David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco: How the strikers compare

Two sides expected to battle for MLS supremacy in 2018 will go head-to-head in the Eastern Conference again. It’s New York City FC vs Toronto FC and that also means David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco in the scoring charts.

Toronto kick things off with the season opener on Saturday at home against Columbus Crew, while NYCFC aren’t in action until Sunday evening. They face a trip to SKC.

They were the top two sides in the East last season, however Toronto finished 12 points ahead, winning the Supporters’ Shield. Interestingly the pressure on Villa to deliver the good is seemingly more than Giovinco. NYCFC scored 56 goals last season, compared to Toronto’s 74.

Both players head into their fourth season. Villa is yet to win any silverware, while Giovinco and Toronto are looking to defend their historic treble from 2017. There is no doubting how influential they both are and how much of an impact they can have on how their side performs respectively. But how do the two compare?

David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco in stats

David Villa vs Sebastian Giovinco compared

Their stats are incredibly similar. Villa has played in an additional eight games, mainly due to Giovinco’s injury struggles last season. Villa’s goal output is higher, having scored eight more goals.

However, Giovinco’s direct involvement in overall goals is where he comes into his own. In his 86 appearances he has contributed to 92 goals, with his 37 assists nearly doubling Villa’s 21.

Villa does however have a better minutes per goal ratio, making him the more clinical of the two with his chances.

Last season Villa finished on 22 goals, while Gio netted 16. They were outscored by Nemanja Nikolic, who topped the standings with 24. Both players will have an eye on winning the golden boot this season. Although personal accolades aren’t going to be their main aim, it’s going to be an interesting battle to watch.

Who will score more goals this season? 

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MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

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The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

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The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

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LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

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Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

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Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

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Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.

PODCAST: MLS ‘dark horses’, MVP predictions & Arsenal discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford sits down with Jamie Ives and Louis East to discuss who they think will be this year’s dark horses in MLS, as well as their predictions for who will be the 2016 MLS MVP.

Then the team finish by looking at Arsenal, and whether they can go on and win a first Premier League title in over a decade.

Be sure to comment below or get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_

Chicago Fire striker nearing return to action

Chicago Fire frontman Mike Magee has returned to full training and could make his return as early as next week when the Fire play Montreal Impact on May 30, as reported by Soccer By Ives.

The 2013 MLS MVP has been out since September last year and Chicago have struggled without him. The forward was a huge part of their 2013 campaign, in which he scored 15 goals in 21 appearances.

Frank Yallop has suggested that he will have his opportunity to regain his starting berth too, mentioning that Magee “looked good”.

“Obviously he’s still a little hindered by the moment,” Yallop said. “Mike’s a quality player, as we know. Once he gets healthy and fit, he’s very good.”

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When questioned on the current forward situation at the Fire, Yallop had this to say: “Not one of our forwards have scored yet – centre forwards, if you’d like – so its up to these guys. When they get a chance, stick it in the net.”

With the two-time MLS Cup winner returning to the side, the Fire will have a well established goalscorer that can provide them essential experience to push them towards a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

How much have the Chicago Fire missed Mike Magee and can they make the playoffs this season?

Three potential signings to replace Landon Donovan at LA Galaxy

With the recent retirement of Landon Donovan, the LA Galaxy has a huge hole to fill in their squad and an unoccupied designated player slot too. Though replacing the US soccer legend is no easy task.

Donovan leaves behind a great legacy with the Galaxy having recently lead them to his fourth MLS Cup title with the franchise and his sixth overall – the most titles won by any player.

However, it remains to be seen how LA will look to replace him. An attacking option is set to be added to the squad before the start of the new MLS season in March. Though they may wait until the summer if the right name is available then.

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Much of the post-Donovan chat has been on the permanent move to MLS for Erick Torres, but he has gone back to parent club Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico to help with their ongoing relegation struggle.

Bruce Arena may have to adjust his formation due to the loss of Donovan, which could expand the potential list of suitors.

His current 4-4-2 formation has seemed to work for some time now, but the loss of Donavan leaves a huge hole in the Galaxy squad.

Here are three potential replacements:

Darren Bent (Striker) – Aston Villa (England)

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England international striker Darren Bent has been somewhat of a forgotten man since Paul Lambert took over the reigns at Villa. And so Bent could do with a new challenge after seeing his starting place handed to Belgium front man Christian Benteke.

He could be a great partner for MLS MVP Robbie Keane, having previously played at Tottenham Hotspur as well as at Villa together. But this would mean re-positioning Gyasi Zardes from the Galaxy attack to accommodate Bent.

Ronaldinho (Attacking Midfielder) – Querétaro F.C. (Mexico)

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The World Cup winning Brazilian needs no introduction and a move to MLS giants LA Galaxy could be the swansong he deserves.

Ronaldinho can operate on either flank, through the middle or up front so he would be a suitable replacement for Donovan in terms of versatility. However, he doesn’t posses the defensive qualities of Donovan and so Zardes could be forced out wide to accommodate Ronaldinho’s arrival too.

Andrea Pirlo (Midfielder) – Juventus (Italy)

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Pass-master Pirlo is a World Cup winner like Ronaldinho and would further strengthen the Galaxy midfield. Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho could benefit by having Pirlo just in behind them to give them more freedom to attack.

He’s been linked with a move recently and the potential signing of Pirlo could would allow Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes to continue their lethal strike partnership, while giving them a player who can provide service from deeper.

Who do you think LA Galaxy will replace Landon Donovan with?

