A look at some potential breakout players ahead of the 2014 MLS season

GyasiZardes2 (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by Dave Bernal/ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

The 2014 MLS season is just a month away, meaning it’s not too early to start thinking about the players who will impress us and surprises us in the new season.

In my latest piece for Goal.com, I run down a list of the leading candidates for breakout seasons for each of the league’s 19 teams. Some of the picks are simple enough, while others are long shots or wild cards who could just as easily remain bench options. Some teams have more true candidates for Breakout Player status than others, but even teams stacked with veterans and returning starters have at least one bench options who could break through in 2014.

Give the story a read and let us know what you think about the selections, and which of the players listed you are most excited to see play in 2014.

Before you do that though, take a look at my Top 10 leading candidates for breakout seasons, as well as a 2014 Breakout Best XI:

TOP 10 CANDIDATES FOR BREAKOUT SEASONS

1. GYASI ZARDES

Facing stiff competition for playing time, but Zardes has the talent to score 12-15 goals this year.

2. MAX URRUTI

Perfectly-suited to play alongside Diego Valeri, Gaston Fernandez and Darlington Nagbe, Urruti should be a terror this year and capable of easily netting double-digit goals.

3. OMAR SALGADO

The forgotten man in Vancouver has packed on muscle, and gotten fully healthy. The result could be a monster year for a team that needs someone to pick up the slack after the sale of Camilo Sanvezzo.

4. SHANE O’NEILL

A very steady starter at centerback despite his young age in 2013, O’Neill could make the jump to true force in 2014, whether in central defense or as a defensive midfielder.

5. NICK DELEON

If he can stay healthy, DeLeon should be able to thrive in D.C. United’s revamped lineup, which should help showcase his playmaking ability.

6. DONEIL HENRY

Only 20, Henry already has European scouts sniffing around and he’s looking like a good bet to start in central defense for Toronto FC, which could expedite a move overseas.

7. DILLY DUKA

Already started to break out in 2013, but this could realy be Duka’s season to shine. As much as he might face competition for playing time, Duka is too talented to keep off the field for long.

8. WIL TRAPP

Showed some very good signs in the second half of 2013, and with Gregg Berhalter implementing a system that should get more out of him, Trapp could really boost his stick in 2014.

9. TEAL BUNBURY

Lost in the mix among Sporting KC’s loaded stable of forwards, Bunbury is healthy and ready to reassert his place as one of KC’s key players.

10. JALIL ANIBABA

Finally with a chance to play at his natural central defender role, Anibaba could wind up being a perfect partner for Chad Marshall. With his speed and athleticism helping cover for Marshall’s diminished speed.

———

BREAKOUT BEST XI

—Omar Salgad0———-Max Urruti————–Gyasi Zardes—–

———————Dilly Duka——Nick DeLeon———————-

——————————–Wil Trapp———————————-

Jalil Anibaba—-Doneil Henry—Shane O’Neill——-Kellyn Acosta

——————————–Bill Hamid——————————–

——————————–

What do you think of the list? Which players do you see having surprising monster 2014 seasons?

Share your thoughts below.

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59 Responses to A look at some potential breakout players ahead of the 2014 MLS season

  1. nick says:

    I’d add Alex Lopez for Houston. He is young and came into the squad late last season. I think with preseason to adjust fully, he will do well.

    • Jason B says:

      I hope so! Us Houston fans all wanted a nice DP, and we got Alex who was a no show last year. I feel like the other MLS clubs are upgrading and we just kept our team. How does that help us win a cup? Make some move Houston!

  2. Fredo says:

    I hope Zardes can step it up this year. And, I’d like to see him up front or on the right. Not on the left where Bruce played him a lot.

    • dantheblue says:

      I know it was only a friendly but Zardes gathered the ball at the edge of the box, looked up, and calmly buried that thing Saturday vs FC Shirak… I was very impressed with his poise on the ball.

  3. Big Bright Dike, Oscar Sorto and Kekuta Manneh (unless you consider him ‘already broken out’)

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      Manneh is an interesting one. He could have a great year, but he might still be a year away. Don’t see Dike doing all that much and Sorto has De La Garza in his way at right back so it’ll be tough.

    • beto says:

      im watching Manneh too, he looked really dangerous towards the end of the year.

      losing Camilo was probably a blessing in disguise as they have a number of young forwards that need PT and are ripe for break out seasons;

      Mattocks (already established but its about time for him really break out!),
      Mennah (my pick to score a lot of goals)
      Hurtado (already doing well in preseason)
      Salgado (SBI’s breakout player)
      Kenny Miller (no comment)

    • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

      I’m seconding Manneh. If he can put on enough muscle to hold the ball, and keep his poise, he’ll explode. He’s got such speed and quickness, and a monster shot.

  4. Don the Jewler says:

    For me it’s Luis Gil.

