With the recent addition of Zlatan Ibrahimović to the MLS LA Galaxy, there is ample talk about the potential influence he will have on the league. It is expected that he will bring pack-filled stadiums and, with his well-known name and welcomed controversy, an overall increase in popularity for soccer in America. Zlatan isn’t the only noteworthy player whose addition to the MLS has helped change the league for the better. Here are five players who made their presence known in a positive way.
Even if a person doesn’t play soccer, they know of David Beckham and are familiar with the phrase, “Bend it like Beckham.” With his addition to the LA Galaxy roster in 2007, television coverage of soccer in America grew significantly. The former Real Madrid midfielder caused the LA Galaxy team to be known worldwide and also paved the way for other high-profile international players to then join the MLS. He made over 100 appearances with the team as well as won two MLS cups in his final two seasons.
After playing for Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, and Barcelona, in 2010, the Frenchman signed on with the New York Red Bulls. With his international background and magical touch on the ball, Henry is mostly responsible for making a name for the Red Bulls. Despite never winning an MLS Cup with the team, he still acquired some excellent stats. Out of 122 games, he scored 51 goals and generated 42 assists.
As one of the top scorers in the English Premier League, Robbie Keane, following suit of Beckham, switched over to the MLS in 2011 to play for the LA Galaxy. In his first and second season with the Galaxy, the Ireland native helped the team win two World Cups, and then another one in 2014. The striker played with the team until 2016 where he scored 83 goals in 105 games and was also given the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2014.
In 2015, the former Juventus striker retired the black and white striped jersey for the Toronto FC one. Originally from Italy, Sebastian Giovinco, came in hot. In his first season, he scored 22 goals and made 16 assists in 33 games, breaking the MLS record for most combined goals and assists in one season. Shortly after that, he was rightfully awarded the league’s MVP award. In 2016, he scored 17 goals and made 15 assists in 28 games. Last season he scored 16 goals with six assists in 25 games, and nearly won the MLS Cup but lost in the final to the Seattle Sounders.
The all-time lead scorer in Spanish national history, David Villa, transferred to New York City FC in 2015 with intentions to help both the team and the league grow. He has kept his word. Since being with NYCFC, Villa has scored 66 goals in 101 games. In 2016, he won the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. With his consistent delivery of top performance play, Villa is helping to shatter the MLS stereotype of the league being a place where international players come to quietly retire.