5 young MLS stars to watch out for in 2015

With just the MLS Cup Final to play and the 2014 season close to completion, we take a look at five MLS prospects that have lit up the league this season and look set for bright futures.

These young stars are already key players on their teams but will only improve as time goes on and they could be set for huge campaign’s in 2015.

1. Diego Fagundez – New England Revolution

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At 19 years of age, Fagundez has become one of the brightest talents in MLS over the past two seasons having made a breakthrough with the New England Revolution. He has had limited game time since the arrival of USMNT star Jermaine Jones at the franchise.

But he should be set for a great 2015 campaign, and hopefully we will see him at some point in Sunday’s MLS Cup Final.

2. Fabian Castillo – FC Dallas

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Castillo is an explosive winger who is comfortable on either wing. His exceptional dribbling skills have left defenders dazed all season and adding ten goals to Dallas’s tally has made him a great asset for the team.

At just 22, we’re expecting big things from the young man.

3. Tesho Akindele – FC Dallas

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Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year, Akindele, has been superb since breaking into the team. Blas Perez is still the first-choice forward but with eight goals in 29 appearances Akindele has showed great promise.

He and Castillo could make Dallas even more of a force in MLS next season.

4. Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy

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The most prolific of our five picks, Zardes has become a key player for the Galaxy this year, and has been a valued partner for MLS MVP Robbie Keane. Netting 16 goals this term has made him a huge asset for LA and he should only improve heading into next season.

Can he finish off a great year with an MLS Cup winners medal on Sunday?

5. Joao Plata – Real Salt Lake

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At 5’2 he’s the shortest player in MLS history, yet he has an abundance of talent. Plata is a compact, yet explosive forward that is comfortable on either foot. He has finally settled in MLS after his stint at Toronto FC and looks at home with Real Salt Lake.

He netted 13 goals in 28 appearances this season and is huge threat for RSL. There is more to come from the Ecuadorian.

Who do you think is the best young talent in MLS right now?

Stats: MVP winner Robbie Keane’s season compared to Nguyen, Martins and Wright-Phillips

LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane was announced as Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player of 2014 yesterday, as he beat Obafemi Martins, Lee Nguyen and Bradley Wright-Phillips to the MVP award.

Keane has had his best season to date with the Galaxy, scoring 18 goals in the regular season, and two more so far in the playoffs with an MLS Cup Final clash with New England Revolution in store on Sunday.

Don’t miss: MLS Cup Preview and Prediction – LA Galaxy vs New England Revolution

The Irishman has notched 12 assists in the regular season and postseason combined and has been at the heart of everything for the Western Conference Championship winners.

Table: How the MVP award was decided (via mlssoccer.com)

Table: How the MVP award was decided (via mlssoccer.com)

Keane was a convincing winner of the award in the end, with Obafemi Martins and Lee Nguyen behind, closely followed by MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips.

All four players were in prolific goalscoring form in 2014, and Keane and Nguyen will hope to add to their tally in Sunday’s MLS Cup Final.

Table: MLS MVP candidates 2014 stats including playoffs (via Squawka)

Table: MLS MVP candidates 2014 stats including playoffs (via Squawka)

Both Keane and Martins have picked up 12 assists this season – more than Nguyen or Wright-Phillips managed, but the Revs playmaker has been more effective with the ball.

Nguyen has created more chances per game, and has better shot accuracy and pass completion rates than the other three goalscoring stars who were in the running for the MVP award.

Though it is Keane who is celebrating winning the award and he will now be looking ahead to Sunday’s MLS Cup title decider with Nguyen’s New England Revolution side.

Did Robbie Keane deserve to win the 2014 MLS MVP award?

 

Obafemi Martins further emphasises importance in Seattle’s comeback display

The Seattle Sounders rallied in the second-half to earn a valuable point away at fellow MLS Supporters’ Shield contenders LA Galaxy on Sunday night, with Obafemi Martins at the heart of everything the Sounders did going forward once again.

A Seattle win would have wrapped up the Supporters Shield a week before the end of the season, but the draw means that their is all to play for when the sides meet again in the final game of the regular season at CenturyLink Field.

Goals from Baggio Husidic and Marcelo Sarvas either side of halftime put LA 2-0 up, and all looked to be going accordingly in Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game.

But Seattle weren’t to be defeated that easily, and Martins inspired them to come back and earn a draw as he picked up two assists for Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle goals in quick succession.

Omar Gonzalez was sent off late on, and he will miss the decider on Saturday night as a result, but Martins is the man who deserves to be talked about, as the 29-year-old did his MVP claims no harm by setting up both Sounders goals.

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Martins had more shots than anyone on the pitch last night with five, and also completed more dribbles than anyone else on the field.

He made three key passes, and proved to be the main attacking threat once more – a significant claim when playing alongside Clint Dempsey.

Martins is undoubtedly in the running for the MVP award, and another outstanding display in the final game could be a huge factor, as Robbie Keane appears the favourite for MVP at the moment.

The Nigerian striker has scored 17 goals this season, joint-fourth most in the league, tied with Lee Nguyen (another MVP candidate), and has the joint-second highest amount of assists with 11, as only Landon Donovan has more (14).

Martins looks set to stay in Seattle for another couple of seasons as he is reportedly closing in on a contract extension, but that won’t be until after the season.

He will be crucial for the Sounders on Saturday night, and in the playoffs as well as Seattle are set to fight for their first MLS Cup win.

How important is Martins to Seattle? Does he deserve the MVP award?