This year marks the 25th birthday of the MLS and it continues to be the fastest growing league in the world. Interest continues to grow both domestically and across the pond.
In an attempt to grab the world’s attention, various big name signings have been made to shine a spotlight on what the MLS has to offer.
We’re all aware of the impact Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham and basically the rest of the under-performing 2004 England squad have had in the US, but sometimes a few lesser known names squeak through the net from the Premier League.
These guys either have incredibly talented agents or the MLS scouts have been using Wikipedia as their main tool.
So, without further ado, here are my top 7 former Premier League players you’d forgotten played in the MLS.
1. Philippe Senderos – Houston Dynamo
If you weren’t aware of Senderos and just looked at his club history, you could be forgiven for thinking he was one of Europe’s elite centre-backs. Despite having Valencia, AC Milan, Everton and Arsenal on his resume, Senderos’ career stalled in its early stages.
There’s no doubt he was a very highly rated teenager, but he falls on the Pascal Cygan rather than the Sol Campbell side of Arsenal defenders.
His MLS career may have been short but with 4 goals in 10 appearances for Houston Dynamo, a little part of me hopes he was a fan favourite with the Texan crowd. Maybe even with his own song.
No matter what he achieves in life, I will always remember him for the above clip live on ESPN.
2. Darren Huckerby – San Jose Earthquakes
Darren Huckerby was a bit of a journeyman in the UK. He scored goals everywhere he went with the most successful period of his career coming at Norwich.
I can’t help but feel I’m doing the man a disservice with this description, so I’ll leave it to this American news channel who conducted the finest interview you’ll ever hear. Utter magic.
3. Lauren Robert – Toronto FC
The term ‘wand of a left foot’ was made for this man. The early ’00s was littered with this man’s pinpoint crosses and free-kicks.
It’s often suggested that Alan Shearer may have never reached the heights he did if it wasn’t for Laurent Robert‘s delivery. These suggestions are quickly dismissed as nonsense, but it doesn’t stop them from being suggested…
His time in the MLS wasn’t exactly a successful one. However, he did score a free-kick and was named ‘man of the match’ in one game, but he was also substituted at half-time in his final game so… swings and roundabouts.
4. Youri Djorkaeff – New York Red Bull
I know right? How were you not aware the Djorkaeff ended his career with New York Red Bulls?
I’ll admit that Djorkaeff’s best days weren’t spent in the Premier League. When tactical genius Sam Allardyce announced that World Cup winning, Ronaldo assisting, bicycle kick against Roma scoring legend Youri Djorkaeff was joining Bolton Wanderers alongside Paul Warhurst, I nearly spit out my brew.
However, no-one can deny it happened. I’ve checked several times to make sure it wasn’t a ridiculous dream.
After inspiring half of Bolton and a bit of Blackburn to swap their £2.99 bottle of Australian Shiraz for a £4.99 bottle of Bordeaux Superieur, Djorkaeff flew over to the then named MetroStars of New York.
In a fairly successful spell, he was named MVP in 2005 but ended his career by telling New York Red Bull officials he was attending a serious family matter. Instead he watched the France v Brazil World Cup Quarter-final game. Fair play.
5. Mikaël Silvestre – Portland Timbers
Mikaël Silvestre played for Man Utd throughout some of their most successful years chalking up nearly 250 appearances, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting his existence. He falls into the Wes Brown category. You haven’t thought of him for years, but as soon as someone mentions his name it’s met with a slow exhale and a quiet ‘oh yeaaaah.’
Well the former Man Utd and Arsenal man had a career in the MLS, but once again, no-one remembers.
Whilst looking up his MLS career, all I could find was this statement: “Despite his injury, Silvestre remained a vocal and engaged member of the team off the field and on social media.” There you have it. His MLS career reduced to sounding like an intern in the marketing department who’s about to be let go.
6. Julio Baptista – Orlando City
When Arsenal signed Julio Baptista on loan from Real Madrid, I couldn’t have been more excited. As an avid Football Manager 2005 player, I knew that this man mountain was a sure-fired goal machine that would light the Premier League on fire.
After a prolific 3 goals in 24 Premier League appearances, he went back to Madrid, but will forever remain in Arsenal hearts as someone who definitely played football for them.
With a resume containing Sevilla, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Roma, Orlando City ignored his colossal drop in ability and brought him to the MLS. To be fair, he did score 6 times in 23 games, so he’s just as big a hero in Orlando as he is in North London.
7 – Bojan Krkić – Montreal Impact
The man who was supposed to succeed Messi, Bojan never really lived up to the hype. He broke Messi’s youngest appearance and goal-scoring records at Barcelona, but somehow, 7 years later, he found himself at Stoke City.
Was he an undercover investigative journalist trying to find out if it was possible for someone in the Messi mould to score on a cold and rainy Wednesday night in Stoke? I like to think so.
After a few years of failed investigation, Bojan seems to have decided to start a new project by investigating if a failed prodigy can re-ignite his career in the MLS with Montreal Impact.
He’s just starting his 2nd year in the MLS and his team are off to a good start with a 2-1 win over New England Revolution… He didn’t score.
Will the MLS continue to attract big names?
This year, LA Galaxy have managed to sign Javier Hernandez, so things don’t look like slowing down.
However, I do hope they continue the tradition of recruiting the Premier League’s prime cuts of mediocrity. All I want to see is Phil Jones being unveiled to the world’s media. Is that too much to ask?