 1-1-0 10
 Bayer Leverkusen 5 3 1 1 8 7 1 2-1-0 1-0-1 10
 Borussia Dortmund 4 3 0 1 13 5 8 2-0-0 1-0-1 9
 VfL Wolfsburg 4 2 2 0 7 3 4 1-1-0 1-1-0 8
 Mönchengladbach 4 2 1 1 5 4 1 0-1-1 2-0-0 7
 Eintracht Frankfurt 4 2 0 2 5 5 0 2-0-0 0-0-2 6
 Werder Bremen 5 2 0 3 8 12 -4 1-0-2 1-0-1 6
 FC Augsburg 5 1 2 2 7 11 -4 1-1-0 0-1-2 5
 Fortuna Düsseldorf 4 1 1 2 6 7 -1 0-1-1 1-0-1 4
 1899 Hoffenheim 4 1 1 2 3 6 -3 1-0-1 0-1-1 4
 1. FC Union Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 10 -5 1-0-2 0-1-1 4
 Hertha BSC Berlin 5 1 1 3 5 11 -6 1-0-1 0-1-2 4
 1. FC Köln 5 1 0 4 4 11 -7 0-0-2 1-0-2 3
 FSV Mainz 05 5 1 0 4 5 15 -10 1-0-1 0-0-3 3
 SC Paderborn 5 0 1 4 6 14 -8 0-0-2 0-1-2 1