The Five Most Underrated Players In the MLS This Season
Star forwards such as Javier Hernandez, Raúl Ruidíaz, Carles Gil and Gonzalo Higuain have taken most of the plaudits in the MLS this season. They light up the league on a regular basis with great goals and assists, while generally dazzling with their individual brilliance. Yet there are also several unsung heroes that quietly excel on a consistent basis. These are the five most underrated players of the MLS season so far:
New England is among the favorites to win the MLS Cup this year after enjoying a strong season under Bruce Arena. It has the best regular season record in the league so far, with 15 wins from 23 games. Forwards Gustavo Bou and Gil take most of the credit. Bou has scored 12 goals from 18 starts this season, while Gil leads the league for assists by a huge margin. There is also understandably a great deal of hype surrounding the dynamic Tajon Buchanan, who has just secured a major move to Europe. Yet New England’s success has largely been built upon the unselfish work of Polster in midfield. He is positionally astute, tough in the tackle and content to sit back and protect the defense, but he is also composed in possession and able to spring counterattacks with accurate forward passes, so he is a real star for his team.
It has been a difficult season for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are marooned near the bottom of the Western Conference after winning just five of 20 games thus far. Yet Dájome has stood out as a consistently dangerous presence up front for his team. He has scored eight of his team’s 23 goals, which is seriously impressive for a player that operates on the flank. He cuts inside with devastating effect and has a habit of arriving in the box at the right time. His movement, pace and finishing ability make him a terrific weapon for his team.
Duncan has been a rock at the back for New York Red Bulls so far this season. The 24-year-old Brooklyn native leads the league in tackles, and he has proved crucial for the Red Bulls during a difficult season. The team may well be bottom of the Eastern Conference were it not for his leadership at the back. Duncan may not be the tallest center-back, but he is still pretty good in the air and he is very tough in the tackle, which makes him a difficult opponent for MLS forwards. Duncan could be the next young American to head across the Atlantic to ply his trade in Europe if he maintains his form.
Melia is a modest, unassuming man, so he does not always get the plaudits he deserves, but he has been a remarkably consistent presence in the Sporting Kansas City goal. He had big shoes to fill after replacing Jimmy Nielsen, but he has done so with aplomb, putting up an excellent save percentage figure and keeping clean sheets on a regular basis. After superb performance in a recent 0-0 draw with Minnesota, manager Peter Vermes said: “He’s been excellent all year. He doesn’t get recognized in the way that he should. Week in and week out, he is a consistent goalkeeper. Excellent at shot stopping, excellent with his feet and a great team guy. Just tremendous.”
The Colorado Rapids winger left FC Dallas ruling the day it traded him when he curled in a terrific strike against his former team this summer. It was his fourth goal of the season, but his main strength is his ability to drive the team forward with the ball at his feet. He is quick, dynamic and unpredictable in possession, which makes him a nightmare to defend against, and he is never afraid of carrying the ball into the opposition penalty area.