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(THIS ARTICLE WILL BE EDITED FURTHER TOMORROW, SORRY IT'S A SCHOOL NIGHT GUYS GOT TO DO SOME HOMEWORK BUT I NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT THERE SO I CAN POST ON IG AS WELL)
Founder, The Sports Court
It feels just like yesterday when NYCFC beat the Portland Timbers on penalty kicks and hoisted their first-ever MLS Cup, only six years into their existence.
Now, only two months later, the MLS season is rapidly approaching, with the first games being scheduled for February 26, only 5 days from now. Many things have transpired over this past offseason, from the likes of Charlotte FC joining the league to Kellyn Acosta joining LAFC, here are three important storylines you should look out for this MLS season.
1) Inter Miami’s Bounceback Year
After a very disappointing start to their time in MLS, Inter Miami has cleaned house following the Blaise Matuidi scandal and at the end of the day, it’s for the better as Inter Miami was in need of a facelift.
The main move was the addition of Deandre Yedlin, who at 28 years old, had 7 years of European experience most notably with Newcastle and Galatassary and 71 caps for the USMNT.
Meanwhile, the transfer out of Nico Fagal, who Miami sold for just under 3 million, opened up a vital international spot for their roster.
On the darker side for Miami, the Matuidi scandal made them sell Lewis Morgan, one of their most productive players on the attack.
Inter Miami’s success will be largely dependent upon the production of starman upfront, Gonzalo Higuain, who after a season in the MLS will now be able to settle in and finally find his footing. Many European stars have a difficult time transferring to MLS due to the large travel and climate, and many need a season to 100% settle into the league.
Higuain had a very successful year last season, scoring 12 goals and adding 9 assists, and now that he’s settled, it will be very scary to see what he’s able to produce.
Expansion teams in MLS don’t have the best track record, and Inter Miami will be sure to get off to a blazing hot start in 2022 now that they are 3 seasons in. This season will be huge for Beckham and co as they want to attract more European stars to the club.
A name to keep an eye on this year is 2005 born Felipe Valencia who is the youngest goalscorer in USL history, breaking a record set by Alphonso Davies, having scored 3 goals for Miami’s USL team Fort Lauderdale CF in 18 games. Valencia could get significant minutes this season and finally break into the first team.
2) Chicago to light the league on fire
The Chicago Fire has had some interesting big-name signings in the past such as former Bayern Munich legend Bastian Schweinsteiger.
This offseason, Chicago Fire outdid themselves yet again, this time opting for a younger, more explosive player, in Xherdan Shaqiri.
Shaqiri, often called Big Shaq, stands only 5 feet 7 inches tall but makes up for it with his electrifying pace and huge calves. Big Shaq was instrumental to Jurgen Klopp’s UCL winning side before making his way to France where he played for Lyon.
Shaqiri was a popular player at this past summer's Euros, scoring 3 goals including a goal in the quarters against Spain. Shaqiri comes up at big moments and was by all means, still a very good and talented player at the highest level.
Somehow, someway, Chicago Fire managed to sign Shaqiri for a reported $7.5 million, a club-record fee. His contract runs until 2024 and he was signed as a Designated Player. This signing was huge not just to the club, but to the league, as more European stars are coming to MLS at a younger and younger age.
Chicago also spent a combined $12.15 million on the signings of Kacper Pryzbelko, a talented talisman who netted 35 goals in 83 appearances for the Philadelphia Union and was a very popular face amongst the Philly fans as well as right-winger Jairo Torres from Atlas and on a signing they made back in August, which is recent enough to include it, in rock-solid holding mid-Federico Navvaro who has already made 12 MLS appearances for the Fire.
The Fire has a whole new look both on and off the field, with a new badge and many new talented stars coming to the Windy City. Chicago is a city of winners, and the Fire are destined to add their name to the legacy of Chicago sports.
3) Now or never for Toronto FC
Speaking of European stars the ripped the Euros apart, Lorenzo Insigne was a vital piece to the Italian National Team and at only 30 years old, he’s jumped the pond and found his way not to America, but to Toronto, as he’s signed for Toronto FC in a deal that put the whole league on notice.
Insigne has spent the last 11 years at Napoli, making a total of 325 appearances for them. Insigne also scored two goals for Italy en route to their Euro 2020 triumph that saw them beat England in the final.
Insigne, only 5 foot 4, will hope to replicate the play of an old Toronto FC star, Sebastian Giovinco, who was unarguably the best player in MLS during his tenure with Tornot despite being 5 foot 3.
Meanwhile, new coach Bob Bradley is a winner, and with the squad, he has now, including two stars and potential MVP winners in Insigne and Pozuelo, there is no reason as to why Toronto shouldn’t make a run at it this year, despite finishing second to last in the eastern conference last season.
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All Editorials written by Chris Dailey