Predicting 5 Breakout Stars in MLS in 2017

The second the 2016 Major League Soccer season ended, the full focus of the league shifted to the beginning of the 2017 campaign, which starts in late February for some sides.  Transactions within the league and transfers from abroad have already been made by some, and the number of them will ramp up once the January transfer window opens.  A lot of attention will be centered on the additions to MLS, but there is already a bounty of young talent in North America ready to break out on the national stage.  Last season saw the emergence of Jordan Morris as a key scorer for the Seattle Sounders and Keegan Rosenberry as one of the top full-backs in the league for Philadelphia.  We've predicted five players who will follow in the footsteps of Morris and Rosenberry and become the breakout stars of the 2017 MLS campaign. Begin Slideshow
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Ranking the Top 50 Players in MLS in 2016

The 2016 Major League Soccer season was a wild and unpredictable roller-coaster ride that perfectly personified the league.  The Seattle Sounders won MLS Cup over Toronto FC after both sides dispatched some of the best teams from the regular season to reach the championship match.  On an individual level, plenty of big-name designated players exceeded expectations once again, while a few underrated stars broke out in a big way over the course of nine months.  Our ranking of the top 50 players in MLS primarily focuses on performances from the regular season, but play-off showings were considered if applicable.  With that being said, here's our annual year-end list of the top 50 players to take the pitch in MLS this season.  Begin Slideshow
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Seattle Sounders Cap Emotional Year by Earning Elusive MLS Cup

TORONTO — The Seattle Sounders have lifted trophies before.  The Sounders have also been at or near the top of the Major League Soccer totem pole since arriving in the league eight years ago.  But there was always a void in the trophy case, at least until Saturday night.  The Sounders were crowned MLS champions on a 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field after 120 minutes of scoreless play failed to decide anything.  “It’s amazing," Sounders captain Osvaldo Alonso said in a champagne-soaked visitors locker room at BMO Field. "I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve longed for this moment. I’m very happy for the fans, the franchise."  What makes the club's first MLS championship even more unbelievable is the steps, backward and forward, that were taken to get to the podium placed in the middle of the pitch on a cold December night on the shores of Lake Ontario.    Seattle fired manager Sigi Schmid, who led the club to four U.S. Open Cups and a Supporters' Shield in 2014, in late July before handing Brian Schmetzer the reins on a temporary basis, which then turned into a permanent gig as manager.  The past finals the Sounders experienced in other competitions prepared ...
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Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC: Live Score, Highlights from MLS Cup FInal

MLS Cup final--BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Toronto FC 0-0 Seattle Sounders (Seattle win 5-4 on penalties) Toronto FC: Irwin, Beitashour, Moor, Zavaleta, Hagglund, Morrow, Bradley, Cooper (Cheyrou 84'), Osorio (Johnson 76'), Giovinco (Ricketts 103'), Altidore Seattle Sounders: Frei, Jones, Marshall, Torres, Mears, Roldan, Alonso, Morris (Evans 107'), Friberg  (Fernandez 66'), Lodeiro, Valdez (Ivanschitz 72')      Follow Joe on Twitter @JTansey90. Read more MLS news on
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Stage Is Set at MLS Cup for USMNT Stars to Give Inspiring Performances

Three of the names on the marquee for Saturday's MLS Cup Final at BMO Field in Toronto are members of the United States men's national team. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris will be on full display when Toronto FC host the Seattle Sounders in the championship contest.  Over the last week, Toronto midfielder Bradley in particular has handed out plenty of praise for Morris, who scored 12 goals in his rookie season and netted the game-winning goal for Seattle in the Western Conference Final.  The USMNT captain complimented Morris on dealing with the ton of pressure he's faced in 2016, per Fox Sports' Julie Stewart-Binks:  Morris went from fringe player to starter in an instant when Obafemi Martins was sold late in the offseason and has stepped into an even bigger role since Clint Dempsey was ruled out for the season with an irregular heartbeat.  The production out of the MLS Rookie of the Year is a big step forward for the league as a whole as it tries to attract the best American players to remain at home among a growing number of outstanding foreigners.  However, there are a few trends that suggest foreign players are becoming the foundation of rosters league-wide and ...
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Toronto FC Breaks into MLS Cup Final on Emotional Night in Front of Home Fans

