The 2021 Major League Soccer (MLS) season kicks off Friday night and as it becomes more of a ‘youth league’, it is to be expected that some promising players will emerge from the shadows. over the next few months.
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The league’s training centers are producing more and more good-caliber players, not to mention “SuperDraft” ones, and clubs are now succeeding in attracting others from overseas, who now see the league. as a valid step towards the highest peaks of the soccer planet.
It’s exciting and it’s just getting started.
So here are five players who could become MLS headliners this year:
Anthony Fontana, midfielder, Philadelphia Union
A product of the excellent Union academy, the Delaware native will be in his fourth season with the team after releasing in 2020 with his six goals in 17 appearances. Talented, the 21-year-old will certainly benefit from the departure of Brendan Aaronson (another player from the academy) to Europe: the coach of the Union, Jim Curtin, has also indicated that Fontana will receive « the keys’ to the team’s attack this year.
Favoring a more direct style than Aaronson, Fontana likes to shoot and could score his share of goals in 2021. His game has yet to be polished, Curtin assures us, but the American, if he continues his progression, will likely take the same path as ‘Aaronson in the medium term. In the meantime, he may entertain MLS fans.
Tajon Buchanan, full back / winger, New England Revolution
The Canadian full-back emerged during the 2020 season and was particularly effective at the end of the calendar and during the playoffs. CF Montreal fans will no doubt remember his solid performance when the team was eliminated at the hands of the Revolution in November.
For Buchanan, this is just the start. Most recently, the 22-year-old Ontarian made his mark for Canada by scoring twice against El Salvador in an Olympic qualifying game.
He currently seems very confident and in full bloom. With all the talent that there is already in New England, Buchanan is undoubtedly preparing us for a big season in 2021.
Ayo Akinola, forward, Toronto FC
Here’s another one that gives CF Montreal fans nightmares: who forgot his hat-trick against the Quebec team during the return to play tournament in Orlando last summer?
It was not a flash in the pan. Akinola, a product of the Toronto academy, is a real talent. « He is becoming a leading center-forward thanks to his intelligence, his strength, his speed and his composure in front of the net, » observed ex-MLS striker Charlie Davies recently.
Akinola found the spaces, confused the defenders and discovered an affinity with the attacking midfielder and emeritus passer Alejandro Pozuelo. The 21-year-old is likely to score a lot of goals in 2021, especially since Jozy Altidore is not getting any younger and tends to end up in the infirmary often. Moreover, thanks to the rise of Akinola, the TFC does not have to hurry to find another striker to compensate for the shortcomings of Altidore.
Cole Bassett, midfielder, Colorado Rapids
The Rapids had a rather interesting season in 2020 and the rise of the 19-year-old, a product of the club’s academy, is no stranger to it. Bassett is a tireless, intelligent, technically strong box-to-box central midfielder and is now capable of contributing offensively.
Already tracked by European teams, Bassett, despite his very young age, could be the boss of the Rapids midfielder in 2021. He has everything it takes to become a must-have … by then it is transferred in return for a few millions!
Gianluca Busio, attacking midfielder, Kansas City Sporting
Followed by Italian clubs for some time, the 18-year-old attacking midfielder called for the number 10 and Sporting coach Peter Vermes was quick to say yes.
That says a lot about the confidence that resides in Busio, a product of the club’s academy. It is also indicative of Vermes’ opinion of his talent. It should not be forgotten that Busio, despite his very young age, already has three MLS seasons behind the tie.
« I sincerely think he is an incredible talent, » said Vermes recently.
« He is a very good youngster and I expect a lot from him this year (…) I think he will impress the public in a different way. »