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      Luis Gil is an established starter now, he’s already put himself in the conversation as one of the best young players in the league. He could have a monster year this year for sure, but he’s already an established player in the league so I’m not sure I’d call him a breakout candidate.

      • Jason B says:

        Mr. Galarcep, I keep trying to read your Goal.com stuff, but when I get to the comments some guy named Jack Davis curses that place up and makes everything unreadable….

        • whoop-whoop says:

          “Character” goes by several aliases and has infested/inundated that site with zero recourse for years… crude, racist, adolescent personal attacks, painfully repetitive, then attracts more of the same. Impossible to have any sort of decent, adult interaction there. Obviously there is ZERO monitoring of posts. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the site encourages it, but completely ignoring a blatant problem becomes an implicit endorsement. At some point you can only conclude they willingly tolerate it to drum up traffic. One of the very nice things about online forums is hopefully, the opportunity for access to timely to journalism, and the ability to interact/discuss the subject matter.

          I had hoped that perhapsIves might bring a touch of class over there and open up another option for soccer news… he has added better stories… however the glaring issue known by anyone who has paid a visit is still the same, so I stay away.

          What can you say, I completely understand Ives position, man can’t turn around a site overnight and he does have to make a living. Hopefully he can push them to create a more civil environment there, and maintain what has always been one of the better places to talk soccer over here.

      • Don the Jewler says:

        I was thinking more in terms of breaking out from one of the best young players to one of the best players. A move from the wing to CAM could make this happen.

      • Mike says:

        I think that explains Bill Hamids situation too though

    • Stephen Healy says:

      Agreed

  5. wood chip zip says:

    I consider last season Shane ONeill’s breakout season

    • Ives Galarcep says:

      It was a strong season, but not really a breakout season. Not many outside Colorado talked about him, he got lost in the shadow of Powers and Brown. This year he can really put his name out there.

      • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

        As long as we’re talking about the shadows of Powers and Brown, I think Klute could have a killer year as well. I’ll admit I haven’t seen much of him since I only caught the Rapids at the end of the season, but he looks like he could be top of the league in the near future at LB (not the most competitive spot for the league, I’ll admit).

  6. Zac says:

    Olmes Garcia has the tools to be the best striker in the league. 2014 could be a breakout year for him

    • B says:

      Agreed. He might not get enough minutes to do it though because RSL is pretty deep at striker. Sabo and Findley will be the starters, and Plata is almost always the first option off the bench. Garcia could get more minutes this summer though when Sabo’s away for the World Cup.

    • chodilicus says:

      Yeah, Olmes Garcia was the first name that came to my mind as well. He does have the talent to be the best all around striker in this league. I think he will have a breakout in 2014 and start to get more minutes than Findley and others.

      The only thing that may hurt him is that the stupid MLS season is so long that RSL literally had a 6-week off season. There is no time for Olmes to have really worked on his game and make improvements. MLS really needs to play 2 games a week throughout the season and compress everything into a 6 month season. The MLS final should be in early October, not December.

      • Original Aaron says:

        Are you seriously suggesting that we should only play 6 months a year? Are you aware tat the rest of the world plays 10 months a year? How is playing less supposed to help a player like Olmes Garcia develop?

  7. go euro or go home says:

    can’t wait to see how farrell has worked on his game.

  8. TheSaddestManAround says:

    Danny Cruz…i kid, i kid

  9. wood chip zip says:

    Cant believe Salgado is still with Vancouver. They have handled his development . . . well let’s just say they haven’t. I would love to see a breakout year for him. I saw him live in one of his few MLS appearances in his rookie year and I thought he looked great.

    • Lord Jord says:

      He’s been injured for over a year! You’re blaming the team for that?

      • hey mon says:

        He’s been with them for three years. They used the first pick in the draft for him for no apparent reason. Kid would have been better off in college. For you eurosnobs out there that’s how bad they were at developing him . . . and that is no secret among players in MLS

  10. Langston Hughes says:

    Probably at least a year off, but Earthquakes fans look forward to moments of artistry from Tommy Thompson.

  11. Josh D says:

    As a DC fan, my hopes aren’t on DeLeon.

    I think Kitchen has what it takes to finally step up and dominate the midfield in the Carrick-type, deep-lying role. He’s still only 21.

    I’d also like to see Doyle finally step up and reach his potential. I thought he started well, and like many of Benny’s signings, eventually faded. He has a full preseason behind him and better talent to provide him the ball. Benny, just stop playing him on the wing. Please.

    • Lost in Space says:

      I think once all the new players gel together that DC will be very interesting to watch.
      With their most recient signing (LB) they’ll have a brand new back 4 in front of Hamid…
      and likely only 5 players starting from last season.
      ————————-EJ———————————
      —-Pontius———Espíndola——–DeLeon—–
      —————-Jeffery————Kitchen—————
      Salas——-Parke——-Boswell——–Franklin
      ———————-Hamid——————————
      Subs: Silva, Arnoud, Doyle, Korb, Neal, Nyassi

      Much more experienced and technical team than last year, with a deeper bench. Should be interesting come April/May to see how they’re doing.

