By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Feb 20, 2017) US Soccer Players – With the start of every new season comes hope and excitement. Being part of that select group of players who are the next big thing can lead to immediate success for a team. Jordan Morris, last season’s Rookie of the Year, had a string of standout performances. That led to the Seattle Sounders winning their first MLS Cup in franchise history.
Other players may take more time to adapt to Major League Soccer. Becoming a breakout star doesn’t always happen after one season. It took a player like Chris Wondolowski years to become a consistent goal scorer. When a player sees significant improvement, even after a few years in the league, the sudden surge in popularity can result in a National Team call-up or a move abroad. For Wondolowski, it meant playing a part in the 2014 World Cup.
Attaining MLS stardom is sometimes hard to define. What’s most important is consistency. Do something well enough – be it scoring goals or playing great defense – on a consistent basis and it will get noticed. Better yet, turn those acts into points for your team, a playoff berth, and an MLS Cup title and you’ve achieved the ultimate success.
This isn’t exclusive to American players. Sebastian Giovinco is a model for what other clubs want from a designated player. He's in his prime, able to make his teammates better and put the team in position to go far. Toronto made the MLS Cup final last season and is poised to do great things this year. By that definition, Giovinco is a huge success.
Here are five players who have the potential to have a breakout MLS season in 2017:
Abu Danladi (Minnesota United)
The first overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft last month, Danladi played college soccer with UCLA and is one of the exciting new faces of expansion side Minnesota United. Danladi is a striker who possesses speed and can score with both feet. He will need to adjust to the Midwestern cold after his days in sunny California, but look for him to make a quick impact. It will be both time and consistent performances that will determine whether Danladi can become a standout player in this league.
Ian Harkes (DC United)
Harkes is one of those players everyone will be keeping an eye on in 2017. The Hermann Trophy and College Cup winner joins MLS with a pedigree. He's playing for the same team as his dad, starting his pro career at 21. It was that DC connection that meant Harkes joins as a Homegrown Player. He'll be looking for playing time from the beginning, something that will require proving his game fits with DC. This isn't a given, with United once again in transition while building toward 2018 in their own stadium.
Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy)
The new-look Galaxy could gain inspiration from Lletget. He had a magnificent January camp with the National Team and has been a player Bruce Arena nurtured the past few years. His showing in the recent Serbia friendly allowed Lletget to climb the National Team’s depth chart with World Cup Qualifying on the horizon. This could also very well be the year the budding midfielder could make his impact felt with LA. The 24-year-old Lletget is likely to get plenty of minutes as the Galaxy look to get back to their winning ways.
Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
Zimmerman is another player who showed his value during January camp and recent US friendly versus Jamaica where he earned his first cap. The center back is likely to be a key contributor to FC Dallas's quest for MLS Cup. In a league loaded with top-notch defenders, Zimmerman, 23, has the real opportunity to become a starter for the US over the next year. His performance for Dallas in 2017 will be key. Zimmerman will also get plenty of chances to show how good he is and test himself against an array of strikers since FC Dallas is also playing in the Champions League.
Anibal Chala (FC Dallas)
Zimmerman will get help on the left flank from the newly signed Chala. The Ecuador U-20 star is exactly the type of foreign star MLS teams need to sign. Like Giovinco, Chala is in the prime of his career. Even better, he’s just getting started. He has lots of experience in the Ecuadorian top flight since he turned pro at 16 with Quito-based club El Nacional. Quick and creative, the 20-year-old Chala has a real chance to become one of the league’s best newcomer’s this season.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2014. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
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