TORONTO — As the final whistle sounded after 120 minutes of back-and-forth, unpredictable action in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final, 10 years of emotion was let out in booming roars from BMO Field.  Toronto FC defeated the Montreal Impact 5-2 in the second leg—7-5 on aggregate—to advance to the club's first MLS Cup final.  "I can’t even explain it," midfielder Jonathan Osorio said. "The supporters have been waiting a long time for this. They deserve it. They’ve stuck around through everything this team’s battled through."  The years-long frustration of botched big-name signings, countless managerial changes and failures to reach the postseason were let out at times throughout the night when the Reds needed it most, with the biggest cheer coming at the final whistle as Toronto clinched home-field advantage in the MLS Cup.  "All week we spoke about what tonight could be," captain Michael Bradley said. "Nobody knew for sure, but I think we all had an idea it could be a special night in terms of atmosphere and emotion, in some ways, 10 years of emotion coming out in one night."  “Once I took a step back in celebration, I took a moment to think about how many people were in ...
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Ignacio Piatti Key to Montreal’s Success in Eastern Conference Final 2nd Leg

BMO Field will be littered with superstars on Wednesday night, as Toronto FC host Montreal Impact in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Final.  While the focus may immediately shift toward one of Toronto's three high-profile designated players, the most important player on the pitch will be wearing an Impact kit.  Argentinian midfielder Ignacio Piatti has been arguably the best player in the league this season—and one of the most underappreciated stars at the same time.  The 31-year-old's name may not stick out on paper right away like the other stars across the league, but he's been more important to his squad than Toronto's trio, David Villa at New York City FC, Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls and any of the LA Galaxy's big names. What sets Piatti apart from everyone else on the pitch is his work rate off the ball. Toronto boss Greg Vanney noted that before the first leg, which Montreal won 3-2 at Olympic Stadium. "In my opinion, one of his greatest strengths is what people sometimes don’t see what he does before he actually gets the ball," Vanney said. "He’s a guy who’s clever in the moments when he’s helping his team defend and sees ...
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Improbable Playoff Run Hands Seattle Sounders Chance to Earn First MLS Cup

The Seattle Sounders weren't supposed to be a participant in MLS Cup.  The winners of the Major League Soccer Western Conference Championship were left for dead at the end of July following a brutal performance against Sporting Kansas City that led to the dismissal of longtime head coach Sigi Schmid.  The club, led by interim-turned-permanent boss Brian Schmetzer, were the underdogs against Supporters' Shield winners FC Dallas in the semi-final round of the postseason, but they handled the top dogs of the West with ease over two legs.  Sunday's trip to Dick's Sporting Goods Park for the second leg of the West final against the Colorado Rapids was supposed to be a task as impossible as they come given the Rapids' terrific form at home in 2016.  But once again, the Sounders rose up from out of nowhere and clinched the first of two spots in the MLS Cup final on December 10. If that's not enough to impress you, the Sounders did all of this without Clint Dempsey, who was ruled out for the season with an irregular heartbeat at the end of September.  On top of all that, forward Jordan Morris, who scored Sunday's game-winner to put the Sounders through 3-1 on aggregate, was ...
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2nd Leg of MLS Western Conference Final Will Be Won in Midfield

When the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids take to the pitch at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sunday for the second leg of the MLS Western Conference final, all eyes will be on the midfield alignment of both sides.  Both sides play a similar style of the 4-2-3-1 formation, but the Rapids will be forced to tweak their system for the second leg after the yellow-card suspension of Sam Cronin, who picked up his second caution of the play-offs in Tuesday's first leg that was won 2-1 by the Sounders.  Coming up with a replacement is an easy job for Colorado boss Pablo Mastroeni. The front-runner for MLS Coach of the Year will follow the next-man-up mentality his side has had all year, as he'll bring in Micheal Azira for Cronin.  “Sam’s been a stalwart for us in the middle all year," Mastroeni said in a league conference call. "He’s played pretty much every game. He’s an important piece to the group. There’s nothing we can do about the situation. Now it’s about the next man up." "I think Azira came into the game last week and did a very good job of getting on the ball," the Colorado boss continued. "Azira will be ...
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Slender Leads in MLS Conference Finals Leave Everything to Play for in 2nd Legs

The 16-day layoff between the Major League Soccer conference semifinals and the first leg of the conference finals allowed all four clubs to produce excitement on fresh legs on Tuesday.  The Montreal Impact opened Tuesday's two-game slate with a 3-2 win against rival Toronto FC in front of over 61,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium.  Montreal could've entered the second leg at BMO Field on November 30 with a three-goal advantage, but a tactical switch helped the Reds secure the middle of the park and score a pair of second-half strikes.  Seattle will take a slim 2-1 edge into the second leg against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday. As he has been since his summer arrival, Nicolas Lodeiro was in the middle of the action for the home side at CenturyLink Field.  Despite taking one-goal leads into the second leg, both Montreal and Seattle have plenty of work left to do to preserve their respective advantages and move on to the MLS Cup final on December 10.  The Impact appeared to be on the brink of a berth in the final through 53 minutes, as they sunk three goals into the Toronto FC net before the Reds woke up from their slumber inside the cavernous ...
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