      • Dinho says:

        Not a bad lineup, I must say. (Although Espindola needs to be higher up the pitch).

        Good luck this year.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        no idea what benny will actually do, but i was thinking espindola would be depth for EJ, with silva playing the central role.

    • João Silva says:

      I agree, I think Kitchen could have a huge year. Doyle has also looked good in the games he played last year.

  12. formerlyanonymous says:

    As a general note, could we include which teams each of these players are on? I can’t say I know the MLS rosters well enough to recognize every one.

    Thanks.

  13. soccerhorn says:

    Hasn’t Bill Hamid been in the league for half a decade now? Seems his chance to “break out” has come and gone. No other keepers? Seems even Andre Blake would qualify for breakout candidacy ahead of Hamid, who, even at 23, is a veteran, nothing less.

    • beto says:

      ya he is more in the category of potential ‘best rebound year’, playing on a much better team now he should have a good year; maybe elevate his stock more than any other MLS GK?

  14. Brett Son of Stephen says:

    Nice to see Ives jumping on the comment boards. Its like the pre-goal.com days.

  15. Dan in New York says:

    Michael Bustamante for the Red Bulls will be interesting to watch in 2014. Good start last year but should see a lot more of him in MLS with with CONCACAF Champions League etc. taking its toll on the roster.

  16. Nathan says:

    While they’re arguably past the point of ‘breaking out,’ I think either Brad Knighton or Bobby Shuttleworth are going to have a career year with the Revs, and could emerge as one of the top keepers in the league. But they’ve both arguably established themselves beyond the point of ‘breaking out.’

  17. dikranovich says:

    I like the players, but im not a big fan of the formation and the midfield does not have enough defensive bite.

  18. Mr. O says:

    The idea of
    Urruti
    Gata-Valeri-Nagbe

    up top gets me very, very, very excited. If those 4 can get it together, Urruti, Gata and Nagbe can switch from wide to up top and terrorize back lines. I’d have nightmares just thinking of the 4 of those guys running circles around me as a defender.

  19. Matt says:

    Zardas will improve, but he’s not going to be anything spectacular. Guy still has a lot of work to do with footwork and mental fortitude.

    Zardas is going to do the same thing that Edson Buddle did. We’re all going to hope for the best, but he’s never going to live up to expectation.

    • 2tone says:

      Crystal ball predictions usually make one look foolish. We will rehash this at the end of the year.

    • dantheblue says:

      Matt, what are you talking about. Everything I’ve read or heard about the man is that his work ethic is unmatched for a 22 years old kid, unlike Buddle, and for Arena to play a rookie so much last year tells me A LOT about your assertion not being accurate.

    • Advocate says:

      Zardes has speed and ball-handling skills that Buddle (as much as I like him) never dreamed of having. Last year, on a team featuring Keane and Donovan, Zardes had more shots than either of them. If he learns to calm down and keep his shots on frame he’ll burn up the league.

      • White Kix says:

        Or, he makes terrible decisions and and if he learned to pass, he could have had as many asists as those other two players. Those stats you use can mean many different things.

        • Advocate says:

          What you say has merit. But his decision-making plainly improved over the course of last season. And I thought he looked pretty good the other night. So, I guess will just have to wait and see whether his problems last year involved a lack of ability or just a lack of maturity. I, for one, will not be surprised to see him going to the world cup four years from now.

  20. Bobb says:

    Good list overall, but you lost me at Teal Bunbury. Not sure what anyone sees in him. He has two moves, and everyone has figured them out. More likely to be traded elsewhere than to play significant minutes for SKC.

    • Neruda says:

      Yea teal has athleticism and size but I think vermes is going to favor other skc forwards but we shall see.

  21. BigChompers says:

    My spidey senses tingle when I think about Kekuta Manneh. He’s going to a beast this season. That is all.

  22. TomG says:

    Surprised to see Moreno over Miazga for NYRB. Interested to see Salgado. I haven’t seen him since his youth days. I always wondered as a youth player if he was a bit too slow and didn’t really use his size to his advantage enough, sort of like a Kenny Cooper type with better ball skills. Just a gut reaction. I didn’t see him enough to really judge.

  23. Leo Castracane says:

    Tony Cascio

  24. BrianK says:

    I would like to see Duka emerge,….not only a key player for the Crew but to get into the USMNT picture.

    Would like to see O’Neill break-out as well.

  25. Birgit Calhoun says:

    Kelyn Rowe should be in there somewhere. He’s got something others don’t have. He has the touch. He is going to be a goal scorer.

    • Neruda says:

      Rowe has arrived as far as MLS is concerned. If he keeps improving New England may lose another top player to Europe. He and fagundez are a joy to watch plus Nguyen.

  26. USofSoccer says:

    Anyone surprised Walker Zimmerman isn’t on this list? Or do we consider him “established”?