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Five incoming MLS players who provide litmus tests

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Even with a name like Pogba in the running, it will not make the list of most intriguing MLS transfers so far this offseason (and there may be more to come, especially with Toronto FC holding a Designated Player spot and reportedly chasing a star in the Belgian top flight).

Though Paul’s older brother Florentin is an intriguing center back addition for champions Atlanta United — he’s a season-and-a-half removed from a very good Ligue 1 campaign for Saint-Etienne — he’s not close to the five players leaping to the front of our minds.

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That list was made trickier to assemble this week when Philadelphia signed Mexican playmaker Marco Fabian from Eintracht Frankfurt. Where will he meet our list, if anywhere?

So we added another qualifier to our list, and that’s whether the player’s standing and form provide us any sort of litmus test for the current state of MLS.

There have been outlandish talents like Pity Martinez and rising international midfielders like Hwang In-Boem before, but the gentlemen below could help teach us some things.

Also, we’re going to cheat and include six players, on five teams. It’s our list.

Fabian, Philadelphia Union —  If there ever was a case to be made for an automatic game-changer, it’s Fabian. The Mexican 29-year-old is two seasons removed from significant playing time with Eintracht Frankfurt, but his first season was very good — 7 goals, 4 assists — and he’s scored against Germany and Iceland in the last two years for El Tri. If he doesn’t control games, MLS has progressed even more than we suspected.

Carles Gil, New England Revolution — One day, La Liga players coming to MLS won’t be that big of a deal, and we’ll find out how accelerated that timeline has come in part through the play of Gil. The right winger and La Liga regular until this year has been with Deportivo de la Coruna’s second team all year. Is Brad Friedel the man to help Gil finally meet his potential head-on?

Terrence Boyd, Toronto FC — Boyd is one of the toughest-to-digest stories for American soccer, mostly because for a time it seemed he could be the next true USMNT star striker. But his time in the Bundesliga was cut by injuries, and he’s been unable to brand himself a regular 2.Bundesliga starter. It’s a rebirth story, but how quickly will he refind his footing? And is he a 10-goal contributor, which should be the minimum expectation, or a guy who can dominate a game?

Allan Cruz and Manu Ledezma, FC Cincinnati — The 22-year-old Cruz is one of the rising stars for Costa Rica, scoring against Peru in November after staring his first 7 appearances for Los Ticos. He’s moving from one of the biggest clubs in an inferior league to another CONCACAF testing ground.

As for Ledezma, the well-traveled 30-year-old Argentine absolutely tortured USL defenses last season, with 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 league games. The prior season, he bagged 10 goals with six assists in 19 NASL appearances with the New York Cosmos. MLS is a step-up, but not enough to deter optimism that the former Middlesbrough man cannot be a significant factor for manager Alan Koch.

Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC — Here’s another litmus test for the league, in a different way. Mitrita left the Romanian first tier — UEFA coefficient 26th — got some good experience in Italy’s top two tiers with Pescara, and came home to light his domestic league on fire. The next step here is an interesting one for both the development of a player and a league. Mitrita wasn’t a star in Italy, just productive. He’s on fire in Romania. We’ll guess it’s a little bit of the former, at least to start. He’s just 24, and will continue to improve.

U.S. soccer world mourns Hall of Fame defender Clavijo

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USMNT World Cup defender and former MLS coach Fernando Clavijo passed away Friday at the age of 63, his family announced through U.S. Soccer on Saturday.

Clavijo battled multiple myeloma for a half-decade following a decorated playing and coaching career which saw him inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005.

“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of Fernando Clavijo’s passing on February 8 after a courageous battle with cancer,” his family said in a release. “The support and encouragement he received from friends and the entire soccer community throughout his fight will always be appreciated. At this time the Clavjio family requests privacy as we mourn the loss of a great man and no additional statements will be made. Further details on remembrances and a celebration of his life will be shared in the near future.”

The Uruguay-born defender was capped 61 times by the USMNT, and played in the ASL, NASL, and MISL (indoor). He also played eight times for the U.S. futsal team.

Clavijo started two of the three USMNT matches in the 1994 World Cup: The 2-1 defeat of Colombia and 1-0 loss to Romania.

He went on to coach both club and international soccer, assisting Nigeria before running the Haitian national team from 2003-05. He was the head coach of the New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids before leading then-USL side Miami FC in 2009.

He was hired as FC Dallas’ technical director in 2012.

 

Bojan Krkic again linked with move to Major League Soccer

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Bojan Krkic‘s disappointing 2018-19 season may be switching venues.

Stoke City’s Spanish 28-year-old has started just three matches in the Championship this season, scoring one goal amongst his 13 appearances.

[ MORE: Barca signs Prince-Boateng ]

Multiple reports say that the New England Revolution is actively pursuing a big money contract for Bojan, a reported target of Brad Friedel‘s since the summer.

Last season was also a poor one for Bojan, who did not score on loan at Alaves in La Liga.

Bojan is three seasons removed from scoring seven times for Stoke City in the Premier League, and produced similar numbers earlier in his career at Barcelona and Roma.

The move represents a significant risk for the penny-pinching Revs. While his pedigree suggests he’d be a sure thing for success in Major League Soccer, his recent struggles say otherwise.

Three-team trade in MLS sees USMNT’s Rowe move

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Three players with international caps changed homes on Wednesday when Sporting KC, Colorado Rapids, and New England Revolution flipped assets.

It started with New England sending Kelyn Rowe to Colorado for Edgar Castillo. The Rapids then sent Rowe and $300,000 in allocation money to Sporting KC for Diego Rubio.

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Rowe, 27, mainly operates on the right side of the pitch, but is very versatile. He scored in one of his four USMNT caps, and was a fairly consistent threat in MLS before falling out of favor with Friedel. Rowe has 35 goals and 41 assists in 225 matches for the Revs.

Thirty-two year-old left back Castillo had a fine season with the Rapids, and brings 18 USMNT caps to the Revs. He went the entire 90 minutes in his last two U.S. appearances, both against Guatemala in 2016.

Rubio, 25, joins Kei Kamara atop the Colorado attack, which now can threaten in a few more ways to go with Kellyn Acosta.

Four-times capped by Chile, Rubio scored 11 times with six assists in 28 appearances for SKC this season. He finishes his Kansas City tenure with 20 goals in 65 total appearances for the club.

The moves make sense for all three teams, though KC has to feel the best on the day.

NYCFC’s slump continues with 1st home loss, to NE Revs

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NEW YORK (AP) Brian Wright scored his first MLS goal in the 71st minute and the New England Revolution beat New York City 1-0 on Wednesday night for FC’s first home loss of the season.

New England (8-10-9) snapped a nine-game winless streak to move within three points of sixth-place Montreal. NYC (14-8-6) has just one win in its last seven games.

Wright was in front of the goal to one-touch home Cristian Penilla’s blocked shot from the left side.

Wright also sent a breakaway shot off the post in the 25th minute and Isaac Angking, making his MLS debut, hit the frame in the 80th on a sliding rebound attempt. New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton started in his first game of the season.

NYCFC controlled the game with 66 percent possession, but couldn’t find the back of the net on 28 shots.