Carlos Vela leads MLS with 27 goals. (Photo courtesy of MLS)
This year’s Copa America saw a glut of MLS-based South American players involved right up until the final, won by Brazil.
Within Major League Soccer are a number of Latin and South American players, both involved in the recent tournament and not, who have impressed. Whether they’re up and coming young stars or established names around the world, the U.S. domestic soccer league is awash with talent from a number of countries.
So let’s take a look at five of the most exciting currently plying their trade in the MLS.
Vela is a name formerly associated with one of Europe’s biggest clubs, Arsenal. He came through the ranks with the London side and later joined Real Sociedad in La Liga, Spain’s top division, for a fee reported to be in the region of £3 million ($3.7 5 million) by British website HITC.
He’s a Mexican international with 71 caps stretching right up until 2018. He wasn’t involved in Copa America, but he is a known name on the world stage and stars for Los Angeles FC (19-3-5, 62 points), which already has clinched a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Vela Monday was named MLS player of the week for the forth time this season after scoring three goals last week. He has tallied 27 goals this season, tied for second in league history for the most goals. He also has accrued 15 assists.
He earned high praise from one of the world’s greatest players recently. In an interview with LAG Confidential, Zlatan Ibrahimović praised the Mexican, saying: “I think he’s effective, he scores goals, he does assists and I think he’s at the top of his game now.
“He’s doing good and he’s important to his team and for MLS, he’s very important.”
High praise indeed. However, the two have had a recent high-profile spat, so Zlatan’s opinion may have changed a little now.
The 22-year-old only has a single cap to his name for the Paraguayan national team, but he’s young enough and talented enough to add to that in the coming seasons.
He’s on the books of New York City FC, weighing in with six goals and seven assists last season. That’s an impressive tally for one so young playing at the highest level of U.S. soccer.
The hope is that he could develop into a player as recognizable on the world stage as Vela.
Callens is a Peruvian who was called up to their Copa America squad, reaching the final. A bwin post on the Peru vs. Brazil final discussed how the former were the underdogs going into the final. They couldn’t beat Brazil, but Callens and his teammates did well to even reach the showcase event.
Callens was selected as the top defensive player for NYCFC, something he is hoping to build upon this season after not missing a minute of the regular season.
The 6-1 center back began his career in Spain, but is proof that the MLS is now a viable place for international players to grow their reputation as well as develop as players.
Castellanos might not be a name that jumps out at you as one of the current world greats, but at just 20-years-old he’s one to keep an eye on in the coming seasons.
The Argentinian plays for NYCFC, having joined on loan from Chilean side Torque. He made a loan move to New York and scored on his debut.
That prompted them to make the move permanent and he has recorded 10 goals and five assists in 23 appearances in 2019. He is an up and coming youngster who represents the new breed of MLS player; looking to forge his future in the US rather than coming at the tail end of a European career.
At 31-years-old, Nicolás Gaitán might be the opposite of Castellanos, but in terms South American footballers he is one of the best in the MLS.
He’s played 16 times for Argentina, helping them to a runner’s up spot in Copa America in 2016. He’s a three-time title winner with Benfica in Portugal and has lifted the Argentine title with Boca Juniors as well.
He twice finished as a runner up in the Europa League, one of Europe’s most prestigious tournaments He plays for Chicago Fire, mainly in an attacking midfield role.