From Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Wayne Rooney, the 10 fading stars who could still shine with the new MLS season set to start this coming weekend
- The 2019 MLS season begins this weekend, and there are plenty of big names
- Nani has just joined Orlando City, while Nicolas Gaitan is heading to Chicago
- The likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Tim Howard are also still going strong
- Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 fading stars who could still play a big part
The English football season may be reaching its climax in the coming weeks, but across the pond things are just getting started.
After a gruelling pre-season, MLS stars are ready to begin their campaign this weekend, and there is no shortage of big names ready to line up.
Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 of the biggest fading stars who could still make a big impact in an up-and-coming league…
Atlanta United won the 2018 MLS Cup, but this weekend sees the fight begin for the 2019 title
Nani – Orlando City
Perhaps the biggest transfer of the close-season, Nani’s arrival at Orlando City is big news for the club’s fans. A Manchester United legend, he arrives as on a three-year Designated Player contract to much fanfare.
At the age of 32, his career may be in its twilight years, but he will argue he still has plenty to offer. His first game will be against the Manchester City-affiliated New York City, so immediately there is a sub-plot well worth a watch.
Nani waves to Orlando City fans as he is presented following his move from Sporting Lisbon
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Los Angeles Galaxy
‘This season I will bring something to you. I will break every record in MLS this season.’ Ever the introvert, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the biggest names in the division, and all eyes will be on him once more as he eyes another huge season.
At 37, he could be forgiven for hanging up his boots and putting an end to one of the most spectacular careers ever, but he’s still keen for more. Last season he netted 22 goals in 27 games, and many will be eager to see whether he can replicate that form again, despite being another year older.
Legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic claims he will ‘break every record in MLS this season’
Wayne Rooney – DC United
In Washington, DC United’s top Designated Player is more well-known than most. Wayne Rooney has been in the news recently for his off-field behaviour, so he will be more excited than most to let his feet do the talking in the coming weeks.
First up for Rooney and DC are Atlanta United, a huge test against Frank de Boer’s new side in their opening game. Live on British TV, the former England captain will be keen to prove his statement in a recent interview that MLS is a ‘fantastic league which keeps growing’. After his 12 goals in 21 games last season, he’ll also want to prove that his ability is still growing, too.
Wayne Rooney has been working hard as he prepares for the start of a new MLS campaign
Brad Guzan – Atlanta United
The man tasked with stopping Rooney from scoring this weekend is none other than another Premier League stalwart in Brad Guzan. The American is 34 now, and back in his home country for one lash hurrah.
He has been mightily impressive too, since ending his nine-year spell in England to join the recently-formed Atlanta United in 2017. In his first season, he had the top save percentage of any MLS keeper (79.2), before helping his side lift the MLS Cup in 2018. The side will be hoping for more of the same in 2019.
Brad Guzan may be getting on a bit, but he’s still on top form and helped his side win MLS Cup
Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC
Unlike many players heading from the UK to America, Altidore’s arrival in MLS was a homecoming. The New Jersey-born striker is only 29, and he will argue that he is approaching his best form going into the new season.
Indeed, he’s just signed a bumper new contract at Toronto FC, and is loved by the club’s fans. After their 2017 MLS Cup triumph, he said at a parade: ‘I just want to let you guys know that I’ve been partying since Saturday… and baby, I’m TFC ’til I die!’
He and his team-mates will be hoping for some better form this campaign, after finishing 9th out of 11 in last season’s Eastern Conference.
Jozy Altidore claims he is ‘Toronto til he dies’, and has just signed a bumper new contract
Giovani Dos Santos, Los Angeles Galaxy
Something of an MLS stalwart now, Giovani Dos Santos has been at LA Galaxy since 2015, and will enter his fifth season in the competition this weekend. A two-time All-Star inclusion, the Mexican is held in high regard as he approaches his 30th birthday.
He was on a deal worth $7million a year when he signed, and is now playing alongside the likes of Ibrahimovic in the Californian sunshine. Better than his loan spell at Ipswich Town, you could argue.
Giovani Dos Santos has come a long way since his loan spell at Ipswich Town back in 2009
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Chicago Fire
When the German arrived in MLS, it was big news. This was a transfer directly from Manchester United, a World Cup winner heading stateside. At Chicago Fire, he was an immediate hit and helped guide the side to the top of the standings. On top of that, he was voted into the All-Star Fan XI a few months later.
At the age of 34, he will be approaching his final seasons as a professional but still appears to be enjoying his time in Chicago. In fact, that Fire still clearly burns inside him. Speaking this week, he said: ‘Let’s raise a trophy. I believe in this Club and I believe that we can be champions.
Bastian Schweinsteiger is a fans’ favourite in Chicago, and wants to win a trophy this season
Tim Howard – Colorado Rapids
A legendary American goalkeeper, Howard is ready to embrace his final season as a professional. Having already announced he will retire come the end of 2019, this campaign will likely be one big testimonial for a man loved by most American soccer fans.
His Colorado Rapids side begin their campaign against MLS Cup runners-up Portland Timbers this weekend, and Howard will almost certainly be between the sticks for the start of his last hurrah. ‘It’s been one hell of a ride,’ he said this week… and there’s another few months still to come.
Having already revealed his retirement, this season will be one big testimonial for Tim Howard
Bradley Wright-Phillips – New York Red Bulls
In truth, it feels harsh to call Wright-Phillips fading, such has been his huge impact in MLS since his arrival from Charlton back in 2013. He has 124 goals to his name, and at the age of 33 probably has a few more seasons left in his locker.
The Red Bulls legend is eighth on the list of all-time MLS goalscorers, but don’t expect him to end his career there. Two more and he’s seventh, eight more and he’s in the top five. No doubt he’ll have one eye on the charts when the season starts this weekend.
Bradley Wright-Phillips will be eyeing up the top five list of the MLS’ top scorers this campaign
Nicolas Gaitan – Chicago Fire
Okay, so he’s not *officially* an MLS player yet, but his Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang confirmed this week that he’s heading for Chicago Fire.
At the age of 31, he’s still got a few top-level years in him, and just one year ago he was playing for Atletico Madrid. Expect him to be big news in America this season, where he’ll join the likes of Schweinsteiger in the Fire line-up.
Nicolas Gaitan will be a big name in Chicago this season as he prepares to head stateside
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